Public Citizen

[Swede Synopsis: Corporations are collectives. Proceed to comment section.]

imageBilly Bob entered the voting booth that November day to get it done early, before the crowds arrived. He caught the smell of coffee from the nearby cafeteria – his polling place is the local grade school. Seated at a long table were the aging troopers, mostly women, with large floppy registers full of names. He found his and signed and then entered the booth to do his duty.

His choices were clear, his mind long made up. He touched the screen next to the name “Romney, Mitt, (R)”. Down below that he touch the box for “Rehberg, Dennis (R)” and below that again for “Daines, Steve (R).”

Then it got a little more complicated …County Commissioner? Sheriff? Coroner? Treasurer? He really hadn’t been paying much attention, and so he went down the line touching the “R” boxes. It got worse. Judges? Should they be retained? Hell, he didn’t know. He touched yes on all of them except one – he had heard that name in the news one day letting some drunk driver free after seven offenses. Was he the one? Then below that were some long paragraphs, ballot issues – is there a “Hell no!” box next to bond issues? Library? Hell no! People should buy their own books. Let the free market take care of it.

Time to move on, get to work. He darkened the “finished” box, assuming the machine would count the votes correctly, not knowing that the technology behind it was some of the most easily corrupted ever invented. Deliberately so.
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Billy Bob did what 90% of Americans do each Election Day – he entered the voting booth confused and left feeling like a fraud. He didn’t have a clue about issues or candidates, and so voted based on a few general impressions. For big offices like president or senator, those impressions are supplied by 30-second TV ads. For down-ballot candidates, the party was his guide. For issues like bonds or tax levies, his general belief in the evil of taxation sufficed. For judges he had no clue, and that was made even harder the because there was no party indicated.

If this sounds like a complaint about America’s uneducated and clueless voting public, it is not. I ran for office and knocked on hundreds of doors, and I know what’s up. There is no functioning body politic out there. Voters can be manipulated, but not educated. There are hot-button issues – abortion for the fundies, guns for the rednecks, and taxes for every single citizen who demands services from government but thinks that they are too high. Politicians like those issues because they drive people to the voting booths, and yet don’t matter once the election is over.

When Billy Bob left the voting booth, he thought his ignorance was his own private affair. But the party bosses, the wealthy owners of the country, know all about him. Voting is a ritual with a purpose, allowing Billy Bob to think that his opinion matters and that he has a stake. If he did not believe that, if he thought he was being conned and suckered, he might start talking to others about it. Enough of that produces civil unrest, even hope and change. Voting is a palliative, a soothing drug used to keep the rabble in line, nothing more.
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Here are two examples of how the country really works:

  • There are limits on how much an individual can give to a candidate at the federal level – say $2,000 – something like that, put in place during reform eras. Corporations are collectives, and all executives are expected to participate and support the same candidates for office. They “bundle,” because 1) it is part of their duty to the collective, and 2) they know that individual donations have no power. $2,000 isn’t much, but if 120 executives from, say, Wellpoint, each give $2,000 to a candidate in one big envelope, now we’re talking power. Better yet, the collective’s $240,000 is really $480,000 because the candidate who receives it knows that if he does not give the collective what it wants, the money will go to fund an opponent. The collective does not care about party affiliation. There are no parties in Washington. There are only interests.
  • Plum Creek Timber is a collective, and it’s executives bundle. It also has members on local city councils and even has a university president on its board of directors. It covers it’s bases. When it wants something from the Forest Service, like access to public lands, it knows to start at the top with the senators that it supported who can pressure the agencies and local people into compliance.

    But there is a problem – when the Forest Service, acting on Plum Creek’s behalf, breaks the law, small, organized groups of citizens sue them, and worse yet, usually win those lawsuits. Plum Creek, along with others in the business world, have done their best to both control the bench and to “brand” the citizens groups as “extremists.” Plum Creek, along with the others in the timber business, has also infiltrated and bribed most environmental groups to soften them. They even planted provocateurs like Earth First! to tarnish all of them as rabble rousers. But the lawsuits persist. So they have written bills for Senators and others to sponsor to make the lawsuits illegal. (One such bill is called the “Forest Jobs And Recreation Act.” It is sponsored by Sen Jon Tester (D, MT), who understands power.)

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In this post I have described American democracy as exemplified by voting, virtually meaningless but useful as a control mechanism. I have also described bribery as it really works in the campaign system (without going into sex and other tools of extortion, equally prevalent). And I have described real democracy, the citizens who band together to force the government to follow its own laws, and how they are marginalized.

We’re just barely breathing as a republic now. The public is dumbed down, the office holders are utterly corrupt, and the few people who actually know how to function as vigilant citizens are demonized as public enemies.

That is our state if affairs. Just thought you ought to know.

2 thoughts on “Public Citizen

  1. Addendum to Plum Creek-Wayerhauser example:

    Rider A). The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, which became Public Law 113-76 on Jan. 17, 2014, eliminates Categorical Exclusions (CEs) from Administrative Appeal. See http://beta.congress.gov//bill/113th-congress/house-bill/3547/text.

    It includes the following:

    Sec. 431. Section 322 of the Department of the Interior and
    Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 1993 (Public Law 102-381; 16
    U.S.C. 1612 note) and section 428 of division E of the Consolidated
    Appropriations Act, 2012 (Public Law 112-74; 125 Stat. 1046; 16 U.S.C.
    6515 note) shall not apply to any project or activity implementing a
    land and resource management plan developed under section 6 of the
    Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (16
    U.S.C. 1604) that is categorically excluded from documentation in an
    environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement under the
    National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). And;

    Rider B.) On January 29, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a version of the Farm Bill which included a gift to the timber industry: Section 8204. This section of the Farm Bill would repeal the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to allow an unlimited number of commercial logging projects — up to 3,000 acres (nearly 5 square miles!) in size each — to be implemented on U.S. national forests without any environmental analysis of harmful effects to Threatened/Endangered or Sensitive species, like the grizzly bear, bull trout, spotted owl, the mink-like Pacific fisher and many other imperiled wildlife species. It would also eliminate administrative appeals, severely reducing public participation in forest management decisions. The Senate voted for this rider with no discussion, no amendments. Yes, the problem is “bipartisan” Democrats!!!

    The small groups that sue to keep public lands in pubilc hands, and win, just got hosed, along with public forests and environmental justice. Where was the concern and pushback from big, national environmental groups? Oh, they “don’t do forests” anymore — all the grant money (also bundled by the same political bundlers — heavily invested in “high-return” Plum Creek REIT stock) is for global warming, coal, fracking, and XL pipeline. So long public forests, it’s been a pleasure to serve.

    Who won the Super Bowl? Which sugar beverage had the best commercial? These are things we know. Forests? Not so much.

    Like

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