CONGRESSIONAL CORPORATE CAMOUFLAGE
The Justices of Supreme Court in Citizens United left it to the folk in Congress to require disclosure political contributions. To the Justices credit, they apparently assumed the folk in Congress would. So far they have not.
Somebody has suggested that the folk in Congress should wear NASCAR type jackets showing the logos of their corporate sponsors. I don’t think jackets would be big enough. I think it is going to take full length dusters. Someone from a primitive society might think that these people in their long cloaks covered in brightly colored arcane symbols were wizards. Nope. Just legislators. Just elected public servants.
What legislation was initially introduced (and shrugged off) had ‘carve outs’. In other words, exemptions. The two organizations I am aware of who were cited by name to be exempt from disclosing their contributors were the NRA and AARP. At least with AARP it begs the question of what they were going to do if they weren’t exempted? Beat the legislators with their canes and golf clubs?
There is a place under Free Speech for anonymous speech, particularly if there is real concern of reprisals. But, if Bill Gates or Warren Buffet is going to buy a Senator, I think we have a right to know about it.
There is a difference between individuals contributing modest amounts to lobbying or campaigns and individuals contributing small fortunes either on their own or in conjunction with artificial entities. I would like to stay obscure in my own little corner of the net and not be bothered, but if some one is buying the PA system, there should be meaningful disclosure. “Swiftboaters” and “Friends of Bill Clinton” are not meaningful disclosures.
And as long as it does and it wants to stay veiled from public scrutiny, those who benefit from its largesse will do–or not do–whatever is needed to maintain its obscurity.
Definition: The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products
I do understand branding and its importance. But just to be cliche ridden, we are in a time when too many people put the cart before the horse, when they force the tail to wag the dog.
What is more important? The products and services? Or the Brand?
Business has its fads and they spill over into other walks of life. I remember when everything was sales. Now it seems to be the “Brand”. To me, you take care of the products and services, and the ‘brand’ will largely take care of itself. I don’t argue that looking at things from the perspective of, or through the lens of, the ‘brand’ can be a useful exercise. Putting the ‘brand’ before products and services is unnatural.
Not long ago, after losing ground in a general election, I heard a party functionary say on the radio that the party was going to have to “reestablish its brand.” This is how radios get hurt. Since they don’t have ears it does no good to yell at them, so the only hope to get their attention is to bash them with the nearest heavy object that comes to hand. It is very frustrating.
My point to the party functionary is: If you can’t deliver the goods, it really doesn’t matter how much you polish up the chrome on the delivery truck.
In context here, we decided not to slap © Perseveration, Inc all over Money Talks. We thought it would interfere with people making use of the glyph. We did put the indexed Creative Commons symbol on it so people would understand that it is copyrighted. We do want attribution, we want people to understand no commercial use is permitted and any derivative work must be similarly licensed.
There is a learning curve with Creative Commons licensing. But the cc symbol is similar enough to © that the indication that the work is copyrighted is pretty intuitive. People learning the details of the Creative Commons licenses is a work in progress.
THE SUPREME COURT VERSUS REAL PERSONS
This is where I tell at least five learned and presumably discerning jurists that they are wrong. Hopefully, I can articulate the how and why of their being wrong well enough to not be simply dismissed out of hand.
The blank line between paragraphs indicates some time of reading, thought, and discussion. The research did not take me in the direction I thought it would go.
The Citizens United decision does not cite the XIV Amendment nor corporate personhood. But corporate personhood seems to be the 600 pound gorilla in the room going back to the Santa Clara County decision. So what is corporate personhood? It is the presumption that corporations (a kind of artificial entity) have the rights of real persons.
Artificial entities, of whatever size or stripe, be they companies or corporations or churches or nonprofits or unions or government agencies or political action committees, are not real persons. No amount of legal fiction can change that. They have not heart, nor soul, nor conscience or consciousness. They can not be tried and executed for treason.
They are useful constructs. Tools. Primarily used to aggregate and manage resources. History going back long before the Founding Fathers has taught us we need to keep a rein on them. The potential for abuse comes with such concentrations of resources. When the Founding Fathers overthrew British rule, it wasn’t just King George, they also overthrew the Corporate Colonies that ran their lives. They were very aware of that.
Is there anywhere in the Declaration of Independence with its ‘inalienable rights’, or in the ‘We the People’ preamble, or anywhere in the Constitution itself, including all the amendments, that explicitly or implicitly grants artificial entities constitutional rights? Has the Supreme Court ever explicitly done that? Help me out here.
To repeat the empirical facts: Artificial Entities are constructs, devices. Real people create them to do things. They are useful. By itself such a construct has no thoughts, no speech, no words, no motivations, no will (political or otherwise). Truly, it has no purpose other than that given it by the real persons operating it. These constructs can and have persisted longer than any given individuals lifetime, but if it is not populated by people it is empty and pointless.
A construct has no rights beyond what we willingly ascribe to it. History has taught us to be very careful and conscious of the powers we allow artificial entities.
“If we allow anything to interfere with people associating together to express their political views, we are all in trouble.”
I heard this in defense of the Citizens United decision.
So what do I find so troubling about the current situation?
First of all it is scary that Free Speech has gotten so expensive.
The fact that some people, whatever their political bent, can not only afford to buy (sometimes with the help of a corporate coffer) the PA system–but the main stream media itself–interferes with the little guys expressing their political views. It interferes by drowning us out. It means it doesn’t matter how many of use feel the same way–if we don’t find some way to find each other and aggregate and organize and pay to be heard–we are just lone voices crying in the wilderness and we can’t even hear each other over the paid for cacophony.
So another blank line. Another period of pondering and cud chewing. How do I resolve this rant?
To resolve the ‘lone voice crying in the wilderness’, whether I like being a joiner or not, I must find others with similar points of view and join together so our voices can be hear. Since I really dislike and distrust both parties, I will see what interest I can generate in my Personal Lobbyist concept.
Which brings us back around to ‘people associating together to express their political views.’ Conceptionally, I don’t have a problem with such artificial entities. But at another end of the artificial entity spectrum are those entities created specifically for and about money. To give those ‘associations’ of people unfettered political speech where the sole purpose is return on investment is disturbing. Perhaps it goes back to equating money with speech. To do so implicitly gives more money more of a voice.
Money = Free Speech
Certainly you will never get money out of politics. And certainly the more that money is out in the light of day (meaningful disclosure), the better. To quote a phrase from the syllabus of the Citizens United decision, out of context of course, more money creates an “ongoing chill upon speech” for those of us without the money to play the game.
The bigger issue, the 600 pound gorilla in the room, is corporate personhood.
I think the appropriate response to this, important, issue is for some people with the necessary skillsets to create a SuperPac. The SuperPac would aggregate contributions, in addition to my $.02 worth, a couple large anonymous donations would be in order. It would use the contributions to mount a media campaign to educate the American people on the issue of corporate personhood.
[Pssst! Hey buddy, artificial entities are not real persons. Pass it on.]
What fun that would be.
So where did this desire for a Personal Lobbyist come from?
First off, I neither like nor trust either party. They are out there for themselves, their self perpetuation and control of power. Serving the people became secondary a long time ago.
Who is out there for me?
My CEO took me to Lansing for our industry’s Legislative Days one spring. Over that 2 days I came to better understand that our Trade Organization’s primary role was to advocate for the industry and keep the members informed about all things legislative and political. They are the industry’s Lobbyist. I came to a deeper appreciation of the needs Lobbyists fulfill, not only for their members, but also for the legislators.
The Main Event:
We met the first morning in the dining hall of the legislative building. The Trade Organization educated us; What legislation was being considered; What our interests were; What our positions should be; Talking Points; What we should tell our legislators and why; etc, etc. Then, come lunch time, all the legislators and their staff were invited to have lunch with and on us. They came and found their geographical constituents and we talked.
We told them what we cared about and why. They listened and ate. They told us their position and why, if they had one.
What is truly scary is how obvious it was that if we weren’t there to tell them our concerns how unlikely it is that they would ever have had a clue about what these things meant to us. Some times they didn’t even know about pending legislation.
This is not a slam against the legislators.
It is more a commentary on the continually simmering and changing stewpot of legislation that they are never really given enough time to grasp. Particularly given the term limits our state has. It means that legislators become dependent on bureaucrats, enduring staff, party functionaries and Lobbyists.
How many days a year do the legislators repeat this free lunch with different constituents?
I came away knowing I wanted the same thing.
I wanted someone to advocate for me and help keep me informed.
I am willing to pay for it.
I want a professional.
I want a Personal Lobbyist.
So I can’t afford a Personal Lobbyist all by myself.
Which means it will have to be a ménage á ……….. lot.
Surely there are at least several thousand like minded centrist is the State of Michigan? Folks with a bit of a political jones, striving to be militantly middle of the road. People who would subscribe to a service to help keep them/us informed. A service that would listen to us, advocate for us, educate us. Throw in some pac money and we could be a force to be reckoned with.
So how many rabid centrists does it take to support a Lobbyist? At what subscription rate? Can subscribers also be local ‘stringers’? Won’t you like to be more informed about local and more obscure elections? It really can’t be more difficult than starting a church. Certainly there are a lot of yeahbuts, but there always are. They can be worked through.
While I am interested in a lot, and probably interested in things I don’t even know about, off the top, the two things I most want to get a handle on are at the state level: Term Limits and nationally: Exchange Rates.
So who wants to start a lobbying organization for those of us who want to be involved and are tired of the crap and the wingers on both sides. We can skip the parties and advocate for the common ground. A whole industry will spring up as others follow our example.
Where are the flags? Where is the parade?
“Occupy Wall Street and its kindred protests around the country are inept, incoherent and hopelessly quixotic. God, I love ’em.”
By Eugene Robinson, Published: October 10, 2011
Conceptually the Occupy Movement is simple and brilliant. Occupy space. Do it with enough other people and get noticed. Do it persistently and get noticed. It builds on peaceful assembly and passive resistance. Its initial incoherence and lack of specific demands, while also brilliant will become difficult to maintain. When you add camping out to the equation, fewer people will be able to, or want to, maintain the commitment. Pushed by the press and politicians for specifics to react for or against those who remain will say things that will be taken as answers, whether those things make sense or constitute a consensus or not. It is what the idiotic do.
It is like talking about only oak trees when we need to be talking about the entire forest. Actually it is more like talking only about oak trees when we should be talking about Gaia.
The truth is simpler and therefore much harder to deal with.
The socio-economic system is skewed. It needs to be unskewed.
Camping out and extending the Occupation in time certainly has gotten noticed. It also unfortunately gives the authorities ‘legitimate’ concerns they can use to disrupt and disperse such Occupation sites. Confrontation with authority can be dangerous and scary. As the Activist says, you have to beware of annoying those who swat flies with Abrams tanks. Witness:
“The individuals who linked arms and actively resisted, that in itself is an act of violence,” UC police Capt. Margo Bennett said. “I understand that many students may not think that, but linking arms in a human chain when ordered to step aside is not a nonviolent protest.”
Remnants of Occupy 1.0 will linger. Perhaps some will flourish.
But there need to be changes so people like me can become more involved wherever we are.
I can not nor should I wait for someone else to change things for me. I need to make a commitment to myself that I can keep. Sure, its is easier to keep a commitment to others than it is to keep one to yourself, which is why the basement of the church gets cleaned out and my garage doesn’t, but if you care you commit.
I am not going to camp out. There is some truth in saying I can’t. There is more truth to admitting that I am one of Keb Mo’s Victims of Comfort.
Realistically, I can commit to spending at least an hour every Sunday between 3 and 5 in a park.
Particularly with Spring coming. I can urge friends and family and others to do likewise. It doesn’t matter what park. The more parks the merrier. Ongoing flash mobs [“The Park. Sunday. 3-5. Be there.”] It doesn’t need to be organized. The less organized it is the less it is a formal assembly and the less the authorities have to push against. Bring a sign if you want. Or bring cookies. I can bring my grandkids. But I am sure not going to deliberately walk them into a shitstorm.
The whole idea is to peacefully Occupy space. Enough people occupy enough parks often enough and it will get noticed. The message? Well mine is: “I am unhappy, I want change, and I vote.” I can keep this commitment at least through the November 2012 elections. I don’t need to sign up with anybody, I don’t need to make a commitment to anyone or anything else. I just need to show up.
I can also try to connect with my local Occupy Movement. I have not as of yet. From a remove, they seem ineffectual if well intentioned. Near as I can tell they hold rallies during the middle of the day, during the middle of the week and picket banks. I have a job and can’t attend and picketing banks is like talking about only oak trees.
They have had another problem. I have friends who went once. There was guy there with a sign that said. “A nigger in the White House brings us all down.” Well, shit. I hesitate to even quote it, but there it is. I realize that the 99% is a big tent but that has to be enough to put a lot of people off. Maybe he is gone. Maybe he wasn’t even part of the movement. Maybe I would have to make a sign that says:”There are idiots everywhere” and stand next to him. You can’t let the occasional idiot torpedo or hijack a good cause. Being a borderline paranoid I wonder if he isn’t a paid agent put in place to defuse and disrupt the movement. It would be a pretty clever stratagem.
I can also pass out my “Money Talks” postcards. As long as I can fund them and people want them I will do my best to feed that. To have any real effect, others would have to step up and do likewise. I have visions of the mail scene from Miracle on 34th Street. It is not going to happen. Neither is Mr Smith Goes to Washington.
We all have our sustaining fantasies.
This is my commitment to myself and the Occupy 2.0 Movement. I can participate without being overwhelmed.
What are you going to do? Remember, as the Activist says, make your own commitment, don’t get suckered into making a commitment others want you to make.
I leave you with George Carlin’s Final Words to the World. Some people think it is just a conspiracy rant. Others think it is God’s own truth. I think it is George Carlin making me laugh while saying some very uncomfortable things.