I ran the U.S. Marine Corps Marathon this past Sunday around our nation's capitol. The beautiful buildings and monuments are indeed inspiring, but it made me think about their purpose as well, which is to serve...yes, SERVE....We the People.
Everything our government does is required to be authorized by the U.S. Constitution. Federal government's scope is limited just to those authorized duties by the Tenth Amendment. Anything not named as a power of federal government is reserved for the States or People. The Constitution can be amended either by vote of Congress and ratified by the public or by two-thirds of the States calling for a Constitutional Convention (as has been done recently by Georgia, Alaska, and Florida).
There was one thing, however, that the Founding Fathers deemed too important to change and forbid it. "...Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing [sic] Senators." So how did Congress get away with doing just that in 1913? The only answer I can give is, "Not legally" as the 17th Amendment changed the "Places of chusing [sic]" away from the State Legislatures.
This brilliant design feature was there for a reason. Power was intended to lie mostly with the States, under a limited federal government. The House of Representatives consisted of those chosen by "We the People" to be our voice(s) to federal government, but the States were also represented by its two Senators. That was the purpose of the U.S. Senate, and it worked quite well in limiting the size and growth of federal government. Senators were required by the U.S. Constitution to be elected in and by their respective State Legislatures, and that was the one thing our Founding Fathers said could not be changed.
Once that piece of the puzzle was corrupted, however, power immediately shifted to Washington, DC. Our present mess is the result of this disastrous (and unlawful) alteration to our nation's design. If the job of U.S. Senators were still subject to election and recall by the governments of each State, those men and women would still be working very hard to protect the powers of those States rather than allowing federal government to continue expanding into areas in which it is not authorized. Anything not specifically granted as a power of federal government was reserved for the States and People by the Tenth Amendment, but that law has been wholly ignored as well since the Guardians of States' Rights became peddlers of public power one hundred years ago.
Though it sounds good from a populist standpoint that citizens now elect Senators rather than the States, it is not. We now have 100 men and women who are basically Congressmen at large, whose loyalties can be bought and sold by corporations, PACs, unions, and their political parties. Loyalties are rarely limited to the best interests of the State from which they hail as was once the case. A Senator who did not jealously guard his or her State's powers and interests would not be a senator very long. That was a brilliant part of the design, and it acted to limit federal government's power and scope for most of our history.
This part of our nation's design was also considered the one thing too important to change by our Founding Fathers, and returning that important piece of the design is the one thing we could most effectively do to restore the balance of powers that went missing in 1913 when the Seventeenth Amendment was proposed and ratified.
We need to devolve back to our Constitution and this principal of States' rights and representation and we need to do it soon. The Seventeenth Amendment should be repealed or in this case, since it was unlawful to change it according to the U. S. Constitution, challenged by the States in the U.S. Supreme Court as unlawful. Let's get back to the game plan and save our country.
Viva la devolution!
From King Henry IV of France, to the election of President Herbert Hoover in 1928, kings and politicians have been credited with promising "a chicken in every pot," though it was generally their government's own policies, which kept that from being possible.
As with most elections since We the People lost control of our government here in the United States, this election in 2014 is about the economy. Just like economic woes of the past, they are due to the actions of those same characters now running on promises to fix it, in my humble opinion, while all that is necessary for our nation to once again flourish is for those same politicians and their bureaucratic minions to follow the ultimate law of the land...our Constitution.
How so? Simple. Our federal government, by Constitution, was given three main sources for federal revenue: 1) import duties, 2) imposts, and 3) excise taxes on luxury items. Any residual funds needed for operations at the federal level were allocated to the States based on the number of citizens residing in each of them, which is why we have a census every ten years.
Import duties sustained our nation throughout the years of its greatest growth as a manufacturing nation, and until 1928, America had the highest duty rate of all its trading partners while concurrently outstripping them all in industrial growth during those same decades. The argument that import duties hurt the economy does not stand scrutiny.
Throughout modern history, no nation has ever free-traded its way to prosperity. Free trade benefits only the free traders, and no nation has ever gone that economic route until it was either the dominate force in trade already, or forced other nations to follow the course by its mandate from that dominate trading partner.
Without protective duties, it would not have been possible for the United States to flourish as it once did. Without protective duties being put back in place, it is doubtful this country will reach such a level of prosperity again.
Want a chicken in every pot? Restore constitutional funding of the U.S. government through import duties. That solves two problems at one time.
1) Every industry in America would immediately seek domestic production of its goods, as it would once again be viable to manufacture its products at home. How so? The import duty would offset the advantages of producing abroad, and could be adjusted to compensate for any artificial subsidies given those industries by foreign nations. Manufacturing in America would boom overnight.
2) If the U.S. government had to rely principally upon revenues from imports rather than an income tax (which was precluded by the U.S. Constitution in Section 8 of Article I as illegal), then we would have a much more limited federal government. Its income could not be artificially inflated by seizures of citizens' cash as is done under the constitutionally unlawful income tax.
The results? 1) Every American who wanted a job would have one and 2) government would be forced to live within its economic means, or face extraordinary pressure from the States for overspending.
History, including our own, has proven this model to assure economic viability of domestic industries. It once worked for us, and can again.
Want a chicken in every pot and every household to have jobs? Go back to the United States Constitution. It truly is as simple as that. Reimpose import duties on goods from other nations, and put federal government back on its leash. Go back to what worked.
Viva la devolution.
I just finished a marathon two hours ago. It was my second in three weeks, but this one was different. It was not about me this time, but about someone else.
At mile 21, I was struggling, but ended up setting my personal 10k, half marathon and marathon records, all in the same run. This energy came not from me, but from Michael Sherrill, a man waiting to die on North Carolina's death row who does not belong there.
I had three goals set for this, my sixtieth year on earth: 1- run a marathon, 2- have three books published, and 3- try to help Michael Sherrill get relief from false and impossible charges. All three happened this week. I will have done 3 marathons before my 61st birthday; third book, "The Path: a spiritual guide to the Fifth Age" was published Monday; and I got a call that same day from Michael's attorney, that seven capital charges were dismissed by the State of North Carolina. Just last week, we were preparing for his trial, which was to begin on October 27th. Now, with that out of the way, the efforts can go towards getting his first conviction overturned as well.
I am not trying to take credit for the dismissal of charges, but those who read my first book, "Justice Denied: the United States v. the People," may remember Michael's story of injustice which brought this case to the public's attention. How Michael came to be in prison in the first place is not only bizarre, but an indication of how corrupt and abusive our system of "justice" has become.
Due to the popularity of a TV show, "The Closer", the federal government began offering millions of dollars to the States back in the early years of the last decade, if they could reopen old, cold murder/rape/arson cases from long ago and find someone to blame for them like the blonde lady with the funny mouth did on TV. Art once imitated reality, but today, reality is expected to reflect the current cache of art, especially with our politicians.
The State of North Carolina, like most States, jumped on the band wagon, and began assigning murders, rapes, and arsons, to random candidates. Michael Sherrill had grown up in juvenile detention homes, then State prison, and by his 20s, had a record, so he was chosen, though the State had arrested someone else for the alleged crime in 1984, but lost track of that person.
Something had changed in Michael Sherrill once he grew up, however. He chose a different path. Michael became a truck driver for a Fed-Ex contractor (which will ultimately save his life) and he had not had so much as a speeding ticket for two decades when I met him in the "murderer's pod" in Mecklenburg County back in 2006. By then, Michael had already been held for years without trial, in violation of the Speedy Trial Act of 1974 and the Sixth Amendment, while the prosecutors tried to break him down, make a deal, and get him to plead guilty to "something."
But Michael was innocent and refused to say he had killed someone, just so that the State of North Carolina could get millions of dollars, even though he was assured that such a confession would earn his own release on "time served". Michael refused the deal.
Interestingly, the crimes piled on Michael Sherrill, with but two exceptions, were impossible for him to have committed. Why? Because he was not even in the States where they occurred, as proven by the tracking system on the trucks Michael drove as a Fed Ex contractor. No one in government thought to check on this little fact, or cared. They just wanted the money.
Two cold cases from 1984, however, fit into days when Michael was not on the road, so in spite of the long list of clearly false charges that had to be dismissed, the State of North Carolina chose to pursue two crimes because Michael was in the zip code when they happened.
The State falsely claimed to have DNA evidence at Michael's trial in 2008, but his standard-issue government "defense" attorneys never asked to see the evidence or forced government to prove its claims. Michael told his attorneys that no such evidence could possibly exist, as he was never there, but they never challenged governments claims on behalf of their client. Michael's attorneys may as well have been sitting at the prosecutors' table, and Michael received a sentence of death.
But lo and behold, now that this scandalous injustice has been brought to the public's attention, Michael's (new) attorneys have demanded to see the alleged "evidence" that helped put their client on death row back in 2008. As the readers of "Justice Denied" may recall, the State of North Carolina claimed after two years of these demands from Michael's attorneys to have "lost" that evidence. For those unfamiliar with prosecutor talk, that means they never had it in the first place and lied to Michael's jury at trial, knowing (or having arranged) his state-issued "defense" attorneys not to challenge them.
Now that all of the other charges have been dismissed, it is time to go back and clean up the mess the State of North Carolina caused back in 2004 when they charged an innocent man with heinous crimes from 1984, just to get money. I'm quite sure the cost of these trials, the cost of Michael's false incarceration for ten years in jails and on death row, and the cost of his defense attorneys add up to far more than the State got from the Feds. We, the Taxpayers, took it on the chin once again, for the personal aggrandizement of a prosecutor.
These foul acts by public officials must stop, but that will never happen until they can be held liable for such crimes, as was once the case. We need an Office of Ombudsman in every federal district, where such corrupt prosecutors can be charged for their misdeeds, and people like Michael Sherrill don't have to sit on death row for years because of the arrogance and lack of integrity of those same public officials.
Time to devolve back to our Constitution.
Viva la devolution.
The United States system of justice has gone from the most respected in the world just decades ago, to a statistical nightmare, and possibly, the least just on earth. Our nation now has the highest conviction rate in the world (98.6%), the most laws with prison as a penalty (314,000 at the federal level alone), more police agencies with arrest powers (18,000+), and more prisoners (7.3 million at present), than any dictator or tyrant on earth on in history.
96.8% of those charged end up pleading guilty rather than risk the stacked deck of a trial. 77% are simply held in jail without bond until they make that "voluntary" decision to plead guilty, though there is nothing "voluntary" about such a decision when a man or woman is illegally incarcerated in a horrible county jail. The Speedy Trial Act of 1974 requires any prisoners not tried within 90 days to be released, but neither state nor federal government prosecutors and judges adhere to this statute or Sixth Amendment provision today, in my personal experience and in studying cases at both state and federal level.
How did this happen?
First of all, Congress overstepped its constitutional boundaries by creating this myriad of federal statutes outside of the authority granted to that body by We the People. Section 8 of Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution only allows Congress to punish Piracy and Counterfeiting, yet that venerable institution has now invented over 14,000 ways to send us to prison. All other "crimes" but piracy and counterfeiting were to be the province of the States. Worse, Congress has delegated its constitutional law-making authority to a vast array of federal agencies, none of which I can find in my Constitution. This alphabet soup of bureaucracies has instituted 300,000 more laws carrying prison as penalty without any constitutional basis or authority, at the whim of non-elected officials.
It's as if we chose Congressman Smith to represent us, but once he got elected, he decided to abdicate those duties of office to someone else, in violation of his oath. From an authorized base of 2 punishments, federal government has now unilaterally and illegally foisted 314,000 punishments on our nation.
According to a study by Harvard Law School, as related by Attorney Harvey Silverglate (Three Felonies a Day-2010), the average American now commits three of these federal "felonies" a day, and does not even know it. The laws are so vague and obscure that no reasonable person would know they were in violation. As Cicero wrote 2,000 years ago, "The more laws, the less justice."
So how do prosecutors and judges get away with enforcing these unconstitutional statutes and violating our constitutional protections in the process, by just holding us in county jails until we cry "uncle"?
Answer: Because they can.
The judiciary granted itself immunity from prosecution for its own crimes against We the People in a string of Supreme Court decisions beginning with Pierson v. Ray in 1967. Judges and prosecutors now enjoy self-granted "immunity" for their crimes against the public as long as they are at work when they commit them. That is how and why our judiciary and its chief actors now violate constitutional rights, ignore the rules of criminal procedure, and trash the statutory protections put in place to prevent such behavior, on a regular if not daily basis. In a review of approximately 400 criminal cases, I have yet to find an exception to this statement, so I'm sticking by it.
Judges and prosecutors pay no penalty for their crimes against us, unless they are acting completely outside of their jurisdiction or authority, but even then, they are only subject to "peer review" not prosecution.
That is how we got to this sad state--too many laws and no oversight or penalty for those charged with enforcing them. There is a federal statute, 18 U.S.C. section 242, which makes such violation of our rights a crime punishable by prison, but at present, there is no independent authority to prosecute the prosecutors.
The solution? Rein in these rogues by making them liable and punishable for violating the statutory protections and constitutional provisions designed to protect us from them. If, for example, the judges and prosecutors who have held millions of Americans in jail for months and years in violation of The Speedy Trial Act, were subject to imprisonment themselves for so doing, county lock-ups would empty overnight and rule of law might be re-established.
It is time for our nation to devolve back to equal treatment under the law. That must include those who are in charge of enforcing it.
Viva la devolution.
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.