Guest Blog by TerryTheTurtle: November 2012 – The First Citizens United Election and the Last of the American Democratic Experiment?

I think there’s no secret that as a foreigner, I view the American democratic system with an outsider’s eye. It’s the view of one who has not been taught in school from the first day that the American Democratic Experiment is unique, unparalleled and somehow ‘divinely ordained’. It may have been once, but IMO it now more resembles the last days of the Roman Empire when a horse could be Senator  (or even higher office?) and seats were bought and sold in order to ‘rubber-stamp’ the sociopaths and megalomaniacal dictators who ran the place into the dust while plying the plebs with ‘bread and circuses’.

IMO, The SCOTUS ruling on Citizens United (CU) has delivered a fatal blow to the American Democratic Experiment. I think many of you sense it, but until this November’s election is done and the impact of the unlimited corporate money which is on its way now from the American fascist establishment into the election process, you won’t be able to appreciate just how deadly that ruling is.

At the time it was passed, dissenting Justice Stevens wrote:

[Citizens United] “threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution.” He wrote: “A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.”

And Stevens took a swipe at corporations too:

“Stevens discussed how the unique qualities of corporations and other artificial legal entities made them dangerous to democratic elections. These legal entities, he argued, have perpetual life, the ability to amass large sums of money, limited liability, no ability to vote, no morality, no purpose outside of profit-making, and no loyalty”

Let’s recap briefly the new rules of the game that Citizens United brings.

1. Anyone and that means any person, or corporation (even foreign owned or registered ones like Halliburton) can spend whatever they want to say whatever they want to influence you the voter as to who to vote for. Money equals free speech under Citizens United and it doesn’t matter where the money comes from and it is the money that decides which ‘free speech’ you hear and which you don’t. Spend just one evening watching Fox ‘News’ and you know what this means.

2. The people and corporations who will spend the most money are the ones who have the most to spend and are most likely to gain from ‘buying’ an election – that is the rich, the 1%, who will have their bought-and-paid-for politicians write the rules in their favour so that they will accumulate even more wealth.

3. They don’t have to tell you who they are in some cases (e.g. 501c4s like the NRA and Karl Rove’s patently fascist SuperPAC for some reason), and even if they do, you won’t know who and how much until *after* the election is decided.

St. Ronald Raygun (yes, really!):

“It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.”

So welcome America to the ‘Best Democracy Money Can Buy’ - this 8 minute video recaps all I have said here and more and also calls for a constitutional amendment to redefine persons and therefore undermine CU. I for one, have no confidence that an amendment will go anywhere – to start with it would require 67 Senators who do not owe their office to corporate money to be ready to vote and November 2012 is coming first. IMO CU is an irrevocable and fatal wound to the American Democratic Experiment (1776 – 2010 RIP) – it was a good run everyone.

The Waltering Hole, Monday, June18th, 2012: Bannerman Castle, Revisited

I don’t often read the local “Southern Dutchess Focus” of the Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper, but this past Saturday’s cover caught my eye. The color photo dominating the page was headlined: “Concerts, tours set on island”; in the photo, a couple of tables full of people are dining near a hedge in the forefront, with part of a castle ruin looming beyond the hedge. I immediately thought of Bannerman Castle, about which our own WaltTheMan had once written, and a quick glance at the caption under the photo confirmed that it was, indeed, Bannerman Castle.

Bannerman Castle on Bannerman Island (officially “Pollopel Island”)

The historic castle, built in 1901 by military supplies dealer Frank Bannerman, was severely damaged over the decades by explosion, fire, and, eventually, neglect. In 2011, fundraising and lobbying efforts were begun by the Bannerman Island Trust. According to a February, 2011 article in Private Island News (always part of my daily reading, how ’bout you?):

The castle on Bannerman Island – also known as Pollepel Island – is under the domain of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The primary public action group is the Bannerman Castle Trust, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness of the castle’s plight and stabilizing the structure itself – which has decayed more and more with every winter on the stormy Hudson. It will take a lot of work to bring the castle back to its former glory – but at this point, the Trust would be happy with just keeping its hollow remains standing…
Picturesque boat tours around the island are becoming popular, and the Trust offers “hard-hat” tours of the ruins with all proceeds going towards restoration.”

According to the Poughkeepsie Journal‘s article, this year the Bannerman Castle Trust’s goal is to collect at least $150,000 in donations:

“This summer will be an important one for the Bannerman Castle Trust. By Sept. 12, the group needs to raise $150,000 to secure a matching $150,000 grant from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund…To attract more visitors to Bannerman Island this summer, a new touring experience has been created allowing people to take a self-guided tour; afterward they can enjoy a boxed lunch from a local restaurant, and hear live music. The “boxed lunch” tours will be on the third Sunday of every month through October.”

WaltTheMan had made me aware of an historical landmark in my area of which I had been previously ignorant. I think that the least I can do to thank Walt would be to help the Bannerman Castle Trust reach its fundraising goal. By doing so, I’d feel that I was, in a very small way, making Walt proud.

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