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I am a constitutional lawyer who happened to have discovered something quite remarkable: Namely, that our constitution can be easily amended and that we could end our current oligarchy. This was lost to academia, but has been recently rediscovered by constitutional scholars. The activist community is completely unaware that this mechanism for constitutional amendment exists. Our Founding Fathers referred to constitutional amendment by popular sovereignty as a means for peaceful, legal revolution. Based on this, I too have been openly using the word revolution. What popular sovereignty means is that we can alter or abolish the constitution at any time by simple, majority vote. Installing a new constitution is a revolution. The word is simply accurate based on the fact that what I am proposing is a thorough modernization of our Constitution.

I have detailed several substantive and/or tactical issues with this mechanism. But what I find when I can start to convince people shows that the American public is terrorized. What I am advocating is perfectly legal. I advocate no violence or illegality. Nonetheless, I am being told - forcefully - that if I pursue this, I will be crushed. I am calling for peaceful, legal constitutional amendment and almost everyone I encounter informs me that my life will be ruined or ended.

How can a democracy function in that environment? People do not feel they can openly discuss peaceful, legal constitutional amendment? THAT is our biggest obstacle to organizing. Not money; not organization; not even a corporate-owned media. Our biggest obstacle towards organizing is a terrorized American public.

My family and friends are terrified for me. A friend told me that he paused before responding to an email of mine, wondering if he would end up on a list. Two separate friends have said "hi NSA" during skype conversations. I have repeatedly been told that I would be smeared in corporate media. I have been told I would be taken to offshore prisons, unlawfully detained and tortured. I have been told I would be extra-judicially assassinated. Two friends have told me not to use the word revolution - even though I'm talking about revolution through constitutional amendment which is perfectly lawful. I have been told that the fact that I would openly use the word revolution is proof that I am mentally unstable. When I told my mother and one of my best friends that I felt obligated to try to get this information to the world, I was told: "I don't care about the world, I don't want YOU hurt." My own decision to do this resulted in a breakdown because I too understand the nature of the power that would oppose me.

Think of that. Think of the fact that this is occurring in the United States of America. When presented with something that could actually work, people spewed forth to me their absolute, unbridled terror. What I offer is completely legal; it is in every way protected speech. People assure me this does not matter in the slightest. People know - in their hearts - that there is no rule of law in America. We are no longer a nation of laws; we are a nation of men.

And everybody knows.

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows that the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich

That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

And everybody knows that it's now or never
Everybody knows that it's me or you
And everybody knows that you live forever
Ah when you've done a line or two
Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old Black Joe's still pickin' cotton
For your ribbons and bows
Everybody knows

And everybody knows that the Plague is coming
Everybody knows that it's moving fast
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artifact of the past
Everybody knows the scene is dead
But there's gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows

You can find evidence of this terror in my twitter exchange (plutocracyfiles) as well as in the comments of my recent Daily Kos diaries (also plutocracyfiles). Go read it; witness a terrified American public.

Discuss

So ok, I'm a constitutional lawyer so, it looks like I have to bring the news to the world. Constitutional scholars have recently rediscovered constitutional amendment by popular sovereignty. So, the thing is, WE are in charge and specifically, we are in control of the constitution - the ultimate law of the land; the law that controls all laws. It turns out that we can change the constitution any time we want by simple majority vote. So yes, it's true we don't have much say in our representative government, but we control it. If we don't like anything our government does? We could overrule it by simple majority vote. Our Founding Fathers gave us ultimate, final control.

We think inequality is out of hand? We could constitutionally limit inequality by majority vote. We think the war powers are out of control? We could constitutionally limit them by majority vote. We don't like IMF/World Bank policies? We could constitutionally set forth the rules by majority vote. We don't like the environmental policy? We could specify the policy in the constitution by majority vote. And so on. But we've never done it; not once in our whole history. So, turns out, the people are slackers.

It's a very long article - 53 pages. But it appears the structure of our Constitution is this: Our representatives work for us and if we don't like anything they do? We can change it by majority vote. That's what popular sovereignty means. We are the bosses. We are in control. We have the ultimate say. Turns out that's true; we just didn't know it. Constitutional scholars have only recently rediscovered this and it is completely unknown to the activist community.

I mean think of that? Think of how many people want to limit inequality. It's certainly way over 50%. So, that's more than enough. But nobody knows it.

The case is made thoroughly and persuasively, in this law review article (warning: 53 pages, pdf). It seems clear to me that the Founding Fathers didn't drop the ball. We did. What more can you give people than ultimate say? What more can you give people than control of the supreme law of the land? We could change it all at any time by simple, majority vote. And we could do so peacefully and legally.

But, of course, the good news is that we can fix it. However, first, we have to rediscover the principle of popular sovereignty. Yes, it's 53 pages, but read it. It says WE ruined the world. We were supposed to be updating the constitution all along and we totally slacked. It was our only fucking job. So, read the article. It's linked above, but I'll include it here for good measure.

http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/...

Discuss

In 2011 - the same year that the Occupy protests occurred - political scientist Jeffrey A. Winters published a book entitled, Oligarchy Professor Winters explains that the common definition of oligarchy as "rule by the few" is incorrect. The defining feature of oligarchy is the power of wealth and specifically, fortunes so vast that they can be leveraged to corrupt an entire political process - elections, the media, lobbying of representatives, revolving-door corruption of administrative agencies, paid scientific experts, drafting of legislation and so on. Thus, oligarchs are not elites and are not the result of ordinary (even fairly marked) inequality. Oligarchy results from vast concentration of wealth; the type of wealth that can thoroughly corrupt an entire political system.

Winters explains that civil oligarchy - our form of oligarchy - is relatively new. In the past, oligarchs existed, but they were armed (meaning they themselves possessed police power). This traditional form of armed oligarchy is what was known to and considered by our Founding Fathers (and indeed, if oligarchs had police power, they would be subject to significant constitutional limitations; under current judicial interpretation, oligarchs have the rights of citizens). Winters explains that in post-Renaissance Italian city-states, oligarchs came to be disarmed. Though it caused them great worry at the time, it did not prove a problem as civil oligarchs have consistently been able to corrupt governments to an extent that they can use the police and military power of the state for their own purposes (and, even better, they can do so at taxpayer expense).

Interestingly, you are starting to hear claims of tyranny. However, those claims are coming from those concerned with war powers and/or the NSA. Unfortunately, what they are referring to are the symptoms of tyranny, not its cause. Tyranny results from inequality of power; it's symptoms are abandonment of rule of law and oppression. So, the inequality crowd as well as the those concerned with NSA abuse are really talking about the same thing: however, one side of the debate is concerned with the cause of the tyranny (vast wealth inequality, creating a civil oligarchy) and the other is concerned with the symptoms of tyranny (disregard of rule of law and oppressive tactics).

This actually makes sense. "We are the 99%" seems to be about more than just inequality; it's saying that our political economy is not benefiting the collective, but rather, a very few. That is the definition of a tyranny - a government that benefits the few rather than the collective. And the symptoms of a tyranny - disregard of rule of law and oppression - seem increasingly apparent.

This suggests something interesting. Namely, that our Constitution is broken. Constitutions are designed to prevent tyranny; that is their purpose. So, if you have a tyranny, you - by definition - have a constitutional problem. And honestly, it appears that we do. Our Constitution - drafted in the late 18th century - reads a bit like the bible to me: Just as the bible reads like a bronze-age document; our Constitution reads like a pre-industrial, late 18th century document. They're both really impressive, making real progress on some of the stickiest issues of justice, but they're obviously outdated.

Let me give you an example. With respect to war powers, our Constitution only considered two possible scenarios: civil war and attack by a state. And the rules for these two are different: You can suspend habeas corpus in the event of civil war. But what you can see looking at the two covered scenarios is that our Constitution's foreign policy is isolationism. As soon as we - as a country - rejected isolationism, the Constitution has no rules. It's supposed to cover foreign policy, but it didn't anticipate an interventionist foreign policy. Thus, we have no constitutional checks on pretty much all of our wars (and it shows). Like Vietnam being a police action and not a declared war? That looks like you have a hole in your Constitution. It looks like the war version of off-shore tax shelters. And we have lots of them: black-site torturing, getting corporations to do unconstitutional things, getting other nations to do unconstitutional things. As a lawyer, those look like legislative holes. They happen when situations change. It's hard to make a really tight law and no one has a crystal ball. Of course all of those holes could be closed. We could have rules for intervention; we could get rid of these end runs through corporations and other nations.

Given that our form of tyranny is oligarchy according to Professor Winters, it would seem clear that economic matters should be reviewed. Many were upset that the Court ruled that corporations are people in Citizens United. However, if you really look at the constitution, it's clear it intends to regulate the economy (The Commerce Clause, for example), but corporations and the global economy were not considered at all. Why would they have been considered in the late-18th century? So, one could see an intent to regulate the economy, but it's clearly ineffective under modern conditions.

This raises an obvious question: Could we modernize our constitution? It turns out that we can, by simple majority vote, in fact. But that fact is essentially unknown to the activist community. And that's a long story, but I'll make it short(ish).

Basically, when industrialization kicked into high gear and this oligarchy problem flared up, historians concluded that this must have been the intent all along: Of course, our Founding Fathers were wealthy; so, the entire document is geared to favor wealth. This wasn't based primarily on anything our Founding Father's had written, mind you: It was simply based on the fact that they were wealthy. But based on this, what they had written came to be disregarded. I mean if you're trying to restrain wealth, why consult that document? It was set up for the wealthy. So, they lost sight of what the Founding Father's said. This led a few generations of constitutional scholars to conclude that Article V of the Constitution was the only means for amendment - Article V is very burdensome and it is done by government officials, not the people.

However, when you look to what the Founding Father's said, it is clear that Article V applies only to amendment by the GOVERNMENT. Article V it in no way prohibits constitutional amendment by popular sovereignty. In fact, the very principle of popular sovereignty is that the people are the government and therefore, have the inalienable right to altar or abolish their government at any time, by simple majority vote.

That has quite radical implications, if one thinks about it. First, it could actually fix problems rather than getting small legislative gains that are quickly unwound. Second, it could fix a lot of problems: inequality, environmental concerns, internet communications, labor, war powers, the IMF/World Bank, and so on. What Professor Amar's analysis - set forth above - shows is that the people, as sovereigns, control the supreme law of the land and they can change it as they please by simple majority vote. You could constitutionally limit inequality instead of constantly fighting legislative battles. You could specify the rules for the internet. You could end privatization of public goods. You could specify rules for foreign intervention. Professor Amar's analysis shows that we could do whatever we like by simple majority vote. That is what popular sovereignty means: It means the people are the government and therefore, control the supreme law of the land.

Now if Professor Winter's oligarchy analysis is correct and we are a tyranny, it means that the democracy is broken - working through the democratic process will do little. You could get small gains here and there, but you could never really fix problems. The political economy is working for the benefit of the 1%; that's its design. Well, the fix for that structural problem must be constitutional.

So, it appears we have a mechanism of peaceful revolution at our disposal. Our Founding Fathers explicitly talked of constitutional amendment by popular sovereignty in these terms - as a mechanism for peaceful, legal revolution. They envisioned that if there was a structural problem (and tyranny IS a structural problem), that it would be fixed. And by now (in the 21st century), much needs to be fixed. It can be, but as far as I know, no one knows about it.

Discuss

I actually cried tonight. After a few hours of being depressed, this finally made me laugh.

Was it Over When the Germans Bombed Pearl Harbor?

*

Discuss

I'm really excited to present our most recent Occupied Media interview with journalist Sarah Jaffe. Sarah is an associate editor with AlterNet and has been covering OWS from almost the beginning. She maintains a blog at Ohyouprettythings.net and she tweets at @seasonothebitch (I really want a second interview so that we can talk about Sarah's Bowie obsession).  

Sarah and I talk about OWS, her thoughts on the movement and where it might be going. We also discuss student debt and the potential for a debt strike. Sarah presents a good point of contrast to Tamara Draut, whose interview - also about student debt - will be posted later this week.







I started copying Sarah's articles on OWS, but she has written too many - make sure to check them out here.

Thanks, as always, to everyone with the Occupied Media Working Group and a huge thanks to video editor Brandon Goff.

Cross-posted at Plutocracy Files.

Discuss

Cross-posted at Plutocracy Files.

In response to a nationwide crackdown against peaceful, political protesters, two well-known liberal pundits (one of them the revered Paul Krugman) portrayed the evictions as a net positive. The movement - according to these pundits - was in danger of fizzling out over a long Winter and therefore, the police did the protesters a "favor" for which the protesters "should be grateful."

Are you fucking kidding me? Local police forces - recently militarized as a result of the War on Terror - pepper sprayed, beat and brutalized peaceful protesters. The first effective protest in decades is being forcefully - no, brutally! - suppressed and you're telling hundreds of thousands of readers it's probably for the best? Did you see this?






The sane response to this is to tell your readers to watch these videos, to call the persons responsible, to take to the streets. But instead, you've implicitly told them it's not really a big deal because it's actually doing the protesters a favor. It's not quite pointing out pepper is a table condiment, but it's not helpful either.

The bottom line is this: Well-meaning liberals haven't had a clue how to effect real political change or even, for that matter, to change the heretofore insane national dialogue. I'm not exactly sure why Occupy Wall Street has been so effective, but I do think physical occupation has something to do with it. Looking on the bright side and expressing no alarm when the tactic of occupation is brutally suppressed by militarized police forces suggests that Krugman and Klein think the tactic is beside the point.

We should never act nonchalant in the face of police brutality and suppression of First Amendment Rights, but the assumption that occupation is of little importance is a dubious, unsupported assumption. The tactic matters and the suppression of the tactic is a threat to the movement.

Update: I had a twitter exchange with Digby wherein she noted - correctly - that Krugman and Klein are not equally culpable here. I would've liked to see more outrage from Krugman and I think he underestimates the importance of occupation as a tactic as well as the difficulty of re-establishing an occupation at a later date, but Krugman clearly supports OWS. Nonetheless, where Krugman sees the biggest problem as the potential to fade away, I see suppression as at least as threatening (and seeing militarized police forces unleash on peaceful protesters is freaking me out). However, make sure to follow the links above so that you can judge for yourself. (Krugman's link is "should be grateful.")

Discuss

Occupy Missoula is VERY small - needs help!

I had heard from several of the 24/7 occupiers at Occupy Missoula that the police have dropped off drunken, belligerent people at the occupation. I happened to be there when just that happened. A woman who was extremely drunk and was belligerent was dropped off by Officer Kasey Williams of the Missoula Police Department, Badge #348. She headed directly into the occupation and was belligerent and threatening. This very small occupation was forced to handle this on their own (which, by the way, they did very well).

As soon as I left I called Sgt. Jerry Odlin to speak to him about it. I informed him of the situation and informed him that the occupation has rules prohibiting intoxication. He denied that anything had been done to create disruption at the Occupy Missoula occupation.

Missoula Police Department:

phone - (406) 552-6300

Missoula Mayor John Engen:
phone - (406) 552-6001
email - mayorstaff@ci.missoula.mt.us

Cross-posted at Plutocracy Files.

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I'm extremely pleased to present the most recent Occupied Media installment, our interview with economist John Quiggin. Professor Quiggin usually does his professoring at the University of Queensland, but is currently a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins Univeristy. He blogs at the widely-read Crooked Timber and also on his own blog, johnquiggin.com. He is the author of Zombie Economics, which was named one of the top thirty business books of 2010 and surely can spawn untold sequels.

Professor Quiggin and I discuss the current economic crisis as well as his preferred policies to get us out of this God-awful mess. Among other matters, we discussed criminal prosecutions (which he's against), financial transaction tax (which he's for) and how we can keep this economic system from crashing all the damn time (he doesn't know). I think it comes across how much I enjoyed talking with Professor Quiggin and I'm sure everyone will find him to be as charming as I did.






Thanks, as always, to everyone with the Occupy Missoula Communications Working Group and a huge thanks to video editor Paul Shockey who took days fixing the sound on this video.

It is Occupied Media's sincere hope that other occupations and/or supporters of OWS will contribute videos to the Occupied Media project - interviews, teach-ins, how-to videos, music videos and so on (really anything in a video format). Please direct all inquiries and video submissions to:

OccupiedMedia@gmail.com

OR

Plutocracyfiles@gmail.com

Correction: During the interview with Professor Quiggin, I referred to freshwater economists John Cochrane and Robert Barro as supporting a "Treasury View," "crowding out" argument. I meant John Cochrane and Eugene Fama; Robert Barro is a freshwater economist and he has made some ridiculous arguments since the economy crashed, but he did not make a "Treasury View," "crowding out" argument.

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Cross-posted at Plutocracy Files.

Occupied Media's next installment in its #OWS interview and teach-in series is with journalist and radio host Doug Henwood. Mr. Henwood is the author of Wall Street (now available for free download), a work consistently mentioned on a short list of must-read books for those wishing to understand the financial crisis and, more recently, the issues central to the OWS movement. Mr. Henwood blogs at lbo-news.com and hosts the critically-acclaimed radio show, Left Business Observer. His weekly newsletter is a must-read for anyone interested in OWS, as are his recent blog posts (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here).

For years Mr. Henwood was one of the few voices promoting the very issues OWS has now forced onto the national agenda. I've really appreciated how his ideas about the movement have evolved - one gets the sense that he is sincerely trying to understand OWS on its own terms rather than interpreting it through a fixed ideological lens. In my opinion, he is raising the important and difficult issues facing our movement (many of which were discussed at this recent debate hosted by Jacobin).

We couldn't be happier that he took the time to speak with us and I'm sure everyone will find him to be as engaging and informative as we did.

It is Occupied Media's sincere hope that other occupations and/or supporters of OWS will contribute videos to the Occupied Media project - interviews, teach-ins, music videos, etc. Please direct all inquiries and video submissions to:

OccupiedMedia@gmail.com

OR

Plutocracyfiles@gmail.com

Special thanks to Occupy Missoula, the Occupy Missoula Communications Working Group and, in particular, to video editor Paul Shockey.

Discuss

Cross-posted at Plutocracy Files.

Occupied Media's second interview is with Firedoglake blogger Kevin Gosztola (first interview with Jeff Madrick, here). Kevin has been live blogging Occupy Wall Street since day one. He was really the only comprehensive coverage during those early media-blackout days. As we discuss in the interview, Kevin wrote what - to my recollection - was the first full-throated defense of OWS. His piece was picked up by Glenn Greenwald and, in my opinion, turned the debate on the Left in OWS's favor.

The interview begins with Kevin's detailed discussion of the events of the Global Day of Protest (10/15/11) in Times Square. From there, Kevin discusses his experiences covering the movement as well as his thoughts on media and pundit coverage of OWS. I was really taken by Kevin's description of Wall Street as a Green Zone - I've consistently heard this from OWS protesters. We also discuss the "demands" issue, the future of the movement and the role of smaller occupations.  

Kevin's reporting is being supported by donation. I think the interview evidences that he's an important voice. So, if you can swing a donation, it's a very worthy cause.

Here's a video of police sending horses into the crowd at Times Square discussed by Kevin (10/15/11):

LINKS:

Kevin Gosztola, Why Establishment Media and the Power Elite Loathe Occupy Wall Street

Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina

We Are the 99 % Tumblr

Lisa Derrick

It is Occupied Media's sincere hope that other occupations and/or supporters of OWS will contribute videos to the Occupied Media project - interviews, teach-ins, music videos, etc. Please direct all inquiries and video submissions to:

OccupiedMedia@gmail.com

OR

Plutocracyfiles@gmail.com


Discuss

So many celebrities have visited Liberty Plaza, Allison Kilkenny - only half-jokingly - referred to Occupy Wall Street as a modern-day Studio 54. Michael Moore made an appearance early on (giving the movement a much needed boost), Mark Ruffalo marched with the protesters and they've had numerous teach-ins featuring prominent authors and Nobel-prize winning economists. These high profile appearances have done much to help Occupy Wall Street grow and to energize the movement.

But what about occupations in smaller towns? How can they have teach-ins (which, obviously, are needed as much in smaller occupations as in the larger cities)?

These were the thoughts that led me - pretty much on a whim - to see if I could convince high profile academics to conduct virtual teach-ins for everyone, but especially directed to smaller occupations. Joseph Stiglitz's wife replied almost immediately and told me that although Professor Stiglitz was out of the country, she was sure Jeff Madrick would be willing to help - it says all anyone needs to know about Jeff Madrick that she would be so certain of his generosity. And indeed, she was correct: Without hesitation, Mr. Madrick agreed to lend his expertise to Occupied Media. For those of you not familiar with Mr. Madrick, here he is appearing on Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

Once Mr. Madrick agreed to the virtual teach-in, the members of our very small occupation began to scramble (Mr. Madrick was more than happy to be interviewed, but he was leaving for Europe in two days). None of us had any experience and a flurry of frantic tweets and emails ensued. But very quickly, we conducted the interview via Skype and due to the willingness of so many to lend a helping hand, we found a way to edit and post the piece to our newly-formed YouTube channel (in addition to members of the Occupy Missoula Communications Working Group, I was assisted remotely by many generous individuals donning Guy Fawkes masks). Now we need our fellow occupiers as well as our allies on twitter, in the progressive blogosphere and in the alternative media to make sure Occupied Media generally and this virtual teach-in in particular reaches the hundreds of smaller occupations across the country.

It is my sincere hope that many smaller occupations will contribute to Occupied Media. Anyone interested in participating - or with inquiries regarding Occupied Media - can contact me via twitter or email.

Occupied Media: Interview With Jeff Madrick (10/11/11)
Jeff Madrick is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast and he is the author of several acclaimed books, including The Age of Greed, which Paul Krugman and Robin Wells describe as:
A fascinating and deeply disturbing tale of hypocrisy, corruption, and insatiable greed. But more than that, it’s a much-needed reminder of just how we got into the mess we’re in—a reminder that is greatly needed when we are still being told that greed is good.

Video cross-posted at OccupyMissoula.wordpress.com.

Discuss

Following live feed and twitter, I reported on yesterday's events as they unfolded, here. The following is a recap as well as events or matters that occurred late in the evening.

Despite massive crowds and widespread support from labor and community organizations, the big news at Occupation Wall Street was once again police violence. According to multiple, contemporaneous twitter reports, large groups of protesters attempted to breach police barricades to go onto Wall Street. The police maced many protesters and well ... here's the video:

There were several claims that the police had plants (agitators?) in the crowd. At approximately 8:15 (EST), journalist Laurie Penny (PennyRed) reported as follows via twitter:

Couple of 'protesters' with badges move out of the back of the crowd and join the police.

I have tweeted Ms. Laurie requesting denial or confirmation, but she has not responded. There were widespread reports of "planted" police officers, but no confirmation.

By approximately 9:30 EST, #OccupyWallStNYC confirmed 18 arrests. Among the arrested was this armless man:

Photobucket

And this gentleman who wrote the word LOVE on the sidewalk with chalk (which apparently is a crime in NYC):

When the arrested are taken away, the crowd asks their names so they can be located. Ryan Devereaux reported that one woman, with "total[] poise" said:

Troy Davis, Medgar Evers, Emmett Till, Martin Luther King.

I will be live blogging Day 20 here.

Discuss
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