On September 17, 2011, the first step toward a changed nation brought forward the idea that the resources needed to address the economic and political difficulties faced by the United States of America have been locked up by the federal government, politicians, corporations, and the wealthy. Those resources accumulated for more than three decades as the citizens of this country allowed their elected national representatives, courts, national businesses, and banks to contend that a government protective of the needs of the accumulators was best for everyone. Occupy Wall Street and the protests, encampments, and actions that have taken life since its genesis raised the veil, revealing a country hamstrung and gridlocked in unemployment, foreign adventures, legislative stasis, inflated fuel prices, haphazard economic development, and uncivil debate on social issues. Reigning over this sad landscape are a Congress that seems determined solely to work toward having its present members re-elected, financial institutions run by individuals who have escaped investigation for misdeeds that brought the country’s economy to the brink of depression, substantial corporations that grow ever more keen to ring money from the public while insuring they do not have to pay employees enough for them to meet their essential needs, a President who has embraced progressive policies with one hand while signing bills that restrict the liberties of the People with the other, and a federal judiciary that is openly analyzed as politically partisan rather than impartially applying the law to the facts and issues.
Two elements of the political equation, though not unblemished in the steady downfall of the nation, remain ready to correct our course. They have at their disposal the tools, rights, laws, and principles needed to remedy the ills we face. Accordingly, it is time for the States and the People, both of whom are vested with sovereign power by the United States Constitution and the principles of natural law on which this country’s government was founded, to take up the task of reforming the national government in the manner prescribed by the Founders. To give form and organization to this undertaking, the following agenda is submitted to the States and the People for their review, comment, correction, and adoption.
I. Rallying the People
The citizens of the United States of America must demonstrate their awareness of the problems identified by the Occupy movement and earlier popular protest movements, agree that change is needed to address those problems, and signal their agreement. We propose that this be accomplished by asking the individual members of the Occupy movement to reach out to their families and friends to discuss the issues affecting our country and endorse the Proposed Petition for Redress and Pledge of Action.
The point of the Proposed Petition is not to obtain the redress sought. The remedies are ours to fashion. What we need are the resources to effect the change required. We can begin to get those resources by demonstrating that we have the support of tens of millions of Americans. And we do that by using the one resource we currently have, the occupiers, who can go out door by door and face to face to obtain the agreement of their friends and families and ask their friends and families to ask others for their agreement to the change Occupy has identified. In doing so, the occupiers will be spreading the message of what Occupy means to every household and family, opening the lines of communication and laying the foundations for support down the road.
Proposed Petition for Redress and Call to Action
In 1776, representatives of the residents in thirteen North American colonies adopted a Declaration of Independence that set forth the philosophical principles behind their recent and future actions, their grievances against King George III of Great Britain, and the redress they sought. Among other things, that Declaration made note of the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The writer of the Declaration substituted “pursuit of happiness” for “property” found in earlier formulations of those three inherent rights.
After struggle, victory, and peace, representatives of the citizens of the thirteen sovereign, independent states established from initial trial and error, through debate and consensus a new form of government of, by, and for the people. That government has withstood invasion, wars of expansion, defense, principle, ideology and questionable motive, economic transformations, immigration of individuals from every part of the world, cultural awakenings, social unrest and political corruption, assassinations, and a great conflagration that soaked this country’s fields with blood from self-inflicted wounds and tore the fabric of a shared civic culture. That government has evolved as its creators intended to meet new challenges and provided infrastructure, regulations, and services as the need arose. That government remains a beacon of hope for all human beings seeking democratic, representative, responsible, humane, and limited rule over their affairs.
Today, many citizens of the United States of America fear their government has become a creature of the wealthy, the corporations from which the wealthy derive their resources, and the politicians driven to act in the interests of those corporations due to their need for funds to fuel their endless campaigns to stay in office. Some of those citizens have made their concerns known by occupying parks, streets, and public areas in the cities and other localities of this country. They call upon the one percent that wields power through wealth and elected office to return the government, its policies, laws, regulations, and justice to the ninety-nine percent that have the capacity to fuel the economy, generate jobs, mobilize society, and move forward but are starved of the resources to do so. They seek change.
As the colonial representatives knew two hundred thirty-five years ago, great change must be founded on rational principles soundly developed from evidence, facts, and natural law. Such are the times now that some choose to twist, dissect or profane the principles supporting change out of fear, ignorance, or self-interest. Nonetheless, the foundations for change are present for all to see. The evidence is clear.
We truly are created equal, endowed with certain rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We all require and are entitled to consistent shelter, social and familial companionship, wellness and good health, education to our potential, full and complete nourishment, adequate clothing, employment of our skills and knowledge, and safety from harm. We build communities, support our brothers and sisters regardless of skin color, religion, ability, condition, sex, attribute, or characteristic, and treat one another with respect and dignity. We are a diverse nation.
The citizens of the United States of America have found their government and political discourse in their country at an impasse. They have reacted in frustration, fear, apprehension, and sadness to the growing sense that their great nation has taken an unproductive and dangerous path.
Witness the facts:
• the wealthy have steadily increased their share of the nation’s wealth at the expense of the poor and middle classes;
• politicians have pledged to enact no taxes despite the necessity for revenues to meet the needs of the people and revitalize our nation’s infrastructure;
• corporations have been deemed persons with political rights, allowing these corporations to support candidates and political causes financially, thereby drowning out the voices of voters;
• elected officials have engaged the nation in lengthy, unwarranted wars that have sapped the economy, killed and harmed tens of thousands of people, and invoked ill feelings abroad;
• legislators and governors have used the narrow tenets of religious minorities as the basis for laws that restrict the exercise of fundamental human rights in order to maintain political support;
• politicians have set out arbitrary and selfish requirements prior to debates on issues that require negotiation and consensus;
• companies, business groups, and single-issue interests have used their resources to influence and shape legislation and regulations for their benefit, squeezing out the common good;
• representatives have conducted inquiries and provided earmarked funds for their own self-promotion;
• laws have been passed to address issues that do not actually exist and other laws have not been taken up that would address pressing concerns, all in the name of partisanship;
• the judiciary has become suspect of issuing opinions based on ideology and party affiliation rather than the law and common sense;
• financiers and investors have used the markets and banks with little oversight and adjustable scruples to speculate, profit, and gain without adding any real value to the economy;
• many news media businesses have adopted clear ideological perspectives while continuing to claim the mantle of unbiased journalism;
• the United States Senate has adopted rules that require almost all legislation to find support from many more than half plus one members of the chamber, making a mockery of the idea of unlimited debate established by the nation’s founders;
• and candidates for public office have created the endless election cycle in their quest to hold onto their offices once acquired.
These are reasons for deep concern regarding the future of this nation. Their mitigation and elimination require substantial action.
There is hope. Citizens that have occupied Wall Street, Oakland, the tundra, Albany, and other places have taken the first step in calling attention to the plight of the ninety-nine percent and the power of the one percent. Now that the problems have been identified so manifestly, we can move forward. Our progress together can and will change America. This petition is the next step.
We seek redress of our grievances from the government, the wealthy, and the corporations. We seek the resources to take action to correct the deficiencies that have arisen in this country. We seek the means to rebuild our communities and the support to meet our essential needs. We seek dignity and honor from our labors. We seek peace, security, and fulfillment.
In return, we offer action. We offer involvement in our cities, towns, and villages. We offer engagement with those that need. We offer ourselves to the betterment of our country and the future. We offer participation in civic culture to be a defense against the weaknesses of apathy and self-absorption. We offer to be active, American citizens.
II. National General Assembly
The message of Occupy Wall Street has been heard and the ninety-nine percent are now answering back. Yes, there is a solution and we believe this is it. Our governmental institutions draw their authority from the consent of a sovereign people and we now seek your informed consent.
The National General Assembly of the United States (NGAOTUS) is a proposed federally-incorporated, member-owned, for-benefit financial institution. It will be managed by a shareholder (account holder) General Assembly and a Board of Trustees. It will be organized as a Public Authority with federal regulatory powers and serve as Conservator to the United States General Convention, identified in Article V of the United States Constitution.
We the People, the Citizens, of the United States will not sit idly by while we bankrupt our grandchildren. We will not accept being looted and plundered to enrich a group of criminal oligarchs. We will not stand, being lied to by public servants who are supposed to have our interests in mind. We will no longer be divided by a corporate sponsored popularity contest, masquerading as free and open elections. We will no longer remain silent.
As a lasting testament to both our resolve and foresight, we will create our own alternative, parallel institution to which we can legitimately invest our consent and alter our government in a profound and fundamental way, from the bottom up. We are seeking a more participatory form of government, a form with accountability, transparency, and social purpose at the very core of its values. We propose a radical reformation of government and how corporations interact with it. We propose that we start here, now. That begins with earning your informed consent and that’s a task we have prepared for.
Pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act of 1946, this action is open to collaboration and provides for more than ninety (90) days for consultations, collaborations, networking, and deliberation. We encourage all stakeholders to participate in its design and implementation.
III. Empowering the States
The state legislatures of forty-nine States have submitted applications to Congress for a convention to propose amendments pursuant to Article V of the United States Constitution. The fiftieth, Hawaii, has an application pending approval in its legislature. The States have submitted these applications over the years both to propose specific amendments and to address general political issues. They have not set limits on how long their applications are to be considered valid. Receipt of each application has been published in the Congressional Record. Accordingly, sufficient number of applications has been submitted to Congress to satisfy Article V for a convention to propose amendments. Yet Congress has not called a convention as required by Article V.
Article V of the United States Constitution is, insofar as a convention to propose amendments is concerned, a mechanism that should fire upon reaching the proper tension. The sole requirement for Congress to call a convention is the application of two-thirds of the States. Given that this threshold has been met, the mechanism should fire automatically. It has not. Accordingly, the States, through their legislatures, must take action to cause Congress to call a convention. In so doing, the States not only will prompt the action that should have occurred automatically, they also will assert their sovereign powers in relation to the federal government. Indeed, we await the States’ resuming their sovereign powers in relation to the federal government in order for them to work with the People in insuring that the convention is organized and made operational quickly upon being called.
We petition the National General Assembly to ask the members of all General Assemblies to discuss, debate, and take action as they see fit to communicate as constituents with their state legislators to inform and expect the United States Congress to act, as mandated by the United States Constitution, on the applications of two-thirds of the states to call a convention for purposes of amending the U.S. Constitution. We invite all other interested groups and individuals to take similar action.
IV. Compelling Action
Given the fact that sufficient number of applications has been submitted by the States to Congress, the matter should be simple enough. Unfortunately, perhaps due to the manner in which the applications have been catalogued or some misunderstanding as to their present effectiveness, Congress has not called a convention. While the People hope their States, through their state legislators, will take up the banner and press Congress to call a convention, the People also must seek alternative means. The circumstances warrant full diligence.
Members of the Occupy movement stand ready to petition the District Court for the District of Columbia for extraordinary relief in the form of a Writ of Mandamus directed to the Archivist of the United States, or, alternatively, the Speaker of the House, the Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate, and the Majority Leader of the Senate to certify that the requisite number of States have made application to Congress for a convention as specified in Article V of the United States Constitution. The Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action under the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a).
The petitioners will submit a list of applications held by the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States of America for a convention pursuant to Article V of the United States Constitution that total far more than the thirty-four required to meet the two-thirds threshold for Congress to call a convention. Indeed, forty-nine States have submitted applications and receipt of each one has been published in the Congressional Record.
Under Article V of the United States Constitution, the procedure for the States to request a convention to propose amendments is set forth as follows:
The Congress, . . . on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress.
1 U.S.C. 106B states:
Whenever official notice is received at the National Archives and Records Administration that any amendment proposed to the Constitution of the United States has been adopted, according to the provisions of the Constitution, the Archivist of the United States shall forthwith cause the amendment to be published, with his certificate, specifying the States by which the same may have been adopted, and that the same has become valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of the Constitution of the United States.
The petitioners have searched, but have found no other statutes or case law relating to Article V or State applications for a convention that may be relevant.
All applications for a convention must be counted toward the required two-thirds threshold regardless of when they were submitted. The States have not set time limits on their applications. In its actions regarding the ratification of the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution, Congress settled that Article V of the Constitution must be construed to place no time limits under its terms unless such time limits are expressly stated by the proposing body.
All applications for a convention must be counted toward the required two-thirds threshold regardless of the wording of the applications. The purpose of Article V is to allow the States to apply for a convention, not to propose specific amendments. The convention can propose amendments, and Congress must call a convention on the application of the proper number of states. Accordingly, the applications must be counted regardless of any language proposing specific amendments or other restrictions. The plain meaning of the Constitution requires that the applications submitted by the States be considered valid and satisfactory for determining whether the required two-thirds threshold has been met for Congress to call a convention.
The Archivist is custodian and record keeper of the applications for a convention submitted to Congress by the States. Absent any statutory process for certifying when the requisite number of applications has been submitted to Congress, Petitioners contend that the Archivist of the United States is charged with the duty of certifying that the requisite number of states has applied to Congress for a convention.
In the alternative, given that the States made application to Congress for a convention and both chambers of Congress have caused receipt of those applications to be published in the Congressional Record, it is the duty of the leaders of those chambers, the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, and the Majority Leader of the Senate to certify that the requisite number of applications for a convention by the States has been submitted.
V. A Forum for the States and the People
A convention to propose amendments to the Constitution is the primary forum in which to address the issues facing our country. The Founders indicated we should put this element of the constitutional structure to the test much more frequently than we have. Instead, the people of this country fought a long, terrible war, brother against brother, over the balance between the rights of the States and the powers of the federal government. We do not want that ever again.
In the twentieth century, our political system strained to accommodate new technologies, new voices, and new expectations. It has been elastic and strong enough to withstand the forces pulling it from every direction. But the result is a system that has become misshapen, fragile, and damaged. We must tend to the parts that must be fixed. We must reform it. That requires a meeting that represents the States and the People. The States and the People endowed the federal government with its powers two hundred twenty-five years ago. They must now review and recast those powers. A convention to propose amendments to the Constitution is the legal, proper, and rational forum in which to do so.
The States and the People, once gathered for the convention, can exercise their sovereign powers to determine the mechanics and organization of the convention. They can establish the agenda based on the applications submitted by the States, the concerns voiced by the People, and the knowledge and experience brought to the convention by the delegates. We, as a nation, can contribute to this undertaking in real time thanks to the advances in technology that permit anyone with access to a computer and the Internet to join the debate wherever it is held. In establishing the convention, Congress, the States, and the People should remain cognizant of the ability to provide widespread, democratic input to its processes, discussions, and decisions. The convention will do best to work toward assaying every issue confronting this country, thoroughly exploring the options for relief with all constituencies, and developing the most appropriate remedies for submission to the States for ratification.
VI. Town Halls
A Town Hall is a forum in which members of a community come together to discuss issues in the community that have been placed on the agenda so everyone receives the same information about the issues at the same time. It can be deliberative and it can be decisive. Typically, everyone who attends a Town Hall is encouraged to leave and find ways to resolve the issues in the manner they find most suitable. In other words, a Town Hall is educational and gives people the sense that they understand the issues more fully after than before. The now educated people can make their informed opinions known to those who make decisions within our representative political structures. However, a Town Hall also can be a place where members of the community are not only informed about the issues, but also decide how to deal with those issues in a directly democratic manner. Regardless, Town Halls replace the need for money in political discourse and nurture the bonds of shared citizenship, strengthening our civic culture.
We call on individuals throughout the land to come together in Town Halls to reassert their authority as the source of all governmental decision making. Coupled with elections to choose representatives and decide ballot questions, Town Halls genuinely and unmistakably demonstrate the consent of the governed in their affairs.