Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Roto-Copter Mailman: Right Cause, Wrong Method of Highlighting It

Yes, the Florida mailman's stunt in the "Age of Terror" (and restricted airspace over D.C.) was downright reckless and could have ended in tragedy - for him and others.  But one has to reluctantly give him a few props for trying to bring the issue of campaign finance reform and corruption of our political system by money to public attention. It's just that it was the wrong way to do it.

As Daniel Weeks, executive director of the New Hampshire Rebellion put it (quoted in yesterday's Denver Post):

"I certainly don't condone flying mini-helicopters around government buildings, but I think it's a powerful statement when a person is actually willing to risk his life for campaign finance reform"

Indeed. It sets this mailman, currently under house arrest, apart by virtue of the fact few of his countrymen see it as a priority.  A survey in January by the Pew Research Center found that 42 percent of U.S. adults rated dealing with money in politics a top priority for the President and Congress. BUT...among a 23-item list of priorities it ranked 4th from the bottom. This is at least up from the 28 %  in 2012 but still not good enough.

Given this election cycle could see over $2 billion infused in the presidential campaign it's enough to make a real patriot and voter furious. All of this we can lay at the feet of the insane "Citizen's United" decision five years ago which opened the floodgates for lobbyists and donors to turn our political whores into even bigger prostitutes.

Meanwhile, in the course of describing a second egregious ruling (last year)  of the majority conservative faction on the Supreme Court at the time, Chief Justice John Roberts declared (presumably with a straight face):

"If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests and Nazi parades - despite the profound offense such spectacles cause - it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition".

In a landmark judgment in favor of the rights of political donors. The conservative-dominated bench basically ruled that unlimited amounts of money can be poured into election campaigns.

Which makes me wonder what kind of misbegotten law school Roberts attended, that he can confuse and conflate "political campaign speech" with an inert currency exchange medium like money. To be sure, I've no objection to political campaign speech. Let the politicos get up on their soap boxes and spell out their assorted agendas and programs to their hearts' content. Indeed, they can say whatever the hell they want, within limits.

But please don't go on now and also tell me that money is speech and is entitled to be - in terms of donations to political campaigns.

At the bottom of this nonsense was the baloney that "money is speech" - which it emphatically is not. The reason is clear: The First Amendment was intended to protect the speech of humans, which bears ideological or innately political statements - often in the form of protests, artifacts or parades. Thus, neo-Nazis marching in Skokie, IL as they did back in the 70s was intended to focus attention on their dubious cause. In the same way, flag burning is intended to focus public attention on some manner of outrage for which giving ordinary voice might not have the same effect. Note here too, that the flag is a possession, an artifact....and as one Justice once pointed out - "So long as you are burning YOUR own flag and not someone else's you are exercising your form of speech as protest."

In the case of pouring money into political campaigns or elections, the money amassed and channeled into assorted special interest purviews (e.g. oil frackers, PhRMA etc.)  to give specious "voice" to a segment of the populace (the richest) is generally taken from the indebted hides of ordinary citizens. If this money infusion is to be compounded or expanded, it means that debt must increase as the economic inequality sustained by it.

This is totally dissimilar to any "Nazi parade" or incidental "flag burning" which speech can only have a limited effect on the body politic and because of this can't undermine it or destroy it the way money can to the political-electoral system. 

In this sense, the four liberal Justices were quite correct when they objected, noting that the conservative five "misconstrued the nature of the competing constitutional interests and understanding the importance of protecting the political integrity of our governmental institutions".

Is there any way to grab REAL attention and floor the money grubbers? Is there a genuine way to send a message and give them a wake up call, sent directly by voters? There is, but it will require all disaffected voters banding together as one to challenge the corporate duopoly which consistently excludes third party, independent candidates, i.e. from debates.

The powerful response is to reject the duopoly's candidates and choose a third party independent as president. This requires boldness and not fretting about "throwing away a vote" which is the main reason the money grubbers can keep our system toxic. They know that their duopoly is safe, ruled by money - so long as most voters are constrained by "lesser of two evils" thinking. But, once upon a time voters, in the state of Minnesota, broke free from this thinking and elected a guy to be governor from outside the duopoly: Jesse Ventura.

No, that doesn't mean it can translate to the large scale of the nation - BUT it could - if enough pissed off people were committed, and the 3rd party candidate was a stellar choice. A person like Bernie Sanders, for example.

It's at least a more powerful way to confront the elite, monied political class that control our elections than flying mini-choppers over D.C.!

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