Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Limited Representative Government: Prop. 8 and Racism

Californians are now just racists (like they have always been) because its citizens won't allow same sex couples to pretend they are married. Direct democracy must not be allowed, they say, only the power of the state constitution is right! Well, if the state constitution allows for direct democracy, then to what constitution do they refer? Some say that constitutions are written to protect the minority from the majority. That is not correct, otherwise no majority rule could exist, hence no democracy and no democratic republics. Constitutions in constitutional republics represent a covenant among the people as to how their laws will work. When that covenant is broken, they owe the powers that broke the covenant no allegiance.

The biggest problem with more direct forms of democracy is that important issues are fought out in sound bites (like education becoming the focus of the last month's debate). During the 1960's revision period Bernard Hyink (see page 5 of article) made a series of serious arguments against the prevalence of direct democracy in California's constitution. Californians did not want any part of returning to a more representative form of government. It is this direct democracy that is more Libertarian because it liberally gives the people greater say. A reduced dependency on an independent judiciary is another libertarian notion that arose in California as the institutions of the federal constitution began to struggle under the pressures of massive industrialization during the Civil War period.

There have been many really stupid things written into California's constitution over time, including, as some rightly point out, racist notions in bold print. These things have all been eradicated, but the principles of greater direct democracy have been strengthened.

Constitutions don't come from a Divine Being. They come from people. Good people don't come from governments; good governments come from good people. There are those, (I am not among them), that argue that even our notions of right and wrong don't originate from a Higher Power. I do believe that things like passionate self-interest, greed, and jealousy often blind some people to the voice of conscience. These people, sadly, are too often the ones that are in authority in political parties.

Some folks talk about how health care must be reformed because of greedy and corrupt doctors. My response to this has always been to throw up my hands. If the people who deliver the health care are corrupt, it's over. What can anyone do? That's how I feel about the "checked" use of a greater direct democracy in not only California, but in the nation. If the people, of whom, by whom and for whom government exists, have lost their way, what's the point?

I think, because of the federal constitution, and the language of the California constitution regarding it's subjection to the federal constitution, the objections some raise about returning to a KKK society is a read herring. I say, "I think", because San Francisco seems to have seceded from the union relative to immigration law and no one cares.

In general, it is sad that people accuse the entire populace of hate because they don't want to lie to their kids and tell them that same sex couple are married... well not really... well legally... That's a bit much. What's wrong with civil unions anyhow?

I saw a good Wikipedia article on the language of Prop. 8. After great debate, "may" and "could" were the words left in the ballot initiative concerning required teacher participation in educational programs. The Supreme Court Justices had essentially ordered teachers to lie to little children, whether students could "opt out" or not.

The constitution of California never, ever provided for making people say that same sex couples are married when they are not. Four Supreme Court judges, perhaps inspired by some vision from of Saturn in red, exercised their authority to INTERPRET the constitution (if they did more than this they dare not admit it!). The simplest way to clarify the constitution was to do the people of California did.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Proposition 8 and Revisions of California's Constitution

While some argue that the people of California are not worthy of the initiative process the state constitution liberally grants its citizens, the very heart of California's law disagrees. The ballot initiative process is not a twentieth century libertarian whim cooked up by 1960's radicals. Instead, it was adopted to directly address the challenges and pressures of a representative government in the modern era.

California's Constitution's Preamble is the usual: "We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution." This is a wonderful echo of the age of the founding fathers of the United States of America. However section 1 of the first article of California's constitution is not the unusual: "All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their protection, security, and benefit, and they have the right to alter or reform it when the public good may require." This has a bold and defiant tone, the tone of those who have had enough of pretense and hypocrisy. These are grave and solemn declarations. They are the words of men and women who have had some experience being vigilant in the great and ongoing struggle for liberty. Surprisingly, the rest of California's constitution lives up to these brave words. That's not usual either.

For these very self-evident reasons, any refusal by four judges to enact Proposition 8, by describing it as a revision, would to be to drastically alter the heart of California's constitution.

The Constitution of California is a living document, but its life is not ultimately in the hands of a Supreme Court, and its breath does not wait on a two thirds majority of the state legislature. California's constitution is specifically designed to live and breathe with the people of California. Nor was this done for light and transient causes. California's constitution is borne of the schools of error and hard experience in this land of opportunity.

Of all the states in the union, California has the most experience with constitutions. It drafted its original constitution in coordination with a military proclamation shortly following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and California redrafted its constitution only thirty years later. It was in this second draft of its constitution that California began its loathing of political authorities and its love of the initiative and referendum process. Finally, after years of committee analysis, in 1966 California used the mechanisms within the 1897 draft to significantly revise its constitution (CPS p. 3). This it did with a constitutional convention and approval of the electorate. Ultimately, the revision committee completed the final part of its revision process with a series of tailor made ballot initiatives (CPS 6). Hence, if California's constitution is one of the most liberal states in the union, it is a political path based, not on navet, but on experience. In other words, if California gives greater authority to its electorate that any other state it is because California has learned from its history. Its institutions recognize that those in authority are often as impervious to truth as they are imperfect in character. California's limits on its Supreme Court Justices, as set out in terms of recall and elective terms, is not done without a very clear understanding of the challenges to freedom that arise in every generation, even in nations governed as constitutional and democratic republics.

The problem with the founding father's notion of an independent judiciary is that our forefathers benignly believed that the check on judges would be the laws and the constitutional documents they embodied. California discovered that such a check was not always convenient. While, on the one hand, California gives its chief justice tremendous powers over the interpretation and the culture of interpretation that surrounds California's laws, the consequences of its painful experiences with the powerful forces of large business interests during the Civil War period left the people of this state with an extremely sober view of all the elements of representative government, including the judiciary. California's judiciary is one of the least independent in the nation. While judges are appointed by the governor, the judges are subject to reelection every twelve years. Furthermore, they are subject to recall at any time by way of the initiative process.

It would not be beyond imagination then to conceive of a unanimous Supreme Court decision in favor of the proponents of Proposition 8, and that is as it should be according to California law. In the United States Constitution five judges closely divided with four others in the interpretation of the federal constitution plus the silence of the legislature can equal, in practical terms, via stare decisis, an amendment or a revision or of the constitution. Of course the more divided the judiciary, the more divided the legislature, so, in the course of time, judges have often changed the constitutional rudiments of our federal laws. In California, though, the people must also remain silent for a judicial opinion, an interpretation of the law to become, via stare decisis, an amendment to or a drastic revision of the California constitution.

In the matter of Proposition 8 and Proposition 22, Californians were not silent. They thought long and hard; twice Californians have clarified the definition of marriage. This may have been an altogether silly exercise forced on them from above, but it was, nonetheless, a gracious and constitutional one. All those who oppose that definition ought to accept the verdict in the gracious spirit in which it was legally and duly offered. The definition of marriage Californians have declared doesn't harm anyone, and it does apply equally applied to all. Homosexuals may also get married to one member of the opposite sex, just like every other Californian. Californians do not hold anyone's sexual orientation against them. The people of California have never been perfect, and they are not now. California's constitution though, isn't bad. Other states ought to follow California's example of liberally granting the final say and authority to the people. After all, where do all constitutions that are worth the ink originate?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

How to Recall a California Supreme Court Justice

Information is power if power has already been granted to you. Indeed, in California great political authority has already been granted to its citizens. That power is our history and our legacy, for the California Constitution in Article 2 Section 1 reads: "All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their protection, security, and benefit, and they have the right to alter or reform it when the public good may require."

The voters of California have recently reformed their state by way of a ballot initiative called Proposition 8. This was a reformation because marriage in California (and in all the world) has always been between a man and a woman. Only in recent months did our justices deem it fit to alter our state laws and our constitution. Because the justices are sworn to uphold the constitution, not alter it, they should be recalled for the failure to discharge their duties. The people of California have also been granted this right. It is within our authority as states Article 2 Section 13: "Recall is the power of the electors to remove an elective officer," and, as the constitutional framers saw fit and in California Supreme Court Justices are elected, not appointed; Article 2 Section 16a: "Judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected at large and judges of courts of appeal shall be elected in their districts at general elections at the same time and places as the Governor. Their terms are 12 years beginning the Monday after January 1 following their election." Because California Supreme Court Justices are not appointed as they are under the federal constitution, but elected, they are subject to recall by the electorate.

The constitutional framers made the manner of recall very simple. The recall process has two parts. Both of these parts are stated plainly in Article 2 Section 14a. The first is: "Recall of a state officer is initiated by delivering to the Secretary of State a petition alleging reason for recall. Sufficiency of reason is not reviewable." The petition to remove these elected officials is not "reviewable." That means that the voters could say, "We the people of California petition for the removal of these four Supreme Court Justices because they are dumb dumb heads, and we don't like them any more." Such a claim could not be rejected on legal grounds; however, such simplicity might not be considered overly persuasive either. Nonetheless, the point is that the California Constitution makes this matter simple because its intent is that the people of California, not its lawyers or its judges, define the nature and scope of our laws.

Those who choose to circulate a petition to recall each of these four judges might contemplate a petition that says:

"We the people of California, petition for the recall of Chief Justice Ronald M. George, Associate Justice Joyce L. Kennard, Associate Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar, and Associate Justice Carlos R. Moreno for the following reasons:

Unless one is of an unsound mind, seeks personal aggrandizement, or sets himself above the body of laws and the constitution he has taken an oath to uphold, the historic documents surrounding the constitution and the historic contexts of the documents surrounding the family law of California cannot be construed to include homosexuality as a suspect category in civil right laws: these are plainly limited to race, religion and gender.

The historic documents of California and the body of documentation surrounding California can not be held to imply or refer to a right for same sex couples to pretend to marriage by law, and any such conclusion is evidence of an unsound mind, self seeking, or a judicial hubris that pretends to be above the body of laws embodied in the constitution of California he swore to uphold.

In altering the Constitution of California and the body of laws it embodies, this jurist has undermined the civil right to marry for all couples; he has reduced marriage to a mere legal contract defined by states rather than upholding the court's legitimate responsibility to recognize the union of a man and a woman. This is an ancient contract between two people based on exalting that which nature and the God of nature has set within the heart of all people everywhere without regard to race, religion or gender. This fundamental joining, like the right to free speech, like the right to worship in accordance with our conscience, like the right to free movement and like the right to defend oneself against tyrants and any who would threaten life and property, exists prior to governments and any government that refuses to recognize such rights is illegitimate.

In altering the Constitution of California and the body of laws it embodies, these jurists have undermined civil society, civil conversation, and the peace of this great state, for we have had untold expenditures of time and money resulting only in increased acrimony and civil unrest. This is entirely the fault of this Court. Rather than undermining the documents and laws of this land designed for the express purpose of maintaining civil discourse, a democratic union and the peace of this people, this court could have urged the plaintiffs in "re Marriages" to utilize the ballot initiatives to democratically amend our State's Constitution. Instead, this court has purposely misrepresented the documents of our state and deceived many of its unwitting populace into feeling that it has "rights" it never received in accordance with the democratic principles of our society.

The ruling of this court expresses an explicit intent to order state representatives to deceive others by applying the historic name and honor of the institution of "marriage" on unions that have no history at all. This legislated fraud would have constituted a tyranny and would have affected young children of every race, religion and gender from the tender ages in which they enter our public school system.

Article 2 Section 14a also sets out the second condition for demanding the recall of its elected judges: "Proponents (of the recall) have 160 days to file signed petitions." Article 2 Section 14b and c contains the instructions on filing the petition:

"A petition to recall a statewide officer must be signed by electors equal in number to 12 percent of the last vote for the office, with signatures from each of 5 counties equal in number to 1 percent of the last vote for the office in the county. Signatures to recall Senators, members of the Assembly, members of the Board of Equalization, and judges of courts of appeal and trial courts must equal in number 20 percent of the last vote for the office. (b) The Secretary of State shall maintain a continuous count of the signatures certified to that office."

California is one of the most liberal states in These United States of America in the oldest and truest meaning of that word. California is not liberal because has relativism, high taxes, deficit spending and a "nanny government" written into its constitution. California is proudly one of the most liberal states in the Union because, rather than specifying that the authority and responsibility for governance resides primarily in the representatives of the people, it gives the authority and responsibility for governance to the people in some of the most direct and practical ways ever devised. Californians ought to prize the authority its citizens have been granted, but with this greater authority comes greater responsibility. Californians have a responsibility, a duty, to recall these judges. This matter has not been left to lawyers, other judges, or to elected representative. They do not, therefore, have the responsibility to recall these judges. Californians, however, do. It is therefore, the people of California who are responsible for the harm these judges have done and will do if they do not act together swiftly and decisively to recall them.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ballot Measures: Joe the Voter Shoulders the Heaviest Lifting Again

Although the practice of direct democracy began primarily with constitutional amendments, it has become more prevalent as our representatives in government have failed at their work. Once again the common man must do the heavy lifting.

Proposition 8, in some ways fits the historic reason for direct democracy through a referendum or ballot initiative process. Referendums have always been part of American democracy. Massachusetts held a referendum to approve its new constitution in 1780. By 1850 it was becoming standard practice to hold a referendum when amending a state constitution (Eclipse of Legislatures USC Research Computing Facility 2004). As sad as it is that the Supreme Court of California made an amendment to the State Constitution of California an all too provident and necessary process, Proposition 8 is a tried and true way for the citizens of a state to decide the nature of their governments.

Although a state constitution is not simply laws, it is more important because it forms the basis upon which our state laws can and should be made, or it is a set of limits on our governments saying what kinds of laws it may not make. It is very important then, that such a foundation for laws is expressed in simple words that make total sense. "A marriage is between a man and a woman makes" makes total sense. There are a few things implied rather than explicitly stated because we don't want to have to wash our children's mouth out with soap after they recite their sixth grade homework to us. Still, the words are plain and foundational. They make sense and allow little room for disagreement. On the other hand, a constitutional amendment that said that marriage was NOT between a man and a woman would be an unsound amendment because it does not plainly lay a clear foundation for the laws of California. When the people affirm what marriage is, the people set family law in California on a clearly understood idea. Other laws, including those for our schools and for civil unions will then have a firm and clear basis on which to build.

On the other hand, the other reasons we really need to pass Proposition 8 all too clearly reflect the reasons that there are more referendums on more state ballots this Tuesday than at almost any other time in our nation's history. Historically, referendums became more prevalent because of the failure of our representative form of government, in its executive, legislative, and judicial form, to do its jobs. A wave of defaults in the 1800's led to the requirements for a popular vote in 21 states (Kiewiet and Szakaly 1996). That sounds familiar doesn't it? Our national representatives as a group, including Diane Fienstein, allowed lending practices to go haywire. They did this because it was inconvenient to take a difficult position that might upset some important colleagues or more powerful constituents. This goes on, it seems, all the time in Washington. No one wants to hurt anyone's feelings. They will say "yes" whenever possible because that is how one gets reelected. People don't get reelected by saying "no." Hence, the tough job of financial responsibility has become more and more often left to the citizens. The states that require bond measures to be ratified by a referendum process have less state spending and more decentralized spending than those that do not (Eclipse).

One of the problems with representative democracy is that our representatives in the legislature "logroll", that is, they trade votes when they make a decision on behalf of their constituents. If one of our representatives needs a block of votes to approve, let's say, a new hospital in a certain municipality, they will trade their support on another issue. Hence, the majority of voters are not served by either vote. Many citizens recognize that "earmarking" in the national budget process is the current epitome of the evils of logrolling. In fact, even public policy positions taken by our representatives are often suspect. Our representatives will change positions on areas important to those who voted for them, or those whose union dues they spend. A recent national survey conducted for the Initiative & Referendum Institute at USC asked: "All other things being equal, which do you think is most likely to produce laws that are in the public interest: when the law is adopted by the legislature or when the voters adopt the law? Sixty-six percent of respondents selected "voters" compared to 20% that selected "the legislature"1. The pattern held for men and women, across all age groups, and for whites, blacks, and other ethnic groups.

Hence, direct democracy, the referendum process, has become more necessary and more popular because the representatives of the people have lost our respect. When we go to the polls on Tuesday in California, then, may we let common sense rule. It is in our best interest not to listen to authority figures like the Superintendent of Public schools who contradicted his own website on the issue of whether or not students will be taught that homosexual marriages are excellent at the age of seven. Nor should we allow authority figures that have a history of spinelessly saying "yes" to every spending measure imaginable harangue us about fairness. If you can't figure out what rights are unfairly jeopardized by affirming what a marriage actually is, consider the sources the budgets and the taxes that also make no sense. Once again, the tough job of laying the firm foundation for the future of California will come down to us. If you aren't sure what a proposal is asking, say "no." If you aren't sure what a marriage is if it is not between a man and a woman, vote "Yes" on 8.

1. The survey was conducted by Portrait of America. It can be found in Waters (2003) and on the web site of the Initiative & Referendum Institute (