Nothing talks like money!

No sooner had Indiana enacted its new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) than leaders of the Indiana Senate and House announced they would work to “clarify” the law’s intent by amendment.

How did this happen so  quickly? Money. Money. Money. Corporations, organizations and groups declaring they would boycott Indiana – no more conventions, meetings, etc. – meaning a huge economic hit to Indiana – because the new law opens the door to GLBT discrimination based on claims of religious scruples. Click HERE to read Views from the Edge‘s earlier post.

Real speech – words spoken and written – against the law is not new. The criticism was voiced loudly during the debated.  It passed anyway. Then, suddenly, another form of speech – money – entered the scene. Suddenly Indiana leaders are racing to the microphones to declare the law was meant to be inclusive, not exclusive.

Click HERE for the Washington Post video of Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R) and House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) feigning surprise and promising to do their best to rally their caucus to make clear the intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 31, 2015

McCutcheon and Free Speech

My country ‘tis of thee,
Sweet land of baronry,
Of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrim’s pride,
On every mountainside,
Let freedom ring!

Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision for McCutcheon in McCutcheon et. al. v. Federal Election Commission makes very clear the view of the Court that is remaking America.

Freedom of speech is protected; it’s just that a few of us have a whole lot more of it than the rest of us. We all are “equally” protected by the Constitution no matter how unequal we are economically.

Most of us understand that money is not speech. Money is purchasing power. Money comes from our pockets; speech comes from our mouths. Those who represent us in Congress and in state legislatures do not represent us so long as their campaigns are funded by the “free speech” that comes from the pockets of the robber barons.

The sweet land of liberty is the land of barony.

“My country ’twas of thee.”

Only the most sweeping legislation to remove this unequal purchasing power from the electoral process can restore what we thought we had. But even if the miracle were to occur, this 5-4 Court will strike it down on the basis of its skewed interpretation of the First Amendment right to free speech.

My inbox is stacked up with funding solicitations. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. It depresses me. I don’t have the money, and, even if I had more, I would still have the sense that I would be throwing money into the wind. So I write. I speak. I throw into the wind words and sentences and paragraphs believing that ultimately the Wind is with us, the people. It’s my way of praying for the miracle that will give us back our country. I use what little free speech the Court has protected to effect the day when we will sing “America” that way it should be sung.

In the meantime I gain courage from the joyful spirit of the late Pete Seeger. I imagine Pete standing with his banjo outside the U.S. Supreme Court singing “God’s counting on me; God’s counting on you.”

The Copper Collar

Its my 70th birthday. I get to say whatever I want…flat out. I’m too old a dog to worry. 🙂

America is on the leash…in the collar of Big Money.

Free speech is a basic right in America. But some of us are freer than others. Because the Supreme Court has ruled that money is speech. Some of us have lots of it. Most of us have a buck or two to support candidates for public office.

Montanans once referred to “the copper collar” worn by elected officials (federal, state and local), policy-makers, newspaper publishers and editors, journalists, business people, asnd relgious leaders. The copper collar kept them on the leash of the state’s largest employer and wealthiest campaign contributor, Anaconda Copper Mining Company. Montana was one big company town.

Photo of book “Forging the Copper Collar”

Step in a direction Anaconda didn’t like, and you’d feel a quick tug on the leash – a phone call, a note,  a pink slip, or worse. Want to run for office? Here’s the money. Money for things the average Montanan cannot buy, money for the “free” speech few can afford. Money for professional pollsters to learn voter attitudes and what scares them. Money for advertizing agencies that turn the polling data into ads that flood the airwaves, the internet, roadside billboards, and the print media.Money puts candidates and political parties in the collar. On the leash. Candidates who start to sniff to the side of the path on their morning walks feel a yank on the collar, a reminder that the dog isn’t walking on its own. It’s walking on a leash.  The “free” speech of candidates who stray or bite the hand that feeds them soon disappear. It was paid for by the owner.

The American colonies revolted against the ideas of a king and colonial rule. The political idea of royalty appalls us. We think of ourselves as the home of the brave and the land of the free. But aversion to kings and queens doesn’t mean we can’t be fooled into hoping that any one of us can climb to the top. We gripe about the wealth yet we aspire to it, and we think in personal terms we can understand more easily than the complicated matters of economics and arrangements between private and public institutions. The royalty and colonial privilege we love to hate find a way to disguise themselves as just another citizen with freedom of speech.

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that corporations are “persons” with the same rights as a voter with “free speech” campaign contributions has put the collar on every candidate for public office. When candidates wear a collar, freedom of speech is a fiction, and the country we love becomes one big corporate town, the colonial town of the new kings and queens.

America is fast becoming a corporate town. We can bark. We can whine. We can vote. But the speech that matters isn’t free. It’s paid for. Democracy and freedom are on the leash…wearing the copper collar.

For a closer work at how it works, click “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult,” an insider’s look at what’s happening to America. Or click  “Confronting Ethical Emptiness of Wall Street” for a powerful piece, including the picture below of the raging bull.

The Wall Street Bull – symbol of ethical emptiness on Wall Street

Every day four or five emails arrive asking for a campaign contribution to fight Big Money. Just a $3 or $5 contribution will make a hug difference, say the appeals. But I know that once I give $3, the next one will be for $50 and then $100, and then…. Makes me feel real small…facing the bull.

But…if I don’t give….

The next time I watch a campaign ad, I’m going to read the small print to see who’s holding the leash to the collar.

You’ll make an old dog happy on his birthday by leaving a comment to promote some discussion.