Sunday, October 7, 2007

Free Speech Becoming Too Expensive

First it was going to be term limits, everybody’s silver bullet for political corruption. Then it was lobbyist legislation. Next, the big buzz-word was campaign-finance legislation.

First it was going to be term limits, everybody’s silver bullet for political corruption. Then it was lobbyist legislation. Next, the big buzz-word was campaign-finance legislation.
Freespeech No one has thus far enacted an anti-bribery law because the Congress is a co-conspirator. Congress itself equated free-speech with the ability to pay for free-speech and locked us in the “I can afford more free-speech than you" box, from which there seems no exit. All things considered, free speech is becoming too expensive for we ordinary people.
Changing demographics are creatively met head-on by gerrymandered congressional districts—so we still have Democrats and Republicans (to prove how free we are) but they are sequestered like cattle into pens that assure there will be no discourse. It’s merely a matter of which candidate the party will select to win the district. Gerrymandered speech. Not free, but then who’s complaining? Certainly not the 93% of congressmen and Senators who are regularly and unfailingly returned to office.
So get used to crooked government, it’s here to stay.
We celebrate a national fable, an apologue we tell ourselves periodically to keep the myth of representative government alive. That fable has to do with ‘change.’
Change is the most used, abused and meaningless word in political dialogue. If you are on the outside of government, looking in, you are a harbinger of change. The change you promise in stentorian tones has been approved by the party (that doesn’t want change under any circumstance) and paid for by the commercial interests who vet their candidates before bankrolling them, to be sure they won’t actually change anything.
An un-bankrolled candidate (independent, we smilingly tell ourselves) may be an interesting contestant, someone who juices up the rhetoric and makes us feel good about diversity, but he won’t win. Check with Ralph Nader or Ross Perot for confirmation. So, what we get is what we get is what we get and neither the ‘what’ or the ‘get’ is getting any better.
America was (and is) smacked squarely between the eyes with expectations that fail to match reality in the dust-up following the 2006 mid-term election. Yes, Democrats took control of the House and Senate.

, that control changed not a damned thing other than a string of staged evidences of outrage, followed by . . . by what? . . . actually, by nothing.
Nancy Pelosi (our national soccer-mom in all matters of constitutional authority) has taken impeachment off the table for those who dined unwisely but too well on hubris steak and a complicated dessert, ignorance in a cream sauce of the nation’s laws.
America has no idea how costly that meal may have been. Thus far, the waiter has failed to bring the check.
Warwounded The troops are coming home, but only on stretchers and in coffins. A can-do nation suddenly can’t do anything right as we privatize and outsource everything from building hospitals in Iraq to indiscriminately murdering Iraqi citizens in a Rambo-like Baghdad theatre of fear.
Billions gone missing, along with national pride and the last shred of an idea about what the hell we are doing. The pros and cons (below) on term limits, lobbyist legislation and campaign-finance laws were gleaned and edited from Wikipedia (parentheticals are mine) ;
In the matter of term limits as a solution to our legislative morass, those in favor argue that limits prevent incumbents from using the benefits of office to remain in power indefinitely. Statistically, merely being in office provides an elected official with a better than 90% advantage of reelection, thus incumbents no longer fear losing office and cease to be concerned with the needs of their constituents.

Proponents further argue that limits stop politicians from making choices solely to prolong their career, enhancing policies which will ensure their long-term political survival, rather than furthering the interests of voters (11% of whom thank them). They claim politicians knowing their time in office is limited, will act differently and less self-servingly than “career” legislators. Term limits remove seniority, ensuring that each district has representatives of similar seniority.
Jackabramoff There’s an obvious disconnect in my mind between identifying the problem and offering a solution. Nearly all proposed fixes assume corruption. If term limits are good, then why isn’t a lottery better? Select legislators just like we do jury participants, on a ‘period of service’ basis.
Better yet, why not merely enforce the laws against corruption? Because your and my Congress and  Supreme Court have made them meaningless.
Those against claim limits result in a lack of experienced politicians, making them more reliant on advice and guidance from un-elected officials and lobbyists (just like they are now). Permanent committee staffers, who ostensibly (?) work for the representatives, would become more knowledgeable and powerful than the members themselves (a ludicrous denial of the present truth).

Moreover, lobbyists in the employ of special interests might tend to grow more powerful, as they can offer to “help” inexperienced members gain a foothold (which they now do much more directly by simply paying them). 

Limits mean that politicians approaching their term limit no longer have to worry about what voters think. In such a circumstance, a legislator could use their last term to set themselves up for a job in the private sector after the end of their legislative career (try not to laugh out loud).
Moves to restrain lobbyists, as well as those to limit campaign contributions run against the inevitable stone wall of free speech (which has become meaningless in the sense that, like fresh air, it has become captive to definition). Pausing momentarily over this truism, let me make the case that ‘free speech’ is the ability to speak one’s mind without penalty. It does not guarantee an audience, nor should it.
As an example, if I am jailed for expressing these thoughts in either printed form or actual speech, then my freedom of speech has been impinged. If the New York Times refuses to print this piece, for whatever reason, my rights have not been damaged. I can stand on a bucket in the park and freely speak my piece. 
Bpvietart The United States legislative branch in concert with the judiciary has contrived to make the ‘freedom to speak’ identical to the 'freedom to purchase speech.’

It is not,
although in the slippery-slope department, we are already ass deep in grass stains on a deliberately mussed definition. It was not without guile that corporate America strove (and succeeded) to convince both the Congress and the courts that ‘they’ are inseparable from the ‘individual we.’
They are not.
You and I know the difference, but thus far have been otherwise occupied, either making money or in the increasingly available pursuits of happiness. Amazingly, that slippery slope was foretold in the time when all slopes were slippery;
It can never be too often repeated, that the time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis is while our rulers are honest, and ourselves united. From the conclusion of this war we shall be going downhill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will remain on us long, will be made heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in convulsion—Thomas Jefferson, while debating the Constitution
We the people who enjoy free speech have morphed into we the corporations who demand those same freedoms in order to manipulate us. The Constitution does not say
“We the Corporations of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union . . . “
Yet, because of this orchestrated bait and switch, it may as well.
Dowhumanelement1 A corporation is many things, but it is not us. At least it used not to be and was not during Jefferson’s labors. We might glance up from our sole faculty of making money long enough to ask if the free speech we were given individually, still fits us as individuals.
  • British Petroleum and Dow Chemical lie to us from double-page spreads in glossy magazines about their corporate crimes and call it free speech.
  • British Petroleum and Dow Chemical bribe our elected officials because (according to them) not to bribe them would impugn their right to free speech.
  • The National Rifle Association (NRA) asserts their right of free speech to extort votes in favor of armor piercing ‘cop-killer’ bullets and the right to swamp our society in weaponry-- against the will of 70% of the electorate.
  • Congress is so hooked on the bribery of military contractors’ lobbyists (for their reelection) that they dare not disentangle us from an unpopular and tragic war?
  • Americans are cowed cumulatively by the fear and demagoguery of ‘patriots’ like Dick Cheney and George Bush. Thus cowed, we allow Nancy Pelosi (a Democrat elected for that ubiquitous ‘change’ we are unendingly promised) to take impeachment off the table. The same table that Newt Gingrich sat down at with Tom DeLay for no other reason than to embarrass Bill Clinton?
Embarrassment, yes. High crimes and misdemeanors, a resounding no.
We know how to take back our country, but Jefferson himself has questioned our will to do it--a prediction 230 years old.
The Congress itself is eager to get off the never ending fundraising merry-go-round. They are sick to death of fund-raisers, yet they are loath to speak for fear of their patrons’ wrath. There's not a single member of the Congress who favors 'cop-killer' bullets, but stand against the NRA and get ready to retire.
So, each election sees a deeper cynicism and a declining percentage of eligible voters actually pulling the lever. Corporations lie to us and kill us in the name of profit and we know it. We are not powerless. We just fail and fail and fail to name the culprit.
Our voice has been taken away. A sitting Congress with an 11% approval rate is evidence enough of that. Government of, for and by the people has been swiped from under our noses. There’s no other word for it—swiped like an unattended purse on a table—run off with in a shell-game, while we looked for the pea under the shell called change.
We do not need change—we need to take back speech and prevent its perversion. That will bring change. Our deliverance, not theirs. It is not theirs to deliver, it's ours.
If we are to prove Jefferson wrong, we have to take back our Constitutional rights. In order to do that, we have to take back the language of those rights from those who would muddy the meaning of language to their own benefit. We and people are merely words.
We the people is language.

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