Suppose for a moment that you are your congressional representative. Two calls are coming in to your office at the same time. One is from someone like yourself, an individual who lives in that representative's congressional voting district. The other call is from the Chairman of Bank of America, who lives in another state, but is offering a substantial campaign donation. Which call will be taken?
With few exceptions, we know...the one that is likely to produce the most money...the call from the Bank of America Chairman will win.
Before a string of Supreme Court decisions in the 1870s, however, taking the call (and money) from the Bank of America executive would have been a criminal act on the part of both the Congressional Representative and the bank chairman. A case involving Southern Pacific Railroad and Santa Clara County, CA, however, changed all that. The high court ruled that corporations are "citizens" and therefore have the right to make such bribes without running afoul of the law.
The word "corporation" does not appear in the United State Constitution a single time, so it is clear that the Supreme Court justices compromised their own integrity in this ruling. The more recent string of decisions beginning with FEC v. Citizens United, would indicate that the current justices are continuing the high court's infidelity to the ultimate law of our land 140 years later.
How anyone, especially a Supreme Court justice, can reasonably claim that a box of papers with a corporate seal is a "citizen" defies any possible logic and all reason. The result has been the takeover of our nation and its representatives by corporate America, leading to the perversion of our political process as it exists today.
No person or non-person has the constitutional right to bribe my congressional representative with a donation. Only those living breathing human beings residing within that representative's congressional district have the lawful right to donate money to that representative's campaign. This exclusion of outside money should include not only individuals from other congressional districts, but corporations, PACs, unions, and even political parties. This is ground zero of the battle to take back our nation.
Under Article 2 of our Constitution, the States still have the right and authority to set the rules regarding the election of both congressional representatives and senators. That is where our efforts should begin. By restricting campaign donations to individual citizens residing within that State's geographical voting districts, our representatives suddenly have nothing to sell corporate America. They have nothing to sell PACs and unions. They can no longer be controlled by political parties with agendas that rarely match those of their constituents either. Their only reasonable concern would then be what is best for those they were chosen to represent at home.
Think for a moment what this one change could mean for our country. Government would no longer serve business interests, it would serve We the People. Think for a moment about how few wars and conflicts we would have experienced as a nation this past century, if "business interests" were not the driving force behind them. Think of how solvent our country would be absent the corporate welfare that bloats our national budget. Think of how few laws restricting our lives and freedoms would exist without the influence of the K Street lobbyists. Think of how few prisons would have been built in our country without that industry and its guard unions paying congressional representatives to pass the 314,000 laws we now have with prison as a penalty. Think of the impact on our environment if business interests did not drive its regulation.
Our nation would transform overnight and we could once again live within our financial means.
This is a battle worth fighting. We must devolve back to constitutional representation if our government is ever to return to being one of and by We the People.
Viva la devolution.
Howell W. Woltz
The vote was "No." Scotland will remain a part of the United Kingdom....for now.
55%, mostly comprised of elder Scots, chose the comfort of union to the challenges of independence. The majority of young Scots, however, were in favor of independence, suggesting that the future may hold a different outcome.
This spirit of devolution is alive and, in this author's opinion, growing.
Juggernaut centralized governments that now control the world also have the power to destroy it. The leaders of these nations spend their days in a dizzying froth, the aim of which is keeping power centralized and in the hands of the few, leaving little or no time to focus on the needs of those they ostensibly serve--the People.
The most successful governments, on the other hand, are small city-states, nations, and geographical entities that have remained on the human scale. Ideology underlying these political structures seems to be unimportant. It is the size of the political unit that makes it successful, not its politics.
Take the nation which claims to be the oldest on earth as example. Tiny San Marino, nestled within the borders of Italy, was founded in 301. It has continuously survived and prospered on a postage stamp area covering a mere 24 square acres for over 1,700 years, while most people do not know it even exists.
According to Wikipedia, "It is one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP (per capita), with a figure comparable to the most developed European regions. San Marino is considered to have a highly stable economy, with one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, no national debt and a budget surplus."
Its government? Communist, but that is certainly not why it has been so successful. Power is devolved and shared. If a problem arises, people sit down with people and work it out.
Prefer a monarchy? Not a problem. Liechtenstein has survived centuries under such a government successfully, not because monarchy is necessarily a good form of rule, but because the geographical region of Liechtenstein is small and leadership of any kind must restrain itself. If a citizen of Liechtenstein seeks an audience with His Serene Highness the Prince Sovereign, Bearer of Many Exalted Orders and Defender of Many Exalted Things to discuss a problem, he or she simply rings the bell at the castle gate and is seen by the Prince.
Prefer capitalism? Also not a problem, as long as the geographical area is of human scale and power is decentralized. The tiny capitalist democracy of Andorra, nestled between Spain and France, has led a healthy and virtually undisturbed existence since the rule of Charlemagne. Its people know no hunger or poverty, and they live in peace. The standard of living is high and equitably distributed, indicating that capitalism is not the world's problem today, but rather the centralization of power on a large scale, where it can be bought and controlled.
Size does matter. All three of these minuscule nations are listed in the 2014 Economist Magazine's highest GDP per head ranking, as are the other city states and lightly governed countries of the world. Communist San Marino, Monarchical Liechtenstein, and Capitalist Andorra can also be found in the index of nations having the highest purchasing power.
This is not accidental. By keeping governments restrained, not overly powerful, and on a human scale, we might not only survive this next century as a species, but enjoy doing it.
Scotland is a harbinger of things to come. Biggie-sized governments covering geographical areas or populations beyond a reasonable scale will begin to implode over the course of the next century. Power will soon devolve to more local control with smaller political units in the wiser nations that come to grips with the negative reality of centralized power. Our world will be a safer and more equitable place as a result.
Viva la devolution!
THE GREATEST MARATHON EVER
Remember Charlie Engle, the guy who ran across the Sahara Desert a few years ago? He ran 4,300 miles across an inhospitable desert in just 111 days, averaging well over a marathon (38.74 miles) on every one.
What Charlie did not know was that this stunning feat would ultimately land him in federal prison, not for any crime he committed, but for someone else’s misdeeds.
I remember the day Charlie arrived. It was February 14th, Valentine’s Day, and his biggest concern was that he didn’t become someone’s “Valentine” his first night in prison. He came into the law library asking for someone to look over his case. I’d worked on about 300 such cases as law librarian by then, and agreed to help.
These guys generally fell in three categories of about equal portions. There were 1) those who belonged in prison, 2) those who may have done something, but not what the Feds made them plead guilty to doing and/or had their rights trashed beyond imagination in the process, and 3) the ones who really and truly did not belong there and were probably innocent. Charlie very matter-of-factly told me his story, which if true, put him in Category 3.
I have never yet reviewed a federal case where I could not find judicial and/or prosecutorial misconduct, so by then it should not have shocked me I guess, but Charlie’s case was over the top.
First of all, the federal government had no jurisdiction. Federal bank fraud statutes apply only to FDIC-insured banks, and none involved was federally insured. We even found a memo from IRS Agent Robert Nordlander to the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Kosky admitting this fact, yet they went ahead with the prosecution anyway. I suppose they expected to intimidate Charlie into pleading guilty as most eventually do out of fear, but this man who ran across deserts and continents for a living proved fearless.
More bizarre, Charlie was actually running across the Sahara Desert when the loan broker forged his signature and submitted the application. The U.S. Government’s own handwriting expert admitted that the signature could not be confirmed as Charlie’s and the initials were definitely in someone else’s hand, but the court ignored this.
We then found out that the same loan broker, loan officer, and property owner pled guilty to the crime they hung on Charlie, but this exculpatory evidence was knowingly withheld from the jury (and Charlie), in violation of federal law (Brady v. Maryland).
When we received the grand jury transcript, it got worse. The loan application only asked for “estimated” earnings for the application year, which Charlie gave as $180,000. Though he guessed in June what he would make by December, he was accurate within 1%. Without any “fraud” however, Agent Nordlander and AUSA Kosky had no case, so they orchestrated a lie to the grand jury. The Agent told the grand jury, under oath, that Charlie earned “a negative $26,000” for the year, while holding the documents proving his own perjury.
It gets worse. There was no “loss” as government claimed, to any institution. The transaction was a 10-31 tax-free exchange so it was Charlie’s own money he was getting back from a new owner, not a loan. Plus, no FDIC-insured bank was involved, so the government made one up.
Though never mentioned in the indictment or at trial and never lending Charlie a nickel, Agent Nordlander claimed that Bank of America, the biggest criminal enterprise in the whole mortgage scandal, was the institution the judge should order Charlie to pay “restitution” in the amount of $250,000.
Joe Nocera of the New York Times and other national writers picked up on this scandal, but no one in the federal judiciary was or is listening.
The judge who originally heard the case quit it to dodge our appeals as did the next two judges who received them. No court has ever addressed government’s lack of jurisdiction, government’s criminal conduct in the case, Charlie’s actual and provable innocence, or the fact that they forced him to pay restitution to a non-party who never loaned him a dime.
So Charlie did his time, though he committed no crime. He and I ran, wrote books about our adventures, and plotted life after prison while we waited on the courts to respond to his appeal, but none ever addressed the issues raised, as they would have to admit their error(s).
After running the gauntlet on appeals to the lower court, Charlie hired an attorney after his release to file to the Fourth Circuit. The Court sent his attorney the date by which the appeal must be filed and the attorney followed the Court’s Order, but it was immediately rejected. The Fourth Circuit put the wrong date on its order and then used that as an excuse for rejecting Charlie’s appeal as “untimely.”
I’ve seen so much of this judicial corruption now that I no longer get shocked, but I do worry for our nation and its future. We have the highest prison population on earth because of these bad government actors who know no restraint and pay no penalty for their crimes against We the People. Agent Nordlander is still working for the IRS, AUSA Kosky is still prosecuting cases, and the judge is still drawing his salary, while Charlie Engle has lost all of his endorsements, his running career, and will wear a “Scarlet F” on his chest for the rest of his life. That is horribly wrong but very common in America today.
I believe it is time we followed Sweden and 140 other nations that have created Offices and Courts of Ombudsman with the authority to 1) prosecute public officials who violate rights and Constitutional protections of the people, and 2) have the authority to grant unconditional relief to those so violated. A petition has been started calling on Congress to enact the necessary legislation to create such an Office/Court in every federal district.
Are you ready to take action for Charlie and the other 75 million Americans like him who now have “criminal” records? I hope so.
Born in North Carolina and educated at the University of Virginia, Wake Forest University and Caledonian University in Scotland, Howell now lives in Warsaw, Poland with his wife, Dr. Magdalena Iwaniec-Woltz. Howell is the European Correspondent for The Richardson Post and Chairman of The International Centre for Justice.