Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Republic of Arkansas (world-building exercise)

Several months ago, I began conceiving a short story set in an independent Republic of Arkansas. Of course, I am no good at writing novels, but I did have some ideas on how the government of that Republic might take shape. So, I composed this. Enjoy and comment!

The Constitution of the Republic of Arkansas (in outline)
I. The Legislative Department -

A. Legislative power shall be vested in the General Assembly of the Republic of Arkansas and the people of the same, in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.

B. Popular Initiative and Referendum -
1. Laws, either as statutes or as amendments to the Constitution, may be passed by referendum if petitioned for by 1/10 of the registered voters in the Republic or if initiated by the President of the Republic with the consent of the Senate. These initiatives must be certified as executable by the Attorney-General of the Republic.

2. After a referendum is initiated, the President of the Republic shall designate a day no sooner than one month from the certification of the petition or the consent of the Senate and no later than 6 months afterwards on which voters shall cast ballots on the matter. It may also be placed on the ballot
at the next General Election with the consent of the Senate.

3. In order to pass, it must be approved by a majority of the voters casting ballots in the referendum and by a majority of voters in each of more than half the counties in the Republic. If, however, the referendum is for an amendment to the Constitution then it must be passed by a majority of the voters casting ballots and a majority of voters in each of two-thirds of the counties in the Republic.

C. The General Assembly - The General Assembly shall consist of a House of Representatives and a Senate. 
1. The Senate -

a. Composition-
i.The Senate shall consist of twenty-five Senators each representing one of twenty-five geographical districts of roughly equal population, as determined at the last census, and fifteen Senators representing functional districts. Senators shall serve terms of 4 years.

ii. The functional districts shall consist of multiple-member constituencies, each represented proportionally to the number of electors casting ballots in those constitutuencies in the previous election, provided that each constituency receives at least one seat, and elected in single-seat races at large by preferential ballot. Those functional constituencies shall be as follows: (1) Labor Unions (2) Healthcare Professionals (3) Educational Professionals and Students (4) Business and Finance Professionals (5) Civil Servants (6) Clergy and Charitable Non-Profit Workers (7) Creative Artists and Entertainers (8) Legal Professionals and Law Enforcement Officials (9) Service Professionals (10) Farmers and Agricultural Workers

iii. Each geographic district shall return one Senator, who shall be elected by preferential ballot (Instant Runoff Voting).

iv. Every voter shall be entitled to cast one ballot in a geographic constituency and one in a functional constituency. If a voter is not entitled to vote in a constituency because of unemployment or because his or her primary occupation is domestic, he or she may either vote in the functional constituency pertaining to his last primary occupation or in the functional constituency of his or her spouse.

b. Officers
i. The President of the Senate shall be the Chancellor of the Republic.

ii. Other officers shall be appointed by the Chancellor with the consent of the Senate from the members thereof.

2. The House of Representatives-

a. Composition -
i. The House of Representatives shall consist of fifty Representatives representing fifty geographic districts and an additional number of members appointed from party lists to make the House proportional in the manner described in the Appendix for the Additional Member System as provided for by this Constitution. Representatives shall serve two-year terms.

ii. Each of the geographic districts for the House of Representatives shall be formed by dividing each Senate district into two House districts of equal population by the shortest possible line.

b. Officers - The Speaker of the House and other officers shall be elected by the members thereof.

c. Impeachment - For high crimes or misdemeanors, the House of Representatives may impeach any person holding an office of trust or profit under the Republic. Such impeachments shall be tried in the Senate, with the Vice President presiding or, if the Vice President himself is being tried, with the President of the Republic presiding. In order to be convicted, the accused must be found guilty by a majority of the whole number of members of the Senate, who shall be under oath. Penalties issued by a court of impeachment shall not exceed removal from office and barring from holding public office, but the person so convicted may be held liable in another court for violations of the law.

3. Legislative Process -
a. In order for any bill to become law it must be passed by both houses of the General Assembly.

b. Once a bill has been passed by both houses, it must be presented to the President of the Republic who, if he agrees, shall sign it, but if not, shall return the same to the House in which it originated with his objections, which shall be entered on the journal.

c. If a majority of the whole number of members of that house shall vote again to pass the bill, it shall immediately become law on the signature of the presiding officer of the same, certifying that the law has passed.

II. State Department -

A. Composition -
1. The State Department shall consist of the President, Chancellor, Treasurer of State, Secretary of State, and Attorney-General.

2. Each of the State Department officers shall be elected by the people for a four-year term concurrent with the Senate by preferential ballot.

B. Responsibilities of the President
1. The President shall represent the Republic to foreign powers and at home in a ceremonial manner in accordance with the advice given him by the Executive Department.

2. The President shall be Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic, but may not make or declare war except on the advice of the Executive Department and may not appoint officers except in the manner prescribed by law.

3. The President shall have the authority to call for new elections to the Executive Department when the same has lost the confidence of both houses of the General Assembly.

4. The President shall appoint all judges whose appointment is not otherwise provided for in this Constitution with the advice and consent of the Senate.

5. The President shall have power, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to grant pardons and reprieves for violations of the law, except to himself or any of his immediate family.

C. Responsibilities of the Chancellor
1. The Chancellor shall preside over the Chancery Court of Equity, which shall have jurisdiction over all cases pertaining to equity and to those cases delegated to it by law.

2. The Chancellor shall be President of the Senate and shall determine its agenda and appoint the members of all committees within the same.

3. The Chancellor shall act as President in the case of a vacancy, in which case he shall vacate the office of Chancellor and a Vice Chancellor selected by the Senate shall take the office of Chancellor.

D. Responsibilities of the Treasurer of State
1. The Treasurer of State shall maintain all records of the revenue and expenditures of the Republic and shall be responsible for the collection of all taxes.

2. He shall appoint the Directors of the National Bank of Arkansas in accordance with the charter thereof as provided for by law.

3. He shall submit an annual budget for approval by the General Assembly, which may alter no expenditures or statutory requirements as passed by the Assembly.

E. Responsibilities of the Secretary of State
1. He shall maintain all vital records of the state and administer all elections.

2. He shall be responsible for the maintenance of the Capitol grounds.

F. Responsibilities of the Attorney-General
1. The Attorney-General shall prosecute national crimes in accordance with the instructions of the Executive Department and shall represent the state at law.

2. He shall advise the various departments of government on the implementation and interpretation of the Constitution.

III. The Executive Department -
A. Prime Minister
1. Executive power as granted by this Constitution shall be vested in a Prime Minister of the Republic, who shall serve at the pleasure of the General Assembly for a maximum term of twelve years.

2. The Prime Minister shall be elected in the following manner:
i. Upon the vacancy of the office of Prime Minister, the Senate shall convene and cast ballots for the Prime Minister from the members of the House of Representatives.
ii. The two persons having the highest number of votes shall then be presented to the House of Representatives, who shall vote for one of the two candidates. The person having the highest number of votes shall be elected Prime Minister.
iii. The Prime Minister shall serve until either a vote of no-confidence passes both houses or a period of four years has elapsed, at which time another election must be held. No person shall serve as Prime Minister for longer than twelve years.

B. The Prime Minister may delegate executive responsibility to ministers appointed by him in accordance with the provisions of the law.

IV. The Judicial Department -

A. The Supreme Court -
1. Final appellate authority shall be vested in a Supreme Court of the Republic, which shall consist of nine judges elected by the people of Arkansas for twelve year terms.

2. After the first election in consequence of this Constitution, the Supreme Court shall, by lot, be divided into three classes, the first of which shall vacate their seats after four years, the second, after eight, and the third, after twelve, so that every four years one-third of the Supreme Court is elected.

3. Members of the Supreme Court must, in order to stand for election, be nominated by at least 1/5 of the members of the General Assembly from either house.

B. The General Assembly shall, by law, provide for other courts inferior to the Supreme Court having jurisdiction over national crimes and civil cases.

C. Municipal Courts
1. Judges: Each county and special municipal district shall elect a Municipal Judge to hear cases arising from municipal law. He may be assisted by other judges in a manner determined by each municipality.

2. Responsibility for prosecuting cases arising under municipal law shall fall to the Municipal Attorney, who shall be appointed by the executive of the County or Special Municipal District with the consent of the assigned legislative assembly. 

D. Chancery Court - All cases arising from equity shall be heard by the Chancery Court. The Chancellor may be assisted by Vice Chancellors appointed by him with the consent of the President of the Republic as provided for by law.

E. Justice of the Peace Courts -
1. Each county and special municipal district shall be divided into townships, within each of which shall be elected a justice of the peace, who will have jurisdiction over all non-felony traffic offenses, inquests, indictments, and warrants of arrest and search within the township. Justices of the Peace shall be elected for four-year terms.

2. Appeal from a Justice of the Peace Court shall be to the Quorum Court and, after this, to the Supreme Court of the Republic.

V. Municipalities

A. Counties -
1. Territory and Jurisdiction - The Republic is divided into counties, each of which has sole municipal authority over the territory within in it, with the exception of military bases and special municipal districts as designated by law.

2. Legislative Branch -
a. Legislative authority shall be granted to the Quorum Court of each county.

b.Each county is divided into townships, for each of which is elected a Justice of the Peace who shall, in addition to their duties as Justice of the Peace sit on the Quorum Court together with an equal number of County Commissioners, who shall be elected at large in single-seat races by preferential ballot for terms of two years.

c. The President of the Quorum Court shall be the County Vice President, but he shall have no vote unless the Court is equally divided.

3. Executive Branch - 
a. Executive power over the County shall be vested in a County President who shall be elected by the people of the county by preferential ballot.

b. In the case of vacancy, the County Vice President shall assume the office of County President. The County Vice President shall be elected by the people of the county by preferential ballot. When the Vice President assumes the office of President, the Quorum Court shall elect another person as Vice President to serve the remainder of the term.

B. Special Municipal Districts -
1. Territory and Jurisdiction - State law may provide for certain urban areas to be self-governing as Special Municipal Districts having the same authority as Counties and exempted from county control.

2. Legislative Branch -
a. The Legislative Power of a Special Municipal District shall be vested in a City Assembly, which shall consist of 35 members elected proportionally by party list for terms of four years.

b. President of the City Assembly shall be the Mayor of the City, who shall be elected by the people thereof for a term of six years. However, he may not speak on a substantive issue in the Assembly nor vote unless authorized to do so by a majority of the assembly.

c. In order for any ordinance to pass, it must be approved by a majority of the City Assembly and signed by the mayor or, if he objects, then by a 2/3 majority of the City Assembly in a second vote.

2. Executive Branch -  Executive Power shall be vested in a City Executive who shall be appointed by the President of the Republic with the consent of the City Assembly for a term of four years.

Appendix: Additional Member System for elections to the House of Representatives
1. Each party shall nominate a list of candidates. Every geographical district candidate shall subscribe to one of the duly registered lists of candidates, and the leader and name of the party to which that candidate subscribes shall be listed next to him or her on the ballot paper.

2. When casting a vote for one of the geographical candidates by preferential ballot, the first choice of each voter shall be counted as a vote for the party list to which the preferred candidate subscribes. In order for the votes for a list to be tallied in the overall percentage, that list must receive at least 5% of the total number of ballots cast or one geographical district seat.

3. The party whose geographical candidates received the highest number of seats (or, if this tied, then the one which received the highest number of seats and the lowest percentage) receives one candidate from his party list of candidates. This sum (geographical seats + 1) is divided by the percentage of votes won as first-choice preferences received by candidates from that party throughout the Republic.

4. This quotient is then multiplied by the percentage earned by each of the other parties who qualified to have their party votes counted. From this product is subtracted the number of geographical seats won by that party, and the resulting difference is the number of seats allotted to that party from their party list.

5. The seats allotted by party list to each party are filled in an order determined by the party itself according to its by-laws.

6. Each party list is limited to fifty members, but the number of members in House may change from election to election.

CONSERVATIVE      28                    39            1            29
LIBERAL           20                    35            6            26
NATIONALIST       1                     17            12           13
SOCIALIST         1                     9             6            7
                                                                   75 Members

(Here was the flag I came up with for the novel.)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Volcano (A Sonnet)

O silent raging stream of flame which courses
Its way into my heart and fingertips,
Burning to ash all my nerves as it forces
Its way into the light; and where it rips
My parched and cracking flesh, it steals away
Sensation, for I seem to grasp at air;
And next to truly holding you, can they,
Whether the earth, or breeze, or stream compare?
Beside you, they are not; so this desire
Extinguishes their substance into smoke,
A rumor which once warmed, but not a fire.
Existence signifies but to evoke.
 --I only feel through you, if that is feeling,
 --So pity me, in adoration kneeling.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mary Poppins and Neleus' Father

Mary Poppins Tames the Winds

Aeolus in his island home
Was with his wayward flock,
When his four daughters in a fit,
Began to run amok.

The South Wind rumbled humidly
And made the North turn dark,
The East Wind threatened thunder-clouds,
The West began to bark.

So old Aeolus sore distraught,
Sought counsel from the sea,
And swam to old Poseidon's home
Where he dwelt merrily.

Twas there he saw young Neleus
Keeping a steady guard
And all his sea nymph sisters there
Assisting Neptune's ward.

He marvelled at their family,
Which put his own to shame,
And wondered what was different here,
Or if he was to blame.

"My lord, the warden of the sea,
I come to seek a boon,
For I am cursed with four young nymphs,
Who all blow out of tune.

"But here I see a pretty house
Where all your children stay;
They do not fuss and fume like mine
Nor misbehave at play."

"My liege, the keeper of the winds,
Who trouble my domain,
Do I not know when all your brood,
Have sprung the weather vane?

"But if you wish to know the cause
Of my domestic bliss,
It is a maid which I have hired
As nanny to my kids.

"She's like a god in all her pow'rs,
Were there a nymph so fair,
For she can tame the wildest beast,
And ride the wistful air.

"She's Mary like the merry finch,
And Poppins like herself,
The nanny of divinity,
A spritely, perfect elf.

"But Neleus is nearly grown
And all my nymphs are too,
And I would freely let her go
If she will go with you."

Aelous was beside himself
To be so fortunate,
If only Mary Poppins came
And set his household straight!

He had an awful interview
The strangest he had seen
For Mary questioned him the more
And made the wind come clean.

At last with one most tuneful sigh
And slightly hidden grin
She said, "spit spot" and went to work
Her magic once again.

So now the winds, though wayward still,
At least blow their own way,
And carry Mary Poppins where
She's needed most, they say.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Love Poem (A Lantern to Outshine the Moon)

If I had half a dozen smiles like yours,
Trapped in a vase as lucid as your skin,
I'd make a lantern to outshine the moon,
And temples for your light to gather in.

Or if your gaze were trapped in iron doors,
Like tongues of flame against the winter's chill,
Then it would melt the hardest ice as soon
As it would thaw the hardness of my will.

But you have freedom through those lips of rose,
When pressed against my own which give release,
So do not let the stars be thus outshone,
But let my light in yours the more increase,

And with the fire that through my fingers flows,
Though I, in shadow, veil your deity,
Unbind my limbs who, frozen and alone,
Would bend my knees and worship ceaselessly.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

2015 Constitutional Amendment Wishlist

About once a year, I make a list of Constitutional amendments that I would like to see enacted, or would enact if made dictator for a day. Here they are, in outline, written in as simple language as I can manage.

Amendment I - Federal Ballot Initiative
A. Any bill, except one which would raise or create any tax, or amendment to the Constitution may be proposed on the petition of 1/5 of the state legislatures. The bill must clearly state whether it is proposing an amendment to the Constitution or a statute.

B. The bill shall then be presented to all voters in the following general election. If the bill proposes a statute, then it shall be passed if a majority of voters AND a majority of voters in more than half of the states approve it. If the bill proposes an amendment, then it must be approved by a majority of voters in each of 2/3 of the whole number of states and by a majority of those voting in the general election.

C. Any United States citizen over the age of 18, regardless of residency, shall be qualified to vote on referenda pursuant to this amendment, unless prevented by mental disability or incarceration as provided by law.

Amendment II - Election of the President and Vice President and a Federal Election Commission
A. The President shall be elected by the people of the United States directly.

B. If, after the first ballot, no candidate has received a majority of the votes cast, then, 6 weeks after the first election, a runoff election will be held between the candidates who received the two highest numbers of votes, and the person receiving the highest number will be elected. If there is a tie, it shall be decided by a joint session of the U.S. Congress, with each member having one vote.

C. The Vice President shall be elected separately in the same manner as the President.

D. The United States Senate shall appoint a Federal Election Commission, composed of nine members, including a chairman, to supervise Presidential and Vice Presidential elections, federal ballot initiatives, and other matters pertaining to federal elections as provided for by law. They shall serve terms of three years, with three members elected each year.

Amendment III - Proportional Representation in the House of Representatives
A. In each state, those parties or groups of individuals who qualify to nominate candidates for President of the United States shall also nominate a list of candidates, approved by their members, to be elected to the House of Representatives.

B. In casting ballots for President, voters shall simultaneously cast ballots for the persons nominated to the House of Representatives, whose names shall be clearly listed under each Presidential Candidate. The seats to which that state is entitled in the House of Representatives shall be filled proportional to the number of votes received by each Presidential candidate. If there are any remainders, they shall be given to the list of candidates which received the most votes.

C. If more than one list of candidates receives the highest number of votes, the remaining seats shall be given to that list which is favored by the Chief Executive of the state or by another body determined by state law.

D. Representatives shall serve terms of four years concurrent with the President, but shall not serve more than three terms.

(Just to give an example: In the 2012 elections in AR, Obama received 38% of the vote and Romney 60%. This would give the democrats one Representative in the House and the GOP 2, but since there was one remainder, it would go as a bonus to the GOP since they received the most votes, so there would be 3 GOP representatives and 1 Democratic representative. Whereas, in that same election, all four seats went Democrat, meaning that the percentage of seats won by Republicans (100%) was off by 40 Percent relative to their actual support. My proposal would reduce this to fifteen points, which is pretty good by political science standards.)

Amendment IV- Election of Supreme Court Members
A. The Supreme Court shall be composed of nine members elected by the people of the United States for terms of twelve years. No member shall serve more than three full terms.

B. In order for any person to stand as a candidate for the Supreme Court, he must be nominated by at least one-tenth of the Senate and be a licensed attorney in one of the states.

C. After this amendment is adopted, the Supreme Court shall, by lot, choose three of its members to resign their seat, which shall be filled at the next federal general election. After four years, another three shall be chosen by lot to resign their seats, which shall then be filled at the next general election, and finally, the remaining three shall resign their seats after another four years, so that every four years one-third of the Supreme Court is elected.

Amendment V - Jurisdiction of the Supreme CourtA. No federal court inferior to the Supreme Court shall hear a case which would invalidate the laws of any state or agency or municipality of a state.

B. The Supreme Court may not hear any case which would invalidate a state law without the consent of Senate.

Amendment VI - The National Guard and State Militias
A. No state militia or National Guard troops, whether established by state or federal law, may be called into the service of the United States except by the consent of both houses of Congress for a specific time and purpose, nor may they be deployed into any foreign country without the consent of the legislative power of the state from which those troops originate.

Amendment VII -Presidential Veto A. Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate shall, before it becomes a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approves, he shall sign it, but if not, he shall return it with his objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal and proceed to reconsider it. If after such reconsideration a majority (not two-thirds) of the whole number of members of that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by a majority of the whole numberof members of that House, it shall become a law. But in all such cases the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively.

B. If any bill shall not be returned to the President within seven days (Sundays and federal holidays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not become a law.

Amendment VIII - Repeal of Federal LawsA. In order to repeal any federal law, the agreement of a majority of a whole number of the members in each House of Congress shall be required, but the consent of the President shall not be required or sought.

B. No law adopted by popular referendum may be repealed or amended by federal law within five years after its adoption except the same is effected by the petition of the states and a referendum as provided for by this Constitution.

Amendment IX - Guaranteeing all rights and privileges for citizens who are 18
A. No federal or state law may deny any right or privilege to any citizen who is eighteen years of age or older without due process.

Amendment X - Election of Senators
A. Senators shall be elected for terms of eight years by the people of each state.

B. After the first general election in consequence of this amendment, in which every Senator shall stand for election, the youngest member representing each state shall vacate his seat after four years, while the other Senator shall vacate his seat after eight years, so that every four years one-half of the Senate shall be elected.

C. No Senator may stand for election more than once consecutively.

Amendment XI - Recall of the President or Vice PresidentA. If a majority of both houses of Congress, by a resolution, indicate no-confidence in the President, Vice President, or any other executive officer of the United States, he shall be resign his office, effective when a successor is chosen.

B. If the President or Vice President are removed by a vote of no confidence, then a special election shall be held three months from the date that the resolution has been passed to elect either the President or Vice President (or both) who has been removed.

C. No resolution of no-confidence shall be valid within three months of a general election, either before or after.