by Vijaya Chandrasoma
I have already written about the basic flaws in the Constitution of the United States, framed as it was to serve the legal rights of the white male community of the nation over 200 years ago. However, recent ethical violations of bribery and corruption committed by several Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, combined with the misinterpretations and omissions listed below, make the reframing of the Constitution not merely suggestive but mandatory.
Some of the Justices of the Supreme Court guilty of alleged violations are:
(a) African American Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed to the Bench by the elder Bush in the 1990s, is alleged to have accepted gifts from billionaire Republican donor with Nazi leanings, Harlan Crow. These “gifts” include the luxuriously refurbished home in which Thomas’ mother lives, rent-free. Thomas also has accepted gifts from Crow of lavish private plane and super yacht vacations, valued at more than $500,000, also without disclosure.
Thomas’ wife, Ginny Thomas, a white lady and Trump supporter, urged on the January 6, 2021 insurrection with many messages and tweets to Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, exhorting him to do his utmost to ensure the success of the coup. Thomas was subsequently ruling on cases in the Court involving circumstances of the insurrection, a glaring conflict of interests.
(b) Jane Roberts, wife of Chief Justice John Roberts, made more than $10 million over a period of eight years, in commissions from top lawyers for matching them with elite law firms that had cases before the Supreme Court. Such commissions were unethically declared by Roberts as “salaries” earned by his wife.
(c) Justice Neil Gorsuch did not disclose a real estate transaction with the head of a law firm that practiced before the Court.
There probably have been many more such violations in the past, but these are examples of corruption that have recently been publicly exposed.
The total population of the US in the 1780s was 2,780,000, of which approximately two million were whites, for the preservation of whose rights the current Constitution was drafted. The Court is now required to protect the rights of approximately 335 million people of all colors and races, only 59% (approximately 200 million) being white.
The process of appointment to the Bench has become a game of musical chairs, where new members are nominated on the death or resignation of a sitting Justice by the incumbent president, confirmed by a simple majority in the Senate. The nomination of the new Justice is totally dependent on his/her political values being completely in tune with those of the incumbent president.
Today, the Republicans have a 6/3 majority in the Court, with three Justices manipulated and nominated by Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate, because of their radical conservative values. A right-wing Court which will exercise judicial control for the next few decades, because lifetime tenure is a feature of the appointment.
The Founders specified a process by which the original document, the Bill of Rights, which constitute the first 10 Amendments, could be further amended to accommodate societal and cultural changes over the years. There have been 17 Amendments added since. However, the language of some of these Amendments must be tightened, preferably rewritten, as they have been misinterpreted, ignored and abused by successive administrations, for various, usually religious, racial or financial reasons.
Amendments requiring either clarification or complete redrafting are:
1. The First Amendment includes the Establishment Clause, which states, according to Jefferson, “the legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of a religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between Church and State”.
Today, the majority of the Republican Party, especially its Trumpian MAGA element, favors the establishment of a Christian Nationalist state. According to Stella Rouse, University of Maryland’s professor of government, “Christian nationalism, a belief that the United States was founded as a white Christian nation and that there is no separation between church and state, is gaining steam on the right”.
Republican congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, the leader of the Trumpian cult of the Republican Party, declared, “We need to be a party of nationalism and I am a Christian, and I say it proudly, we should be Christian Nationalists”. Greene dreams of America as a nation ruled by white trash like Trump, the white supremacist cult and herself, just as the German Christian Nationalist movement became the driving force behind Nazi ideology in the 1930s, with equally ludicrous dreams of an ethnically pure nation of blonde, blue-eyed Aryans.
Certain red states have already flouted the free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment with impunity, banning reading and instruction in public schools of certain “unpleasant” subjects in the history of the United States. Thirty seven states, led by Florida and Texas, have already banned books descriptive of genocide, slavery, Jim Crow, racism, and LGBTQ rights, on grounds that such narratives of factual US history would induce guilt and confusion in the minds of today’s innocent white children.
Books banned by these red states include: The Diary of Anne Frank (Nazism and the Holocaust), The Life of Rosa Parks (civil rights icon of the 1950s), The Trail of Tears (native American oppression and genocide), Roe v. Wade and Abortion (reproductive freedom), Harry Potter (satanic themes), To Kill a Mockingbird (racial prejudice), and many, many other classical and historical novels, fact and fiction, just because they touch the delicate sensibilities of Christian right-wing, white supremacist kooks.
Actually, if these sanctimonious Republicans are serious about banning books that corrupt children, even ignorant adults, they should start with the Bible!
2. Former Conservative Nixon nominee, Chief Justice Warren Burger stated, in a 1990s interview, “The Gun Lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word of fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime. The real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies – the well-regulated militia would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it guarantees every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapons he or she desires”.
With the recent escalation of racist and other violence, Americans must have the right to possess guns to defend themselves and their homes – that is not disputed. Nor should “sportsmen” be denied the right to own guns for hunting, though nowadays, hunting is a cruel pastime killing innocent animals for pleasure, not for sustenance as it was in the 18Americans accept citizens’ right to own and use automobiles, with the state retaining the power to regulate and license such purchases, and for users to pass a test certifying their record and competence to drive automobiles.
Is it therefore unreasonable to expect similar kinds of precautions – registration, license, background checks, minimum age and residency, certificate of competency, proof of transfer – for the purchase, use and transfer of firearms, especially military style killing machines like the AR 15s? Especially when the enactment of such laws has the approval of over 80% of all Americans.
Of course not, but such regulations will never be enforced as they would dry up the deep well of income of bribes received by venal Republican Senators from the Gun Lobby, the National Rifle Association.
3. The Eighth Amendment specifies that punishments may not be cruel, unusual or excessive. Can anyone deny that causing the death of a human being by hanging, the electric chair or lethal injection is cruel, unusual and excessive? And does waterboarding (simulated drowning) and other forms of torture, quaintly termed “enhanced interrogation techniques”, fall within the scope of this Amendment?
The answers are obvious. Most Americans favor the death penalty, though, thankfully, its application is gradually disappearing. Snowboarding was introduced by Bush after 9/11, and used in Guantanamo Bay on suspected Al Qaeda terrorists without the benefit of a trial. Waterboarding was banned by the Bush administration in 2006 as potentially being against international law.
In his election campaign in 2016, Trump’s answer to the question: Does torture work? was predictably, “Yes, absolutely, torture works….You bet your ass that I would approve more than waterboarding.”
4. The Ninth Amendment specifies that (the lack) of enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. These “certain rights” not enumerated in the Constitution include those retained by the LGBTQ community. Some states like Florida have already contravened the 19th Amendment by de-legitimizing these rights.
5. Consider the 17th Amendment. Today, there are 50 states with diverse populations, which makes this Amendment singularly unjust. For example, Wyoming, with a total population of 550,000 whites, and California, with an ethnically diverse population of over 40 million, are each represented in the Upper House by two Senators.
There are other major flaws in the electoral process, like the Electoral College and the Lame Duck period of the Presidency, during which the defeated President continues to enjoy the awesome powers of the Commander-in-Chief for six weeks. Trump made a mockery of this clause by using these powers to incite an insurrection in an attempt to violently overthrow the legally elected government.
Finally, the rule of law, including the basic tenet that no one is above the law, is not codified under any Article in the US Constitution. This omission enabled the Justice Department, weaponized by Trump through his sycophant Attorney General, William Barr, to rule that a sitting president cannot be arrested for any crime – in brief, is above the law. This illegal misinterpretation of the rule of law enabled Trump to get away with unprecedented corruption, thievery, obstruction of justice, culminating in sedition during his tenure of office.
The codification of the rule of law, that no one is above the law, together with the constitutional aberrations listed above, make the re-framing of the Constitution not merely imperative, but an urgent matter of national security and justice.
Whichever Party wins the presidency and has a majority in Congress in 2024 has very clear but divergent choices about remedying the anomalies and injustices of a document drafted over 200 years ago.
If the Democrats win, they can throw the old Constitution away, and appoint a team of the best constitutional scholars in the land, selected on a bi-partisan, multi-racial basis to frame a brand-new Constitution. One which will protect and serve the rights of all the nation’s citizens, irrespective of race, color, creed, sexual orientation or any other superficial difference.
The new Constitution should also ensure the safety of all citizens by imposing reasonable and indisputable regulations on the use of firearms: restore the constitutional right of all women of their reproductive freedoms. And, of course, codify the rule of law to ensure that no one is above the law.If the Trumpian Republicans win in 2024, they can also throw the old Constitution away, and plagiarize the Constitution of the Russian Federation, with a President for life and above the law!
Lingering world disorder and the UN’s role
Russia could very well be questioning the legitimacy of the UN system by currently challenging the right of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to arbitrate in the conflicting accusations of genocide brought against each other by it and Ukraine. Russia has countered Ukraine’s charge of genocide, occasioned by its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, by accusing the latter of perpetrating the same crime in the rebel region of Eastern Ukraine, which is seen as being within the Russian sphere of influence.
As is known, when Russia did not participate in a hearing sanctioned by the ICJ on the charge of genocide brought against it in March 2022, the ICJ called on Russia to halt the invasion forthwith. Russia, however, as reported in some sections of the international media, reacted by claiming that the ICJ has ‘no jurisdiction over the case since Ukraine’s request does not come within the scope of the Genocide Convention.’ The main sides to the Ukraine conflict are at present reportedly stating their positions in the ICJ with regard to the correctness of this claim.
Whereas, the law-abiding the world over would have expected the ICJ’s word to prevail in the Ukraine conflict, this does not seem to be the case. More precisely, it is the moral authority of the UN that is being questioned by Russia. Given this situation, the observer cannot be faulted for believing that Russia is ‘sticking to its guns’ of favouring a military solution in the Ukraine.
Considering the foregoing and the continuing lawlessness in other geographical regions, such as South-West Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa, the commentator is justified in taking the position that little or nothing has been gained by the world community by way of fostering international peace over the decades.
Most distressing is the UN’s seeming helplessness in the face of international disorder, bloodshed and war. The thorny questions from the 9/11 New York twin-tower terror attacks, for instance, are remaining with humanity.
One of the most dreaded questions is whether the UN Charter has been rendered a dead letter by the forces of lawlessness and those wielders of overwhelming military might who couldn’t care less for moral scruples. Those state actors who display these traits risk being seen as destruction-oriented subversives or terrorists who are impervious to civilizational values.
Commentators are right when they point to the need for UN reform. This is, in fact, long overdue. Of the original ‘Big Five’ who went on to constitute the permanent membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC) at the end of World War 11 and who oversaw the establishment of the UN, only the US and China retain major power status in the true sense of the phrase today.
The rest of the original heavyweights cannot be considered ‘spent forces’, but there are other powers of more recent origin who could easily vie for their positions. Some of these are India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and Indonesia. Inducting some of the latter into the UNSC could help constitute a more globally representative UNSC. That is, they will help put together an UNSC which is more faithfully reflective of the current global power distribution.
Theoretically, a more widely representative and inclusive UNSC could be a check against the arbitrary exercise of power by the more ambitious, expansionary and authoritarian members of the UNSC but a foremost challenge facing the UN is to induce such new members of the UNSC into representing the vital and legitimate interests of the ordinary publics within these states and internationally. Minus such representation of the world’s powerless UN reform could come to nought. In fact, this could be described as a prime challenge before the UN which could decide its enduring relevance.
Admittedly, the challenge is complex and defies easy resolution. Not all the countries that are seen as prospective UNSC members are democratic in orientation. That is, they would not be people-friendly or egalitarian. Most of them are governed by power elites that are part of what has been described as the ‘Transnational Capitalist Class’ and could be expected to be repressive and parasitic rather than caring or egalitarian. How then could they be expected to be committed to re-distributive justice within their countries, for example?
In the short and medium terms, the UN system could bring into being systems and institutions that could make it comparatively difficult for the power elites of the world to be parasitic, exploitive, self-serving and unconscionable. Strengthening and giving added teeth to systems that could prove effective against money-laundering and allied practices of self-aggrandizement is one way out.
Ironically, it is perhaps the UN that could lay the basis for and provide these mechanisms most effectively and non-obtrusively. It would need to work more with governments and publics on these fronts and lay the foundation for the necessary accountability procedures within states. It should prepare for the long haul.
In the longer term, it’s the coming into existence of democracy-conscious governments and ruling strata that must be sought. Here too the UN could play a significant role. Its numerous agencies could prove more proactive and dynamic in inculcating and teaching the core values of democracy to particularly poor and vulnerable populations that could fall prey to anti-democratic, parochial political forces that thrive on division and discord.
UN aid could be even directly tied to the establishment and strengthening of democratic institutions in particularly impoverished countries and regions. Thus will the basis be laid for younger leaders with a strong democratic vision and programmatic alternative for their countries. Hopefully, such issues would get some airing in the current UN General Assembly sessions.
Accordingly, the broad-basing of the UNSC is integral to UN reform but the progressive world cannot stop there. It would need to ensure the perpetuation of the UN system by helping to bring into being polities that would respect this cardinal international organization which has as its prime aim the fostering of world peace. Democracy-conscious populations are an urgent need and systems of education that advocate the core values of democracy need to be established and strengthened worldwide.
The coming into being of rivals to the current Western-dominated world order, such as the BRICS bloc, needs to be welcomed but unless they are people-friendly and egalitarian little good will be achieved. Besides, undermining the UN and its central institutions would prove utterly counter-productive.
Country Roads …concert for children
I’ve always wondered why those who have hit the big time in their profession, as singers, have not cared to reach out to the needy.
They generally glorify themselves, especially on social media, not only with their achievements, but also with their outfits, etc. – all status symbols.
I’m still to see some of the big names grouping together to help the thousands who are suffering, at this point in time – children, especially.
However, I need to commend the Country Music Foundation of Sri Lanka for tirelessly working to bring some relief, and happiness, to children, in this part of the world.
Country Roads is said to be Sri Lanka’s and South Asia’s longest running charity concert for children, and this year, they say, the show will be even better.
This concert has consistently donated 100% of its proceeds to children’s charities in Sri Lanka. Over the past 35 years, this has resulted in several million rupees worth of aid, all of which has contributed directly to addressing the most pressing issues faced by children in Sri Lanka, a common practice since the concert’s first edition was held in 1988.
In 2014, the concert contributed Rs. 500,000 to Save the Children Sri Lanka, to support its mother-and-child programme for local plantations. During the same year, another Rs. 100,000 was given to the Oxonian Heart Foundation, to help treat impoverished and destitute children suﬀering from heart disease, while a further Rs. 100,000 was donated to a poor family caring for a special needs child. In commemoration of its landmark 25th anniversary concert in 2013, CMF donated a million rupees to aid in a special UNICEF project.
The 2023 musical extravaganza will feature the bright lights and panoramic cityscape of Colombo, as its backdrop, as it will be held at the picturesque Virticle by Jetwing, which is situated high above the city, on the 30th ﬂoor of the Access Towers building, in Union Place, Colombo 2.
The 35th anniversary Country Roads concert for children will take place on Saturday, 7th October, 2023.
Feizal Samath, President of the Country Music Foundation (CMF), the concert organisers, commented: “We are very much looking forward to this event as it’s being held after a lapse of five years, due to unavoidable circumstances.”
Fan favourites the Mavericks from Germany and Astrid Brook from the UK will once again return to headline the 2023 concert, and joining them on stage will be local outfit Cosmic Rays, as well as the Country Revival Band, with Feizal and Jury.
Dirk (from the Mavericks) has this to say to his Sri Lankan fans: “2018 was the last time we were in your beautiful country with the Mavericks band. Then Corona came and with it a long break. I missed you very much during this time.
“It has now been five years since my last visit to Sri Lanka. A lot has changed. The sponsorship that has always made this trip possible for us is gone. But we didn’t just want to end this tradition, which we have learned to love so much since 1992. That’s why we’re travelling to Sri Lanka this year entirely at our own expense, because it’s an affair of the heart for us.
“We very much hope that it won’t be the last Maverick performance in Sri Lanka. We hope that this unique journey will continue, that there will also be a Country Roads concert in the years to come.”
The 35th anniversary edition of the Country Roads concert for children will be supported by Official Venue Virticle by Jetwing, and Official Airline SriLankan Airlines, as well as its other partners, Jetwing Colombo Seven, Cargills, LOLC, and Fireﬂy.
Tickets are currently available, for a charitable donation of Rs 2,000 each, at Cargills Food City outlets at Kirulapone, Kohuwela (Bernards), Majestic City, Mount Lavinia (junction) and Staples Street.
Healthy, Glowing Skin
Give your skin a boost by including the following into your diet:
Avocados contain healthy fats which can help your skin stay moisturised and firm.
They also contain vitamin C and E – two important nutrients that your body need to support healthy skin and fight free radical formation.
Avocados are also rich in biotin, a B vitamin that some nutritionists believe can help promote healthy skin and hair. A deficiency of biotin can lead to skin problems, such as rashes, ache, psoriasis, dermatitis and overall itchiness.
Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which fights against sunburns, cell death, and wrinkles. Vitamin A also adds a healthy, warm glow to your skin.
You can get vitamin A by consuming provitamin A through fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based products. Your body then converts beta-carotene into vitamin A to protect your skin from the sun.
Provitamin A can also be found in oranges, spinach, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, bell peppers, broccoli and more.
* Dark Chocolate:
Dark chocolate is beneficial for your skin because cocoa powder boasts a bunch of antioxidants. These antioxidants hydrate and smoothen your skin, making your skin less sensitive to sunburn and improves the blood flow of your skin. Make a healthy choice by opting for a bar of dark chocolate with 70% cocoa for more antioxidants and lesser added sugar.
* Green Tea:
Green tea has been said to protect the skin against external stressors and ageing. This is because it is antioxidant-rich and contains catechins that protect your skin, reduce redness, increase hydration, and improve elasticity.
A diet rich in antioxidants along with adequate hydration may even out your skin texture, strengthen your skin barrier and improve your overall skin health.
Avoid adding milk to green tea as the combination can reduce the effects of the antioxidants present in green tea.
Additional tips for healthy skin…
Don’t forget to stay hydrated because water plays a big part in the appearance of your skin. Water ensures your skin has enough moisture, which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps with nutrient absorption, removal of toxins and blood circulation.
Besides food and water, it is important to observe proper hygiene. This means no touching your face until you’ve washed your hands. Your hands carry more bacteria than you think and the occasional touch here and there can add up. After a long day out, cleanse your face thoroughly.
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