When the Taa’tl’aa Denae accepted the white man’s law

The upper Copper River Indians of Alaska call themselves Taa’tl’aa Denae, or the Headwater People.  They were among the last Alaska Natives to have whites live among them, and this didn’t happen until after the ’98 Gold Rush.  The Russians had earlier made three separate forays into this Indian land, and had been turned back each time, for these Athabaskan Indians are kin of the Apache, and were war like.

My Uncle Fritz knew these Indians, and admired them greatly.  Until 1957, with the arrival of village schools, they had maintained their traditional subsistence lifestyle.  According to my uncle, at the beginning of the last century the tribal elders held a council, to decide if they should accept the white man’s law.

The old chief presided, and when the discussion had gone fully around he made his recommendation.

“We have lived on this land for thousands of years, and have always known our sacred mountain as Mentasta.  Then a white man came, took one look at the mountain, and said it was Mt. Sanford.  And that is how it is known today.  We were too ignorant to know its name.  So I say we accept the white man’s law, as he knows so much more than we do, even to the names of our mountains.”



America’s oldest political problem

It was the first item of controversy at the First Continental Congress in 1774, and thirteen years later, at the Constitutional Convention, it was the hardest problem to solve.  It’s suffrage, or how will votes be counted.  Is it one State, one vote, or something else, based on population?

In 1774 Samuel Adams convinced the large States to accept equal power with the small.  In 1787 a compromise was reached, and in the Constitution large States were given power in the House of Representatives, and in Presidential elections.  But that’s all they got.

In the Senate, it’s equal suffrage for the States, and the Senate controls the Supreme Court.  If a Presidential election is thrown into the House, it’s one State, one vote.  To ratify Constitutional Amendments, it’s one State, one vote.  And to propose Amendments under Article V, it’s one State, one vote.

There have been dozens of Conventions of States, or colonies, in American history, and in every one of them it’s been one State, one vote.  So it will be in Phoenix in September, and at any subsequent Article V Convention if one is called.

There may be an attempt to introduce some other form of voting in Phoenix.  It happened at the last meeting of the Assembly of State Legislatures, before it was rejected.  In one sense, I hope it does.  This is one of the myths of the runaway.  The Birchers think that the large, liberal States will do their mischief because voting will be based on the electoral college.  So let’s debate the issue, and affirm one State, one vote officially and resoundingly.

Because it’s one State, one vote, the 30 red States will be in full control.  This will also destroy part of the runaway myth, that somehow the dreaded “liberals” are going to get control of a Convention.  Under current political conditions, and for the foreseeable future, conservative Republicans, mostly from small States, will control any meeting of the States.

And let’s not forget, State Legislatures are very often much more conservative than the State, itself.  Minnesota is the perfect example, a State where most of the Democrats are concentrated in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and a lot of their votes are wasted.  Republican votes are spread out across the countryside, and this natural gerrymander gives Republicans control over the Legislature of bluish purple Minnesota.   It’s much the same in Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin  —  I could go on.

What this all boils down to is that State Legislatures are the most conservative political institution in this country, by far.  Most State legislatures are more conservative than their Governor, or Congressional delegation.

With some exceptions, State Legislators are not career politicians.  It’s a part time, poorly paid, temporary service.  A lot of these men and women are great Americans, even if most people don’t know who they are.

If all goes well, the Phoenix Convention will give the country a chance to see them in action.


Kicking the deficit can down the road, constructively

If anyone thinks this 115th Congress is going to do anything about deficit spending, and our $20 trillion national debt, they’re not paying attention.  The Democrats aren’t interested, the Republicans don’t have the stomach for it, and Trump has other priorities.  We’ll keep adding between half a trillion and a trillion a year for the next two years, minimum.

So when the Republicans try to maintain their majorities in the 2018 election, they won’t be able to talk about cutting the budget, or reducing deficit spending, or dealing with the creeping existential crisis of printing money to pay our bills.  At the rate they’re going, what are they going to run on?  The best thing you can say about Ryan and McConnell is that they’re not Pelosi and Schumer.  Hardly anything to inspire enthusiasm.

This Congress is off to a lousy start, and if they don’t get something done they could lose the House.  Hatred of Trump fuels Democratic voters.  Republicans can probably count on the 40% of the public standing with the President, but that won’t be enough.

But there may be a way out for the R’s  —  a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution that would force future Congresses to begin balancing the books.  The Democrats are opposed, and will fight it to the death.  Congress has never, and will never, propose such an Amendment.  It will have to come from the States, through Article V.

Almost without exception, Congressional Republicans say they want a BBA.  And they know the 2/3 vote they need to propose it is out of reach.  Therefor, I would argue that Ryan and McConnell, and all of their horses and all of their men, should be assisting us in getting this done.  It’s in their own political self interest.

With most politicians, most of the time, the most important consideration is always the same.  What’s in it for me?  If you’re a Republican running for Congress in 2018, you want Article V to succeed.

Unfortunately, they don’t take the Article V BBA campaign seriously.  The idea is old.  It’s been around and kicking for 42 years.  What makes anyone think that now is the time for the first use of Article V in our history?

This is the question we hope to answer at the Phoenix Convention of States.  The goal of this meeting is simple and straightforward:  kill the myth of the runaway.  Michael Farris, in his cleverly named Defying Conventional Wisdom, in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, has made the academic and historical case as well as it can be done.  In Phoenix we hope to prove that, as a practical matter, the idea that an Article V BBA Convention called next year would turn into a runaway Convention is laughable.

Who are these people that are going to lead a Convention to run away?  There won’t be any in Phoenix, and the three hundred or so Commissioners in attendance will have been hand picked by either a State Legislature or or by the presiding Officers of such a legislature.  These men and women will be the same people, by and large, who would attend an actual Article V Convention.

Where are the bogey men?  Where are the threats to the Constitution?  Who’s going to propose that they ignore their instructions, and disregard the limitations in the call of the Convention?  Who’s a danger to the Bill of Rights?

There are none, or won’t be in Phoenix.  The runaway convention scare is nothing but a big lie.

We’ll trade you two Kochs for one Soros

There are three fundamental political reforms that I know of which share these characteristics:

  1.  They enjoy broad,  bipartisan supermajority support
  2. They are basic issues, understood by all politically literate Americans
  3. If enacted, they would be transformative
  4. They will only be adopted through Article V

They are a balanced budget amendment, congressional term limits and campaign finance reform.

The latter is the goal of Wolf-PAC, and they have five State Resolutions in hand.  But to get to 34 they’ll need a lot of Republican States, and the way they’re going about it won’t work.  Wolf-PAC is associated with the repeal of the Citizens United decision, which overturned the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.  Most Republicans hated that law, and would never vote to bring it back.

There is a flaw in the Wolf-PAC Resolution, and until they fix it they won’t pass one Republican State.  They want their Amendment Convention to “… address issues resulting from Citizens United and related cases …”   First of all, the reference to Citizens United is a red flag for Republicans, second, exactly what are these “related cases”?  How far could this Amendment go?

They should spell out what issues result from Citizens United, rather than citing the decision.  The wording used to describe them could be made politically appealing.  The Amendment Convention would have the same latitude, and would be empowered to propose a remedy equal to the task.

I support Wolf-PAC, even though I despise McCain-Feingold, and therefor support Citizens United.  The two are not incompatible.  I”d like to see out of state money prohibited from State elections, for instance.  The political reality is that in any Amendment Convention the red States will rule.  There are just more of them, roughly 30 of 50.  So any campaign finance proposal would be the handiwork of conservative Republican State Legislators.

I know a lot of these people, and they can be trusted.  And anything they came up with needs 38 of 50 to be ratified.  The Constitution needs no other protection from subversive amendments.

There has to be a way, consistent with the First Amendment, to get George Soros out of our politics.  And while we’re tossing Soros, let’s throw the Kochs under the bus.  They won’t be missed.

This is what is curious for all of those in the Article V movement  — we may be the only thing George Soros and the Kochs agree on.

But all they’ve got is money.  We have an idea.

There was things he stretched

If you google “Clintonian”, the Urban Dictionary defines it as a statement that skirts the issue, or spins words.  Associating Bill Clinton with skirts is problematic, so I’ll skip that part.  “Spinning words” means giving them flexible or alternative definitions, and that suits Billy Jeff to a T.    To most people oral sex is sex.  But not according to Bill.

When people think of a wall on the Mexican border they think of the Berlin Wall, but it could mean other things.  Webster’s 3rd definition of wall is “Something that is like, or suggestive of, a wall; especially something conceived of as a separating barrier.”  The Iron Curtain was a wall, in that sense.

So our southern border will be secured, but it may not all have an actual, physical barrier.  Because of this Trump has broken an explicit pledge made hundreds of times before millions of people.  Or has he?

Everything I read says illegal immigration has been drastically reduced.  If these reports hold true, Trump will have accomplished three major goals in his first 100 days.  First and foremost, clamping down, hard, on illegal immigration.  Second, the Gorsuch appointment.  Third, a restoration of the animal spirits in the economy and in the business class.

This is what Trump was elected to do.  If he more or less puts illegal entry to an end, it won’t matter if one foot of wall is built.  He will have kept his word.  And it was that promise, more than any other, that got him elected. A lot of Republicans made the same vow.  Trump won because people believed him when he said it.

So Trump didn’t lie, and he didn’t mislead.  He exaggerated.  As Huckleberry Finn said of Mark Twain, “There was things he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.” For a politician, that’s an “A” grade.

I’m one of the few men my age who will admit to being a politician.  Sometimes when I meet somebody and they start talking about how all politicians are liars and thieves, I tell them that I was a politician, and I didn’t lie, and I didn’t steal.  They usually allow that there are exceptions.