How defenders of slavery mothballed a constitutional right

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

When it comes to complexity, The First Amendment is rivaled perhaps only by the 14th Amendment. There are voluminous bodies of law attached to a number of brief clauses; non-establishment of religion by law, free exercise of religion, free speech, freedom of the press, and the freedom of assembly. Any one of those clauses have been the subject of many important court rulings.

Then there is this odd clause at the very end - to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. It’s rarely discussed in legal treatises and there are precious few cases where the “Petition Clause” is at issue.

Why?

“Petitioning the government” may sound like formal language for any act of what we might call “lobbying” today. But petitioning was more than that.

From precolonial days until just before the U.S. Civil War, petitioning was a particular formal procedure that was commonly used by citizens and groups to make their wishes known, especially to legislative bodies, with the expectation that the request would be taken up on the agenda and considered on its merits. In other words, ordinary people introduced the equivalent of “bills” to be debated in legislatures and either passed in law or not. This is not the same as modern initiatives and referenda, which are subject to a public vote and pass or fail without legislative deliberation, although some states do allow for “initiatives to the legislature.” However, in the heyday of petitioning, a single individual could petition the legislature, and that individual’s request would be considered.

Interview with Joe Toscano, Anarchist Media Institute

Dr. Joe Toscano, of the Anarchist Media Institute, is a well-known libertarian activist. A medical practitoner and surgeon, he has run the Anarchist World radio show on 3CR since 1977 and producted a weekly newsletter, the Anarchist Age Review, since 1991. He was a chief organiser of the 1986 Australian Anarchist Centenary Celebrations. One of the most prominent recent campaigns he has been involved in is founding and promoting "Defend and Extend Medicare", Australia's public health system, through decentralised community groups. The groups attracted not only the criticism of the government's health minister (and now opposition leader) as well as briefing papers on the activists by "a senior intelligence official".

The Isocracy Network raised a number of questions with Joe, which he responded en bloc Firstly Joe, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed on The Isocracy Network. Can you give our readers a brief background on your own activities and that of the Anarchist Media Institute? You're an anarchist, you are not enrolled to vote, and yet you stand as a candidate for Federal parliamentary elections and as the Lord Mayor for Melbourne. You have probably received some criticism, both by from fellow anarchists and from mainstream politicians. Why do you do this? Politically, you've advocated delegative and direct rather representative and indirect democracy, and collective rather than representative decision-making. A serious criticism of this model is that majorities can - and often do - oppress minorities. What are the limits of collective action in your view? What about economically models of organisation? What is your perspectives on anarchist economic organisations, such as mutualism, or commonwealth approaches, such as Georgism? Finally, what are the priorities of activity for an politically-involved anarchist today?

Anarchism vs Isocracy vs Democracy

This short text is about the differences between anarchism, isocracy and democracy. Anarchism means the absence of any kind of public commitments. In democracy and Isocracy, we have public commitments. In democracy which means rule of the nation, you need to belong to a nation, if you want to have a share of political power. The size of this share is not defined. A CEO of a big company has significantly more power than his cleaning lady. Now back to the isocracy which might mean equal power. In isocracy, nobody may dream about the romantic idea of having significantly more power.

All Politicians Are Unrepresentative Swill

1. The Australian Senate Example and the Upcoming Debate

The St. James Centre for Ethics will be holding a debate next April on whether the Australian Senate is "unrepresentative swill". The colourful phrase was coined by former Prime Minister Paul Keating, an individual rather well known for his such aphorisms and it is usually meant to be taken to refer to the rather strange and archiac determination of Senate membership. A rather impressive line-up has been prepared for the event, including Senator Bob Brown, Simon Sheik, Annabel Crabb, Dr Peter Van Onselen.

As a federation where each colony of white invaders demanded equality, all states are entitled to the same number of Senators, regardless of size. New South Wales, with a population of 7 million, has the same number of representatives as Tasmania, population 500,000. The Senate acts as a conservative force as well; with half the Senate being elected at each term laws are not just subject to vagaries of the popular opinion of a time, but rather subject to the vagaries of previous opinion as well. As such the Senate is often described as "the State's house" and "the house of review".

With multimember constituencies, the Senate is elected by Hare-Clark proportional representation, compared with the single-transferable vote system for the House of Representatives. In the former, the percentage of vote equates with the number of seats won, with excess distributed according to preference. In the latter, a single representative constituency, the candidate who is first to receive 50%+1 of the vote is elected.

The Virginian People's Assembly: Call and Report

From the VPA's "Read the Call"

On Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010, hundreds of activists from the labor, civil rights, immigrant, prisoner advocacy, student, health, anti-war movements & more
will meet & march & rally to tell the new governor & the Virginia General Assembly:

(1) Don't balance the budget on the backs of Virginia's workers!
(2) Raise Virginia's income tax on large corporations – the 2nd lowest in the country!
(3) Enact an immediate moratorium on layoffs, cutbacks, evictions & foreclosures!
(4) No scapegoating of immigrants! Equality for people of color, women & the LGBT community!
(5) Money for jobs & education, not for prisons, wars & occupations!

On Wednesday, Jan. 13, the Virginia General Assembly will open its 2010 session. We'll have a new governor, but the same old problem: the state budget has been hit hard by the recession, resulting in rising unemployment and steep losses in income tax and sales tax revenue. Already, $7 billion has been cut from the present two-year budget. Sometime in December, outgoing Gov. Tim Kaine will unveil his proposal for the state's next two-year budget. That document will be the basis for discussion at the General Assembly - and it will be chock-full of layoffs and cutbacks that will hurt all working people, coming down hardest on people of color and women.

Of course, there will be arguments about how to carry out the cuts, but one thing that all politicians of both major parties agree on is that the only way to balance the state budget is to lay off state workers, cut needed social services and aid to the cities and counties and find a million-and-one other ways to squeeze the hides of Virginia's working people.

Meanwhile, all the politicians will try their very best to ignore this one simple fact: VIRGINIA

Tearing Down the Australian Internet Firewall

The justified basis of censorship is the claim that the exposure of certain content can alter mental structures and, in particular, judgement. This is particularly the case concerning individual and group defamation and, in neurological development, those with pre-adolescent brain development. Another basis is simply the assertion of censorship simply through the political ability to do so. Independent organisations, from church newsletters to newspapers to academic journals, of course do this all the time; they decide what content is or isn't appropriate. As systematically independent organisations, this too has justification.

The proposed Australian censorship regime however falls into a different category. This is not a question of an independent organisation (despite the desire of some to treat governance in a corporate manner, a sort of Australia Inc), it is of a general application. It is a universal moral claim, founded in nothing but emotivism and the blunt use of political power. In the case of the proposed Australian censorship the argument is simply that certain content is unsuitable for adult citizens to view. Of course, this is couched in terms of "protecting families", but given the failure (from the State's perspective) of voluntary mass adoption of Net Alert, a mandatory regime has been proposed. When Net Alert was initially proposed there were suggestions to introduce it on an ISP-level, but it was subject to technical problems and in December 2008 it was shut-down.

Something Rotten in Denmark

A Difficult Problem

The issue of climate change and the social policies to deal with it is an area where science and politics and the global distribution of wealth have come into enormous conflict. Already it seems that the 15th Annual Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cophenhagen is struggling to generate a legal binding to extend the Kyoto Protocol.

Even basic discussion on the matter requires some knowledge of atmospheric physics, comparisons with paleoclimatological data, population and resource analysis and, in making practical decisions, economics and international relations. This review of core facts is pessimistic that the appropriate action will be taken, especially due to the politicisation of the science.

Fear or hope. Or the Geopolitics of Emotion.

Political science offers various explanations about the complex relationships and the conflicts around the world. According to some analysis the tensions between countries, or regions, or entire continents are mostly caused by economic inequality. According to others, the main reason are the religious and cultural differences. In this context, the analysis by Dominique Moisi in a book called "The Geopolitics of Emotion" is a challenging, interesting and unusual work. He sees the current conflicts and trends through the prism of three emotions - fear, humiliation, and hope. The founder of the French Institute of International Relations believes that the political dynamics of the modern world can be properly explained only if we understand human emotions. And they, just like cholesterol, can be both good or bad...what really matters is the balance between them.

Of State Borders, Wars and Refugees

The fact that communities have always had policies concerning the movement of people into the lands held by that community should surprise nobody with even a modicum of understanding of anthropology and history. True, there are some rugged individuals who dream of a past or of a future, where one can simply wander with absolute freedom wherever they should like and perhaps many of these are well intention with a desire to interact with nature in solitude. But terra nullius was, and is, a fiction; the principle of freedom of movement is one that must be negotiated and balanced with present occupiers and their claims of jurisdiction. It must be acknowledged that capital will always be more likely to have greater freedom of movement than labour, for capital itself is not a moral actor. With technological and systematic development, such borders have developed from vague marchlands often defined by natural boundaries (forest, river, mountains) to very specific and precise designations, controlling both the movement of people and also the movement of animals, plants, and goods, not to mention the opportunity for rulers to acquire lucre through visa charges, excises and duties.

De-centralize the State!

No one can be expected to see it all. No one can be expected to see how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time, but one can be expected to see the direction we are going in. Wealthy white male privilege is being challenged. We’ve been challenging it for years, decades, centuries… and one should expect we will continue to challenge it. Now, what does this mean?

Grab your remote control and switch on your television. Most likely the news shows you see will be about wealthy white male rule. If not, then about wealthy white rule. If not, then about wealthy rule. Or maybe they’ll avoid the topic altogether, which just tells you something about the nature of the channel you’re watching. We’re challenging each and every property of that description — wealth, race, and sex — and replacing it with the idea that neither of those deserve the kind of privilege afforded it by our society today. This is a thoroughly dangerous idea, for the group of individuals which fit that description have been in the driver’s seat of our civilization for as long as any of us can remember. They’ve responded violently in order to suppress any dissent. High-power water hoses and white hoods come to mind. But those actions have only backfired. It has only served to whittle away at their legitimacy in the public mind. So they have to pretend that they’re not in control. That’s how they maintain it now.

But we’re smarter than that. They try to drug us with soma; plant seeds of escapism in our minds. It’s tantamount to a burglar waving a chew toy to distract a guard dog whose hair is standing up on his back and whose teeth and gums are showing. We’re not going to let their entertainment distract us. We’re not going to let them convince us they’re not still in charge. It’s not hard to see that they are.

So, the challenge now is to detect their chew toys, and to re-focus our eyes on the burglar in the house. What is he doing now? Waging wars for oil, natural gas pipelines and poppies? You bet. Cheering the fastest drop in “labor costs” since 1948? You bet. The veins of the poor are still open and the rich are still sucking every ounce of blood they can from them. They pit the poor against the poor for the benefit of the rich through concepts like terrorism. What did they call the Cuban or Brazilian peasants who revolted against enslavement and sugar monoculture? Terrorists or communists, I suppose. Then they commenced to hunt them down and decapitate them, or cut pregnant women’s bellies open, or skewer their children on their bayonets only to return to the wealthy white male/s who had ordered it with bags of severed ears as proof that they did what they were told. They followed the orders. No doubt that soldier had a hard time making ends meet himself.

Enough. We need to take our eyes off the things that are keeping us distracted and finally recognize the truly radical nature of the doctrine that all humans are created equal and that political legitimacy is truly dependent upon the consent of the governed. And manufactured consent is no consent at all.

To see the arch of history is to see a continual progression toward the de-centralization of illegitimate power. Whatever takes us even further in this direction should be seen as a positive development. As a writer for the upcoming political documentary Dear America: From Patriotism to Participation, I see the arch of history like never before. Illegitimate authority has taken some hard hits to the face thus far. What we have is a woozy opponent. We shouldn’t let his erratic dancing in the ring fool us into thinking he’s still the all-powerful opponent he was when we began this fight. And we must snap out of the hypnosis he has put us in and realize that we are — this generation is — still locked in a fight with this entity. Our tag team partners (the generations before us) threw punches that were hard and true. A few more blows, and he could be on the mat, down for the count, forever.

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