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A Proposed Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

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The U.S. President will be elected by means of a standardized physical and personally signed mail-in ballot, which, starting in the first month of the election-year, is mailed out to all registered voters, who are broken down into 100 different and all-inclusive randomly assigned daily batches of 1% of the electorate (5% of the electorate per week), and which asks each such person “Whom do you wish were America’s President right now? (Name a living American.)” Each of the top two chosen named persons that is Constitutionally qualified and willing to serve as President — both of them naturally being publicly well-known — will then, within 30 days of having been publicly announced as having been selected by the voters for the second-round voting and willing to serve, post online that individual’s proposed Presidential policies; and each of these two contenders will, then, after yet another 30 days, together face a town hall, with 100 randomly selected Americans, at which event ten of them who would like to ask questions will randomly be selected, each one of these ten questioners to ask only one question (secretly held by that randomly selected individual), which they want to be answered by both of the contenders, and allowing each such questioner up to 5 successive follow-up questions on that one question, to ask that question of each one of the two contenders, but allowing no other question, and no time-limits. (That will, at a maximum, be 10 main questions, plus, for each question, 10 follow-up questions, or 110 questions total, as an absolute maximum, at this event, which will be the one and only Presidential-campaign town hall during the entire election-season.) After that town hall, each of the two candidates will have a half hour of free and federally financed air-time on all networks each week, so as to be able to address any issues that may have arisen. 100 days after that town hall, a second standardized physical mail-in ballot will be mailed out, this time all-at-once, to all registered voters and listing as options only those two identified individuals. All of the returned and personally signed ballots in each of the two rounds will be permanently stored for possible recounts. The candidate who receives the majority of votes will be the next President. The loser will be the Vice President. 

The twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution is hereby nullified.

The twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is hereby nullified.

Article II, Section 1, Clauses 2 & 3, of the U.S. Constitution, are hereby nullified.

THIS PROPOSED AMENDMENT WOULD ESTABLISH A MEANS OF AVOIDING THE MAIN SOURCES OF PROBLEMS THAT ARE IN THE EXISTING SYSTEM OF SELECTING A U.S. PRESIDENT, such as:

Nominees being selected entirely by means which enable billionaires and other top political donors collectively to control the outcome by eliminating candidates whom they all oppose.

Major newsmedia, which themselves are controlled by billionaires, coloring or ‘interpreting’ candidates’ assertions so as to sway voters toward their preferred candidates.

Staged ‘debates’ with only shallow questions that have been pre-approved by representatives of the billionaires, which representatives have negotiated, in advance, what questions will and what won’t be allowed to be publicly debated at these ‘debates’.

Replacing the Electoral College and eliminating the role that superdelegates play in the Presidential-selection process.

Eliminating the argument for term-limits on the Presidency (because no arbitrary requirement will be placed on whom the President should be, other than the requirements that were imposed in the 1787 Constitution itself).

Temporally spreading the initial selection-process, out to 100 weekdays, or 20 weeks, will prevent any one news-event or scandal or emergency from over-influencing the first-round choices of whom will be the two individuals competing in the second round.

By limiting the final choice to the individuals who were the two top chosen persons in the initial choice and willing to serve, that final choice will not only be between two individuals both of whom are highly regarded by a substantial portion of the population and willing to serve, but in the second (the final) round will allow each of them to present the individual’s case for him/herself and against the opponent; and this natural adversarial process will produce the polarity that is necessary to be accentuated in any meaningful election, so as to expose not only the strengths, but also the vulnerabilities, in each of the two electoral options (persons) that are being offered to the public in the final stage. 

Since this Amendment would eliminate the influence of Party-organizations (because the voters would be choosing on their own and not guided by the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee), it would introduce a new type of Presidency — one which, for the very first time in American history after the election of George Washington, would produce Presidents who are not answerable to any Party-organization but only directly-and-only to the electorate. The balance of powers between the Executive and the Legislative branches would then be much closer to what the Founders (who had wished to avoid any political Parties from forming in America) had intended to be the case, regarding the selection of the President. The Founders opposed political Parties because they knew such Parties to result inevitably in, and to encourage the development of, corruption. They wanted the President to represent only the public, no Party organization. The Founders also knew that any admixture between the Legislative and the Executive functions will greatly exacerbate corruption, by means of reducing the separation-of-powers. This proposed new U.S. Constitutional Amendment would restrain corruption because it would separate the President not only from the Party-system that controls the Legislature, but from the Legislature itself. This double-insulation would amplify the President’s “bully pulpit” (by institutionalizing adversariality, competition, between the Executive and Legislative branches) and simultaneously diminish the President’s direct influence (which, under the current system, a President exercises via his own Party-organization) over the Legislature. Politically, the President will therefore then be competing against both the House and the Senate, and will cooperate with the Legislature only so as to produce legislation that both the Executive and the Legislative branches will want to take to the electorate in their respective re-election campaigns. The objective here is to maximize the Government’s electoral accountability to the public.

The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution (setting a term-limit upon the Presidency, at no more than two four-year terms) was instituted during 1947-1951, under President Truman, in order to reduce democracy (eliminate the public from choosing the President) when an incumbent in the Presidency has proven to be so good that the public will probably always be happy for that person to continue on in that office until that person either dies or quits — such as was the case with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had died as the President in his fourth term, on 12 April 1945. Historians rank FDR as the 2nd-greatest President, after only Abraham Lincoln. Though he was popular as President, he is even more admired in retrospect by historians. In his own time, America’s wealthy were hostile toward him. The first-ever U.S. Presidential-election poll was taken by the conservative Literary Digest during the Great Depression in 1936 and only amongst middle-and-upper-class Americans, and it showed FDR likely to obtain only 43% of the vote, but in the actual election, he won 61%, and that magazine then died in 1938. Months after the Literary Digest poll in 1936, George Gallup mocked that pollster’s methodology and correctly predicted FDR’s win (though likewise under-estimating it, at 56%), thus creating the first scientific polling-organization, which still exists. The 1940 pollings showed FDR as being almost certain to win, which happened; and, then, in 1944, likewise. Republicans didn’t want that to happen ever again and thus forced through the 22nd Amendment so as to prevent it from happening. They sensed that they could never get a Republican as President who would be so popular for so long. However: that Republican 22nd Amendment is inevitably an invitation to corruption because it reduces the incentive for a sitting President to govern so that the public will be and will remain supportive of that incumbent’s continuance in office. The 22nd Amendment was thus part of the degeneration of American democracy — not part of its enhancement. If FDR had been held to the standard that the Republicans succeeded at imposing upon the country in 1951, with the 22nd Amendment, then in 1941 when the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor and America’s economic recovery from the Republicans’ Great Depression was already blossoming in full force since 1938, the Republican Wall-Street lawyer and proponent of regulated monopolies, Wendel Willkie, would probably have become President, and America’s degeneration into extreme corruption would likely have begun four years before it ultimately did. Willkie wouldn’t have kept America out of WW II, but he had zero record in public office and there was nothing in his public record which would indicate that he would have served America and the world better in WW II and afterward than FDR and even Truman did. The 22nd Amendment was just a thinly rationalized power-grab by the Republican National Committee, as soon as FDR died. But merely eliminating it wouldn’t be enough to make America’s Presidential-selection process truly and directly democratic. Parties must be removed entirely from that process. This Amendment would do that. 

The 12th Amendment to the Constitution, as well as Clauses 2 & 3 of Section Two, all deal with the Electoral College, and thus likewise would be eliminated by the proposed Amendment. Those provisions, too, had been introduced by conservatives, especially the slave states. Particularly, during the U.S. Constitutional Convention, “southern Convention delegates, who personally thrived on the institution of slavery and represented others who also did so, forced the compromise establishment of our bipartite constitutional scheme for presidential elections.” The Amendment which is proposed here would replace all of that. This Amendment would, in fact, at the Presidential level, end the institutionalized rule of America by its former slave states. The Civil War didn’t do this, but only held the Union together while outlawing outright slavery. Some of the Deep South’s stranglehold against democracy remained even after the 14th Amendment ended the overt commerce in human beings. Moreover, slavery continued in Alabama right up to WW II, when FDR, on 12 December 1941, ordered it finally to be ended.

Consequently, this would be a very important Amendment.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

Americas

Transition 2021: How Biden is likely to approach the Middle East

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In terms of foreign policy, the new President of the United States, Joe Biden,is likely to face numerous challenges, especially when it comes to the Middle East because of the disastrous policies of the former President, Donald Trump, in the region. Even in his inauguration speech, Biden made it clear that it was going to be testing time. Some of the challenges that the new administration would be facing includethe nuclear deal with Iran, the ongoing war in Yemen, issues of human rights issues and the current deadlock between Israel and Palestine. There is some possibility that Biden’s foreign policy towards the Middle East would either be a revival of Barack Obama’s former policies or new strategies would be formulated based on the nature of the challenges faced. However, it is certain that Biden will address or undo Trump’s terrible policies in the region. 

The Biden administration’s top foreign policy agenda is the policy towards Iran. The Iran nuclear deal (2015) or JCOPA was considered to be a milestone in multilateral diplomacy that was irresponsibly abandoned by Trump in 2018. Trump’s “maximum pressure campaign” of sanctions against Iran aimed to please the traditional allies as they faced a common enemy in Iran. Biden has promised to return to the 2015 JCPOA agreement, and he would also discuss Iran’s nuclear program and exchange for sanctions relief. In this process, it is expected that Washington might pressure Iran to withdraw its support for regional proxies in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Moreover, the US would also seek to curb Iran’s export of precision guided missiles to her regional allies. Iran though, has already made it clear that these issues would not be discussed in the event of a renegotiated JCPOA. Furthermore, this plan may be complicated by the recent assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, which was not condemned by the White House that Iran blames on Israel. Public outrage had not even subdued at the point due to the assassination of Qasim Sulemani. Currently, the architecture of the Middle Eastern region is even more complex and challenging than it was four years ago butthe fact is that Iran cannot afford military conflict at this point when its economy is already crippling amidst the COVID-19 pandemic along with the sanctions imposed by the US.

Trump administration’s “Israel-first” approach in the region brought severe criticism at the global level. The Abraham Accord, signed in September of last year,which normalized Israel’s relations with UAE & Bahrain, is widely seen as Donald Trump’s most significant foreign policy achievement. This Accord altered the decades long regional perception that Arab-Israel peace could not be achieved without first addressing the issue of statehood for Palestinians. Biden has said that he supports more countries recognizing Israel but at the same time Israel needs to work towards genuine solutions between the two states. Moreover, the new administration at the White House will not show the same tolerance for Israel’s settler expansionism as its predecessor. However, there are certain foreign policies by the Trump administration that the new US leadership does not want to renew. The normalization of Arab-Israel relations is something that enjoys bipartisan support. And also, the shift of the US embassy to Jerusalem seems unlikely to be undone.

The US policy inthe Middle East under the new leadership will be less ideological and would be more based on fundamental principles.  These principles will greatly focus on human rights as some analysts view human rights as the core foreign policy agenda of the Biden administration. Thus, it does not seem not to be good news for the traditional allies of the US including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Israel. There are a variety of issues in addition to the human rights issues: the KSA intervention in Yemen, arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the lingering mistrust, the jailing of activists and Jamall Khashoggi’s murder case, which are creating uncertainties between the Washington and Riyadh. Hence, KSA is going to have a very difficult time with the Biden administration. Similarly, the new administration can also be expected to take a less tolerant view towards Moscow and Ankara because of the extraterritorial activities in the Middle Eastern region.

Certainly, returning to the Iran nuclear dealofficially, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action-will take a longer time to review because of the complexity of the issue and the domestic problems that the US is currently facing. There is also a possibility of a dangerous escalation without a nuclear deal due to Iran’s aims of buildingmilitary scenarios. Therefore, multilateral diplomacy is the best option for regional peace and security, which has been tried in the previous years.Even the JCPOA was a result of such diplomacy. The US ending its support to Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen might turn away the traditional allies for some time but not permanently due to the common interests in the region. Biden is also likely to alter Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from the region as it would decrease US influence in the region. The top priority of the US administration in the Middle East would be to try and manage Iran’s problems and to maintain reasonable relations with Israel. Traditional allies of the US in the Middle East were content and supportive of Trump’s policies in the region but they view Biden, not as a President, but Vice President of the Obama Administration. Trump’s bilateral relations were often based on personal ties with the foreign leaders while Biden is expected to adopt a more multilateral approach in engaging with the allies. Still, scholars believe that there would be no fundamental change in the US foreign policy towards the Middle East, especially when it comes to protecting its vested interests in the region.

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Rejoining the UNHRC will be the State Department’s first diplomatic mistake

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As over the last days US Vice President Harris swore in Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the new US Ambassador to the UN, US Secretary of State Blinken announced in parallel that the US is now seeking election to the UN Human Rights Council, in an attempt to rejoin the UN system. But that’s not the right first move back at the UN that the US should be making. And that’s not what the progressive left had in mind when the real left groups put in office the new Biden Administration.

My perspective comes from having worked in the UN human rights system and as a finalist for UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of speech last year – but also as a progressive left voice.

The days when UN engagement defined Democrats vis-a-vis Republicans are over.

Shunning the UN has always been a Republican hallmark but backing and pouring so much funding into an old style, corrupt bureaucracy that has little to do with “diplomacy” is not what the new, awaken progressive left wants either.

Several weeks ago, I made the estimate that the 10bln dollars which the US government pours into the black hole called the UN equals the Covid relief that 16mln struggling American people could be getting now. The Biden Administration’s State Department diplomats have to remember who put them in office.

Democrat centrist diplomats have more in common with the UN in terms of ways, goals, style and world view than they do with the progressive left. Backing the UN means backing the old, corrupt ways, which the real progressive left voted to break last year.

The decision to announce the US’s goal to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council comes in the same week when President Biden finally announced his real stance on the Black Lives Matter ‘defund the police’ goals. Biden, it turns out, unsurprisingly does not support that. That’s not what the progressive left signed up for, either.

The UN institutional funding inertia by the US government does not define the Democratic Party anymore. That’s not what the left voters want. 

The left’s reasons for not embracing the UN and the UN Human Rights Council have little to do with the usual Republican ‘go it alone’ at the international stage.

Yes to diplomacy and multilateralism. No to the corrupt, faceless UN. “International diplomacy” is no longer the same thing as the UN system.

The wave that rose across American political life last year, with so many young black activists and so many people voting for the first time, signaled a big resounding No to old ways and old institutions, which have little concern for the actual needs of the people.

The new US Ambassador to the UN, Thomas-Greenfield, will have the tough job of reforming the UN, and in my opinion, even defunding the UN.

The days when love for the UN defined Democrats are certainly over. It’s time for the Biden Administration to do what it was elected for, which is to not simply go back to the same old, same old corrupt, faceless bureaucratic institutions swimming in money. This is not what we want. The progressive left voted for change and now that also includes the UN.

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U.S. Climate Policy Could Break the Ice with Russia

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Photo: Fiona Paton/ flickr

“In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity” — Albert Einstein

Within the climate crisis lies strategic opportunity for the United States. Climate change offers the chance to earn back the good will of allies, to prepare American cities for an urgently needed increase in immigration, and to reinvent U.S.-led institutions that have gone stale. Perhaps most of all, foreign policymakers should remain cognizant of how climate action can help the U.S. navigate relations with the other great powers.

As a recent report from the Center for a New American Security details, synergy between China and Russia is more problematic for U.S. interests than the sum of the challenges that each nation poses individually. Similarly, a recent Atlantic Council publication observed that “allowing Russia to drift fully into China’s strategic embrace over the last decade will go down as the single greatest geostrategic error.” Chinese and Russian interests do currently align on defense, economics, and the degradation of the U.S.-designed world order, but the nature of their alignment does not constitute an alliance.

In characterizing the relationship, this distinction is paramount. For as long as China and Russia remain merely convenient partners, rather than ideologically kindred allies, it is possible to keep these neighbors at arm’s length. To this end, the U.S. must reorient its approach to Russia. It is the Russian perception that world politics are rigged to benefit the U.S. at Russia’s expense that has prompted its support for China.

Russia’s national interests are rooted in the desire for respect. With this in mind, Russia could pull back from synergy with China if a better opportunity to advance these interests presented itself. Ultimately, the ability of the U.S. to offer a mutually acceptable alternative will hinge on two related factors: the Arctic and NATO. Critically, the issue of climate change is central to both of these factors.

In the Arctic, rapid warming removes barriers to resource exploitation, shipping activity, and great power competition. This has drawn many non-Arctic states to the region. Yet, even with China inserting itself as a “Near-Arctic State,” Russia has expressed the need for a hierarchy of regional influence in which the interests of Arctic states are prioritized over non-Arctic states. On this, American and Russian interests align.

Russian distrust of the U.S. complicates matters, however. Arctic military assertiveness from Russia is evidence of its sensitivity to the NATO alliance. In response, U.S. military branches have been releasing strategies for Arctic-specific forward defense. Such militarism is not conducive to improving relations, securing sovereign influence, or addressing climate change. 

In order to limit undue Chinese influence in the region and stabilize its relations with Russia by securing a multilateral agreement that formalizes an Arctic hierarchy, the U.S. will need to alter its foreign policy so that Russia perceives it to be a viable partner. The alteration should be sufficient for reducing friction with Russia’s core interests, but not so extreme that liberal values or American security are put in jeopardy. Such transactional considerations should include fashioning a new climate-positive role for the U.S. in NATO. After all, the permanent physical presence of roughly 76,000 U.S. troops on the European continent not only irks Russia, but this posture is also expensive, carbon-intensive, and perhaps not even the most effective approach to conflict deterrence. 

Indeed, research has shown that rapid deployment of new forces is significantly more likely to stymie aggression. This suggests that the U.S. should reduce its troop levels in Europe by at least 75 percent while bolstering rapid deployment readiness. This would allow the U.S. to simultaneously reduce its military’s fuel demand and greenhouse gas emissions, earn the good will necessary for stronger diplomacy with Russia, and still honor its security commitment to NATO in the event of a crisis. Moreover, the U.S. could then reinvest the potential savings into both Arctic sustainability and NATO’s capacity to manage climate insecurity.

Through the establishment of a bounded Arctic order and the greening of American leadership in NATO, the U.S. can dispel Sino-Russian synergy in the region and help maintain balance between the great powers. Specifically, these actions would both politically distance China from Russia and give the Kremlin substantial reason to begin feeling more optimistic about its relations with the West. To be sure, similar measures will be necessary in other regions to fully assure balance. However, the Arctic is a natural place for the U.S. to begin this endeavor. Usefully, the themes of climate mitigation and adaptation provide a blueprint for what countering Sino-Russian synergy elsewhere ought to generally entail.

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