A new path to a revival of federalism

When the campaign for an Article V Balanced Budget Amendment campaign began in 1975, it was a campaign of, by, and for state legislators.  There was no BBA Task Force, or any equivalent organization.  By 1979 these legislators, on their own initiative, had passed Resolutions in 30 states.  After seven years of effort by the BBA Task Force, we now have 27.

It’s better, it seems, if state legislators themselves are the source of an Article V movement.  The Convention of States (CoS)  organization has 12 states, after five years of effort and spending millions of dollars.  The campaign for term limits using Article V is dead.   Other Article V efforts are going nowhere.

All of these Article V campaigns were conceived and operated by ordinary citizens.  They were not led by actual state legislators.  This may be their fatal flaw.  Perhaps the first Article V Convention will come from a new organization, of, by, and for state legislators.

The place for such an organization to form is the Phoenix Convention of States.  Conditions are perfect, and the time has come.



“Balance of Power” goes into production

Daniel Falconer and Andrew Rodney are two guys from Detroit who decided to make a documentary film on the sad decline of their hometown.  So Falconer directed and they co-wrote and produced “DEFORCE”.  According to Ken Burns, it is “An essential study . . .  The ceaseless trials of Motown are brought to light as never before.”

Their new project is tentatively titled “Balance of Power”, and shooting will begin at the Phoenix Convention of States on September 12th.  The Arizona Legislature’s Convention Planning Committee has agreed to give them floor privileges, and two camera crews will cover the proceedings.  Commissioners from the various states in attendance will be interviewed, and all aspects of the meeting will be potentially included in the final cut.

Since this will be a professional job of film making, and additional footage will be needed to be filmed in Washington D. C., it may be a year before the release date.  Some assurances have apparently been given  by a national television network to air it when it’s done.

Since it won’t be out until late 2018 it really won’t benefit our campaign next year.  And if we don’t get to 34 in 2018 we may face additional rescissions.

But if this campaign for an Article V Balanced Budget Amendment doesn’t hit 34 in 2018, and the campaign  extends into 2019, this film could be what puts us over the top.


Murkowski sacrifices Alaska for…. what?

Politics ain’t beanbag, and raised nails get hammered.  Sen. Lisa Murkowski may be in the process of making the biggest political mistake in Alaskan history.  She’s defying Trump, Interior Secretary Zinke, and the administration, and there’s a very good chance that defiance will result in the abandonment of the effort to open up the Arctic Oil Reserve (AOR).

It’s the most promising oil prospect in North America,  and the AOR could give the economy of Alaska a new lease on life.  It desperately needs it.  Alaska’s economy is stalled, property values in decline, and a government living off its savings.  The outlook in Alaska is bleak.  Drilling in the AOR could turn everything around.

All the stars seemed to be aligned.  A President and an Interior Secretary who are hell bent on drilling for oil.  Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress, and a clear way to around the filibuster.  Next year the Interior Department review of the oil potential in the AOR will come out, and I predict it will be an eye popper.

It was all set up, perfectly, and then Murkowski blows the whole thing up.  She’s the Chair of the Senate Energy Committee, and would have been able to take a lot of the credit for opening the AOR.  For once, all Alaskans would have rallied to her side.

But she’s throwing it all away.  For what?

If you’re a truly principled politician, and take on the powers that be, you will be punished.  I served in the Alaska legislature between 1983 and 1991  — most of the bonanza, big spending years.  There was so much money coming in from the oil industry they actually had trouble spending it fast enough.

I never procured one dime of that money for the people of my district.  I passed one bill in eight years.  I took on the Governor, the Senate Majority, and then the House Majority, and I wasn’t shy.  My reward was to be completely shut out of spending all that money.

I was lucky that my colleague from South Anchorage, Jan Faiks, brought in enough money for both of us.  We had the same district, and so when all this money came into the district people were happy with both of us.

Murkowski doesn’t have the kind of protection that I had.  Alaska is a small, politically insignificant state.  Trump will pay no price for dropping the AOR from his agenda.

But the people Lisa Murkowski represents will pay a very steep price indeed.


Scholars and politicians

Thanks to the internet, I’m able to read articles and commentary by a wide selection of conservative scholars and thinkers.  Among the best are people like Richard Fernandez, Walter Russell Mead and Angelo Codevilla.  They all get it.  They realize the path to a peaceful resolution of the cold civil war being waged in this country is a revitalization of federalism.  Leave the people of South Dakota and California to themselves, to live their own lives, according to their values.  That’s how we can get along with each other.

Typical of this scholarly output is an article by Codevilla, “The Cold Civil War.”  This is a brilliant man, who understands this country as well as anyone.  But he’s a scholar, not a politician.  He knows where we are, and where we need to go, but he doesn’t know how to do it.

Indeed, the politics at the federal level looks hopeless.  Total Republican control of the federal government, by purported conservatives, and complete gridlock.  What is to be done?

The answer is in the Constitution, but unless you’re a politician, you can’t see it.  Article V is a challenge given by the Framers of the Constitution to the group of politicians they believed would always be closest to the people:  the legislators of the several states.  They were to be the last line of defense for American liberty.  If Congress and the federal government threatened that liberty, the State Legislatures, acting in concert with one another, would have the power to intervene.

In the United States, the people are sovereign.  Not the federal government, or the Supreme Court, or Congress and the President.  Sovereignty is defined as supreme power or authority.  Under the Constitution, that ultimate power and authority rests with the state legislatures, representing the people.  Article V provides gives them the mechanism to exercise that power and that authority.

Any group with that kind of power is rightfully looked upon with suspicion.  Especially if they’ve never exercised that power since it was given to them in 1787.  This natural suspicion is especially prevalent among a small group of state legislators who oppose any use of Article V, for fear it will be abused.  This is the target audience of the Phoenix Convention of States.

Initial reports from the Denver ALEC meeting are very encouraging.  22 legislators from Arizona attended, and spread the word about the Phoenix Convention of States.  Even at this very early stage of organization, there’s no doubt that a quorum of 26 states will be represented.  Thus, Phoenix will, indeed, be the first national Convention of States since 1861.

In order to successfully use Article V, it’s necessary for the 50 state legislatures to organize.  Phoenix is billed as a Balanced Budget Amendment Planning Convention.  But it’s also an organizing convention.

What form that organization will take will be decided in Phoenix, by the Commissioners in attendance.  It’s the most important thing they’ll do.  At the least, a Committee of Correspondence will be established, to keep the lines of communication open.  How this all develops is impossible to foresee.  But it will develop.


Making a ham sandwich out of Donald Trump

The civil war that’s consuming this country isn’t between conservatives and progressives.  It’s not between political parties, or sections of the country.   It isn’t between an elite and the common man.   It’s a divide between the government and the people.

Some call it the deep state, but that’s misleading.  It’s the state, period.  Currently the state is represented by Robert Mueller, and the improbable representative of the people is the duly elected President of the United States.  Trump has the authority to fire Mueller, and he’s a fool if he doesn’t use it.

A previous incarnation of Mueller was Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, appointed in 1986 to investigate Iran-Contra.  Walsh took it upon himself to destroy the Reagan and first Bush administrations.   In June of 1992 he brought an indictment of two counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice against Secretary of Defense Cap Weinberger.   And then, a week before the 1992 election, he re-indicted Weinberger on one count of false statements.

Whatever momentum Bush 1 had going into the final week of the campaign was lost, and with it the election.  Lawrence Walsh never successfully prosecuted anyone for a crime.  The convictions he obtained against Poindexter and North were reversed, and Weinberger was pardoned by Bush 1.  But politically, he was very successful indeed.

The United States Department of Justice could, if it chose to do so, indict a ham sandwich.  That’s not an exaggeration or hyperbole.  It’s the truth, literally.  Giving that same power to a Special Prosecutor, with a charge to investigate the President, is an invitation for a prosecutorial coup d’etat.  And that’s what we’re going to get from Robert Mueller.

Sessions has to go first.  A better man would have ignored the calls for a special prosecutor.  A smarter man would have realized the danger to the President from one.  Rudy Guliani is a better and smarter man than Jeff Sessions, by a long shot.

Giuliani is also something of a libertarian, another great improvement over Sessions.  As Attorney General, Sessions has already shown that he is no friend of civil liberties  He’s all in on the government seizing private property under the police power.  And he’s too old and uninformed to realize that prosecuting anyone for violating the ridiculous federal marijuana law is against all common sense, and contrary to what Trump promised in his campaign.

All the state’s horses, and all the state’s men will be unleashed against Trump when he does this.  It’s a war, the state against the people.  Like him or not, Trump is standing for the people.

He can’t do this alone.  When I say the “state” against the people, I’m referring to only the federal government as the “state”.  The fifty States of this country are also enemies of the federal state.   Collectively, as set forth in Article V of the Constitution, they have the power to control and reform the federal government .

If they do not exercise this power, the despotism of the federal government will simply continue to expand.  This all seems pretty clear to me.  What will be interesting is the attitude of the Commissioners at the Phoenix Convention of States.