Friday, March 16, 2007

Food For Thought

This letter came across the editorial desk at Actor212 Enterprises (A Cayman Islands Coporation), and I wanted to share it with you as a "food for thought" item:
The Democracy Protection Act -- Executive Summary
Author: Lauren Strayer

A. A Democracy With Too Few Voters:

1. Enforce National Voting Standards - Create national standards to assure a more professional, trained, non-partisan staff to implement election day.

Make Electronic Voting Secure - Use electronic voting machines with paper trails (as ATMs do) to deter or detect fraud.

2. Establish Voting by Mail - Follow Oregon’s example and send ballots by mail to all eligible voters, a form of universal “no excuse” absentee balloting.

3. Enact Election Day Registration - Make it easier to vote by keeping voter registration open until and on Election Day and merge Veterans Day into Election Day to create a national holiday called “Democracy Day.”

4. Create Universal Youth Voter Registration - Based on high school enrollment, automatically register all 18 year-olds to vote.

5. Criminalize Voter Intimidation - Make it a felony to knowingly try to stop others from voting.

6. Bar “Voter Identification” Rules that Suppress Voting - Stop states from requiring expensive forms of ID that are tantamount to a new poll tax.

7. Restore the Vote to People with Felony Convictions - Enfranchise ex-offenders who have paid their debt to society.

8. Give the Vote to D.C. Residents - As America was founded on the principal of “no taxation without representation,” give residents of our capital city representation in Congress.

9. Ensure Responsible Redistricting - Establish a non-partisan system of former judges to oversee the drawing of the legislative lines.

10. Elect the President by National Popular Vote - Organize states that together comprise a majority of the Electoral College to agree to cast their electors to the candidate who wins the popular vote.

11. Try Proportional Voting - Instead of winner-take all elections, use proportional voting to allow similar-minded groups to gain seats in closer proportion to their share of the population.

12. Implement Instant Runoff Voting - Instead of plurality-wins in multiple candidate races, implement “instant runoff voting” by ranking favored candidates until someone gets an absolute majority.

B. Democratizing Congress:

1. Tighten Lobbying Laws - Enact bans on lobbyists’ bundling, gifts, meals and travel and create an independent Office of Public Integrity that could investigate and report on congressional transgressions.

2. Enact “Democracy Funding” in Campaigns - Establish a federal system of public matching funds for qualifying candidates so that small donors diminish the sway of big interests.

3. Guarantee Free Air Time for Qualifying Candidates - Provide guaranteed TV/radio time for qualifying federal candidates as a condition of holding lucrative Federal Communications Commission licenses.

4. Require Congressional Oversight Hearings - To spur oversight hearing when a congressional majority covers up for an administration, allow hearings when at least a third of a panel’s members request one.

C. Rule of Law:

1. Restrict Presidential Signing Statements - Establish rules limiting how these “statements” can become unilateral declarations of law.

2. End Torture, not Habeas Corpus – Rewrite the recent Military Commissions Act to make it clear that the United States will not condone torture and will continue to recognize Habeas Corpus petitions.

3. Ban Federal Funding for Programs that Proselytize - To comport with the “Establishment Clause,” stop funds going to religious-based public programs that proselytize clients.

4. Teach Science-based Science in Classrooms - Do not permit creationism or “intelligent design” to be taught in science classes.

5. Stop Discrimination by Sexual Orientation at Work - Bar workplace discrimination against gays, lesbians, transgender and bisexual workers.

6. Establish a Civil Right to Counsel - Provide counsel to the indigent in major civil cases as provided in criminal cases under Gideon v. Wainwright.

7. Create a Real Civil Liberties Protection Office - Especially given proven abuses in the “war on terror,” fund and empower an office to investigate and expose civil liberties violations.

D. Secrecy & Democracy:

1. Strengthen the Freedom of Information Act - Establish the presumption that all federal agencies should release reasonably requested information under the Freedom of Information Act (i.e., there’s a “right to know,” not the requirement of proving a “need to know”).

2. Publish Budgets for Every Government Agency – Give taxpayers a right to know how their monies are being spent, subject to very narrow national security exceptions.

3. Reduce Media Concentration - Enact cross-media ownership rules prohibiting one corporate owner from largely monopolizing print and electronic news in a defined population area.

4. Restore the Office of Technology Assessment - Restore the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment to provide authoritative and objective analysis of complex scientific issues.

5. Subject Government Contracts to Open Bidding - Make government contracts transparent, subject to public disclosure and open to intense competition, contrary to nearly half of $329 billion spent on no-bid contracts in 2004.

6. Strengthen Whistleblower Protections for Federal Employees - Restore the weakened Whistleblower Protection Act and expand protections to employees in the intelligence and security communities.

E. The Economics of Democracy:

1. Create a Living Wage -- Raise the minimum wage to a living wage indexed to inflation and reviewed biennially.

2. Establish a Child Savings Fund – Provide every child at birth a savings account that, with compounding interest, can be withdrawn at 18 for investment – a Keogh for kids.

3. Tax All Income Equally - To stop AMT from soaking the middle class, either index it to inflation or ideally stop taxing income from work at higher rates than income form capital.

4. Restore Consumer Class Actions - Stop blocking access to court for consumers who have been bilked in bulk.

5. Assure Net Neutrality - Assure universal access to the internet so we don’t divide Americans into the information-rich and information-poor.

6. Bridge the Digital Divide - Invest in broadband so that universal access becomes a reality.

7. Review Corporate Compensation - Require that only independent directors on the Board can vote for increases in pay, subject to shareholders’ approval.

8. Enact a Borrower’s Security Act - Establish a “Borrower’s Security Act” to bring fair credit practices to an industry that now routinely exploits credulous and confused customers.

9. Expand the Right to Organize at Work - Allow employees to organize if a majority signs union recognition cards and impose penalties on employers who use intimidation and firings to discourage organizing.

10. Create Citizen Utility Boards - Create consumer advocacy offices to fight for fair utility rates and practices in legislative and regulatory proceedings.