Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Who Writes Our Laws?

In a perfect world, the citizenship would get together, discuss pertinent issues with civility and respect and would enact public policies that benefit the many instead of the few.

We don't live there.  Not yet.

WHO WRITES THE LAWS?

Fiction:  Hard working legislators who pour deliberately over thousands of social issues and craft the best possible bill to benefit the citizens and increase the growth of a strong middle class while crafting safety nets to benefit those too old or ill to fend for themselves.  It is this group of elected officials that keeps a vigilant eye on fairness and equality while advancing and refining an ever-evolving democracy.

Fact:  No, they don't.
Winning Progressive has a clear and informative article that I encourage you to read and absorb in its entirety because it is a remarkable tale of a well-oiled political machine serving the agendas of its clients with lock-step precision and catchy talking points that are repeated relentlessly through the monopoly we know as media.

An excerpt from their article reads as follow:

ALEC is short for the American Legislative Exchange Council. It is a not-for-profit (aren’t they all?) organization designed to be a one-stop shopping experience for state legislators. The legislation offered by ALEC is usually always geared to the advancement of corporate interests and the laws are actually written by corporate lobbyists. Shocked? No? Nothing shocks me anymore, either.  ALEC has its grubby hands in every single legislative body in this country. They are so blatantly outrageous that their website shows each legislator chairperson that handles and promotes “friendly” corporate laws. The legislative contact for each state is also the legislative sell-out.

If the above excerpt intrigues you, please go read their article and realize what you, the average person, is up against and whether you have a chance in a bizillion trillion of being the David in the Goliath tale.

THE MEDIA

We are sick and tired of lies and hearing the phrase: "Speak truth to power"  Power, in its current state does not care about truth because they thrive and prosper on lies and those who would speak the truth are quickly silenced with restriction on what they can say and how they can say it.  It is an unfortunate state of affairs in which corporations own a monopoly on talk radio and television stations. This is a fact, not some liberal-tree hugger-progressive-socialist rhetoric.  Freedom of speech only applies to some, not all.  And coverage of that speech is even more rationed.  Even Senator Rockefeller expressed his frustration during the recent hearings that enabled Comcast to purchase MSNBC, but I fear his threats to do something about it, were not realistic in implementation.

A case in point is the struggle in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan.  By the time we heard about the happenings in Wisconsin it had taken at least a week of social media pressuring networks to cover hundreds of thousands demonstrating in Wisconsin's State Capitol for days on end.

When 100 tea party individuals show up at a public square, the coverage is relentless and we are bombarded with the message that these few represent everyone's opinions, thoughts and beliefs nation-wide.  Why the disparity? Because those who own the media control the message and that is what we have. Nothing more, nothing less.  Unless of course, you see how the message is used to influence public policy and laws and then, it gets frightening and we only have two choices: fight against it or allow the few to control every aspect of our lives. 

FIGHT 

How do we fight this? In social media we vent, we seek to find others that share our passion for a truly democratic society and speak truths and facts to one another.  Not to power, because they are not listening, but at some point, we are going to have to decide who holds the power and why.  Hopefully it will be those who don't want to serve in politics but see it as their duty to represent the people's interest and not those of corporations.

DEMOCRATS:  Our biggest fall is that we are not properly organized, we take pride on the fact that we have diverse views and we can openly disagree with each other on substantive points, but how is that working out for us?

Take a look at the words WE, the DEMOCRATS use to refer to our elected officials: Spineless, Wusses, Cave-in, etc.  We compromise before we are asked.  Folks, we are easy pickings for the corporatist Republican party.

CORPORATIONS ARE EVIL 

Not really, they are entities that live in thin air.  They are created by men on paper and dissolved just as easily.  Individuals using corporate power and finances against the average human being, are in fact, EVIL in my opinion.  The fact that the Supreme Court accorded corporations the status of humanity or personhood has not fooled anyone into believing that a corporation is actually a human being, but has made it clear how deeply corporate tentacles reach into something that should be held sacred and unscathed by mundane pursuits of unabashed wealth and power grabs: Our justice system.

PASSION 

Some have it, some don't. Some of us have never left our own state, let alone the country.  A vacation in which the focus is having fun does not impart great knowledge of how the locals live in other industrialized countries and for every message that says: "They do this better!" there is the obligatory vilification of another nation and hollow statements of "U.S. is #1", but then is never a follow up question of "#1 at what?"

Passion for the nation, our political system and UNDERSTANDING of what is really going on is too exhausting for most of us.  We have real lives and pressing issues that must be taken care of first and we are just too tired at the end of the day to consider formulating thoughts and a plan of action after careful assessment of facts.  For God's sake! that could take for ever! Our brains hurt.  We need to zone out and let the people we hired do the job we hired them to do.  You know, just like WE do at work every day.  Ahhh! that perfect world beckons.

We can't save learning and researching for when we go on vacation either.  Vacations are meant to get away from it all and besides, by the time we take than one week off, the power-hungry machine has already changed our world. So what's the point? 

BASHING 

Are Republican voters stupid? Are tea-party members morons? Probably not on both accounts, but their actions at the voting booth, the trolling on social media to bait the hook and create hateful rhetoric are well noted.

Another thing that is worth noting is how passionate they are about one specific issue and from what little unrequited exchanges I have had, it all revolves around a laser-like focus on hating the government in general and President Obama in particular.

From women's rights, to gay rights to insisting on bashing our public education and replacing it with private religious schools and revised history, their focus and determination is worth of admiration and if I dare say it.... worthy of emulation.

For those who dismiss racism or homophobia as a major component that fuels their passions, I invite you to read their blogs, their forum posts and their websites.  The comments section is just as telling as the topics on how they feel individually and collectively.

Before you ask: "where are the links?" My official answer to you is: "Don't be lazy, look it up yourself.  They all have their links in social media"  Or I can tell you the truth: "There is no way in hell they are getting a back link from my humble and seldom read blog"

WHY I DON'T WILLINGLY ENGAGE WITH SOCIAL MEDIA TROLLS 

I am tired of nonsense and distractions.  The latest shinny thing was Representative Wiener photos and his Twitter scandal.  There was no outrage over Clarence Thomas, his wife and their political affiliations, just a barrage of insults hurled towards democrats and nothing about the sins committed by "their side." Because you see, we are playing a virtual football game, except that we all lose and there is no Super Bowl.  No media coverage on these issues, no comments from the Justice Department, nothing from the elected DEMOCRATIC body.

I am not perfect and I view my self as a work in progress, but there is no way on Earth I am going to waste time with people who can't or won't effectuate positive changes.  I write about social issues in this blog with the hope my voice will join other disjointed voices in mutual accord.  I write to "the powers that be" with those issues, I call them sometimes and express my concerns to their staff.

I don't know that I am making any progress, but it seems more proactive that being insulted for being a Democrat.  I am a Democrat and I AM PROUD of it. I don't need to defend it and don't deserve to be insulted because I think that people matter far more than esoteric ideology that can't find steady legs on solid ground. 

Like most people, I have very few hours in the week to dedicate to the issues, because just like all other democrats, republicans or whatever we call ourselves, our plates are filled with responsibilities.

I need to connect with you and be on the same page, I need to have a conversation that does not devolve into name calling.  I need to find you as much as you need to find me. Sometimes, we find each other in the most unlikely places.

MY HAIR CUT EXPERIENCE

It is summer (Yay!) and this woman needs to sport daring short cuts during the summer months.  It is my experimentation season because I have become completely brazen in my old(er) age about hair.  What once was my pride and joy of tousled curls that caressed the small of my back, has now become a "wash and wear" tousled mess of short curls that require little to no attention on my part and must dare not touch the nape of my neck. 

While waiting for the lovely, young and incredibly confident Tracy to take me to her chair, I sat furiously perusing 3 hair style magazines looking for the most daring short cut I'd be willing to sport without resorting to hats for a few months.  In the background there was a huge LCD television set with the volume off and the captions turned on.  The channel:  CNN with the obligatory pre-game opinions on the upcoming second Republican debate.

I glanced briefly, read a couple of comments and went back to furiously find a short hair cut designed for someone who does not need a perm (You gals with naturally straight hair have no idea how much you are the source of envy at these times! - You have, what has been named in my family since I had any concept of the spoken language: "Good Hair")

My frantic perusal was interrupted by a middle age woman waiting for a teenage male getting a haircut:

Woman: "Excuse me!" "Ms!"... To my Tracy... "Why is it that everywhere I go, the TV is at CNN or some news channel? - Are you not allowed to display other stations?"

Tracy: "Most people like to see the news" (not wanting to say that corporate insists on making sure their customers are not offended by programming, including, I found out the last time I was there, playing country music.  It is deemed by corporate that it imparts a negative image and some customers are offended by it.  Therefore: elevator music!)

*** Shocker:  I like country music and it does not offend me (for crying out loud, we live in the WEST) ***

Woman: "Well, I just don't understand it, the news is the news and it is boring.  Politicians are going to do what they want and there is nothing we can do about it, so why waste time watching this stuff?"

There was the polite, non-committal "Hmmm" and "Sure" from Tracy and the lady proceeded with "I have enough things in my life to worry about and don't have the time for any of this... besides, it does not affect me, so what difference does it make?"

Without meaning to, I raised an eyebrow and wondered how many of the people who live around me feel and think exactly like her.  It bothered me. I can't deny it.

I pretended to be engrossed in finding that perfect hair cut, but I raised my head slightly and an elderly gentleman sitting across from me and waiting patiently for his wife (who has obvious mobility issues)  held my gaze for a few seconds, smirked in her direction and rolled his eyes.

I suppressed a smile of understanding and, yes, relief, and continued to turn the pages.... realizing that at his age, he knew that what politicians do affects his life.  The middle-age lady was not aware of it... not yet.  If the Ryan plan takes hold, she will wake up one day and realize something went horribly wrong somewhere while she, and the rest of us, were busy with our lives.

"Olivia? are you ready?" said Tracy with a smile and shaking her head at the tangled dead raccoon that I call hair.

"Yes!" and with decisive emphasis tapped 3 pictures of the shortest hairstyles I could find. "I want a combination of these!." 

Tracy looked at them and firmly said "No! you can't have that, they are all wrong for  you" She added, "These women have straight hair and you don't want to spend hours applying product and playing with your hair.... C'mon... let's see what we can do."

Half an hour later, my Tracy did her magic.

If only life was as easy as a hair cut.

7 comments:

BlueTrooth said...

This reminds me of the time I walked into the grocery store just prior to the 2010 elections. A kiosk was set up and our metro area paper was doing the "free subscription" sales push (you know what I mean, I'm sure). I take the paper for the Sunday, holidays and Tuesdays editions. Tuesday is "coupon day" in my area. Anyway, the man at the kiosk asked a 30-ish woman, dressed in corporate attire, if she was a current subscriber. She boldly responded that she wasn't interested in a "liberal rag". She went on to say that she's tired of the liberal media ruining our State and destroying the nation. Understand, I'm all for free speech and I generally respect other's opinions even if I disagree. But I couldn't just let this arrogant individual spew the propaganda without a challenge the poor sales rep couldn't deliver. So I stopped, walked back to the woman and asked her how she had determined the paper was a "liberal rag"? Her answer was the anticipated, "they all are". I looked her up and down, dressed to the nines, and said, "You know, I can still afford the paper. My guess is you're dressed in your credit card and you can't afford to have the paper delivered. If you could, you'd already know our liberal rag went out of business over 5 years ago" and walked off in search of the white meat peaches (yum!). But I couldn't resist the parting shot of "Conservatives have ruined the paper!". The sales rep smiled and I winked. No better sales sales pitch for that gal than a liberal bad-mouthing his paper as Conservative. I'll bet she put the subscription on her credit card.

Olivia Emisar said...

Great story! thanks for sharing it. Our "rag" is NOT liberal & the few liberal or dem column writers are long gone. Loved your story!

Robin said...

Well I would say this; of course the legislators don’t write the laws! Although some do stick in their two cents, most of the bills are literally thousands of pages. They don’t even have time to READ the laws. Many bills are written via lobbyist, many come from the administration. This is the way the process works. I don’t have a better alternative than this, except that the administration should do its’ job and submit workable bills. The “Obamacare” bill is a good example of the administration being MIA. Basically leaving it up to congressional staffs and lobbyist to write the healthcare bill. GIANT mistake Mr. President! Obama should have presented a bill to congress for them to modify, not just a bunch of ideas. And so we end up with “Obamacare” that only does – in my view – a partial fix and does nothing to control the root problem of costs spiraling out of control and threatens to bankrupt this country.

As far as the media; yes each media outlet is owned by a corporation. So what, the media is by and large liberal. Perhaps living in red state this is not so obvious to you. On TV, CNN is the most ‘centrist’ of the channels but still tends to lean to the left. With national newspapers it is split more evenly; having the NYTimes on the left and WSJ on the right. Local papers tend to reflect the local population.

On the broader question of freedom of speech – don’t get me started! There have always been limits to free speech in the US – but it is getting far worse. Generally it is not the right that is restricting free speech, it is the left. In general, the left places a far high priority on “Equality” and “Diversity” and shows no hesitation framing issues so that “equality” trumps freedom of speech. This can be seen in many areas but the view of how the bill of rights applies or does not apply to the workplace is one of the obvious ones. So for example; businesses general can’t fire someone because of their religion or sex but if someone says something “offensive” – fired. Freedom of speech is not protected in the workplace but equality of sexes is protected.

Robin

Olivia Emisar said...

Gosh Robin, we find ourselves, once again, at different locations of the spectrum. I fail to see liberal news outlets. Maybe your area is different, but the only one we could "count" on was MSNBC and that is going away.

As for your So What? on writing bills. It is their job, not something that ought to be outsourced to a non-profit that works exclusively for Wall Street, the Heritage Foundation, Koch Bros, etc. - I, and many, would have a problem with it if the bills were written exclusively by a "liberal" organization. The outsourcing of our jobs was cause of outrage but the outsourcing of work by legislators, our laws? that's fine? - Can't agree with that at all.

I can't understand why you, an intelligent man who believes in democratic values would think this is okay. That being the case, we can save our money and let ALEC run the government. What is the point of having legislators? They are dead weight.

If they can't read thousands of pages, they should stay at work and do their job instead of obstructing whatever comes down the pike and taking off every other week. I don't know anyone who gets paid full time with perks and benefits and takes off six months out of the year. We can thank Boehner for this gift to the taxpayers.

Surely when you go to work, you do your own job? the one you get paid to do? and if you said to your boss that you couldn't do your job and he should hire an outside company to do it, surely he would not continue to pay you for ... doing nothing?

Once again, thank you for your comments and we will continue to agree to disagree.

Robin said...

Olivia, I sorry our view are not a bit closer together. I think some of this is becouse you live in west/red states. Also, obviously you are far more to the left than me, I'm used to that living in NY/NJ - but I think most people would still classify me a left of center; at least on social issues.

I think you are missing my point on who writes the laws. These laws are complex, it is silly to think a congressmen can do this by himself! Months - sometimes years of work go into just one bill! It is not just the right side libbyist that submit draft bills; ANY interested party can do this; that is part of free speech and it is the only practical way to get laws written. My main point is that traditionally the EXECUTIVE branch did a lot of this work - Why is Obama MIA on this? For the first 2 years of Obama the congress was controlled by Dems - you think the Dems had the Heritage Foundation, Koch Bros, writing their bills? That's just crazy talk. Even now any Dem in congress can submit a bill.

As for the media - you really think CNN and NPR are conservative/right leaning? No way, granted they are right of you, but clearly left of center.

One last point just to get your blood boiling; your statement:

"who gets paid full time with perks and benefits and takes off six months out of the year"

To that I will say this - half seriously - NY City TEACHERS.

Olivia Emisar said...

I am glad you are "half-serious" my friend, because after seeing my mom sitting at the kitchen table into the wee hours of the morning preparing lesson plans and correcting papers, I have to say: They don't get paid enough. Yes, NY. And no, she was never off for 6 months. During the summer most of them are teaching summer school or tutoring students that need help. Their 9-5 is Bull. They stay after school to help kids who need it and they don't get paid.

Much is glossed over and taken for granted when making those statements.

I have evolved from being a conservative democrat to being a progressive democrat and if that puts me on that imaginary left, so be it. I can't see the center anymore, it has gone so far to the right is appalling.

Robin, your points of view are always welcome. Thank you for sharing them.

Michael Galvin said...

Olivia, I agree that the lobbyist have too much sway with our politicians. We need to take that money out of legislation. Unfortunately as you know that will not be easy nor will it happen soon.
I really like your writing. You've covered a lot here that is important. People need to take the time to read and consider your views. I appreciate not just your passion but your depth.
You also are on point with your thesis that the right wing conservatives are motivated by more than just a misguided simplistic economic worldview.
Many are in fact motivated to the core by their life-long racists attitudes. It is considered impolite in some circles to bring that to light. We are not to mention the crazy cousin or the bastard son. Much the same with mentioning the dark underbelly of hate that lives in our communities masquerading as kind upstanding hard-working citizens.
You are correct to recommend that the uninitiated expose themselves to the websites of these people. We cannot defend ourselves from them if we do not both accept the reality of their presence and the nature of their evil.