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In the wake of the unprecedented level of gerrymandering that followed the 2010 elections, as well as the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act and campaign finance laws, it has become very clear that a constitutional amendment may be required in order to preserve the right to vote in this country. While I have not read Stevens' previous book, I've heard good things about his writing, so I've been looking forward to reading his latest offering. It was announced early on that he would take on the second amendment, which guaranteed that the book would be controversial, but I was more interested in the other five amendments he intended to offer. Although Stevens spent nearly 35 years on the high court, he seems to feel that it has taken on excessive power, and here he advocates returning power to the people’s representatives in Congress.

After a quick review of the successful amendments thus far, Stevens proceeds to a discussion of the Supremacy Clause and whether the federal government can compel state officials to enforce federal law, given that the language specifically calls out judges (“and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby”); he recommends adding the words “and other public officials”, with the reasoning that often state officials are in the best position to enforce federal law. Stevens clearly considers this to be a clarification rather than a change, but one which would overturn past rulings of the court.

The second chapter moves on to what I would consider one of the greatest threats to democracy: political gerrymandering. While few people have much good to say about gerrymandering (indeed, Stephens opens with a quote from Antonin Scalia describing severe partisan gerrymanders as incompatible with democratic principles), thus far the courts have declined to step in other than to prevent racial gerrymanders. Oddly enough, Stevens weakens the impact of his argument by using older examples of gerrymandering that left the minority party with fewer seats than they could reasonably expect have gotten based on their share of the vote, while ignoring the more egregious gerrymandering that happened after the 2010 elections and in some cases allowed the Republican party to capture a supermajority of seats in 2012 while getting a minority of the vote. He argues, and I would agree, that having compact districts is more important than making sure each one has exactly the same number of people (while the numbers should be approximately equal, I would argue that a 1% difference in size does far less damage than the….interesting…shapes of today’s congressional districts).

In chapter three, we move on to campaign finance. Congress has always tried to impose limits on political spending in order to avoid corruption. Most recently, the debate has been over whether Congress can limit the aggregate amount that an individual can donate to political campaigns and whether non-human entities (such as corporations and unions) can spend without restriction. So far the most interesting option I’ve seen (although one not mentioned in this book) is to expand the current prohibition on election spending by people who are not US citizens to say that money spent to promote or oppose a candidate may only come from people who could legally vote for or against that candidate. Of course, any one restriction we put into place may be gamed; Stevens suggests an amendment simply stating that Congress and the states may impose reasonable limits on how much candidates and their supporters may spend in election campaigns. Reasonable, of course, would be defined by the appropriate lawmakers.

Moving on, chapter four covers a somewhat more obscure topic: sovereign immunity. Under common law, the king could not be sued without his consent, and the states have assumed this power to themselves (and solidified it with the 11th amendment, which prohibits federal courts from ruling on suits brought against a state by citizens of another state (or another country). More recently (although this isn’t covered in the chapter, and the court has never given it much credence) we’ve seen claims that states can invalidate federal law under the 10th amendment. The proposed amendment for this chapter clarifies that a state and its agencies and officers are subject to the Constitution and to acts of Congress.

In chapter five, we consider the death penalty. Does it fall under the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment? Should it be decided at the federal level, rather than state by state? Stevens recommends adding the words “such as the death penalty” to the prohibition in the 8th amendment. I found this to be the weakest chapter in that nothing herein will convince anyone not already opposed to the death penalty that a problem exists.

Chapter six, on gun control, is disappointingly short. As expected, Stevens covers the history of judicial rulings on the second amendment, through the 5-4 votes in 2008 and 2010 (District of Columbia v Heller and McDonald v Chicago, respectively) that expanded the right to keep a handgun and limited the right of the government to outlaw handguns. The topic guaranteed that this would be the most controversial chapter in the book, and I had hoped Stevens would make use of that attention by giving an in-depth treatment of how the second amendment has been interpreted throughout the history of the country, but instead the coverage of the historical record is minimal. The purpose of this chapter is primarily to argue that Congress, not the courts, should be charged with deciding on the proper regulation of guns.

As to my rating, I start out by giving the book four stars for entertainment and education. It’s very easy to read, despite what can be somewhat technical subject matter. However, I deduct a star because the book fails on several counts. Primarily, this is intended as a persuasive book, but while Stevens adequately (if only just) demonstrates the existence of each problem, he devotes no space to convincing the reader that his proposed amendment is the optimal way to deal with that problem. In fact, not enough space is devoted to the book in general; it weighs in at only 168 pages, not particularly lengthy given the subject matter, and only 2/3 of that is the actual book, the remainder being taken up by illustrations, the text of the Constitution, etc. Overall, the book is a disappointment, not only because it fails to accomplish its goal of convincing the reader to support Steven’s preferred solutions to the various problems mentioned, but because of the wasted opportunity that a book by a man in his position had to more fully inform the public.

3 stars.

=
This review first appeared at Vulcan Ears Book Reviews and on Amazon, where it is currently ranked as the most helpful critical review (somehow being more popular than all the 1-star "Stevens is a socialist!" reviews).

Originally posted to wmspringer on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 05:21 PM PDT.

Also republished by Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA) and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Glad somebody took this one up (7+ / 0-)

    I'd seen mentions of Steven's good, but wouldn't have had the time to put up a review.  Much obliged that you did.

    Quote of the week: "They call themselves bipartisan because they're able to buy members of both parties," (R. Eskow, Campaign for America's Future.)

    by mbayrob on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 05:35:54 PM PDT

  •  Does Stevens discuss the (11+ / 0-)

    futility of trying to pass an amendment, versus the limits of working withing the current view of the Constitution?

    Does he discuss the likelihood of changing the Constitution, versus the likelihood of changing the balance of the Court and overturning the noxious crap we now have?

    •  No and No (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Elwood Dowd, foresterbob, oortdust

      It was essentially "Here's what the problem is. Here's my solution. Next problem."

      Quite a disappointment, really.

    •  There Is No Future of the US That Does Not (6+ / 0-)

      require change that is utterly futile. Consider it's been 2 generations since we were last a democracy, according to a couple studies of policies past by government vs popular preferences.

      There is no harm in debating futile policy, just as there is no hope of saving the country by avoiding it.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 06:16:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Whats being challenged by Bundy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Words In Action

      is nothing less than the majority consensus to be law abiding and its not too surprising he has supporters among those Yahoos who adhere only to higher laws, Mosaic Law, or as in the Old West the law of the gun.

      What Stevens is addressing is the mechanism of enforcement. Who will order the cows to be rounded up and trucked away to enforce a million dollar BLM fine if it means a bunch of locals, guilty of not much more than being stubbornly stupid, have to get all shot up and be made into martyrs.

      In essence we have three groups of laws. There are crimes against property which are basically there to help some group gerrymander its share of the common good; crimes against institutionalized morality which counter our attempts at religious freedom and a woman's or a minorities right to choose; and crimes of violence which come from the frustrations of trying to deal with the other two categories of crime.

      In theory outlaws get put under the ban. We are taught to fear law and order and to be be wary of enforcement, but from time to time some group of brave souls finds it necessary to have a whiskey rebellion and become legend leading to good political careers for the leaders.

      Law and Order are essential to the idea of government. They are so essential that initially enforcement begins with lessons taught children in elementary school by recruiting their parents to reinforce the lesson that a child's rebelliousness goes on their permanent record and thus we as Parents must seek to teach them that Law and Order will take a stand. (The Children's Crusade was the last time I can think of children decided to choose the course of martyrdom).

      Gradually learning we can make decisions pro se (for ourselves, on our own behalf), decide not to be a believer and get away with not being punished can be a major rite of passage leading to becoming able to decide independently right from wrong as an adult

      Schooling counters by making it clear such ideas may destroy career advancement and our ability to go to college and become a properly certified wage slave. Authorities follow up by trying to teach us a lesson.

      Self actualizing brings the general nuisance of being fined, or taxed by regulatory fees such as traffic tickets.
      Those labeled Type A's who can't learn or refuse to be frightened by the rules, those who think to drop out of the system find that they up the ante to incarceration
      and or hostage negotiators.

      Theoretically if a majority doesn't enforce its laws (55 MPH speed limits) they cease to be laws going through a process of gradual downgrading (Blue laws) or (government regulations) that many people feel justified in not observing.

      The extremist view is that if you had no laws you would have no crimes.

      To some who confuse Law and Order with Enforcement such as the police, that makes sense not only because by definition crimes are the breaking of a law, but also  as regards enforcement with the Obama administration recognizing that life sentences for drug crimes and the privatization of prisons are not in the best interests of society, cops sometimes get caught in the middle much like national guard soldiers do.

      As with Citizens United many individual groups are recognizing that lobbyists and legislatures have based reams of laws favoring one group over another (tax breaks and federal subsidies) for no good reason and judges, even judges on the Supreme Court may not be competent administrators of the legislation.

      Where seeking Constitutional Amendments fails is in the amount of time and effort it takes to bring change and in the danger that not all of us are so patient as to be willing to wait another century to get health care reform making political adjustments such as throwing the bums (Republicans) out and just getting it done with ordinary Democrats.

      Choosing to elect Democrats who despite all their flaws (such as being politicians in the House of Cards sense) do sometimes get things done, may be the right course of action for us now.

      It is the obvious course and the reason Republicans have chosen to as Elizabeth Warren puts it "resort to cheating".

      To Republicans gerrymandering, voter suppression, the removal of all limits on campaign financing, and poor enforcement of existing laws are there to be used to prevent their minority positions from being swallowed up by some ass who doesn't understand entitlements are supposed to be limited to rich old white billionaires and not given to the old, the poor, the disabled, women, minorities, diversities or ordinary folk.

      Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

      by rktect on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 05:49:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree with two things that you have said here... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rktect

        I agree that you perceive yourself as an outlaw: "In theory outlaws get put under the ban. We are taught to fear law and order."  I also agree that electing Democrats is the right thing for us to do right now; i.e. that an imperfect Democrat is momentarily superior to an un-electable progressive.  

        I think I might agree with most of the rest, but I am unsure.  This demonstrates that we should not be outlaws with respect to the rules of grammar and rhetoric.    

        Let me try to recast your last paragraph to illustrate what I understand it to say.  Because these are separate ideas, I will split them into two paragraphs.  

        Republicans view gerrymandering, voter suppression, repeal of limitations on campaign financing, and selective enforcement of the laws as weapons to be used against those who do not have political power.  

        To a Republican, an entitlement is a benefit to be conferred on the rich and powerful: not a safety net for those who have, through ill-fortune, age, or infirmity, been deprived of the ability to provide for themselves.  

        Rant about progressive issues.  Rave about them.  When you do, it benefits our collective cause to make fewer points, in a way that will more easily reach and more deeply  move the reader.    

        If we do not maintain Justice, Justice will not maintain us. -Sir Francis Bacon.

        by Res Ipsa Loquitor on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 08:00:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I attempted to read my writ from your perspective (0+ / 0-)

          I agree shorter sentences and paragraphs stating and developing one idea at a time make sense.

          I started out wanting to address Bundy's rejection of the consensus to be law abiding, and why it finds resonance with his neighbors and right wing media.

          By way of comparison I thought to look at how Stevens views enforcement as the mechanism that maintains the consensus.

          Such a mechanism of maintenance and repair becomes necessary, when something is, or is likely to be, broken.

          The problem with maintaining the consensus is that we depend on education for that job. Education tends to work best when it allows us rather than forces us to learn, and thus doesn't lend itself well to enforcement.

          The problem with enforcement as the mechanism of repair is that it can make some outlaws look like martyrs.

          That puts the BLM in an awkward position in having to just shoot all the stubbornly stupid people interfering with its lawful intent in order to complete its work in a proper law abiding fashion.

          The BLM can go to court and get writs to enforce Bundy's debt and seize his cattle but they can't show up outgunned and avoid a violent confrontation unless they have the wisdom to stand down.

          That initial law abiding repositioning and the reasoning behind it can have the effect of undermining the consensus to be law abiding in the first place.

          It can escalate the confrontation if the media take up the cause and runs with it.

          Action movies already preach the Action Hero concept that being law abiding is a weak policy and being a gun toting Western outlaw lawman that takes the law into his own hands when necessary (or even just more fun) is consistent with strength.

          This time Bundy managed to shoot himself in the foot with his remarks, but its clear we need a better mechanism for future confrontations over things like voter suppression.

          The inference is that if we fail to make it clearer why there should be a consensus to be law abiding, if we have no lessons that can be learned to make that case, some of us will reject the teaching and go off to create their own school of thought.

          Citizens United made it clear politicians were bought and paid for by corporations resulting in our spending hundreds of Billions of Dollars on the wrong priorities.

          The battle between a consensus to be law abiding and the action hero's self actualization that makes its own rules with a six gun in its hand thus comes down to what are our priorities for this consensus.

          Republicans seek to have us believe it is Democrats who have the wrong priorities, wasting money on the quality of life of people who will eventually get sick and die, whereas the Republican party's priority of enriching corporations at the expense of austerity as regards everything else makes sense because corporations are persons that are designed to have an eternal life and thus perpetuate the investment.

          As an expansion of what I said previously, consider the contrast of BLM uniform with gun toting camo and boots costume. Imagine that instead of white men in cowboy hats and or bandannas wrapping their heads we had well armed Arabs in the same costume except perhaps wearing their keffiyah wrapping their heads differently.

          Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

          by rktect on Sat Apr 26, 2014 at 05:23:40 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  If we COULD amend ... we wouldn't NEED to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Elwood Dowd

      But it's nice to think about.

    •  Some of the stuff (like sovereign immunity) (0+ / 0-)

      really would require a constitutional amendment, though.  As far as I know, Stevens believes that SI exists, but just thinks that's a bad thing.  

  •  Sovereign immunity (8+ / 0-)

    the big change needed is to say that illegal/unconstitutional actions cannot be considered within the official duties of a public servant and cannot fall under sovereign immunity.

    Because, as it is, that's a big freakin' loophole.

    What do the Defend-NSAers-at-any-cost hope for society to gain from Snowden turning himself in and standing trial? I suspect it'll be a cold day in hell before any of them finally give a reasonable, coherent answer to that question.

    by happymisanthropy on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 08:41:45 PM PDT

  •  There is no right to vote (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MadGeorgiaDem, a2nite, blackhand, ichibon

    "constitutional amendment may be required in order to preserve the right to vote"

    Voting is a privilege that states are free to determine who receives. There are a few protected reasons why states are not allowed to discriminate against, but they are few and far between.

    There is not much preventing the banning of left handed people voting.

    Or if your favorite food is cheese you get 5 votes.

    •  The right to vote is enshrined in the Constitution (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rktect, Words In Action

      by the very provision that Congress can regulate state elections by which federal elected officials are chosen.  Court cases relating to one man/one vote, gerrymandering, and poll taxes are clear recognition that this is a (though flawed) democracy.  In fact, the very provision that only humans can vote, as set out in the 14th Amendment, "persons born", demonstrates that the claim of corporate personhood is a sham.  The only efficient and self enforceable method of controlling political donations is to restrict  the ability to donate to those who are domiciled in the district or state in which the election contest is being carried out.  

      Patriotism may be the last refuge of scoundrels, but religion is assuredly the first.

      by StrayCat on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 05:28:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There are different levels of voting (0+ / 0-)

        Voting for President is by Elector. Being chosen as an elector involves a lot of effort, maybe more than running for some other State Office but non of it involves one man or woman, one vote.

        Part of the process of voting is choosing the candidates.

        Are you part of the County and State Committees, conventions, caucuses, various levels of quid pro quo, that determine who is or isn't a candidate, a process which may involve things like who participated in the process sufficiently to be recognized as a delegate to a State Convention only or to a National Convention.

        The voting that you do by public ballot is just the tip of the iceberg. Who wrote the referendum questions on the ballot or got the petitions that put them there signed by going door to door or whatever it took.

        For that matter do you pay attention to who ran unopposed to be a district representative at the state level, who got elected to the school board to choose what books kids get educated with.

        What does your right to vote really require other than just voting? Do you really want to know enough to get involved in the time consuming process?

        Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

        by rktect on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 06:18:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I found the book to be a Statist power grab. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blackhand

    This is how I saw each chapter.

    I jumped straight to chapter six. It reads as the typical statist argument - the only recognized valid use is in service to the state. The way it reads sounds like he feels that the limitations that the amendments place on government are gifts bestowed by the source-of-power hierarchy... Almost like Hamilton / Madison / Franklin were saying "We have all the power but we place limitations on our constitutions because we like you so much". And the places where the constitutional wheel doesn't lend itself to steering toward statism are the places that he shows as needing a bit of adjustment.

    Chapter one - Grant congress the power to directly control every last public official all the way down to the janitor that cleans the kennels for the town dog catcher. That is how far "and other public officials" reaches, because 'public officials' extends beyond elections to appointees... And that would necessarily extend to the staff of those elected officials and appointees. Thus, even the town dog catcher would be under the direct control of congress and the dog catcher's staff which cleans the cages.

    Chapter two is gerrymandering. Amendment is for mandatory compact districts but Feds have power to ignore that if they have a 'neutral' reason. The non statist solution would be to mandate compact districts created by non-partisan panels - no need to grant the feds more power.

    Chapter 3 is campaign finance. Feds need more power through amendment declaring that the 1A nor anything else may stand in the way of congress limiting monetary speech. Couldn't just say money isn't speech, had to go the 'more federal power' road...

    Chapter 4 is sovereign immunity / can't sue the govt. Says get rid of it through amendment that says no state or state official or state agency has immunity if they violate an act of congress or the constitution. What? He couldn't just say that nobody has immunity from prosecution for criminal actions because they shouldn't be doing criminal stuff while in office, he has to care only about whether people are thumbing their noses at the feds?

    Chapter 5 is death penalty. Only chapter that isn't a statist power grab that I can see. Just wants the death penalty added as an example of cruel or unusual punishment. I can respect that.

    I could have saved myself some money by watching this Radiohead music video a few times and saying "Stevens wants to help us into that box"
    .

  •  Corporate Personhood (5+ / 0-)

    Need one to put that rabid dog down too.

    "And the President of the United States - would be seated right here. I would be here. And he would be here. I would turn - and there he’d be. I could pet ‘im." - Lewis Black

    by libdevil on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 01:54:22 AM PDT

  •  I am currently writing a thesis on (7+ / 0-)

    gerrymandering. As I conduct my research I am quickly coming to the conclusion that the best way to deal with it might be to increase the size of Congress to something between 1,000 and 1,300 members. The more districts there are the harder it is to dilute votes in order to create artificial majorities.

    Thanks for doing a review on Stevens' book. It sounds like a fascinating read. Tipped and rec'ced.

    Guns are never the principal in the commission of a crime, but they are usually an accomplice

    by MadGeorgiaDem on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 02:42:05 AM PDT

    •  My gut tells me (4+ / 0-)

      ...that re-tying the number of U.S. House seats to some ratio of population (I don't know what that new ratio would be, but a 5 to 10 times increase in size of the body isn't unreasonable) would have other possible benefits:  You would have more 'naturally' occurring diverse districts and minority districts;  the electoral college count would tend to more accurately mirror the popular vote with less chance of a Bush/Gore scenario;  It might also reduce the problem where House members in, say, Wyoming, is left to represent nearly twice as many constituents as a House member in California.  I once feared that a ten fold increase in the number of House members would dilute the quality of candidates running an winning.   But I've now seen enough episodes of Colbert's 'Better Know a District' to know there is no danger of that.

    •  Beware of Factions (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wmspringer, MadGeorgiaDem, scott5js

      We have a two party system except for factions. More Congress Critters just means more factions can have their own voice in Congress getting frustrated because there are so many others seeking recognition by the chair.

      What more Congressional representatives mean is first of all more committees so as to winnow down what actually comes to the floor, and with more committees obviously more spending, and with more spending by more committees obviously less oversight of what the lobbies for each committee have chosen to write up to be passed as legislation.

      Having been involved in gerrymandering at the county and state level and seen a new district drawn that abuts put doesn't include my property, and seen that district go to the Republicans unopposed despite its mostly Democratic, I'm not sure the problem is so much the gerrymandering as it is getting people to run for office and invest the time and money to campaign.

      To run as a district rep at the State level you needed a petition with 25 names on it. Nobody at the County or State level thought it was important enough to find a candidate willing to run or for that matter to do the job.

      Had we chosen someone to run what would their issues have been? The most pressing issue in that district in recent memory was not wanting a cell phone repeater station built because it would be unsightly, despite the lack of cell phone reception by customers of companies who didn't presently have a tower. What would they have fought for in the legislature.

      Gerrymandering is more complex than you think and it starts with getting selected to be on the committee that does the gerrymandering and having an issue that is important enough to you personally that you will take the time to carve out a district for yourself and then run on the issue.

      Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

      by rktect on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 06:38:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Wasn't there a change, not that long ago (0+ / 0-)

      That limited the number of representatives?  My understanding is that it used to be based upon population and that there was to be a ratio of persons to representatives.  

      I believe that govt structure as it was originally designed was meant to balance the powers of the branches and leave the real power in the hands of the people.  The changes, such as making the President and Senate popular elections and limiting the number of representatives serves to undermine this delicate balance.

      "It's not surveillance, it's data collection to keep you safe"

      by blackhand on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 06:43:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  As far as I know, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wmspringer, scott5js

        the change in question was architectural, not political.

        The only reason there are 435 House members is that that is the number that fits into the room.

        If you've ever been involved in the construction or funding of government buildings, this will not shock you. The building itself is the only thing that matters. What's supposed to go on inside is never a consideration.

        --Shannon

        "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
        "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

        by Leftie Gunner on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 12:22:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  That brings up an interesting question (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MadGeorgiaDem

      Let's say we go ahead and bump up the House to 1000 or even 5000 members. What about the Senate? Should we still have two senators per state? If so, it seems that the side effect of increasing the number of seats in the House would be to greatly diminish the oversized importance the smaller states have in the electoral college.

    •  Another benefit (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ModerateJosh

      The smaller districts might very well make tv advertising for House races cost-prohibitive, since in many (most?) markets most of the viewers couldn't vote for you anyway.

      •  Personally, I'd (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blackhand

        leave the Senate at 100 members. The Senate, among other things, is basically designed to give states an equal vote in one chamber, so I don't see much benefit to increasing its size, but it is something that has been discussed in times past and worthy of debate.

        Guns are never the principal in the commission of a crime, but they are usually an accomplice

        by MadGeorgiaDem on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 09:01:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Congress too large already (0+ / 0-)

      A large and unwieldy body.
      Let's not unite with Canada and add 20 more senators.

      Censorship is rogue government.

      by scott5js on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 02:49:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  my six (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action, wmspringer

    1. "The second amendment is hereby repealed."

    2. "The power of the president to grant reprieves and pardons shall not extend to any officer serving under the current or any former president."

    3. "Congress shall have the power to regulate the environment, and the protection and preservation of natural resources. Provided, however, that Congress' exercise of this power shall not preempt any state laws or regulations that are more protective of the environment."

    4. "A person, as defined by this Constitution, is any natural person.  No corporate or juridical entity shall possess any rights, privileges, or immunities secured, protected, or established under this Constitution."

    5. "The 27th amendment is hereby repealed. The compensation of any Senator or Representative shall not exceed the compensation set at the time that Senator or Representative first took office."

    6. "The District of Columbia shall be represented by one Senator, and a number of Representatives equal to the number of Representatives of the least populous State."

    freedom isn't free, but it isn't dumb either.

    by astro on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 05:26:43 AM PDT

    •  My one amendment (0+ / 0-)

      Direct popular election of the President and Vice President, with instant runoff voting. Possibly also national elections on Saturday instead of Tuesday. I forget whether Tuesday is specified in the Constitution.

      Censorship is rogue government.

      by scott5js on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 03:02:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Actually, there's already an amendment bill (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action, TomFromNJ

    and a group called FairVote.org promoting it.

    http://www.fairvote.org/...

  •  And another Amendment (0+ / 0-)

    If Congress can't be measured as a functioning representative body for all people after any session, all incumbents shall be barred from re-election.

    Trust, but verify. - Reagan
    Vote, but Occupy. - commonmass

    When the rich have tripled their share of the income and wealth yet again, Republicans will still blame the poor and 3rd Way Democrats will still negotiate.

    by Words In Action on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 06:07:07 AM PDT

  •  Nothing about Corporate Personhood? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ichibon

    THis seems to me to be the fundamental issue we face in the architecture of our politics. No mention of that?

    •  No mention (0+ / 0-)

      Although he does briefly point out that Congress has the undisputed power to keep foreign persons from financially participating (or voting, obviously) in elections.

    •  He didn't mention it, because it's not a problem. (0+ / 0-)

      The problem in campaign finance, (if you think there is one for which any solution is not worse, which I don't,) is the powers of Congress to regulate speech, not the identity of the entities whose speech is being regulated.

      If frogs could talk politics, Congress couldn't shut them up.

      --Shannon

      "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
      "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

      by Leftie Gunner on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 12:25:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A well written and indepth review (0+ / 0-)

    Thank you for writing.

    "It's not surveillance, it's data collection to keep you safe"

    by blackhand on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 06:45:09 AM PDT

  •  Justice Stevens was on the NewsHour Monday (0+ / 0-)

    Stevens was interviewed on the NewsHour this past Monday.  At 94 years old he was very impressive.  I can only hope I have the mental acuity he demonstrated.  Writing any book, even if this one is a bit short, on this subject matter is a tribute to Stevens.  

  •  Campaign finance not enough (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wmspringer

    My disagreement is with the focus on campaign finance and how / why to regulate it. I think it makes much more sense to amend the Constitution to make it clear that it does not cover corporations. They have no inherent rights from the Constitution. That's an obvious statement that most people will agree with yet the Supreme Court has created this right out of thin air.

    Once corporations are no longer people or covered by the Constitution, then addressing campaign finance is clearer.

    just my opinion.

  •  To get rid of gerrymandering (0+ / 0-)

    ...we need to get rid of congressional districts, I think.  Political parties could choose slates of candidates on a state-by-state basis, or even nationally, and each party would be awarded a number of seats in the House in proportion to the number of votes it receives on election day.

    Such a scheme would effectively end the two-party system, I suspect; the Green Party, for instance, could easily win enough votes to get some seats and potentially be part of a governing coalition.

    I would argue that the head of state should no longer be the head of government, and we should have a prime minister chosen by a majority in the House, as is the custom in most modern democracies.

    •  I've thought about that (0+ / 0-)

      But it does subvert the original intention of the Constitution, where the Senate represents the states and the House represents the people; you now have every representative representing (theoretically) the entire state rather than one smaller part of it.

      On the other hand, who says representation has to be geographical? With your solution, rather than a representative representing a geographical district, he or she represents some number of people who voted for his party.

      So on the plus side, this would give us representation that more closely represents the popular vote. On the downside, it removes any incentive whatsoever to appeal to non-base voters.

  •  Term-limit amendment. (And lobbying amendment.) (0+ / 0-)

    The Senate, the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, and the federal judiciary all need to be term-limited to serving no more than 8 years.

    Congress and the bench were not supposed to be anything more than people serving their country and then going back to their real lives.

    With this term limit, not only will jerks not be able to view themselves as career politicians for ever and ever, but their value and their relatives' value as overpaid lobbyists will be significantly reduced.  There will be too many ex-politicans available for purchase by lobbying firms to command the high prices of yore.

    And while they serve they won't be quite as easily corrupted by relatives serving as lobbyists--like that utter disgrace Biden and his son selling out ordinary Americans (and foreigners) for the enrichment of insane and abusive copyright holders.

    That's another amendment right there--no relatives of politicians, no partners of politicians, and no politicians or ex-politicans serving as lobbyists.

    •  The counter I've heard to that (0+ / 0-)

      is that it takes several terms just to figure out how things work in Washington, and the fewer long-term politicians you have in office, the more the long-term lobbyists end up running things.

    •  Absolutely awful idea (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wmspringer

      Term limits are one of the policy ideas I detest the most.

      First and foremost, it codifies electoral laziness. The answer to legislators spending ‘too long’ in Washington is for voters to vote them out of office. The answer is not taking choices away from voters by barring candidates from running again after some arbitrary number of terms. I want the choice to vote for whoever I want, as many times as I want. There are plenty of ways to address the issue of political incumbency and competitive elections that do not involve limiting the choices of voters.

      Separately, there is an elaborate federal power structure of which elected officials are just one part. Why place term limits on the one group of people who ostensibly answer directly to voters?

      There are no term limits on lobbyists. No term limits on military brass. No term limits on career civil servants. If legislators are subjected to mandatory churn, power in the form of expertise and institutional memory accrue to the permanent power structures, i.e.: moneyed interests, the military and the federal bureaucracy.

      Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

      by Joe Bob on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 11:40:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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