All posts by Paul Larudee

Time to Dismantle the Police

Basketball star Jaylen Brown has said only a few words publicly about the problem of police brutality, abuse, repression and impunity, but they are important words that cut right to the core of both the problem and its solution. He has said that we should stop speaking and thinking in terms of “reform” and begin thinking in terms of “dismantle” and “recreate”. He has said that reform is not enough, that it is not enough to remodel the kitchen, but rather to build a new house from the foundation up.

It is unfortunate that the strike of the NBA players ended so soon, without major consequences. It could have generated sympathetic strikes and similar actions, and potentially stimulated major changes of the kind that Jaylen envisions. Of course, that is precisely the reason it was shut down, and why the heavy hand of Barack Obama had to be the instrument of closure.

Police repression and brutality has much to do with the inequity in our society. In a stratified, inequitable society, with few superrich at the top and most of the masses suffering at the bottom, repression is necessary in order to maintain the privilege of those at the top, and to guard their power. That is why Jaylen’s vision applies not only to the police, but to our entire society. We must “recreate” it to make it more equitable and more just. It is not enough to “reform” it.

This article is the last in a series of proposals for major changes throughout our society, mostly through extension of already existing programs and mechanisms. I have saved the proposal for the police until last because I do not think that changes to law enforcement practices can survive long without changes to the society. This does not mean that any one of the proposed changes must precede any of the others, but rather that they all support each other regardless of the order of implementation, and become stronger and more likely to survive and thrive when they are all present to bolster each other.

Nevertheless, the proposal for the police must be addressed as its own issue. And Jaylen has hit the nail on the head. The existing police system, structure, training and culture must be dismantled and replaced with something new and different.

Background

The U.S. has some of the most brutal and violent police in the world, with the highest incarceration rate, enforced disproportionately upon Black Americans, Indigenous peoples, the poor and minorities, while the wealthy use the system to escape prosecution and punishment for their crimes. U.S. police forces typically use violent, military style techniques of law enforcement, ordering citizens to submit and obey every command, upon pain of beatings and other torture, as well as the use of firearms and other military weapons, with deadly results.

Historically, the police have always been “hired thugs” whose job was to “enforce” the law, i.e. to use force for that purpose. But that role has always been discretionary. Possession and use of cocaine, for example, has always been vastly more heavily enforced in Black, Native and poor communities than in mostly white college parties and upscale neighborhoods. Rich and influential people have connections. Poor people don’t. In societies where the power is concentrated at the top, the police become guardians of the powerful and the scourge of the weak. It’s Sociology 101.

Are there “good” cops? Of course there are, but the system is against them, and even they are inculcated in the culture of their work, taught the “facts of life” and discouraged from “rocking the boat”. Are cops taught to use force as a last resort? Yes, they are. But their first resort is often a threat of force, rather than to hear both sides of the story and to try to act in the best interest of all. Police demand surrender and obedience, and are not prepared to try symmetrical cooperation. They rarely give importance to the views of the target of enforcement. Cops are not chosen or taught to listen to potential suspects.

We are told that policing is a dangerous job and that police risk their lives. Perhaps, but their training and protocol do not usually include manually disarming a suspect with a knife, for example, even when their life is not really at stake, only potential injury. They are authorized to use firearms when they “have reason to believe” that the other person may be armed and dangerous. In such situations they are trained to aim for the trunk, where most of the bodily organs are located, because that is the biggest target and most likely to “stop” the suspect. Despite the fact that hitting the legs or arms might be equally effective and less dangerous to the suspect, they are trained not to take the risk, even though they might be saving the life of the suspect.

Many of us can cite examples from our own experience of unreasonable, threatening and even physically abusive police. Blacks, Natives, the poor and other groups are disproportionately subject to these abuses. Does it have to be this way? What changes are possible?

A proposal

I believe that the entire system must be dismantled and scrapped, as Jaylen has said. It is rotten and corrupted to the core. It has a white supremacist history that is still a dominant element, and the idea that police are hired thugs remains the basis of its mandate and its culture. American films and television show that this view of the police carries over into popular media, where it becomes glamorized.

Many reforms have been suggested, including the following:

  • citizen policing, plaintiff/victim involvement and negotiated resolution/sentencing
  • elimination of cash bail
  • participation of formerly convicted persons
  • issuance of firearms only in exceptional circumstances
  • non-police services for appropriate situations
  • an end to military-style training
  • an end to no-knock warrants
  • an end to mass surveillance of the public, and individually only in response to warrants

These and more are all worthwhile suggestions on their own, but they are reforms, not redesign from the ground up. What we need is to scrap the whole system and rebuild, keeping these reforms in mind, but also an open mind to new ways.

Obviously, doing away with the police as we know them is not going to do away with crime and violence. Inequality, racism, classism, discrimination, stereotyping and similar prejudices have a lot to do with the way police behave toward other people. Creating a more equitable society in general will go a long way to reducing these sources of criminality and violence. That is what the proposals in the prior eleven installments of these articles is intended to accomplish, insofar as possible. They are not a panacea, but they at least create fertile ground for society to address its problems more constructively.

It is too much to expect that we will create a society completely free from crime and violence. We therefore need a means of addressing it. My view is that the existing policing system, its training and recruitment practices and its inherited culture is essentially impervious to reform. It has to be torn down and something else built in its place.

My suggestion would be to look at examples from other societies that are more successful than we are in controlling crime and violence, and incorporate what we can. My favorite proposal is to outsource.

A brief glimpse of what is possible occurred in April, 2015, when four Swedish cops on vacation broke up a fight on a New York subway. Their treatment of the violent combatants contrasted sharply with what we have come to expect from our police. They were polite, considerate and kind, and although they used force, they did not use pain, and they asked the combatants if they were hurt.

One incident is merely an isolated example, but it is at least an illustration of what is possible. Policing in the Nordic countries is very different. It has a very different internal culture, and a degree of professionalism that is reflected by the fact that three years of training is generally required, compared with mere months in many U.S. police training programs.

Can we replicate it in the U.S.? Perhaps not, but we don’t have to. If we are serious about making the necessary changes, we can outsource the policing of an entire city to whatever country we think might provide a good model. Of course, it will require factfinding and negotiation. The foreign organization will want to visit, study and put a plan together, then make a proposal that includes conditions that they consider necessary for success. They may want to work with U.S. counterparts, but we should be cautious about what they learn from the existing police system. The whole point is to undo that system.

The city chosen for this experiment should be neither exceptional nor particularly large – perhaps no more than 200,000, with a crime rate that is neither unusually high or low, and at least receptive to the proposal. Funding will rely in part on the existing portion of the police budget of the city, but also most likely from foundations that are interested in an experiment of this kind, and perhaps federal funds, as well especially during the transition period.

The intent is to create a model program, drawing little or nothing from existing programs, and turning over unprecedented discretionary authority to the outsourced contractors. If successful, it can be used to redesign law enforcement in other locations.

Of course, every effort must be made to assure success. The entire society would need to be involved. Some of the things to be discussed with the foreign contractors would be the reforms mentioned earlier, as well as additional concerns, such as incarceration laws and practices. These must also be recreated from the ground up if policing is to be successful. This is a package deal.

In fact, it is hard to imagine replacing a police force without doing the same with the penal institutions. The U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. This is disgraceful enough, but it is also a racist system that incarcerates a disproportionate number of Black, Indigenous peoples, Hispanic and other minority groups. This must end, and should be included in the management contract with the outsourced consultants, to the extent that they should be able to set conditions and practices, in cooperation with local communities. Some of the provisions over which they might need to have control are:

    • reduction or elimination of mandatory sentences
    • ending incarceration for most nonviolent and juvenile offenders
    • investigation of unusually harsh or lenient sentencing tendencies by judges
    • provision without cost of all products and services required to maintain health and cleanliness for inmates
    • end routine infliction of pain or isolation in prisons
    • provision of commissary products at prevailing rates outside the prison, not including necessary hygiene items, which must be without cost
    • provision of free telephone service within security guidelines to both inmates and families
    • citizen review of prison practices and prisoner complaints, including abusive practices
    • ending private prisons. All prisons must be publicly owned and operated
    • ending the profit motive for prison labor by assuring that there is no cost advantage in its use.

The American police and penal system needs help, and will not find it internally, where it cannot escape its racist, supremacist, abusive past. We also cannot fabricate its replacement out of thin air. While corporate America is not always an example that we might wish to emulate, it has hired outside consultants and outsourced its failing elements in order to achieve success. A similar effort with respect to our failing public institutions deserves to be tried.

The post Time to Dismantle the Police first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Environmental Justice for All

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, and Part X.

We are all victims of a deteriorating environment and rapid climate change that spares no one from its effects. Already, tens of millions of people have been turned into climate refugees while hundreds of thousands die annually from air pollution, heat waves, drought-based food shortages, epidemics, storms and other lethal impacts of climate change and reliance on fossil fuels. But Blacks, Indigenous peoples, other minorities and the poor in the US suffer disproportionately from contaminated and polluted environments from which the wealthy can protect themselves.

Environmental justice is inseparable from social justice. Living in a clean and healthy environment gives us all the strength and stamina to fully realize our rights and fight racism, oppression and injustice, which creates a better society for us all. The COVID-19 lockdown demonstrated how quickly our planet can recover when pollution drops dramatically. The same is true for social justice when the causes of injustice are removed. The proposals offered in the previous ten installments of this manifesto are capable of dramatically reducing the social pollution of racism, exploitation and repression. Environmental justice is a part of this plan.

Following are some specific proposals, mostly taken from the Green Party USA:

1. We must achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% clean, renewable energy. It is possible to do this by 2030, and much of the international will has been demonstrated in the 1992 Kyoto Protocol as well as the 2015 UNFCCC Paris Agreement from which the U.S. withdrew in 2017. The U.S. must reaffirm its commitment to the Agreement and work for stronger measures.
2. We must invest heavily in subsidized and convenient public transport that makes it attractive and inexpensive for everyone to use, and especially for disadvantaged populations.
3. Let us switch to sustainable, regenerative nonpolluting agriculture and husbandry and close all large factory farms.
4. There was a time when the Food and Drug Administration could be trusted to diligently assure that food products were nutritious and wholesome and that food production and distribution consistently met high standards. These standards have today been compromised for the sake of corporate profit. We have deregulated our standards of health and safety in much the same way that we have deregulated our economy for the benefit of large corporations and billionaires. We must re-empower the FDA by placing it under a cabinet level Department of Consumer Protection and Advocacy and assuring that its administration is run by officials who have the strongest possible consumer advocacy credentials and are not selected from the industries that they will be regulating. [See Manifesto Part VII: An Economic Order By and For the People.]
5. We must provide tax incentives and government research programs to promote sustainable energy and energy-efficiency retrofitting, and “complete streets” that promote safe bike and pedestrian traffic, regional food systems based on sustainable organic agriculture and clean manufacturing.
6. There is no reason for our energy system to be in private hands. They belong to us all. Let’s enact energy democracy based on public, community and worker ownership of our energy system. We must treat energy as a human right.
7. Let us redirect research funds from fossil fuels into renewable energy and conservation. Let us also build a nationwide smart electricity grid that can pool and store power from a diversity of renewable sources, giving the nation clean, democratically-controlled energy.
8. Let us end the most destructive kinds of energy extraction and associated infrastructure: fracking, tar sands, offshore drilling, oil trains, mountaintop removal, natural gas pipelines, and uranium mines. We must halt any investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, including natural gas, and phase out all fossil fuel power plants. Let us phase out nuclear power and end all subsidies for nuclear power plants and fossil fuels, and impose a greenhouse gas fee/tax to charge polluters for the damage they have created.
9. We must provide grants, low interest loans and other incentives to grow green businesses and cooperatives, with an emphasis on small, locally based companies that keep the wealth created by local labor circulating in the community rather than being drained off to enrich absentee investors.
10. Let us prioritize green research by redirecting research funds from fossil fuels and other dead-end industries toward research in wind, solar and geothermal energies. We will invest in research in sustainable, nontoxic materials and closed-loop cycles that eliminate waste and pollution, as well as organic agriculture, permaculture and sustainable forestry.

The possibilities of these reforms are illustrated by the case of Denmark, which now gets more than 50% of its energy from renewable sources. Virtually all combustible waste is used as energy, making it a resource rather than a burden. Industries, households, cities, agriculture and nearly all forms of activity in Denmark conserve energy and provide fuel to generate power. In addition, non-combustible sources of energy, such as solar, geothermal and wind energy are used as essentially free resources. As a result, energy costs in Denmark are very low, which increases the productivity of its industries as well as the standard of living of its people. At the same time, the quality of Denmark’s air, water and natural areas are clean and teeming with life.

By contrast, the US is still heavily dependent upon fossil fuels and pollution-generating sources of energy. This is because the system is inefficient and mismanaged, but highly profitable for the corporations and oligarchs that own the fuels and their delivery systems. It is time to throw out this corrupt system and build one that benefits the people.

The post Environmental Justice for All first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Education is a Public Obligation and Individual Right

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, and Part IX.

The system of education in the US is failing at every level except for private, heavily endowed or extremely costly institutions for the wealthy and privileged. Students of all ages are increasingly viewed as “profit centers” for private enterprise to exploit. Private charter schools now operate many public schools for the benefit of their investors, not their students.

Public state-run universities that were founded on the principle of free education to all are no longer fully supported by public resources, and have become unaffordable to many. Students must take loans, which are profitable to the banks but chain the students to debts that often last nearly a lifetime. The federally guaranteed student loan programs that began in the early 1960s were a response to the gradual disappearance of free public universities. It was a way of passing on the cost to the students while assuring a nice profit to financial institutions. It follows the trend of helping the wealthy elite put their greedy hands in the till until there are no public trusts that are not contracted out to for-profit institutions.

This is a disgrace that must end. Many countries in the world provide better quality and more complete public education supported by taxes and thus by the entire community. Education is necessary and must be free and accessible in order to assure that all individuals are able to participate to the fullest in building their future, defending their rights, and empowering themselves and their community. It is hard to imagine a viable nation or society that does not invest public funds in the welfare of its people.

Here are some of the changes that need to be made in order for public education to keep its promise to the public and where all persons have equal access to a quality education, regardless of income level:

  1. Full and free high-quality public education must be made available to all persons at all levels of education and training up through the highest levels of graduate and medical school. Public funds must be prohibited from being used to subsidize private schools. There will be no charter schools.
  2. Public education will be supported by federal funds only, so as to assure equal educational opportunity to all, regardless of state or territory of residence.
  3. Funds for public education will be provided to native first nations at the same rates as to U.S. states and territories. First nations will have complete discretion over the administration, teaching curriculum and standards of their educational institutions.
  4. The expenditure per pupil will be the same nationwide except for cost variations due to cost of living in different localities. Class size will be standardized nationwide in accordance with recommendations by ,and through negotiation with, teacher unions and educational associations.
  5. A universal, federally funded childcare program for pre-school and young schoolchildren will be provided. The service will be accountable to the parent users and the caregivers.
  6. Subsidized university housing will be made available to students in public universities who maintain their academic standing, and according to need.

A Labor and Immigration Policy that Empowers all Workers

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, and Part VIII.

Workers are the bedrock of every nation on earth. Even autocratic and fascist societies and those that repress workers depend upon them nevertheless. The nature of work may change with technology, and the dichotomy between worker and management may blur, especially in societies where the workers hold greater power, but the fundamental fact is that workers are the ones that make every society function.

In fact, societies where workers have powerful unions and are an important political force tend to be the ones rated as the most desirable places to live. These are societies where the benefit of labor and natural resources is shared equitably by all. Marxist-Leninist systems like China and Cuba are ostensibly worker-run, but worker power is arguably greater in the Nordic countries, which have socialist parties and practices but no official socialist system.

It does not matter whether we call a system socialist or not. What matters is that power is not concentrated among a minority of the population, and is instead distributed widely. That is the basis of this Manifesto, which is concerned with practical means of achieving a society that is run by the people and for the people. Labor unions and other workers organizations and political parties have shown that they have a very important role to play in the transition from a society controlled by the few to one controlled by the many.

But in order to do this, workers must be empowered in ways that are lacking at present in the U.S. Labor unions have in fact been losing ground for decades, and many undocumented workers are still not included, despite the efforts of Cesar Chavez and others. In addition, many workers are in newer, non-unionized forms of work. Exploitation of workers is currently becoming more widespread rather than less so, and this is due to both a reduction in union membership and a weakening of the power of unions. Obviously, marginalized members of society, including many Blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics and women are among the most heavily exploited.

Some of the previous installments of this Manifesto included provisions that may help. When, for example, all persons have a Universal Basic Income, there is less pressure on workers to find work just to pay the bills. In addition, Medicare for All eliminates the need to become part of an employer-bssed medical plan. Nevertheless, workers need well-known additional safeguards and resources, including the following:

1. A minimum wage must be established, with cost-of-living increases, that equates to a monthly full-time income that is at or above the poverty level, not including overtime. As I stated in the initial installment of the Manifesto, this may become superfluous with a Universal Basic Income, since a UBI will obviate wage exploitation and require employers to offer a wage that raises their income significantly above the minimum. Nevertheless, such a minimum assures that workers are not exploited, and must be applied to visiting foreign workers, as well, so that they are not at a disadvantage and that they are on a level playing field with U.S. citizen workers.
2. Unions must be permitted and encouraged to organize groups of workers not currently organized, including many considered “independent contractors” that are competing with other unionized workers. Also included are some that perform work on their computer or telephone at a location of their choosing, but who are part of a larger class of workers who perform the same or similar function.
3. OSHA must be given greater resources to inspect and levy meaningful and effective fines and penalties against violators, and its inspectors must be vetted by both industry and labor oversight bodies.
4. We must ban or place import tariffs on products produced with heavy pollution or unsafe workplace practices or worker exploitation so that U.S. workers are not subject to unfair competition and that unfair practices are not simply exported. Similarly, we must legislate and enable oversight by an independent agency or a labor union to verify that foreign workers’ rights are protected and therefore eligible for importation to the US, or reduced tariffs. In addition, U.S. investment must be limited to countries that mandate and protect labor’s right to organize, create unions and negotiate with management, and U.S. corporations that operate in other countries must to adhere to the core labor standards established by the International Labor Organization (ILO) Declaration of the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

The laws governing immigration have been too long used to exploit workers who wish to come from other countries to work in the US. The dirty secret is that making it illegal for them to enter is used to exploit and take advantage of them. Many would prefer not to live in the US long term, but fear that if they go to their home countries they might not easily return to the U.S. As with Blacks, Native Americans and other groups, they are often the ones doing work that the rest of the population is unwilling to do. We should welcome these workers and treat them properly.

1. Immigration policy must be reformed so as to allow entry of non-U.S. citizens for temporary and multiple-entry work visas for those who do not wish to immigrate, as well as a path to citizenship for those who do. The work conditions, wages and protections for all must be the same as for U.S. citizens. These protections should be made available not only to newcomers but as another option for those who are undocumented but currently in the US. Let’s eliminate the need for “coyotes”.
2. We must stop forcing undocumented young people who have spent most of their lives in the US (“DREAMERS”) to be deported to countries they don’t know and possibly where they don’t even speak the language. Give them citizenship.
3. Stop forced separation of families. Let them stay in the US as residents or citizens.
4. Stop incarcerating undocumented persons under cruel and inhuman conditions, waiting for deportation, and above all do not separate families at such facilities, which must be comfortable and humane if needed at all.

If you have read the other installments of this manifesto, it has probably occurred to you that all of the proposals interact and reinforce each other, and that some provisions become less needed as others are implemented. I have mentioned previously that the last of the proposals will deal with policing, and by the time we get to it, a lot of the techniques of policing that currently seem essential, such as the use of pain holds and weapons, may seem almost superfluous in an equitable society. Hopefully this is also a society where class divisions and racism can be more easily and successfully addressed and dissolved.

Restoring Free Speech and Freedom from Big Brother

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, and Part VII.

One of the greatest obstacles to greater distribution of wealth and power, and therefore to an equitable society, is control of – and controls on – speech and the media. Most films, television, newspapers, Internet suppliers and other mass media are in the hands of large corporations. Even social media are controlled by large corporations, despite the fact that they consist almost entirely of individual expression by billions of subscribers.

The result is propaganda, censorship and repression of facts and ideas that the ruling  elite consider a threat to their wealth and power. Control of speech and the media is why the American people do not see a serious discussion of a national health care system in the media, and remain the only major world power that does not have a one.  It is why minimum wage proposals encounter so much opposition despite being far short of a living wage. It is why privatization of the post office, schooling, Social Security and pretty much everything in public hands are treated as serious proposals in the media. Institutions that can be used to transfer wealth upward from the poor to the rich – including the media themselves– will receive serious consideration and support in the press. This is because the centers of wealth and power stand to become wealthier and more powerful through privatization. To them, the American people are nothing more than profit centers, to be milked and bilked in their millions for the sake of the powerful. Proposals to transfer wealth to those who need it will be ridiculed and called “unamerican”.

Do we hear all points of view? Do we get all the facts? Or do we get largely sanitized versions of news and information, and only token counter evidence and argument? Why do the media not question the more than 800 military bases and other installations around the globe, eating up more than half of our national budget, and providing little direct benefit to most Americans? To the extent that our media tell us anything, does it rise to the level of an explanation? Why are we considered the most dangerous global threat to peace, year after year? It’s not hard to understand if we learn, for example, that the U.S. makes alliances and provides money and arms to terrorist groups around the globe to overthrow legitimate governments, or that U.S. helicopters are burning Syrian wheat fields so that Syrian families will starve.

But we are not told such things, except to small audiences in social media. Even then, such reports are likely to be censored and accounts closed for “hate speech” and “violating community standards”. The most that many people are told is that “They hate us for our freedom.” The public may suspect that they are not being told the whole story, but what other information do they have?

The voices of Blacks and other marginalized communities suffer worse than others. They receive only token representation – invariably manipulative – in the mainstream media, and minuscule audiences even in the alternate media. Native Americans, upon whose land the rest of us are trespassing, have hardly any voice anywhere.

Let’s be honest. This is mind control. Controlling the information and even the entertainment that we receive is social engineering. It teaches us what we are supposed to accept as true and false, right and wrong, and how to think and act. Propagandists of the past could not dream of the power of today’s industry.

To take one of the simplest examples of corporate control, how did we lose broadcast television, which was entirely free and required no subscription or fees? How did we end up spending as much as hundreds of dollars per household per month for much the same of programming that we used to get without cost? And how did we voluntarily come to pay for providing the means for private companies and the government to instantly know what we are watching and when? Not only are we pouring money into the coffers of services that are indoctrinating us, but also allowing those services to spy on our personal habits. Of course, broadcast television was owned by essentially the same corporations that today own cable and satellite facilities, but at least it wasn’t taking as much of our dwindling income or selling data about our individual viewing habits.

This problem is only exacerbated by use of the latest in surveillance and information technology. The government inserts surveillance programming into a variety of apps that spy on an unlimited number of mobile phone users. But even without such apps, a many electronic devices track our locations and actions wherever we go and whatever we do, including use of credit cards, bridge and highway tolls, use of rental services, subscriptions, online web use, etc. These data are then sold to advertisers and marketers or anyone willing to buy the information.

We may consider such use harmless and even useful, to offer us products and services that the data show may be of interest to us.  But the U.S. government is also a consumer of such data – in fact, the biggest consumer. There are hardly any personal data that our government doesn’t purchase and store in the gargantuan Utah Data Center, an entire city built to store and process data for government intelligence services. To this they add confidential data gathered by U.S. government agencies, such as Customs and Border Protection, law enforcement agencies of all description, entrance to and exit from government buildings, etc., so that the entire life history and activities of every human being in the U.S. and an even larger number of foreign persons outside can be called up at a moment’s notice.

I’m not suggesting that we should eliminate data collection or cable and satellite TV. That really wouldn’t provide us with more public control or a wider range of news, information and entertainment. Nor would it improve access to Blacks, indigenous peoples and other marginalized communities. What we can do is to institute greater public controls and safeguards on media and data collection, and provide more disclosure to the public of when and how their data are collected. We must also provide more opportunity for the public, and especially marginalized communities, to be heard, and not merely to be an audience.

Here are examples (many borrowed from the 2016 Green Party platform) of measures that might help to diminish government and corporate control of the media, to protect the privacy of data, and provide greater control to the people:

  1. Return ownership and control of the electromagnetic spectrum to the public. End the privatization of broadcast frequencies of the airwaves. Put common media, such as cable, satellite and Internet service under public and not corporate control, with consumer boards in charge of policy and prohibition of censorship. Providers must supply consumers with the means to individually block whatever programming they don’t want.
  2. Media networks and chains must not be allowed to own local media entities. No more than three local entities may be owned by the same individual or company, none of which are in the same municipality.
  3. Media networks and chains may offer programming, services and advertising to local entities but may not control or coerce their messages, nor place conditions that restrict local voluntary control of content and programming.
  4. We must end commercial broadcasters’ free licensed use of the public airwaves. Require market-priced leasing of any commercial use of the electromagnetic spectrum as well as cable and satellite networks. Revenues derived from these license fees should be used to fund the operation of community media. Electronic advertising should be taxed to fund democratic media outlets.
  5. Expand the role of community radio, by expanding the licensing of new non-commercial low power FM radio stations.
  6. Social media networks and website hosts must not control the content of the platforms they provide, but must provide options to individual subscribers to block whatever content they don’t want and facilitate content they prefer. Similarly, cable or satellite networks will be able to make themselves available anywhere within US territory, with the same option for individuals to block anything they do not want.
  7. There will be no censorship of foreign media. If individuals find any programming objectionable they will have the option to block or filter it.
  8. Provide broadband Internet access for all US residents, so that access to information is a right, not a commodity.
  9. Classify all Internet service providers, regardless of the type of service (cable, dial-up, satellite, etc.), as telecommunications services.
  10. Privacy protections of the 4th amendment must apply to the Internet. We must eliminate bulk Internet data collection by our government. Let us fund and promote research into alternate Internet structures that would build in privacy. Hold criminally accountable all government officials, employees and contractors who illegally spy on Americans, and who provide false, misleading or incomplete testimony to Congress about surveillance of American communications by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Require disclosure to, and permission from all consumers of media and internet services for any data collection and sharing, including government agencies.
  11. Classify all Internet service providers as common carriers as used in Title II of the Communications Act.
  12. Require net neutrality so that Internet users will able to access any web content they choose and use any applications they choose, without restrictions or limitations imposed by their Internet service provider or government, except for restrictions that exist to prevent spam e-mail, viruses, and similar content that will harm the provider, the network or internet access devices.
  13. Establish substantial public interest obligations for broadcasters and hold them accountable, and revoke licenses from outlets that fail to satisfy these obligations.
  14. Support Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) Access Television to ensure that citizens and community organizations have the opportunity to create and present their own programming on cable television.
  15. Expand the role of community radio, by expanding the licensing of new non-commercial low power FM radio stations.
  16. Promote greater opportunity for Black, women, Native American and other minority ownership of media outlets.

The proposals in this article and the others in this series have been formulated as a set of demands designed to place economic, political and social decision-making power in the hands of the people, and especially the currently disenfranchised and marginalized. In doing so we should expect our culture to change accordingly, to one of popular empowerment and mutual respect.

Forthcoming installments will look at how environment protection, expansion of free public education, empowerment of labor snd a rethinking of immigration policy fit into this view of the transformation of our society.  Last, we will address the problem of policing.

An Economic Order by and for the People

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, and Part VI.

It is bad enough that the U.S. makes vacuous claims to a democratic form of government, as described in Part IV. But even a democratic form of government does not equate to a democratic society, and most Americans participate in democratic decision making only once every 2-4 years, at most, i.e. during elections. Compare that with their daily interaction with corporations, businesses and financial institutions where they have no decision making power at all. These institutions make no claim to be democratic and would ironically object that it is their democratic right not to be. That is how our ”democracy” works (or not).

Of course, these undemocratic institutions assure that the government will be also be undemocratic, unless one accepts the oxymoron that wealth buys more access to democracy. As absurd as this formulation may be, it is nevertheless widely believed and accepted in the U.S., even by the Supreme Court, as shown by its 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision.

All concentration of wealth and power is necessarily undemocratic and even anti-democratic. This leaves the poor and disenfranchised – disproportionately Black, Indigenous and Hispanic – as little more than landless serfs, to borrow a feudal term.

In previous installments of this series of articles, we discussed a variety of measures and proposals that redistribute power and wealth to create a more egalitarian society, thus empowering those who are currently disenfranchised. This installment will address the existing institutions in which power and wealth are concentrated, and what kind of changes are needed.

Corporations began as formal bodies of individuals (usually wealthy) pooling their resources for a particular purpose, to be dissolved upon completion of the purpose. This is still an important part of their function, with the exception that “successful” corporations never complete their purpose, but simply move on to other purposes.

The problem with corporations is precisely that they concentrate wealth, which is inimical to an egalitarian society. Even if the investors in the corporation are of modest means, the pooled resources give the corporation an advantage over individuals –sometimes an unfair advantage. To the extent that corporations are justified at all, they need to be circumscribed and supervised very carefully to assure that they serve a community function that cannot be served by better means. Highly regulated monopolistic corporations commonly include utilities like water, electricity, natural gas, and “land line” telephone services.

In some places, however, and especially in other countries, such utilities are entirely government operated, placing the supervision in the public domain. These are often the “better means” that can be a more suitable alternative to private corporations. In fact, such government services can be an improvement over competitive systems by ending the confusing and often deceptive practices of marketplace corporations, as well.

Nonetheless, corporations, and especially small corporations, can be a good alternative in proscribed situations where groups of individuals want to work together for a common purpose that is not predatory in nature and which would be difficult or less effective without a corporate structure. A lot of small nonprofits fall into this category, but well-regulated for-profit organizations can potentially also provide good and responsible service, especially if the shareholders are from the same community. The Green Bay Packers professional football team might be one example.

Unfortunately, this is not at all the way most corporations are conceived and run today. They are allowed to run rampant and to inordinately influence government and public policy. Through those means they have gained rights that they should never have. Thankfully, this does not (yet) include the right to vote, but they often have an oversize influence on elections, nonetheless. Even before the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the largest corporations or groupings of corporations into common interests invested lavishly in powerful lobbying organizations that pushed for legislative advantages for their industry, often to the disadvantage of consumers of their products and their less endowed competition. That is still the case, with arguably greater impunity.

Part of the problem is that corporations are legally considered to have many of the rights and much of the status of a “legal person”. We must enact a constitutional amendment affirming that the rights outlined in the Bill of Rights are human rights and do not apply in any way to corporations. Similarly, corporations must have no permanent, constitutionally protected rights, though they may have such powers or immunities as are explicitly granted to them by legislative actions at either the federal or the state level. These powers or immunities may be modified or removed by later action of the same legislative bodies. Otherwise, they are defined by the provisions of the contractual relations forming the corporation. Corporations are or should be no more than a contractual relationship between the members. In no case can their powers or immunities override the constitutionally protected rights of human beings.

Corporations must not be permitted to donate to political parties or candidates, or to campaign for propositions or referenda, or to pay signature takers, all of which will be publicly financed, as part of the campaign procedure described in Part IV of this series of articles.

Mergers and market domination by multi-billion-dollar corporations have also created monopolistic practices in many sectors of the economy, prejudicing the smaller competitors. Current antitrust regulation and enforcement is inadequate. Additional legislation and enforcement is required, giving more power and resources to autonomous regulating agencies, with more public oversight. If some industries cannot be run efficiently or effectively in a competitive environment, they should be publicly owned and operated. Perhaps social media will be a candidate for such treatment.

Regulating agencies must be given the means and power to regulate effectively, and must not be composed of representatives or former personnel of the businesses they are regulating, and regulators must be prohibited from accepting positions in those businesses after they resign or retire. Likewise, careers as regulators must be prohibited to former employees of the companies being regulated.

Banking must also be made to prioritize the needs of its users rather than its owners. An accessible public banking alternative must be made available to all the population in all US territory, providing all basic banking services, at minimum. Such banking facilities are common in other countries, and serve to provide basic and universal banking services. It is commonplace to find such banking services as an adjunct to post offices, which can serve both functions. The existence of public banking facilities cannot help but influence the practices of private banks, so as to make them more oriented to public service.

The Great Recession of 2008 demonstrated that financial institutions have become too consolidated, too powerful and too unregulated. No institution should be “too big to fail”. The regulations that provided stability, reliability and confidence in financial institutions in the past must be reconstituted, or provisions that serve much the same purpose, with more rigorous constraints. The deregulation that became the demise of the Savings and Loan Associations needs to return in some form, and other financial transactions must similarly be kept separate from each other. Home mortgages must remain with the original lender and not be sold to another institution, nor combined with other investments to create new securities. Derivatives are too speculative and volatile to continue, and should not be allowed. Perhaps an SEC fee on all trades in securities, based on the size of the transaction, might be one of several tools to bring such abuses to heel. In addition, U.S. corporations have been avoiding or evading payment of their taxes by banking abroad or locating their charters offshore. Their size, power and influence have allowed them to get away with robbing the American people in this manner. This must end, and they must be cut down to size.

The public also needs a powerful voice in regulation. A cabinet level Department of Consumer Protection and Advocacy is needed in order to give consumers the priority that they deserve and to assure strict standards in the marketplace. The Secretary of Consumer P&A must be a person with an impeccable record of consumer advocacy and must not be recruited from a career that would be in conflict with a consumer advocacy mandate. S/he will be charged with responding to consumer concerns, maintaining open communication with consumers, defending against fraud and deception in consumer products and services, and will advocate for consumer interests in all products and services in the US, including, for example, an end to all unsolicited telephone mass marketing calls. The office will review all products and services offered in the U.S., and be staffed and funded in order to meet the requirements of the office.

Finally, it is past time to restore critical and aging infrastructure, including ecosystems, so that the US economy can function with optimal safety and efficiency, as well as preserve and enhance the quality of life everywhere in the US. We must invest in our present and our future.

In forthcoming installments we will look at how environment protection, expansion of free public education, empowerment of labor, a rethinking of immigration policy and curbing of corporate journalism can advance the remaking our society. Then we will address the problem of policing.

Shedding a Foreign Policy Based on Imperialism

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V.

Is the U.S. ripe for a real revolution, where the disenfranchised and repressed overthrow the enfranchised and privileged?

Unfortunately, there are many weapons in the hands of the existing U.S. power structure. These include racism, control of the media, chauvinism, greed and more. These are all put into the service of weakening and dividing the population, and pitting them against each other, thus preventing the unity that might otherwise become the demise of the oligarchs and corporations.

It is encouraging to see apparently sincere support for Black Lives Matter and resistance against the police and other forces of suppression, but how deep does this sincerity run? How concrete and effective will it be? Or will it become largely cosmetic, as with past attempts to fight racism and change our society in fundamental ways? Many fear, based on experience, that the current uprising will be insufficient by itself to make more than a token difference, that the consciousness raised will be largely temporary and less than meaningful.

The present series of articles suggests a different – or at least complementary – approach. When the weak and disenfranchised attempt to take power, they need to be numerous, unified, determined and organized to succeed. That’s asking a lot, and few would argue that the movement in the U.S. possesses these traits at pressent.

An alternate approach is to strengthen, enfranchise, unify and organize the society first through other means, creating a stronger base upon which to redesign and reconstruct it. Rather than seizing power and then using it for social justice, we can empower the citizenry first or concurrently, thus enabling them to better press their demands and effectively alter their society.

One of the most pressing demands at present, voiced loudly and frequently in the demonstrations, is to tame police brutality, or even do away with the police altogether. Police brutality and endemic racism in the U.S. is in fact what motivated this series of proposals. Can we expect these demonstrations to have greater impact than previous movements, going back decades, generations and perhaps even centuries? What can we do to reach goals that continue to elude Blacks, Indigenous peoples and other disenfranchised populations?

Significantly, none of the installments of the manifesto has yet addressed the issue of policing, which will probably be the last installment other than a concluding one. This is because the other elements are all essential in doing away with a repressive and racist police force, and must be addressed first (in terms of explanation). In fact, all the elements are interrelated. They can be addressed separately to a certain extent, but they need each other in order to be fully successful, and therefore deserve to be demanded simultaneously.

A Foreign Po­­licy for the Masses

Part V proposed measures for taming the power and influence of the U.S. military, the main tool in imperialist ambitions that exhaust the resources of the U.S. population and enhance the power of its ultra-elite. Hand in hand with the military is a highly aggressive U.S. foreign policy, which is what drives an imperialistic use of the military. One is an extension of the other. Its basis is the Wolfowitz doctrine of 1992, the Project for a New American Century and other neoconservative formulations. World domination, the subservience of other nations and the weakening of noncompliant nations is its primary object, by means of bullying, threatening and ultimately sabotaging and destroying other nations in order to remain in complete control. It matters not what sacrifices the American people make in order to feed such megalomania, nor those made by the victims of this policy. Whether they are peaceful or not, they must die in their millions and become refugees in the tens of millions to feed the bloodthirst of this policy. Imperialism always targets the disempowered, and especially Black and Brown peoples.

Many of these traits of U.S. foreign policy may disappear or at least diminish in the absence of military projection, as discussed in Part V. Nevertheless, it is important to explicitly state how policy will change, which will in turn illustrate why the military is mostly superfluous to the welfare of the general population. A lot of the change is as simple as actually complying with international law, such as the Geneva Conventions and the UN Charter, to which the U.S. is already a signatory.

The central obligation of international law is that no nation will attack another or violate its sovereign territory except in response to a direct attack from that state, or a threat of immediate attack. Today the U.S. violates this obligation everywhere that it sends its drones to assassinate targets or even conduct surveillance without the permission of the nation in whose territory these missions are conducted. But of course, the U.S. goes well beyond such measures. It attempts “regime change” against countries that are not sufficiently loyal or compliant, and do not open their doors for exploitation of their economies for the benefit of U.S. corporations and interests, nor assist in enforcing U.S. global objectives.

Part of the problem is possibly that Congress has illegally abdicated its war powers under the U.S. Constitution. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) is unconstitutional because Congress cannot authorize modification of the Constitution by giving its power to the Executive branch of government, thereby abdicating its constitutional role. Only an approval by ¾ of the state legislatures can change the constitution. The AUMF must be abolished.

The use of economic, financial or other sanctions upon other nations is also a form of warfare, and potentially a cruel and devastating one. Such policies are therefore also illegal unless undertaken to counter a direct threat, and subsequent to a declaration of war by the Congress.

Other instruments of an imperialist foreign policy must also be dismantled. These include NATO, which is merely an association of gangsters, intended to enhance the ability of the U.S. to threaten and bully other nations. Similarly, the sole purpose of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation AKA School of the Americas is to assure that tiny power elites in countries that are under the domination of the U.S. will be able to suppress the rest of the population and thereby maintain their power for use in the service of the imperialist objectives of the U.S.

Similarly, the instruments of financial and economic coercion and exploitation must be disbanded. All international trade relations and commerce as currently upheld by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) must be reformulated to protect the labor, human rights, economy, environment and domestic industry of partner and recipient nations so that the growth of local industry and agriculture has the advantage over foreign corporate domination. The WTO, IMF, and World Bank must be eliminated or replaced with new institutions that are democratic, transparent, and accountable to the citizens of all nations. All debts incurred by poor nations must be forgiven, and financial assistance structured so as to enhance a nation’s income and ability to provide for the welfare and prosperity of its people, rather than to provide income to the creditors.

Finally, all weapons development, sales and military aid must cease being used to dominate other nations and to further imperialist interests. Foremost among these are nuclear weapons. They are simply too dangerous to be put into the service of geopolitical strategic objectives. Furthermore, they are an expenditure that in no way contributes to the welfare and prosperity of the American people. They should be abolished and all nuclear powers should mutually reduce stockpiles to this end. The U.S. should sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and end the research, testing and stockpiling of all nuclear weapons of any size. The same should apply to chemical and biological weapons and land mines. In addition, the U.S. should reverse its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and honor its stipulations.

In truth, the steps outlined in previous Manifesto installments, and especially number V (drastically reducing the role of the military) are likely to make the suggestions with regard to foreign policy relatively easy to implement. These effects will also become evident to a greater extent in the remaining installments.

The Military, What is It Good for?

In Part IV, we noted that the U.S. is ruled by a few hundred oligarchs and corporations, and that as long as power resides among this tiny elite, the chances of making headway against racism, police brutality, poverty and exploitation are exceedingly slim. The societal changes proposed in Parts I – IV can do much to remove power from that elite and redistribute it among the rest of the citizenry, upon whom the U.S. Constitution nominally bestows power, but who have never exercised more than cosmetic authority – least of all Blacks, Indigenous peoples, the poor and the disenfranchised.

History tells us that the wealthy do not accumulate and spend their wealth merely for their personal comfort and that of their families and friends. No, the seduction of wealth is that it brings power over other people, including that of life and death, war and peace, servitude and freedom. The ultimate expression of this power is empire, for which nations will crush others into dust to realize their ambitions.1 The Roman treatment of Carthage is an early example of such practice, which has apparently served as a model for U.S. treatment of its victims, from the Cherokee nation to Vietnam and Iraq. Concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a small oligarchy within a major power like the U.S. inevitably leads to projection of power well beyond its borders. [For an extensive history of national power, see The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, by Paul M. Kennedy].

In the case of the U.S., the enormous concentration of wealth has, in simple terms, been employed for the purpose of ruling the world through military power. The Wolfowitz Doctrine and its variants have, since 1992, all been based upon challenging and weakening or destroying all potential rivals. The result is that little is left for human development. The US ranks 28th in the world in human development (and dropping), below that of Slovakia and Poland, according to the UN Development Program’s inequality-adjusted human development index (IHDI). The Defense budget occupies 54% of discretionary spending in the U.S. federal budget, currently standing at more the $700 billion per year, and equal to that of the 12 next highest national military budgets in the world, combined.  By comparison, the per capita military expenditure of Denmark, a NATO member, is only a third that of the U.S., and it ranks seventh in the IHDI, a full 21 ranks higher than the U.S.

It is clear that U.S. military expenditures are a great obstacle to any sort of social progress of the type that we see in countries like Denmark, which is by no means the only example. Even many poorer countries invest a greater part of their wealth into human development than does the U.S. The consequences for the U.S. of such extravagant expenditures on death and destruction are not only the enmity of the entire world, but also poverty, homelessness, a lower standard of education, inadequate health services for many, a higher crime rate and much more for its own people. Of course, for its victims in other lands, the consequences are much greater still. It recalls the words of J. Robert Oppenheimer (taken from the Bhagavad Gita scriptures), at seeing the detonation of the world’s first nuclear weapon, “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Abandoning our national policy of piracy, looting and pillaging is not merely the right thing to do. It is the obvious thing to do.  When we are no longer a threat to others, many of our enemies will cease to be a threat to us. Of course, that is not a formula that worked for the nations to which we have laid waste, so it is understandable if we will not be quick to entirely abandon a reduced, purely defensive force. We hope that will not have to use it, and in the future we might eventually be able to do away with entirely, as Costa Rica has done. In the meantime, I suspect that we will be able to make common cause needed with other countries in order to confront any threat that might arise. The military-industrial complex will simply have to retool for ploughshares.

In order to assure the implementation of these plans and intentions, several measures are advisable.  First, U.S. troops will not be allowed to engage in combat unless a state of war has been declared by the U.S. Congress, as provided in the U.S. Constitution, except when an immediate threat requires defensive response until the Congress can meet. Second, the CIA will end all clandestine military and subversive activities anywhere in the world. These are a form of warfare and therefore only permissible by armed forces, and only under a declaration of war.  The sole function of the CIA must be intelligence. Finally, the U.S. must negotiate for progressive nuclear disarmament with all nations currently possessing nuclear weapons. These weapons are simply too dangerous for any other option, and must not be allowed in the hands of people who might contemplate using them.

These steps obviate the need for others that are inevitable. If we have no troops overseas, there will no prisoners held in overseas detention facilities, and any held in the U.S. will be subject to U.S. civilian and military law, neither of which permit indefinite detention without trial. Habeas corpus also applies to all persons held in the U.S. for any reason. And finally, while peace, threat reduction and good relations are some of the most important benefits from the changes proposed in this article, the reduction in cost is hardly negligible: probably a half trillion dollars or more. For anyone wondering how some of the other costs of the measures proposed in previous and future installments of this manifesto, this fact will overcome any shortfall not already covered by other suggested revenue sources.

  1. The caption of a 1968 Playboy cartoon by Jim Handelsman expresses this principle well. “Megadeaths! Man, this company has come a long way from typewriter spools.”

Government of, for and by Everyone, Equally

Read Part I, Part II, and Part III.

The US is ruled by a private club of a few hundred oligarchs and corporations. An uprising aimed at the police cannot succeed without taking economic and political power away from this club and redistributing it among the poor and disenfranchised, especially Blacks and Indigenous members of our society.

In Part I, we examined the creation of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) – an extension of the Social Security system – as a means of empowering Blacks, Native Americans, the poor and all Americans by endowing them with a basic entitlement of financial security and independence, and by eliminating poverty. In Part II, we added Universal Public Health Care by extending Medicare for All and eliminating co-pays and gaps. And in Part III we made housing a right for all.

These three elements will have a profound effect upon the power structure of our society, but there is much more to be done. In Part IV, we will look at changes to the government itself, which is currently stacked in favor of the rich, powerful and privileged. In succeeding installments, we will examine proposals to overhaul public education, the economy, the environment, consumer protection, unions, immigration, the media, law enforcement, foreign policy and the military. [Please note that elements in this installment are taken from or inspired by provisions of the 2016 U.S. Green Party platform, but this is not intended as an endorsement of the Green Party.]

One of the most important changes in U.S. government must be to abolish the electoral college. This institution creates winner-take-all presidential and vice-presidential elections in every state, which leads to “battleground” states where most of the campaigning takes place. The result is that the other states are considered “safe” for one candidate or another, and are largely ignored by the campaigns, effectively disenfranchising a majority of voters.

This is intolerable and must be reformed. All elections must be by direct voting, so that only the candidate with a majority of the total popular vote wins. This applies to presidential and all other elections. Direct popular elections assure that every vote counts equally and that every candidate competes for every vote. This enhances the power and importance of all the voters.

But there are other problems with the current system. Empowerment of the individual voter is undermined when eligibility to vote is restricted by a bewildering array of registration laws in each state, often to the advantage of one candidate or party. These restrictions and conditions must be eliminated. We must enact a national “right to vote” law or constitutional amendment to guarantee universal and automatic permanent voter registration, along with fail-safe voting procedures, so that eligible voters whose names are not on the voter rolls or whose information is out-of-date can correct the rolls and vote even on election day. All voters may request mail-in ballots, and incarcerated prisoners must be able to vote.

Election financing is also corrupting our system of government. It encourages control and influence by the wealthy and corporations. All elections must be publicly financed, with a prohibition on the use of private funds for this purpose, even those of the candidate. This has the added advantage of eliminating the influence of corporate money in elections.

But what if there are more than two candidates in a race, and none achieves a required threshold of popular votes? Instead of an expensive, exhausting and time-consuming special election, rank choice voting instant run-off should be instituted in order to break ties or achieve a majority vote, or whatever vote is required to decide the election.

This brings up the issue of so-called third parties. The system must not lock out such parties or place them at such a disadvantage that new parties cannot reasonably compete for votes. Minor candidates and parties must also be considered to have major party status when they achieve a threshold of votes in a given election, e.g. 5%. This allows for innovation in political options and greater choice for the voter.

By the same token, candidates may not be represented differently on the ballot in different areas of the constituency in which they are elected. Presidential and vice-presidential candidates, for example, must be listed and described identically on all ballots nationwide, so that no candidate receives even a perceived advantage in one area or state over another.

Native American nations must have full sovereignty over their lands, and those lands may not be used for other purposes except by permission of these sovereign nations, without coercion. They must have the right to seek redress of grievances in US courts, with appeal to international courts in which they participate in selection of judges and jurors, commensurate with other sovereign nations. They will have the right to dual citizenship in their own nation and the US. If they choose not to have US citizenship, they will nonetheless have the right to permanent residency throughout the US.

American citizens in the District of Columbia must have the same rights and representation as all other U.S. citizens. This means that the District must be given statehood.

The U.S. Constitution must be amended to require that all vacancies in the U.S. Senate be filled by election rather than appointment. Appointment leads to cronyism and potential corruption, and it takes the choice out of the hands of the voter for as long as six years. This must be corrected.

There are a number of other measures, recommended by the U.S. Green party, that will help to further empower the US voter, and which I will mention in brief.

· Develop publicly-owned, open source voting equipment and deploy it across the nation to ensure high national standards, performance, transparency and accountability; use verifiable paper ballots; and institute mandatory automatic random precinct recounts to ensure a high level of accuracy in election results.

· Establish guarantees that every citizen’s vote counts, and that all U.S. voting systems—including electronic ones—are verifiable, transparent and accurate.

· Establish a National Elections Commission with the mandate to establish minimum national election standards and uniformity, partner with state and local election officials to ensure pre-election and post-election accountability for their election plans, require nonpartisan election boards, and depoliticize and professionalize election administration across the United States.

· Increase the number of polling places, and increase the pay for poll workers.

· Strengthen “sunshine laws” to provide citizens with all necessary information and access to their political system.

· Ensure that all important federal, state and local government documents are on the Internet, especially texts of bills, searchable databases of voting records, draft committee and conference reports, and court decisions.

· Reinvigorate the independent investigative agencies, such as the General Accounting Office and the Inspectors General.

· Secure the right of states and municipalities to refuse to invest in foreign businesses that do not abide by their standards for imported goods, fair trade, and environmental protection.

· Ensure free and equal airtime for all ballot-qualified political candidates and parties on radio and television networks and stations.

The point of all these measures is to expand and equalize the power of the individual voter in all elections and to reduce the power of the wealthy, the corporations, the privileged and the elite. The above recommendations can be discussed, altered and expanded, but the end result must be to transform our society into one that brings us closer to the ideal of equal power, equal rights, equal respect, equal dignity and equal treatment for all individuals in our society.

Government of, for and by Everyone, Equally

Read Part I, Part II, and Part III.

The US is ruled by a private club of a few hundred oligarchs and corporations. An uprising aimed at the police cannot succeed without taking economic and political power away from this club and redistributing it among the poor and disenfranchised, especially Blacks and Indigenous members of our society.

In Part I, we examined the creation of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) – an extension of the Social Security system – as a means of empowering Blacks, Native Americans, the poor and all Americans by endowing them with a basic entitlement of financial security and independence, and by eliminating poverty. In Part II, we added Universal Public Health Care by extending Medicare for All and eliminating co-pays and gaps. And in Part III we made housing a right for all.

These three elements will have a profound effect upon the power structure of our society, but there is much more to be done. In Part IV, we will look at changes to the government itself, which is currently stacked in favor of the rich, powerful and privileged. In succeeding installments, we will examine proposals to overhaul public education, the economy, the environment, consumer protection, unions, immigration, the media, law enforcement, foreign policy and the military. [Please note that elements in this installment are taken from or inspired by provisions of the 2016 U.S. Green Party platform, but this is not intended as an endorsement of the Green Party.]

One of the most important changes in U.S. government must be to abolish the electoral college. This institution creates winner-take-all presidential and vice-presidential elections in every state, which leads to “battleground” states where most of the campaigning takes place. The result is that the other states are considered “safe” for one candidate or another, and are largely ignored by the campaigns, effectively disenfranchising a majority of voters.

This is intolerable and must be reformed. All elections must be by direct voting, so that only the candidate with a majority of the total popular vote wins. This applies to presidential and all other elections. Direct popular elections assure that every vote counts equally and that every candidate competes for every vote. This enhances the power and importance of all the voters.

But there are other problems with the current system. Empowerment of the individual voter is undermined when eligibility to vote is restricted by a bewildering array of registration laws in each state, often to the advantage of one candidate or party. These restrictions and conditions must be eliminated. We must enact a national “right to vote” law or constitutional amendment to guarantee universal and automatic permanent voter registration, along with fail-safe voting procedures, so that eligible voters whose names are not on the voter rolls or whose information is out-of-date can correct the rolls and vote even on election day. All voters may request mail-in ballots, and incarcerated prisoners must be able to vote.

Election financing is also corrupting our system of government. It encourages control and influence by the wealthy and corporations. All elections must be publicly financed, with a prohibition on the use of private funds for this purpose, even those of the candidate. This has the added advantage of eliminating the influence of corporate money in elections.

But what if there are more than two candidates in a race, and none achieves a required threshold of popular votes? Instead of an expensive, exhausting and time-consuming special election, rank choice voting instant run-off should be instituted in order to break ties or achieve a majority vote, or whatever vote is required to decide the election.

This brings up the issue of so-called third parties. The system must not lock out such parties or place them at such a disadvantage that new parties cannot reasonably compete for votes. Minor candidates and parties must also be considered to have major party status when they achieve a threshold of votes in a given election, e.g. 5%. This allows for innovation in political options and greater choice for the voter.

By the same token, candidates may not be represented differently on the ballot in different areas of the constituency in which they are elected. Presidential and vice-presidential candidates, for example, must be listed and described identically on all ballots nationwide, so that no candidate receives even a perceived advantage in one area or state over another.

Native American nations must have full sovereignty over their lands, and those lands may not be used for other purposes except by permission of these sovereign nations, without coercion. They must have the right to seek redress of grievances in US courts, with appeal to international courts in which they participate in selection of judges and jurors, commensurate with other sovereign nations. They will have the right to dual citizenship in their own nation and the US. If they choose not to have US citizenship, they will nonetheless have the right to permanent residency throughout the US.

American citizens in the District of Columbia must have the same rights and representation as all other U.S. citizens. This means that the District must be given statehood.

The U.S. Constitution must be amended to require that all vacancies in the U.S. Senate be filled by election rather than appointment. Appointment leads to cronyism and potential corruption, and it takes the choice out of the hands of the voter for as long as six years. This must be corrected.

There are a number of other measures, recommended by the U.S. Green party, that will help to further empower the US voter, and which I will mention in brief.

· Develop publicly-owned, open source voting equipment and deploy it across the nation to ensure high national standards, performance, transparency and accountability; use verifiable paper ballots; and institute mandatory automatic random precinct recounts to ensure a high level of accuracy in election results.

· Establish guarantees that every citizen’s vote counts, and that all U.S. voting systems—including electronic ones—are verifiable, transparent and accurate.

· Establish a National Elections Commission with the mandate to establish minimum national election standards and uniformity, partner with state and local election officials to ensure pre-election and post-election accountability for their election plans, require nonpartisan election boards, and depoliticize and professionalize election administration across the United States.

· Increase the number of polling places, and increase the pay for poll workers.

· Strengthen “sunshine laws” to provide citizens with all necessary information and access to their political system.

· Ensure that all important federal, state and local government documents are on the Internet, especially texts of bills, searchable databases of voting records, draft committee and conference reports, and court decisions.

· Reinvigorate the independent investigative agencies, such as the General Accounting Office and the Inspectors General.

· Secure the right of states and municipalities to refuse to invest in foreign businesses that do not abide by their standards for imported goods, fair trade, and environmental protection.

· Ensure free and equal airtime for all ballot-qualified political candidates and parties on radio and television networks and stations.

The point of all these measures is to expand and equalize the power of the individual voter in all elections and to reduce the power of the wealthy, the corporations, the privileged and the elite. The above recommendations can be discussed, altered and expanded, but the end result must be to transform our society into one that brings us closer to the ideal of equal power, equal rights, equal respect, equal dignity and equal treatment for all individuals in our society.