Ending on a Positive

Still buzzing from California calling for a Constitutional Amendment to get money out of politics.  Figured I’d spread the love.

The state senators who voted yes to regulating against the corrupting influence of money in politics:

  • Jim Beall
  • Ellen Corbett
  • Lou Correra
  • Kevin De León
  • Mark DeSaulnier
  • Noreen Evans
  • Cathleen Calgiani
  • Loni Hancock
  • Ed Hernandez
  • Jerry Hill
  • Hannah Beth-Jackson
  • Ricardo Lara
  • Mark Leno
  • W. Ted Lieu
  • Carol Liu
  • Holly J. Mitchell
  • Bill Monning
  • Alex Padilla
  • Fran Pavley
  • Richard Roth
  • Darrell Steinberg
  • Norma J. Torres
  • Lois Wolk

On a happily related note the DCCC has started a petition for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United. They’re looking for 1.5 million signatures.  If you want to add your name to the list (and don’t mind giving your e-mail tot the democratic congressional campaign committee) you can do so here.

Cenk Uygur Speaks the Words Written on My Heart

Love him or hate him, nobody goes postal quite like The Young Turks‘ Cenk Uygur.

This time it’s on a subject near and dear to my heart: namely, money in politics, (i.e., the legalized corruption suffocating our political system and our economy.)  As usual, Cenk pulls no punches and plays no favorites.

It brings a tear to mine eye.

And if you take anything away from it, it’s this, “Kick those Goddamn apples down the road!” 😉

The Real Problem In The Trayvon Martin Shooting

Trayvon Benjamin Martin (Feb. 5, 1995 – Feb. 26, 2012)

I haven’t talked too much about the Trayvon Martin shooting  because I feel like the system needs to play out.  Like everyone else, I have very strong opinions on the subject, but facts are still coming out.  Unfortunately, as the story evolves, I see the real point of this tragic tale getting lost in the debate over the legality of a child’s murder.

Predictably, it has been politicized…mainly by Republicans.  The right has initiated and perpetuated a smear campaign against Trayvon Martin, blaming him for everything from wearing a hoodie, to confronting a man who was following him (i.e. standing his ground), to having been given a 10-day suspension from school.  Meanwhile, they tsk-tsk those calling for Zimmerman’s arrest because that’s “unfairly judging him in the media.”  This is a two-fold ridiculous assertion, because of the aforementioned hypocrisy, and because trying high profile cases in the court of public opinion is something of an American pastime, from the scopes monkey trial to Casey Anthony, often engaged in by these very same right-wing pundits.

The reason Republicans have been so staunch in their apparent support of George Zimmerman actually has nothing to do with Zimmerman at all.  They are defending Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which is the main culprit in this case.

George Zimmerman, 2005 mugshot (left) and more recently.

It makes sense to lay this all at George Zimmerman’s feet.  But, from what I can tell, Zimmerman is a paranoid kook who grabbed a gun and appointed himself defender of the neighborhood (Neighborhood Watch has come out and said he is in no way affiliated with them is not in accordance with their practices or philosophy).  There are paranoid kooks all over the world and sometimes they kill people because of that paranoia.  This is not to minimize Zimmerman’s actions.  If he is guilty, he should pay to the fullest extent of the law.

Others will charge that racism is the main culprit here, but I disagree.  Obviously, it is a significant factor.  If Zimmerman had shot a 17-year old, blonde-haired, white girl, I doubt Zimmerman’s defenders would find his self-defense excuse so credible.  That is to say nothing of the fact that Zimmerman would likely never have even followed a blonde-haired white girl in the first place.

Even the botched investigation by the primary officer on the scene and the apparent obstruction by the chief of police aren’t the core problems.  The interrogating officer wanted to arrest Zimmerman for murder.  There were people in the department doing their jobs that night.

Racism is a significant element but not the central issue of the Trayvon Martin shooting.

The real problem is that Florida has a law that changes the nature of  justifiable homicide.  Self defense is traditionally (and logically) an active defense where the burden of proof falls on the defendant, not the prosecution.   The presumption of innocence applies when someone denies committing the crime for which they are accused.  We don’t presume that person is guilty; it has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  When someone admits to committing a crime–as Zimmerman has admitted to killing Trayvon Martin–there is no presumption of innocence.  Zimmerman must prove he was defending himself–as he would have to prove his defense if he said chemicals from a toxic corn dog had rendered him temporarily insane.

Stand Your Ground turns all that on its head.  Under this preposterous law, if two guys get into a drunken brawl  and one guy pulls out a gun and shoots the other, he is now justified in doing so because he “felt threatened.”  In other words, the last man standing is presumed justified so long as he claims self defense.  He can’t even be charged–hence the furor.  If Zimmerman had been arrested and was due to stand trial, the outrage over this shooting would be greatly diminished.

April 26, 2005, NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer (in red) makes sure Gov. Jeb Bush signs SB-436 (Stand Your Ground) into law as instructed.

Now, the reason Republicans will do anything–even smear the reputation of a 17-year old murder victim–to divert attention away from Stand Your Ground is because it’s their law.  In 2005, Florida’s Republican-led state legislature passed the bill and Republican governor Jeb Bush signed it into law (with an NRA lobbyist looking over his shoulder as he did).  And as usual, rather than admit that the law is poorly written or (gulp) poorly conceived, or even that the Trayvon Martin shooting goes outside of the law’s intent, the GOP doubles down on their support for the law no matter how heinous a position it puts them in.

This is because versions of Stand Your Ground laws currently exist in 21 states–all Republican-controlled at the time of passage–and ALEC, a particularly vile conservative PAC, is currently trying to make the law federal.  Statistics show that Stand Your Ground has led to a 200% increase in “legally” justifiable homicides in Florida.  The other Stand Your Ground states have seen a similar increase.

However, the facts are irrelevant.  The Republicans are not going to back down.  They can’t.  Otherwise, the NRA will eviscerate them, as the powerful lobbying group will not be derailed from their goal–in cooperation with the gun manufacturers–of ensuring that as many Americans as possible own and use as many guns as can be put out into the world.

For Sale SOLD.

This goes back to the corruption of our system, where the political parties cannot act in the interests of their constituents, much less their conscience.  They have an obligation to their campaign benefactors.  If they buck, or get out of line, they will be put down and replaced by someone who plays ball.  In that sense, it’s unfair to overly politicize the Republican position.  They got caught on the ugly end of this, the system gives them no room to move.  If not these Republicans, then those who will; only the names would change; the outcome would remain the same.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for a single tear for any of these bought out lawmakers.

I just don’t want the point to get lost.

The real tragedy, of course,  is the death of Trayvon Martin.  In a sense, there can be no justice because their is no equivalent or recompense for the loss of his life.   But the underlying problem is that his killer may never even have to defend his actions in a court of law because of a corrupt political system that does not work for, represent, or even care about the people it is supposed t0 protect.

The Ugly Head of Citizens United Rears Up

Remember during the 2010 State Of The Union Address when Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito shook his head in dissent when Barack Obama commented on how the Citizen’s United decision would greatly affect elections (Or when Alito and the other conservative Justices didn’t attend the 2011 State of the Union Address)?

I wonder what Alito thinks now.

The Young Turks break down the impact of the Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission in the form of a phenomenon newly prevalent in this election: the billionaire sugar-daddy.

I believe that this is the number one problem we face in our country today.  Sure, there are more severe issues surrounding war and poverty, life and death stuff.  There’s corruption and greed, too.

But in the end, it all flows back to Citizen’s United, wherein the activist Supreme Court decided that money represents free speech.

The Citizen's United Decision is reverting us back to the political boss system.

Thus, corporations and special interest groups pumping billions of dollars into elections with minimal identification standards and no standards for honesty or truth-telling, is simply an expression of free speech.

“What’s that you say?  The electorate has been so turned around by all this heavily funded misinformation and outright lying that they don’t know which way is up?  Whoops!  Pure happenstance–hey, is that Glee playing on the t.v.?  That looks like a hoot!”

Never mind that China–or any foreign government or group–could theoretically be footing the bill.  Those interests would simply be exercising their freedom of speech.  Here.  In America’s political system.

Citizen’s United is the reason why we have privatized prisons and crappy public schools and stagnant wages and and humorous financial reform law and even more (or less) humorous health care reform and record breaking corporate profits and record-breaking executive bonuses and draconian online piracy bills and all the other situations that occur when financing elections adds to the profit margin.

We all have a voice, some voices are louder or farther reaching, but essentially, it’s an equivalent right.  When we talk about dollars, it’s not equal.  And that’s the point of capitalism.  If it was all equal it would be communism.  So by definition, the Citizen’s United decision gives those that have lots of money even more rights than the rest of us.  Supreme Court activism at its worst.

You know what?  I could care less what Alito thinks.  I could care less what any politician thinks.  It is imperative that we get money out of politics.  The future of our nation depends on it.

(Constitution correction image from: http://www.laprogressive.com/citizens-united-corporate-power/.  Citizen’s united logo from: http://www.opensecrets.org/news/reports/citizens_united.php.  Pledge Allegiance Cartoon from: http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/2011/12/30/citizens-united-loses-in-montana-supreme-court-upholds-state-ban-on-corporate-spending/.)