Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ALEC New Mexico - Anti-Democracy in the High Desert

 A Glimpse at the work of National ALEC

There has been no shortage of comments about ALEC on the national stage once enough of the organization's "pet projects" were collected and publicized.  As usual, the most egregious examples were the first to be cast into the light.  However, ALEC prefers to routinely operate as quietly and invisibly as possible.  It is the ultimate "back room" operation with just enough visible connections to succeed in accomplishing its reactionary goals amid a literal "army" of connections and associations in the background to provide the cash and enjoy the profits.  

Just a few ALEC's accomplishments in states under Republican control will sound familiar enough, but hidden just below the radar, we see a veritable cloud of similar antics now passed into law everywhere the opportunity materialized after the 2010 election.

ALEC = State Laws Against Abortion Rights Established Under Roe vs. Wade

ALEC = State Stand Your Ground Laws in 22 states

ALEC = State Voter Suppression by Registration and ID Laws

ALEC = Ending State Law Requiring Equal Pay for Women

ALEC advertises itself as a bipartisan organization which assists state legislators with bills which will benefit its corporate sponsors.  It isn't actually bipartisan, of course, it has an almost purely Republican membership.  There are one of two Really Stinky Blue Dog Democrats who routinely participate in ALEC's anti-democracy activities at the national level.

Although these so-called Democrats pay serious attention to being essentially invisible in ALEC's legislative moves, their association is revealed in legislation they sponsor.

In fact, ALEC is notable for this same kind of "invisibility."  The organization just bumped along below the radar until the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida.  One defense bandied about for the shooter was derived from the Florida "Stand Your Ground" law.  This particular bit of legalized savagery was introduced in the Florida legislature by Republicans who got the text for the law from an ALEC conference.  The law was supplied to the ALEC conference by the executives of the national NRA who also provided staff to assist the legislators.

The law's journey after this beginning was well lubricated by financing from the corporate arms manufacturers and a small collection of 2nd Amendment crazies.

This basic story has been repeated in most of the states which emerged from the tea bag explosion of 2010 with a Republican take over of the Governor's mansion and both the respective state Senate and House.  In the most egregious cases, such as Wisconsin and Michigan, the corruption also spread to the state Supreme Courts.  

In these cases citizens found themselves with absolutely no Constitutional capacity to slow or stop the cascade of regressive ALEC legislative proposals which began to flow immediately.  MeanMesa must also note that this dismal predicament was made possible primarily by voters who did not vote in the 2010 election.  A rabid, semi-literate minority took charge.  Worse, it was a minority which had been carefully groomed by massive corporate financing and an utterly lurid, anti-democratic cabal of drooping evangelical, wing nut theocrats and an ugly batch of thinly disguised law firms such as Freedom Works -- along with an unsavory collection of millionaires and billionaires thrown in for good measure.

Commenting much more about ALEC's national priorities would amount to "water over the bridge," but MeanMesa is determined to prowl around a bit in the other side of the story -- the hidden side.  The outrages in Wisconsin and Virginia may be tasty headline material, but what about all the little creepy moves which have been made elsewhere across the country?

ALEC in New Mexico

New Mexico didn't take the plunge found in tea bag territory.  Yes, the state elected a Republican Governor -- a previously failed Democrat who attempted her elevation to "better things" while being a prosecutor.  Martinez found plenty more campaign contributors once she changed parties.  Further, she enjoyed the passing advantage of replacing a popular Democrat whose feet began turning to clay very quickly after he left office.

The State House and Senate remained in Democratic control after the 2010 race, although Democratic majorities decreased.  Unlike states where Republicans took control across the board, New Mexico maintained a Congressional Democratic presence at the national level and a generally respected State Supreme Court.

Further, unlike states where Republicans and ALEC were very interested in gaining a position from which they could launch another one of their predictable State Treasury "looting festivals," New Mexico has never been rich.  Of course, there were a few "jewels" which would catch ALEC's fancy, but much of the nut case evangelical parts faltered in the face of a long standing domination by the Catholic Church.

So what was left for the ALEC vultures in the high desert?

Although a MeanMesa visitor might, at first, assume that ALEC and its local Republican representatives would have encountered "slim pickin's" as they sized up the looting possibilities from such a poor place, it turns out that this is not the case.  This post is about what bills ALEC folks jammed through the State Government.  They are not exactly what one would expect, but the distinctive smell is still all around it.

The following list names State of New Mexico bills which were initially composed by ALEC legislative experts, handed to Republican New Mexico State lawmakers at ALEC "Conferences" and then introduced in the New Mexico legislature. What is shown below is the result of research done by The Center for Media and Democracy -- ALEC Exposed.  (Read the entire article here.)

(NOTE: In an effort to peacefully coexist with the mechanics of Blogger, MeanMesa has disabled the superscripted footnote references in this reprint of the source article.  All of this information is in the original research.  Access it by following the link.)

So, what did these bills have to "do" or "be" to show up on the list of ALEC legislation in New Mexico?

The reason they are on the list has a few different sides, each of which is important.  However, first, take a look at the bills.  (Read the entire article here.)

New Mexico

(This page includes tips from reporters, citizens journalists, and others identifying New Hampshire bills (introduced or passed) that resemble ALEC model legislation. CMD encourages the use of this forum and encourages further detailed research to verify all claims.)
  • HB 386 (introduced 2/7/11) "Transparency in Private Attorney Contracts" is similar to ALEC's "Private Attorney Retention Sunshine Act"
  • HB 318 (introduced 2/2/11) "Crime of Organized Retail Theft Act" is similar to ALEC's "Organized Retail Theft Act"
  • SB 324 (introduced 1/31/11) "Licensure of Secondhand Metal Dealers" is similar to ALEC's "Responsible Scrap Metal Purchasing and Procurement Act"
  • House Joint Memorial 24 (introduced 1/27/11), "Requesting Governor to Withdraw New Mexico from the Western Climate Initiative" is similar to ALEC's "State Withdrawal from Regional Climate Initiatives"
  • HB 229 (introduced 1/27/11) "Parental Notice of Abortion Act" is similar to ALEC's "Parental Consent for Abortion Act"
  • HB 105 (introduced 1/19/05) "Income Tax Deduction for Organ Donation" is similar to ALEC's "Organ Donation Tax Deduction Act"

Why ALEC Wants Bills Like These

We mentioned before that ALEC bills have a few revealing "similar" sides to them.  In fact, these "similarities" also explain why a little blog like MeanMesa would take such umbrage with the process and its results.  Let's look at precisely what we mean by these "similarities" because they don't seem to be exactly what we might have expected for routine GOPCon "looting" mischief.

Further, the "most interesting" of all the ideas which reach a legislator's office will almost inevitably have one or more of the following qualities:

1. they will increase the number of favorable votes in the next election
2. they will result in "campaign contributions" from the special interests 
who will benefit from them
3. they will directly benefit either the legislator himself or some of his good friends

...all without seriously screwing up the existing state economy or completely outraging any sizable existing voting block.

1.  The CONTENT of ALEC Bills

Normally, New Mexico elected officials receive letters and phone calls from their constituents requesting or suggesting new legislation that someone or other wanted introduced and passed in the State Legislature.  If these ideas are clearly something which would benefit the State, and if enough of these phone calls and letters arrive at the State Legislator's office, the elected Representative or Senator calls on staff and instructs them to write the proposed legislation.

No one particularly expects legislators to be able to just sit down with a marker and a napkin to rough out a final form with legislative content.

(Chart - MeanMesa)

Right here, we arrive at the first identifying quality of ALEC sponsored bills.  They are not written by legislators or by their staff in a normal way.  Instead, the "template" for the words, terms and text of these bills comes directly from ALEC.

This is the first reason that they have wound up on the list. Because they are clearly and unavoidably so similar to ALEC "templates" that there can be no doubt at all that the content originated there.  In most cases a few "cosmetic" adjustments are introduced to the ALEC form before it moves on to the New Mexico legislature, but usually not many.

2. The ORIGIN of ALEC Bills

As mentioned above, the basic idea of a representational democracy is that State Congressmen, once elected, have a good reason to respond to the needs and wishes of the New Mexicans who elected them.  Further, this is not just a handy "high flung" talking point extracted from a High School Civics text.  Believe it or not, this basic idea should be the "main engine" for legislation in the state's Roundhouse.

However, in the case of ALEC sponsored bills, this basic idea is not in place.  ALEC, in the organization's well financed "conventions" and "conferences," has already usurped this traditional idea of responding to constituents. 

In "think tank bunkers" far from New Mexico a process similar to the traditional idea of representative democracy unfolds -- however, those interests whom are being "represented" are not the constituents of the elected legislators in New Mexico.  Instead, the phone calls, emails and letters received in the "think tank bunker" all come from folks who, well, want something.

Anyone among these folks seeking to be "represented" who might be too timid to actually put his "wishes" in writing, can, of course, just send his lobbyist to do the dirty work.  Publicity-wise, this is very convenient.  The ALEC "go-to" scoundrels need not be prowling around the Roundhouse to accomplish this.  It can all be done very, very quietly at the "everything is on the house" bar at an ALEC "convention."

Although the New Mexico legislators enjoying those free drinks won't be paying anything, New Mexicans back home will be -- once the ALEC "template" becomes State Law.

(Chart - MeanMesa)
An Anecdote About ALEC "Conferences"

(Read this entire Center for Media and Democracy's PR Watch here.)

Where Do Donations from Corporations or Corporate Foundations Go?

Campaign CashFor one, they help subsidize legislators' trips to attend ALEC meetings. ALEC has reported to the IRS that it has liabilities of about one million dollars a year for "scholarship funds." These are not scholarships for kids who do well in school; they are financial gifts called "scholarships" to help cover the costs of the family vacations that legislators and their families take to ALEC conventions at resorts every August, after their state legislative sessions end. For these conventions, legislative members are charged a registration fee that is substantially less than what corporate members pay. Some undisclosed number of legislators have their airfare and hotel costs for trips to these posh hotels paid by ALEC. As part of the registration process, legislators can arrange for childcare, which ALEC dubs "Kids Congress," for six-month old babies to teens for $250. ALEC reports that it has spent over $250,000 for childcare for meetings in 2009.

ALEC also spends about $600,000 a year on what it describes as the "recruitment and retention of ALEC State Legislator members." For an organization that claims such devotion to the free market, it is difficult to imagine an ordinary business justification for spending $600,000 to recruit and retain legislative members who only contribute about $80,000 a year in income to ALEC. But plainly, such a lop-sided loss must be covered by other returns on investment. Indeed, ALEC brags about how over 1,000 of its model bills get introduced in statehouses each year, but sticks to its claim that its bill factory does not count as "lobbying."

ALEC's corporate "state chairs" -- companies whose identities are not publicly disclosed by ALEC -- are expected to raise "state scholarship funds" for state legislators to attend ALEC conventions. ALEC's by-laws from 2007 also provide that the legislators who serve as state chairmen have a "duty" to work with the corporate state chairmen "to raise and oversee expenditures of legislative scholarship funds." In other words, select corporations work directly with legislators to raise money from other corporations to subsidize trips for legislators to ALEC events. State chairmen are also tasked with "working to ensure introduction of model legislation." The scholarship funds are apparently essential to ALEC's operations, because most state legislators work as public servants part-time and earn, on average, about $46,000 a year. Without ALEC's subsidy, not as many of them would likely be willing or able to use the ALEC convention as a family trip. But ALEC membership does provide other rewards for legislators. It allows them to rub elbows with rich, out-of-state potential donors to their election campaigns and also to build similar relationships with ALEC's state corporate members.

Right here, we may as well present the list of New Mexico State Senators and Representatives who have "ties" with ALEC -- lots and lots of "R's."  (Note: links are left enabled, but superscripted footnote references have been removed.  These can be found at the link privided.  Read the original article from SourceWatch/ALEC Exposed here.)

New Mexico Legislators with ALEC Ties

House of Representatives


(Image source - Congressional Web Sites)

So, if you're ALEC, and you have a few stinky little laws you would like to impose on the citizens of New Mexico, these are your guys.  More than likely, some of the legislation proposed by these two actually fits into one or more of the traditional reasons State legislators write and sponsor bills at the Roundhouse.  Some (check out the list of "ALEC Template" bills) clearly don't.

In fact, those bills being introduced which "clearly don't" fall into some combination of the three categories of "normal reasons" for a legislator to introduce something still have to come from somewhere.  So, where do they come from?

(Diagram - MeanMesa)

3. What ALEC Bills Are About - Follow the Money

When we see the phrase "follow the money," we usually draw a sigh of relief because we assume that in no time at all, we will be presented with a nicely convincing "smoking gun" to follow it.   Yet, when we look at the list of ALEC "template" bills these two have jumbled through the State Legislature, we just don't see the kind of outrage which we might have, at first, expected.


Yes.  A "legislative outrage" bill would simply hand over all sorts of state concessions to, for example, a corporation as an incentive to move here.  There might be tax breaks, state financed infrastructure, relaxed zoning, and so on.  It turns out that ALEC's think tank bill writing experts are far more sophisticated than this.

However, a single thread runs through just about every idea that can be cooked up by one of ALEC's "back room oligarchs."  Here it is:

"Any money which can be extracted from the State budget anywhere is a plus because, after it reverts back to the General Fund, it can be looted."

For example, when we see Southern states eliminating women's health services, the plan is richly lubricated with "red meat" anti-abortion schemes to further inflame the local evangelical base.  They like it because it kills Roe vs. Wade.  ALEC likes it because it eliminates state funding for women's health clinics.  Whatever money is saved by the change, you guessed it, flows back into the state's general fund where it can be looted later.

Other bills quietly eliminate expensive corporate costs arising from State laws.  Some add or subtract criterion to laws which deliver a benefit to an ALEC sponsor.  Some are "party favors" for single interest groups -- groups which, although they may travel under the furling banners of 2nd Amendment rights and the NRA, are actually the accountants for gun and ammunition manufacturers and marketers.

Done properly, almost no ALEC "template" bill has anything showing which might be a clue as it to its actual purpose.

(Diagram - MeanMesa)

We see the special interests of the oligarch class, each time, cleverly disguised as something else and also, each time, thinly coated with the latest "conservative" agenda element to placate the unthinking, uninformed and uninterested voters.  In fact, those "unthinking, uninformed and uninterested voters" are exactly the ballots these little skunks count on to get re-elected.  When these voters are properly inflamed over issues such as abortion, immigration, gun control (the popular "stand your ground and shoot first" justifiable homicide laws) and dozens of others, they show little interest in looking after their own interests when they cast their ballots.

This is the case across the United States, not just in New Mexico.

ALEC legislation routinely steals from both those who think these laws are great and those who think they are hideous.  It just takes a little longer than the shaky bank robber with the rusty pistol to "seal the deal."

What ColorOfChange is Doing About ALEC

Perhaps the most effective player among the main thrust to expose ALEC and publicize the organization's main contributors has been a relatively new group called ColorOfChange.  Another hero in this battle is Ed Schultz who has generously placed ColorOfChange speakers in front of his national network cameras often in the last months.

To their credit ColorOfChange publicity has already split away some of ALEC's largest corporate sponsors, but don't worry.  There is still a nice bunch of billionaires in ALEC's back room who know a good thing when they see one.  The ColorOfChange bunch knows where to hit something as invisibly grotesque as ALEC -- in the pocket book.

MeanMesa has posted a few links (below) for visitors wishing to read more on this subject.  There is plenty more waiting for you on your Google.

Links for Further Reading About ALEC

Saturday, April 7, 2012

2012 GOP -- When Sweet Temptations Grow Cold

Dreams, Nightmares and Toothaches

This MeanMesa posting is made in the first week of April, 2012.  The general election in November is seven months in the future.  Like most interested Americans, MeanMesa has watched the daily episodes of the "little circus of horrors" into which the Republican Primaries have steadfastly and relentlessly transformed themselves.

Further, plenty -- perhaps, too many --  progressive comments have already accompanied the dizzying descent of the Grand Old Party.  Every liberal voice from the painful laments of the deep breathing, hand wringing "death of democracy" types to those bravely churning the zany escapades into to "comedy butter" for progressive radio shows has slowly encountered a painful void of further, possible  commentary, that is, a conceptual vacuum of "anything more to add."

MeanMesa has no intention of simply joining in with the complaints,  adding more "feathers to the fire."

Instead, it's high time to look carefully at what, exactly, the owners of the Republican Party were dreaming that this April might deliver.  You know, the dreams that bunch was exciting themselves with a year ago.  What did they see as they imagined what April of 2012 would appear to be in their fantasies?

For convenience, let's call this phenomenon their "April Dream."

Damn!  It's already April, and we were supposed to be WINNING! (image source)

 GOP "April Dream" Number One:
Obama Destroyed

When we visited the Republicans in April of 2011, a year ago, we would have found America's richest -- and most ambitious -- citizens in a state of optimistic excitement.  Some of the relentless media attacks on the President were beginning to show promise.  The saturation campaign had introduced any number of grotesque, carefully designed "prevarication gambits" through the controlled media.  Some had flopped in a few days, but others had slowly gained traction with the uninformed and uninterested citizens, still deep in the throes of the national calamity of 2008.

For a while, it seemed that any message which could be reduced to a bumper sticker phrase was "good enough."  The manufactured image of the President certainly included plenty of "red meat" issues, that is, incendiary propositions which would not bear even the most casual investigation.  These would be the Kenyan, socialist, Reverend Wright "hate America," palling around with terrorists sort of messages.

Neither the elite Republicans who were paying to broadcast these messages nor the majority of American voters who heard them took this stuff seriously.  However, as per design, the least educated among the Republican base loved it. 

This mixed, incomplete reception did not discourage the owners.  They knew full well before hand that the best that could be expected from this ridiculous move was targeting only the lowest of the "low hanging fruit" among their base.  Anyone even slightly more skeptical would, most likely, not be particularly interested and certainly not persuaded.

However, this left the "slightly higher low hanging fruit" as the next target.  Adding no more than one half a teaspoon of restrained sophistication to the "red meat recipe,"  the same media asset began to work on the group next to the bottom.  With these messages, a little over simplified, not especially accurate ideological inertia could be scratched out with the semi-conscious among the party's followers.

Here, Obama had to be cast as an "out of touch" incompetent -- "in over his head." Naturally, the inevitable contradiction with the facts of his administration's successes were not a problem.  Facts cease to be a hindrance when those facts are unknown -- and, not just "unknown," but also actively and  deliberately distorted and misreported.  With this target, the blame game could also be initiated.  In no time, Obama had handed over the bank bailout of TARP money, done everything possible to wreck the stock market (which was doubling in value) and sold out the American Dream with dozens of broken promises.

Moving up the chain from "lowest" and "not quite so low" among the "low hanging fruit" in the GOPCon base, we find Republican voters who are both mildly interested in the substance of such messages and, shall we say, ostensibly fairly literate.  The propaganda to this bunch had to amount to more than birth certificates and secret Muslimhood -- those cheap shots could, reasonably, only be expected to work on the American Legion beer hall crowd.

Naturally, slightly more complex topics cam to the fore.  Health care reform offered all sorts of possibilities for misinterpretation, and the stubborn economic disaster set a fertile foundation for engendering all sorts of dread and desolation.

By April, these plutocrats imagined, the public image of Obama would have veered to a dismal low, consistent with that of the tea bags and FOX pundits.  In fact, the comment was made in progressive circles that these relentless efforts had created a "caricature" of Obama, foretelling serious political problems when the "actual" Obama was finally encountered in the general election.

Among the Republican base the substantial number of "pure, cutural racists" remain comfortably committed to "following orders," especially when routinely inflamed by the owners of the party.  However, a minority of these voters is actually being stripped away by events.  They have become more willing to set aside their racial hatred of Obama in hopes that some of the administration's recovery efforts will actually bear fruit.

So, what is the "actual" Obama the Republicans had hoped so much to have laid to waste by this time?

Admittedly, "approval numbers" tend to be a flippant measure of election outcomes, but they will serve here.  The "background approval rating" of the President has been increasing steadily while the same rating for any of the likely Republican nominees has been static or decreasing.  [The idea of "background" means that the "approval" is not necessarily tied to any specific performance or accomplishment.  It is more of a "gut feeling." The Republican problem is that a similar "gut feeling" of approval was instrumental in the 2008 landslide which placed Obama in office.]

GOP's "April Dream" Number Two:
High Unemployment and Economic Disaster

Since George W. never existed, this must be Obama's fault. (image source)

After raising a royal "stink" about the national debt during 2010 and 2011, the Republicans found themselves "married" to the Ryan House budget, widely known as the "kill Medicare" and "starve Grand Ma" plan, but also known as a debt ridden borrowing proposal which would increase the current $14 Tn debt by an additional $3 Tn in the next ten years.

Because debt reduction had been voluminously touted as a "jobs creation" strategy -- in the absence of any other action on the problem -- the new debt increases required to pay for the oligarch tax cuts turned out to be no more popular than a "fart in a spacesuit."  Meanwhile, the public spectacle of complaining about "no jobs" while blocking any job creation bills and busily eliminating state employee jobs in 100,000 job packages while simultaneously proposing more debt for high end tax cuts finally began to sink in among the voters.

Ooops. We paid the tea bag House to sabotage every effort. (image source)

During the first nine months of 2011 the Republican elite were gratified, their scheme was enjoying continuing high unemployment without much of a break accompanied with a delightfully lack luster GDP growth rate.  In the tea bag controlled House, any job creating spending bill was dead on arrival and economic stimulus was a knee slapping horse joke.  These conditions were not missed as the latest priorities of the heavily controlled, on going media blitz were set, month after month.

The President's approval rating dipped to a, for them, very promising low.

However, during the last quarter of 2011, the President, still smarting from the out right rejection of his jobs bill, the continuing onslaught against any reform to the nation's self-destructive health care and total Republican obstruction of even a traditionally comfortably bi partisan transportation construction proposal began a modest course of executive action to do what he could on his own.

The economic disaster ploy exploded to include threats to shut down the government, block the credit extension for the national debt, destroy the postal service and rescind Wall Street regulations passed a year before.   House Republicans dutifully did what they could to increase unemployment with a stranglehold on federal to state support.  Teachers, policemen and firefighters were being pink slipped at an alarming rate.  The totals of House tea bag induced unemployment increases added roughly one million more Americans to the rolls.

Simultaneously, food stamps, Pell Grants and even unemployment benefits were taken hostage to extort an extension of the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy.  Through all of this the vast population of Americans still trusting commercial networks -- already the property of the Republican elites -- for news about the nation's condition were fed a relentless diet of "class three" lies.  ["Class Three Lies" are direct prevarications based on ideology, misrepresented economic facts and an amazingly arrogant refusal to report entire stories.  "Class One" lies are the Muslim business, the birth certificate and racial suspicion.  "Class Two Lies" are founded on quips of factual data heavily "reinterpreted" by commercial media.]

Students in public schools were prohibited from hearing the President's encouragement to stay in school or State of the Union address.  Presidential speeches were 30 second network clips followed by 5 minutes of conservative counter arguments.

The "April Dream" was to create an image of a President cowering behind the walls of the Oval Office, unable to do anything to assist an economic recovery.  The miracle is that without ever having been reported by the oligarchic media, the President's record was actually pretty well known among American voters -- and, they approved.

GOP's "April Dream" Number Three:
The Missing Mayhem

Every resource available was dedicated to the success of the Tea Party "Movement."  There were literally glaciers of microphones, buses, podiums and happy policemen, but even more remarkable, the fledging "grass roots" effort was receiving month after month of relentless "unsolicited" publicity worth millions.  Not only were the planned events broadcast daily months in advance, the media coverage was the predictable hour by hour, breathless story, too.

The "April Dream" was that by now the tea bags would be on an unstoppable "March to the Sea," ruthlessly crushing every liberal alternative, and even when it wasn't "crushing," the story could be painlessly augmented into a matter of grave national relevance by every network from FOX News to PBS.

However, April found the massive commercial campaign stuttering, near oblivion from disinterest.  The 2010 victories for the tea bags have turn sour in a very, very big way.  The shady millionaires the 2010 election inserted in the House have proved to be little more than arrogant, adolescent political hacks obsessed with banning Sharia Law from Oklahoma and naming post offices after their friend.

On the other hand, the Republican reactionaries instantly fell in love with the fear generating possibilities of the Occupy movement.  Even if the tea bags had fallen asleep in their wheel chairs, and fear mongering about Occupy suddenly received much of the unused publicity which had been freed up following the dismal glacier of disinterest which had settled on the tea bags.

Carefully crafted police violence executed by previously invisible, "freedom loving" tea bag mayors caught the public interest for a week or so, but then opinion polls and social media rapidly swung around to an energetically sympathetic position with Occupy instead of running in terror.

Gigantic demonstrations such as the ones about immigration and Wisconsin union busting were cleverly ignored by the oligarchic media, but again, social media, well populated by participants with cell phone cameras, proved to be beyond the control of the cash monsters, and the word was spread.  Shamed, the networks finally capitulated with a few quick video clips and a few biased "two sides of the issue" crafted to instill fear in the masses followed up with "that's all the time we have" faux coverage, but by then the stories had "grown legs" on the internet.

In the "April Dream" every American over fifty was supposed to be terrified by out of control minority rapists roaming the streets, and every American under fifty was supposed to be skulking in his kitchen with his rifle cleaning kit, getting ready for the "big one."  The country was supposed to be in a threatening chaos, and the listenership and credibility of the "red meat," hired radio pundits was supposed to be sky rocketing.

Instead, although there was some interest, most Americans, already numbed by the House tea bag ranting and rumbling, considered the show about as interesting as the third day of a mild toothache.  The voter "excitement capacity" had become exhausted with hyperbole, and even the "net illiterate" were growing suspicious of a poorly played drama.  The "net literate" were becoming outraged with a growing taste for action.

GOP's "April Dream" Number Four:
American Women

Any shift among the vast vote block of women voters was never a part of the "April Dream."  The owners of the Republican Party had, quite reasonably, expected Republican women to vote in a quite traditional manner.  This constituency had never presented a loyalty problem before, and 12 months prior, there was no expectation that it would behave any differently in the 2012 election.

In other words, GOP women voters would do what they always did, that is, vote for GOP candidates along side their husbands.

Further, this "elephant in the living room" had not emerged in the field in a traditional way.  Normally, any "perturbation of the Force" was announced by a few thoughtful but inflammatory speeches, a few nicely genteel demonstrations and a few mild mannered lectures, but in this case, the approach of what Republicans now recognize as "the beast" was silent -- but massive.

At first, these concerns were mere "party favors" engaged by the fact that Republican front runners were respectively Mormon and Catholic.  But, as the bloody primary campaigns took their predictable course, a passing attention was drawn to "supra political" plans which specifically targeted women -- their health care, a stunning vacuum of education support in the Party platform and finally, new rampages about abortion, "personhood" at conception and contraception.

Once attention had been drawn to the regressive efforts in the Presidential campaigns, the unanticipated interest immediately spread to hundreds of anti-abortion bills which had been passed in Republican controlled states, culminating with the arrival of the "largest elephant ever in any living room anywhere" disguised as a pastel colored trans-vaginal ultra sound probe.

Within a couple of weeks, poll numbers for women in general and including women voters supporting Republican candidates careened downward, plunging precipitously "off the cliff" to a 15 or 20 percent shift to "anyone else" -- particularly to "anyone else" with enough sense not to inflame women voters this way.

Remarkably, this was never intended to be in the contest.  These questions were never intended as a "risky gambit" which, if executed successfully, would have increased the number of Republican ballots in the 2012 general election.  These questions were, instead, a stunning example of the "silent marauder," arriving unannounced in a furious mayhem of brutal chaos and destruction.  Worse, unlike the Vikings and VisiGoths, this marauder didn't retreat in the light of the following dawn.

The faces above the pin striped suits in the elite Republican strategy bunkers turned white.  Distraught oligarchic foreheads were placed in oligarchic palms, and oligarchic tears rolled down quivering oligarchic wrists to $3,000 wrist bands and then under the $20,000 oligarchic wrist watches.

This was never supposed to be part of the "April Dream."

A Few Last Words

MeanMesa visitors already know that many more -- large and small -- peccadilloes could be added to the "nightmare side" of the Republican "April Dream."

A party with traditional bad habits of "over reaching," the Republicans in this dark moment will, of course, begin "over reaching" even beyond the "over reaching" they've already done in this campaign.  Further, because they firmly believe that elections can be won with the sole advantage of vast sums of Citizens United cash, they will proceed even though they can't even countenance their own record.

2012 will be decided by what voters know and what voters can figure out based on what they know.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

the 28th Amendment -- Death by Legacy

A Few General Ideas About the Psychology of Legacy

Any human who manages to elevate himself high enough will, apparently inevitably, come to a reflective moment when the finiteness of the years of his service -- or even the finiteness of the years of his life -- present the breathtaking instant when he indulges in a "true after thought."  

"What will all of this look like when I've once again descended to the lower atmospheres?"

"What quip or logo will come to define my great history when I am no longer here to add any more to the story which started it?"

Some humans bravely believe that their children will be their greatest chance for immortality.  Some believe that inventions they've made or businesses they've established will fill this purpose.  Public and political people are convinced that all their story will be amalgamated into some "household term" where they -- or, at least, their reputation -- will spend a secure eternity with a durable, comfortable flow of adulation and respect.

While power and glory remain a living, daily thing, it is only natural that certain human "delights" accompany them in a society filled with lesser folks.  After all, 2 million years ago our Zinjanthropus ancestors had already begun the society bending idea of the "big man."  In the fetid, dingy caves of Olduvai, the "big man" ate his fill first, traveled behind the young men in dangerous country and fathered all the little Zinjanthropae which would be allowed to survive as members of his tribe thanks to their "superior lineage."

Although this was just a start, the ambition for an ever extending longevity of this "big man" status grew in human society just like "little Topsy."  Half of the questionably sacred Old Testament is an account of one "divinely appreciated big man" after another.  

In the soul wrenching centuries of the early religionist period of Europe, tangible "big man-hood" had been relegated to the violent avarice of genetic nobility and the dark ambitions of the fear mongering priests, abbots, bishops, cardinals and popes.   Essentially a Dark Ages version based on the prehistoric Zinjanthropian idea, under this system all the rest of the tribe remained chattel.

Hopefully, all this admittedly incomplete, academic rambling is an adequate prelude to the primary theme of this post.  Let's jump a few centuries to modern America.

A Few Modern "Big Men"

Understandably, the Zinjanthropus "big man" naturally took his ambition for sexual profligacy as an accoutrement to his grand standing.  It was a only a couple of millennia later that this appetite matured to full out "war making."  The sex idea was still at the root of this new behavior, of course, but the expanded sexual opportunities of captured women and, later, of slaves and concubines traveled just one step behind the bleeding teen agers with the spears.

Considered as "war makers" even the most revered of our modern "big men" continued to naturally attach the increased sexual opportunities of their high office to a "little on the side."  Such "Rushmore sized" greats as Lincoln, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Clinton and others all felt that a little "in office dalliance" was not only Biblically merited, but also made "necessary," by the great burdens they bore for the larger common good.

However, the sexual proclivities, although perhaps enlightening as motivational foundations, were not the only modern manifestations of this desire to "not only have an extra good time -- better than anyone else -- while seated in power, but also to construct an eternal reputation for plenty of on-going adoration afterwards, too."  Once the thing had careened to this low point, the modern idea of legacy had been born.

Predictably, we can, from our own casual memories, prepare a list of modern legacies.  We extract these from unavoidable "household phrases," occasionally enhanced with a distant memory of Junior High American History classes.  The following list is not meant to be a thorough education of these "household phrases," but only to serve as a few examples.

 Washington founded the Republic
 Lincoln freed the slaves.
 Wilson started the United Nations.
 FDR saved the country from the Depression.
(and, started Social Security, led the fight in WWII and suffered from polio)
 Kennedy put us on the moon
 (and, stared down the Russians in Cuba, started civil rights for Blacks and got shot)
 Johnson started Medicare
 (and, obsessed with the slaughter in VietNam, began the Great Society and more for civil rights)
 Reagan initiated the fall of the Soviet Union
(and, raised taxes, brought the national debt to $ Tn for the first time, launched Sta Wars and broke organized labor)
 Clinton balanced the budget
(and, had a girl friend, survived impeachment and finished up with high approval ratings)
 Bush Jr. -- well, by this point, we can see the theme of the "household phrase."

Now, these were all Presidents.  They were chosen for the "examples" list because a casual knowledge of Presidential "big picture" legacies is common.  However, this posting about legacies is about another high office -- that of a Supreme Court Chief Justice.  Of course, although historical Supreme Courts are historically labeled by the Chief Justices presiding over them, all the members have also lent a hand to what happened.

Rather than dredge out a similar list of examples of the legacies of previous Supreme Court Chief Justices, let's just focus on what's happening right now.

Further, let's just pick up from the last "example" on the "examples" list.  And, rather than launch into some ill tempered geriatric tirade, let's take that look from what might be appearing on the pages of a history book fifty years from now.

A MeanMesa "Future History"
 of the 21st Century Supreme Court
Condensed Version
8th Edition, 2062

The first centuries of the United States were marked by a constant conflict between what were called oligarchs and the rest of the country.  The main population in the democracy wanted the country to develop in ways which improved living conditions while the oligarch class constantly vied for control of the country's Treasury.

In the beginning, the nature of this conflict was defined by the country's Constitution.  As the national wealth grew to large surpluses in the late 20th Century, the portion taken by the oligarchs was able to grow without materially influencing living conditions for the remainder of the population.  However, in the early years of the 21st Century oligarchic power reached new heights, and the extraction of wealth from the larger economy also measurably increased.

The resulting class conflict would have been expected, historically, to precipitate a violent "revolutionary correction" earlier if the nation had not enjoyed such previous prosperity.  This predictable conflict arose later in this case because living conditions had been sustained through various artificial methods during the last, most aggressive periods of wealth redistribution.

Two other factors delayed the "correction."

First, the national memory of better times in the past had faded through the passing of time.  Likewise, the educational level of the nation's population had also diminished.  The social-cultural knowledge base of citizens had fallen low enough that the early evidence of the oligarchic "take over attempt" went unnoticed.                                                

Second, the nation's Constitution had been continually cited as making the growth of the oligarchs legitimate.  The lower class of citizens had been groomed to believe that the increasing oligarchic wealth was fundamentally protected by the concepts in the US Constitution.  Much of the earlier wealth redistribution into oligarchic hands had, more or less, conformed to contemporary interpretations of Constitutional principles.

The mechanism employed to defend this gradual transformation of the nation to oligarchic control, that is, to continually validate the "necessity" and "acceptability" of constantly declining wealth and lower living conditions in the lower classes, was the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court.  No matter what the still legislatively empowered lower class attempted in efforts to rectify the effects of the ever increasing oligarchic power, the effort was defeated by the Supreme Court which ruled that each such attempt was "unconstitutional."

The oligarch class had long coveted the legislative "purse strings" originally placed in the hands of the electorate by the Constitution.  As oligarchic "penetration" and "control" of the nation's Congress grew, coupled in the early 21st Century with control of the Supreme Court, the various legislative schemes for additional wealth redistribution grew even more aggressive.

Sensing the advantage of this continuing development of power, what is now called the OORP, Oligarchic Over Reach Period, began in earnest, but, as history now shows, still prematurely.  Modern experts agree that the oligarchic ambitions might have been realized if the slow, gradual development had continued at its previous pace for another decade or so.

When the surpluses which had previously masked the oligarchic take over were depleted in the early 21st Century, the lower classes, although by then quite uneducated and confused, were rapidly cast into even significantly lower and lower living conditions.  Interestingly, this depletion of national wealth through oligarchic wealth redistribution had been orchestrated by a certain, even smaller, even more aggressive, minority class of oligarchs just before the OORP began.

This earliest class of oligarchic predators had "gotten to the cash first."  Of course, the larger class of more cautious oligarchs were still quite anxious to consume whatever remained, and for that, they would rely on the Supreme Court to provide Constitutional interpretations which would protect their efforts.

 The Legacy of the Roberts Court

Chief Justice Roberts (image source)

The 28th Amendment (image source)

The 28th Amendment to the Constitution
concerning the formation of Supreme Courts
from MeanMesa's "Future History" Series

For the lower class the first visible signs of the take over plan came from the very Court which the oligarchs had relied upon so heavily to execute it.  Three Court rulings in close succession effectively eliminated the traditional respect for the institution's reliability, as it turns out, permanently undermining the previous structure of the Court.  The dream of the Roberts Court was to finally deliver the nation into oligarchic servitude, but the reality was, instead, the destruction of the Supreme Court and the dissemination of what had, by then, been realized to be its historically grotesque power.

In the first of the three exceptional rulings, the Court had over turned the traditional power of voters to elect national executives.  The 21st Century tyrant [see Sulla, tyrant of early Roman Republic/Wiki/] George W. Bush was appointed by the Court to a disastrous -- and premature -- oligarchic Presidency.

The second of the rulings was the Supreme Court's Citizen United decision which attempted to permanently eliminate what had previously been democratic elections.

The third of the rulings was the Court's decision to legally undermine the purchase of affordable health insurance in favor of a continuation of the existing oligarchic arrangement which was obscenely profitable at the time. 

This third decision actually reflected a second conflict among the oligarch class.  [The first was the exploitation of early opportunities by one part of the oligarch class at the expense of the remainder during the early "looting" period.]  This third decision was a gambit by one class of oligarchs -- those who controlled the Supreme Court -- to wrest power from another class -- those who controlled the Congress.

The Supreme Court had done a good number of outrageous things prior to this, but the rapid succession of the insults of the Roberts Court in the early 21st Century had turned the historical tide in an interesting way.  The voting public, mainly because these decisions had such a similar flavor and because they were reached in such a short time, dismissed the previous idea that the Court was "untouchable," that is, a powerful Constitutional force which functioned in a way not only oblivious to popular opinion but even oblivious to critical popular needs.

By this time the "spell" had been broken.

Even the least informed among the electorate realized that in decision after decision, their interests in Supreme Court cases consistently lost, each instance being explained by the same justification:  "It violates the Constitution."

Even the least informed among the electorate also realized that a certain, almost invisible class of Americans consistently "won" in these same decisions.

Finally, the "legacy" of the Roberts Court was realized in the 28th Amendment which, once proposed, rapidly cleared state election after state election on its path to full ratification.  The old structure of the Supreme Court had become something which was to be simply discarded as being essentially unusable.  Faced with the unavoidable fact that the Court, as designed in the original Constitution, was inescapably too vulnerable to being dominated by special interests, the citizens of the United States "cleaned house." 
The 28th Amendment created six Supreme Courts, each one with nine Justices nominated and installed by the same process as before.  Spread across the country in newly constructed Supreme Court buildings, the new Courts were able to hear many more cases and make rulings much more rapidly.

One interesting feature of the new system was the process in which cases were referred to trial in the new Courts.  The assignments were made by a lottery.  There remained no means for any case to "select" the particular Supreme Court which would hear it other than to "draw a token from the bag," a process usually done on national television is a short ceremony.  After that, the Court chosen for the case would proceed through the traditional steps to decide if it were to be heard.

As before, decisions made by such Courts were final.

There were, after the Amendment's ratification, "conservative Courts" and "liberal Courts," but never exclusively one or the other.  Corporate and oligarchic efforts to sway decisions became a thing of the past simply because control of any particular Court among the six became a judicial "crap shoot."  The new theme of the Supreme Court function was also made more dynamic by the fifteen year term limit of any seated Justice.

A Few Thoughts in Conclusion

We may be thinking that a solution to the present dilemma we face at the hand of a Court owned by oligarchs is to be found in the simple, gradual replacement of some Justices as they naturally change over during the passing of time.  Many Americans, very reasonably, are still infatuated with the "bar fight."  If we can only elect progressive politicians to Congress and the White House, opportunities to change the complexion of the Court will inevitably occur.

Yes, this might solve the problems we face today, but we can be certain that the oligarch class will re-introduce the same problems as quickly as possible after that.  The fact is very clear.  The two centuries old structure of the Supreme Court has out lived its utility, and very interestingly, arrogantly demonstrated this obsolescence repeatedly.  No effort on the part of the maxima judicia has been made to accommodate modern needs.

In a conversation suspiciously reminiscent of other oligarchic propaganda, we have told over and over that the situation is hopeless, that nothing can be done.  This is a lie.

Much can be done.  The Constitution is not a suicide note.

Just something to think about.