Over the past couple years, I've read a few reports of people walking or biking cross-country for a political cause. I've even contacted some.
Saturday night, in going over political e-mail/links I found out about two brothers, former Vietnam Veterans, currently walking across the nation, meeting with individuals and folks at rallies, all in their political action against the Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts on speech. On their blog were their cell numbers and I called to see how they were doing.
I spoke with Robin at length, they were in Chillicothe, Ohio, a place I've been to myself. Before I get to how our phone conversation went and the things we discussed, here is the basic information posted on their blog, and which they've given me permission to post in full.
May 16 to about October 22, 2010
HOW THE WALK EVOLVED
On January 21st this year, I read the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United v Federal Elections Committee case. I felt weak in the knees and sat down. I was so despondent that I almost cried. It seemed to me that the Court had made a fraud of the Constitution. It made people second class citizens to corporations.
Then I got angry. I could no longer write letters and sign petitions that had accomplished so little for so much effort. I had to make a personal sacrifice to attract attention to what I saw as the basic problem of our government and what I perceived to be it's basic solution.
The first idea that I had, was to lead a group of 12 people, each walking two hours each day across the country from San Francisco to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. At a minimal pace of two miles per hour and walking 24/7, the walk could be completed in about 75 days. This allowed for about ten days of rest periods.
On the internet, I found Move to Amend, a consortium of many organizations who all agreed with the premise that corporations were not legal persons.
One of the members of the MtA steering committee was Reclaim Democracy. I called the phone number and talked to the founder, Jeff Milchen, who liked my proposal and asked me to write it up and email it to him. He emailed back that he had forwarded it on to the appropriate persons at MtA and I should hear back from them shortly. About three weeks later I got a message from David Cobb asking that I call him.
In the mean time, I contacted my brother, Robin. Robin and I are 67 and 69 respectively. We are both Viet Nam veterans and both very independent voters. Robin has extensive experience leading groups of people on lengthy canoe trips. I asked him to figure out a 14 day rotating menu for 12 people for 13 weeks and total the estimated cost. He agreed to do the menu and said that he figured about $5 to $6 per person per day. The estimate for my trip including gas and motel rooms was approaching $30,000.
In a conference call with David Cobb and Nancy Price, I got much encouragement for the walk but they questioned their ability to attract even six more people willing to do the walk with me let alone not being able to fund the walk up front.
The next day, I received an email from Robin, asking "... if the cook could walk?" With his commitment I knew that we together could do this regardless of outside help.
Our next conference with David Cobb in late March, confirmed assistance from David and the resources available to him via Move to Amend, Committee to Legalize Democracy, and many other organizations.
In the mean time, I heard from several other people who asked how they could help. Jeff Milchen, of Reclaim Democracy, said that if I could provide copy, he would help with media contacts. Lacking the time to devote, to what for me was an arduous task, I thought of my friend of almost 50 years, O Kay Jackson.
O Kay Jackson, a journalist, novelist (Waking Up Men, And Then They All Got Naked) and political activist herself, agreed to do all the press releases for us.
Then Cathleen "Cat" White, who has several excellent commercial web sites to her credit, volunteered to work on a website and suggested Facebook and Twitter with links to Google Maps to make following our progress easier for all interested parties. Robin's son-in-law, Don Kosek, also agreed to help with tech support. In the end, it was Cat's suggestions and Don's expertise that produced the blog that is evolving to date.
Robin and I have been getting in shape by walking everyday and preparing our old bodies as if for a marathon. Other details, including a mobile phone for each of us, and walkie talkies for the areas that cell phones don't work, preparing camping equipment and a route plan, getting up to speed on the use of Facebook and this blog, and practicing the talking points to attract support from all across the political spectrum.
We are preparing to leave from Robin's home in St. Paul, MN on May 6th and drive to meet with David Cobb at his home near Eureka, California, on the evening of May 10th. On the 11th and 12th David will devote both days preparing us for media interviews, doing some roll playing and learning a few more talking points. We may do a local radio program or two and meet with other like minded people before setting out for the start of our walk the morning of May 16th from the NW corner of Golden Gate Park, in San Francisco.
We hope to update the blog on a daily basis as internet connections are available. While crossing Nevada and Utah, there may be several days when that won't be possible.
We are encouraged by all the help that we have received to date and are looking forward to doing this for the sake of the Democratic Republic that belongs to us.
Here is the YouTube video they've put up: http://www.youtube.com/...
I spoke with Robin at length, to get an understanding of how things we going. Their largest welcome was a rally in Colorado, where some 150 people showed up to greet them. In Kansas they also had a few large groups greet them. They've had a lot of smaller gatherings along the way, and of course have spoken with dozens and dozens of individuals. To date, Robin said exactly two citizens said they were against what they were doing, the rest have supported them in one way or another, and thanked them.
I mentioned to Robin that a single, private corporation now tallies 80%+ of all votes cast nationwhide. "I know, isn't that crazy?" he replied. He agreed, transparent elections and a free society are one and the same thing. I then reasoned with him that in light of that, it would be far more effective to raise awareness of the convention clause of Article V instead of a single amendment, which in the end, only addresses a symptom, not the actual problem itself: the privatization of the federal government. I then sent them both an e-mail with links, and a half hour later Laird replied:
While we need to Amend the Constitution to Abolish Corporate Personhood, I believe that a Constitutional Convention is completely unnecessary and fraught with risk. I am afraid that the constitution that we end up with will only exacerbate the problem and will legitimise an Oligarchy or Fascist State. i would like to hear your arguments for a Constitutional Convention.
To which I replied:
Laird, I'm afraid we've all been conditioned over the past forty/fifty years to think and feel about the convention clause as you do now. Please allow me to explain:
First, whatever is proposed at a convention must be ratified for it to take effect. The reason the Framers set ratification at 75% (3/4 of the states) is because whatever the idea--conservative to liberal--it must get all of one side signed on, plus at least half the other. In other words, ratification sanctifies the popular will. As you yourself mention in your YouTube video, the country is polarized, thus if any idea is even slightly questionable it will await ratification in vain. In addition to that, even if a delegate or a group of delegates wanted to tamper with the structural law of the Constitution (the seven articles), they'd first have to propose an amendment allowing for that, get it ratified by 38 states, and then come back and propose their new constitution. The Framers did not place a self-destruct button into their masterwork.
That aside, consider this: if we did coerce the convention call out of the Congress, the question is, what happens next? The call itself will galvanize the country. It's the job of politicians and corporate media to divide us, the Constitution lets us know we're all about to come to the table together for a national discussion. Next, there will have to be elections for delegates (under the 14 Amendment and equal protection, and supporting Supreme Court rulings from the past, delegates must be chosen in the same way members of Congress are--by the people of their state). Here's a critical distinction: the elections for legislators and the elections for delegates are two completely different animals. Candidates for the legislature can and do say the same thing they have for decades--"It's time for change in Washington D.C."--coupled with a bunch of vague rhetoric. The elections for delegates will be very specific and issue oriented: "If you elect me delegate, I'll make sure there's an amendment on the table to strip corporations of their personhood; I'll make sure there's one mandating a federal standard for voting and voter registration; that there's one for term limits for members of Congress...." In other words, elections for legislators are all ultimately about how to become part of the status quo and politics as usual, whereas elections for delegates will be about how to reform the status quo.
Whether or not the country could agree to ratify an amendment (though in my opinion, as polls in favor of electoral reform are always at 90%+, this would be the one/only thing to make the cut today)--this is all cart before the horse: what is more important than anything else today is to stop politics as usual dead in its tracks. It's this, this never-ending advancement of the corporate political agenda which is killing us, and indeed has an inevitable conclusion. The constitutional process of convoking and convening a convention stops it. What's more, that political dynamic will place federal officials on notice the same way that if a corrupt accountant cooking the books were suddenly notified an outside audit were coming down the pike. The national discussion which the elections for delegates will create, will force corporate politicians and corporate media impressarios to suddenly start making sense. "Why didn't they ever talk about that idea?"
In addition to all this, the national group Friends of the Article V Convention, which I was a co-founder of, over the past two years, has done an audit of the Congressional Record to find that all fifty states have cast applications for a federal convention and one session of Congress after the next has failed to carry out its constitutional obligation to issue the call. In other words, since the Constitution mandates a convention, and Congress is failing to obey it, the contract is currently suspended. Thus, you are either for the Constitution or you are not, as Marbury v. Madison correctly stated, something is either constitutional or it it's not, there is no middle ground. This means it doesn't matter if you or others subjectively believe a convention is dangerous--you're either for the Constitution or you aren't.
President Lincoln correctly said that it doesn't matter what the Congress/President/Court say the Constitution means, but only what the people say it means. In other words, if we get a tipping-point majority of Americans saying it means it's time for We The People to convene, we will, and from there, in a natural progression of events the Constitution will do exactly what it was designed to--keep us free from tyranny.
As I mentioned to Robin over the phone, we currently have a single, private corporation (ES&S, which last year bought Diebold) now tallying 80%+ of all votes cast nationwide, all on proprietary source code. If you don't have transparent elections, you don't have a free society--the two are one and the same--and we currently have neither. Thus, a 28th Amendment which creates a federal standard for voting and voter registration is in fact even more important than one which strips corporations of their personhood. And having done four tours of the country myself, visiting every state except Alaska, many two and three times apiece (and I've been to Chillicothe more than once myself), my research shows that no one likes a private corporation telling us who won an election, it's a very, very non-partisan issue ingrained in our heritage.
Corporate power is happy to see you and others spending time, effort, and money battling them, the one thing they don't want is us to address the problem instead of its symptoms. The problem is Congress and the Framers knew it would be taken over at some point. Thus, the convention clause. The one and only thing the oligarchs, corporatists, and fascists fear, and under no circumstance want to have happen, is We The People coming together to discuss them.
In other words, objectively, if you really, really wanted to see an end to corporate personhood, you'd be advocating for the Article V Convention--coming to the aid of the one and only thing which will reverse all these trends which indeed are surely fatal.
If you are so moved, I encourage you to sign up for ConventionUSA.org, and make it a point to raise awareness of this site to everyone you meet. If it goes viral and we get a million or more delegates signed up for $10 a month, that's a lot of money, and we'll begin to beat them at the game they're currently winning due to the recent Supreme Court ruling that spurred you to action.
Any thoughts or questions you have, I'm here to call any time. This is all objective Laird, and there is no debate about what objectively must occur before this war will ever be won in the name of the people.
That's what they're doing. Here are some links for you to consider:
This link is put up by Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig:
This link is put up by former Michigan State Chief Justice Tom Brennan:
Friends of the Article V Convention is the leading national group:
This link is the database of state applications for the Article V Convention, all fifty have applied, and thus according to the rule of law, it's currently
These articles by Justices Van Sickle and Brennan provide and overview on the matter: