Campaign Finance Reform – a dialog

In a message dated 2/14/02 1:21:48 AM, Richie writes in response to an email I (Rhio) sent out encouraging people to support Campaign Finance Reform:

Hey… big money buying big influence is as old as mankind. So do you really believe that this bill is going to change that ? Why, that's like believing that the word "revolution" actually means "change"… when a quick check of your dictionary will reveal that "revolution" means "the complete turning of a wheel". This of course means that what was 12 o'clock high before a wheel revolves, comes back around to that same 12 o'clock position once again at the end of one complete "revolution". So tell me… what actually changed?

You'll probably get this campaign finance reform bill passed, BUT… big money always buys the best brainpower that money can buy. And that means that they've already figured out how to do the same thing, but differently, in the event that this bill does indeed pass. So let's get real. Let's focus on some real issues… like figuring out how to really change things.

Gandhi said: "Be the change you wish to see within the world." I think that he was on to something. Because making the world a better place has everything to do with personal choices made within the daily lives of billions of people, while various "laws", "bills" and whatnot, are truly side issues… and oftentimes are great diversions and energy wasters.

I welcome any response that is not filled with limited thinking.

Good luck to us all,

Richie

Dear Richie,

While it's true that big money buying influence was, is and most probably will continue to go on in our society and our world, nevertheless, this bill is a FIRST step in changing campaign finance to reflect a more democratic process of access to hearing the views of ALL of our potential politicians. A few states have already enacted campaign finance reform in their state elections and this is also a forward move.

Gandhi's vision of "be the change you want to see" is valid and true, yet unjust laws or regulations that give corporations undue influence on our elected politicians must also be changed. I do not see how working within Gandhi's vision (on a personal level) and changing state and federal laws (on a collective level) are mutually exclusive. Why can't we do both? Gandhi did both – because he was able to motivate enough people collectively to bring down colonialism in his country. Laws were changed.

The civil rights laws that were enacted in the 60s enabled African American citizens more access in the marketplace to jobs, education, homes. Laws and regulations are just an extension of what one does and believes in one's personal life. For example, why do we still have the death penalty in this country, even extending to the insane, the mentally retarded and even children? Because the country's consciousness as a whole has not been raised sufficiently to demand that we no longer engage in murder by the state. Collectively we still believe in revenge – an eye for an eye.

When we go to the supermarket (I'm not talking about raw food enthusiasts here, who usually have other sources of supply), but when regular people go to the supermarket, even in the fresh produce section, they do not have the option to avoid genetically altered foods. Why? Because laws have not been enacted to inform people that they are buying these foods. So, in our society as it stands today, in order to give just regular people the option to refuse GE foods in the marketplace, LAWS have to be enacted that require these foods to be labeled. Once labeled, there is freedom of choice and people can choose to reject GE foods as they have overwhelmingly done in Europe and other countries.

We must work individually on ourselves raising our own conscousness yes, but we must also work collectively as a community and this latter means changing unjust laws and regulations that do not benefit people, communities and the environment as a whole.

The campaign finance reform bill which did pass is not a perfect bill; there are serious loopholes. And while there is still some rangling going on in Congress and the Pres. has to sign it, I see it as a FIRST step in the right direction. Much work remains to be done.

Cordially,

Rhio


Richie: Thank you for your response to my email. I don't agree, however, that any form of campaign finance reform will create a "more democratic process of access to our politicians." So what's the answer ? Stop trying ? NO. Stop wasting energy and effort in useless pursuits? maybe so.

Rhio: I didn't mean "any form" of campaign finance. The form that is being proposed takes out the soft money contributions which is one step forward for the people, and one step back for the influence of corporations. Each time you take away a money lure for a politician it tends to keep him more honest. Can they still find a way to corrupt politicians? Yes, but it becomes more diffcult, and easier to track.

There are many aspects in campaign finance reform yet lacking, like equal media representation for all candidates on the ballot. Originally the "air waves" (radio and TV) were understood to be owned by "the people" because it was "the people" who were allowing these types of communication into their homes. (That was the philosophy back when it all started in the 20s and 30s or so I've been told by oldtimers.) Then the people, through the FCC, issued licenses to these stations. Originally radio and TV stations were not allowed to own more than 1 radio station and 1 TV station in a given area. In the last 10 years the air waves have been coopted by the corporations through erosion of the basic concept that the air waves are owned by the community at large. Now, the air waves are owned by the biggest bidder, with cooperation from the FCC and the courts. Radio and TV stations have monopolies which effectively exclude all kinds of valid commentary and opinions. An example: We have seen plenty of the warmongers on TV after Sept. 11, but where are the voices of the peace makers? Effectively excluded.

Richie: Michael Moore, in his recent book: "Stupid White Men" exhorts us all to participate in our Democracy. He asks that we spend at least 1/2 hour each week emailing or calling our elected representatives about issues we feel strongly about. I agree. For to do any less is to ignore ones responsibilities to participate in shaping the kind of outcomes that you'd like to see.

Rhio: We are in agreement here.

Richie: Think about this: Lately, many people have claimed that the policies of the United States has been somewhat responsible for the rise of radical Moslem fundamentalism and their hatred of the USA. What doesn't seem to be recognized, however, is that it's not the United States whose policies have created hardship and privation within the various Moslem countries, but powerful economic interests behind the scenes, directing the efforts of the USA, and it's cronies, that are the culprits. The USA is the errand boy of these very powerful economic entities/people/groups.

Now, with this as a fundamental… how does campaign finance reform laws actually bring about real change ?

Rhio: I agree that it is the economic interests, usually multinational corporations, (and don't forget the World Bank – 51% owned by the US Treasury), and the IMF that are propelling and motivating policies that create hardship, not only in Moslem countries, but in countries around the world. Now how does that relate to CFR? Only in that the unlimited soft money of these corporations which would otherwise go to the candidate most likely to be corrupted, would be stemmed. By the way I have a video "What I've Learned about US Foreign Policy" that I am loaning to interested parties for 30 days. Let me know if you are interested in seeing it.

I sense that the "real change" that you are looking for (and I as well) comes from the individual's personal conscious upliftment and courage. If our politicians had this consciousness and courage they wouldn't make deals with corporations. You wouldn't see so many of them proselytizing the corporate agenda. But what happens when a candidate refuses to take any corporate money like Ralph Nader has done in two separate elections? Did the people support him? No. Was his voice given a chance to be heard in the presidential debates or in media shows as were the RepubliCrats? No. So the people collectively still have a ways to go. You may not agree with Nader, that is beside any point. He was a candidate and deserved to be heard, but the beer companies controlled the televised presidential debates . . . and it was their undemocratic rules that kept him out. Even out of the audience, by the way. He was escorted out of the room by armed security guards.

Richie: About your other issues: I believe that we all have the option to avoid genetically altered foods. This is true for poor people as well. Yes, it's inconvenient… but it's still doable. And as far as the death penalty goes, I feel that the real issue has not been raised or addressed, as for me the real issue is "Savages" vs "Human Beings". My feeling is that "Human Beings" would not do what "Savages" will… and that there needs to be a clear legal distinction between the two. "Human Beings" are salvageable… whereas "Savages", or sociopaths, are not. And "Savages", therefore, are a threat to All humanity. So then "Savages" are our mortal enemies… and it's either them or us ! Accordingly, I believe that "Savages", when caught and proven to be such, must be killed. So a selective death penalty has my vote.

Rhio: Please tell me how it is doable for people to avoid GE food in a regular supermarket when it is not being labeled? Poor people (minimum wage) usually don't go to health food stores and usually don't have land to grow their own.

On the capital punishment issue we differ greatly. I don't expect to convince you, however, in my view there are no "Savages".

We are all "salvageable" human beings, but nobody in the corrections system is really working on the problem of rehabilitation. We are merely warehousing and, in the process, brutalizing increasing numbers of people in our penal systems. These are predominantly people of color and predominantly incarcerated for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Further, who is it we are to empower with the right to say who is savage or who is human? Another human? Remember when the Amercan Indians were thought of as Savages. And the African Americans? You might say – by their "savage" actions as proven in a court of law? Did you know that increasing numbers of prisoners are being released because new DNA evidence has proven them to be innocent? If they had been put to death, they wouldn't be able to be exonerated and given back their lives. The three strikes and you're out rule is unconscionable, thankfully recently rescinded at least in California. This rule took away a judge's autonomy to make reasoned evaluations on an individual case basis. The privatizing of our prisons is another problem because prisons should never be made into businesses for profit. Businesses after all, want to stay in business at all costs. Even at the cost of keeping people incarcerated who should be released.

Richie: I do not believe that there is any relevant comparison between campaign finance reform and Civil Rights issues of the '60's and beyond. Yes, in a way, campaign finance issues disenfranchise us all, but we have options. Those affected by racism, especially when they are black, just didn't have the same amount of options. They were clearly identifiable as black 24 hours each day. So to me it's apples and coconuts. Not a straight up comparison.

Rhio: It shows that working for the reform of unjust or ill devised or skewed legislation does and can benefit people.

Richie: Are you familiar with Manasobu Fukuoka's "Seed Ball" invention ? It's quite fascinating. It appears that he's discovered a simple and cheap way to assist nature to reclaim the planet. You might want to check it out. (www.seedballs.com)

Rhio: Wow, thanks so much for introducing me to this person and concept. It's so simple and so wonderful. I recently posted an article on my site about an Austrian farmer, Sepp Holzer, who does much the same as Fukuoka, letting Nature do its thing and not interfering, but the seed ball is a new concept to me and very exciting.

Richie: I love your spirit. I just would hate to see your verve and energy go to waste. Can the Police "police" themselves ? Can government "police" themselves ? Of course not. Especially when our government is really just a front, or facade, for worldwide economic might and power. So… go around it. Don't waste too much of your time trying to "change" it. That's where I'm coming from.

With love and Respect

Richie

Rhio: Thank you. I think I say essentially the same thing in my lectures on GE foods. I ask people to work from the bottom up. Work within their own personal sphere of influence. With what they buy, what they invest in, what they eat, what they focus on. The Santa Monica, CA School system now has a full time person buying organic foods for their school cafeterias. This was done by the parents organizing and influencing the school board. From the bottom up – and thanks for this great exchange of ideas.

Rhio


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