Meeting Report

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johnkarls
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Joined: Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:43 pm

Meeting Report

Post by johnkarls »

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A formal Meeting Report has only been provided once in the past (for our 12/11/2013 meeting on Third-Trimester Abortions) and, in that case, because there were so many requests for a report from both long-time regulars who hadn’t been able to attend and from quite a few of the recipients of our weekly newsletter from around the world (this was before we began including non-Utah residents in our meetings via Skype).

In addition, because of the importance of the subject matter, a brief quasi-report was posted on the face of http://www.ReadingLiberally-SaltLake.org following our 1/8/2014 meeting focusing on Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the U.S. and An Epic History of Misunderstanding.

Last evening’s discussion of Corruption in America was at least that important.

So it seems worthy to record the salient points in our discussion in case any other group would like to take a crack at how to solve Corruption in America.

Attendance -- there were only 10 participants (one by Skype from NYC) because two Utah regulars had to cancel due to a family death in Australia and another Skype participant (from London) was ill at the last moment.

Objective -- We approached the problem from the perspective of ignoring the U.S. Constitution since we were planning to launch a Six-Degrees-Of-Separation E-mail Campaign for a Constitutional Amendment and concentrating on what we would like a Constitutional Amendment to contain with as much specificity as possible.

The Gold Standard = We all agreed that the basic provision should be an absolute prohibition against office holders (legislators, executive-branch employees top-to-bottom, judges) from receiving any gifts whatsoever, similar to the prohibition in Section 9 of Article I of the Constitution against any gifts “of any kind whatsoever” from “any King, Prince or foreign State.” Even if future gifts are nothing more than “buying a drink” for an office holder at the local Country Club.

Issue/Caveat No. 1: Just like the existing foreign-gift prohibition, there would be “no if's, and's or but's” regarding intent, or lack thereof.

Issue/Caveat No. 2: Obviously such a prohibition would have to apply to any indirect gifts to relatives, foundations, etc.

Issue/Caveat No. 3: The no-gifts rule would apply to all gifts, not just campaign contributions, because 100% government funding of campaigns (please see the next issue/caveat) would merely shift the focus from campaign contributions to outright gifts.

Issue/Caveat No. 4: All political campaigns (though our discussion was focusing solely at the federal level) would be 100% funded by the government -- not just the old-fashioned offer of governmental funding if a candidate agreed to forego all private donations.

Issue/Caveat No. 5: There would have to be a minimum threshold of support to qualify for governmental funding so that anyone with no support but only an interest in accessing a windfall, would not be tempted to embezzle public funds.

Issue/Caveat No. 6: There should be an absolute prohibition against independent issue advertising (such as is currently conducted by so-called Sec. 527 organizations) for a period (say 90 days) prior to any election.

THE ULTIMATE STUMBLING BLOCK =

What to do about the media!!!

The problem, of course, is that democracy cannot exist without Freedom Of The Press!!!

But with all the other provisions that we had agreed (please see the preceding Issues/Caveats), the next Point Of Attack will be Sec. 527-type issue proselytizing by organizations claiming to be members of the media.

Virtually all members of the media are incorporated. And our Q&A’s (re-posted from our 3/10/2010 meeting) addressed the issue of whether a General Electric owning NBC, for example, should have an ability to voice its views as a Ventriloquist through NBC if it so chose.

Or to put the issue in starker terms, suppose an individual or organization with a particular political viewpoint decided that under our proposed restrictions, the only way to influence governmental policy would be to acquire a number of influential media outlets, and change their editorial and reporting slants.

Several of our participants opined that we should ignore such a problem until it happens and then deal with it.

But it is not realistic to believe we can “take a Mulligan” when it comes to Constitutional Amendments which are very rare because they are so difficult to achieve.

Which is why, in drafting legislation or constitutional provisions or even commercial contracts, any competent attorney considers it essential to anticipate problems and provide for them.

So some points were made during our meeting that might have seemed like extreme Hollywood movie scripts, but would become increasingly likely if our other caveats were contained in a constitutional amendment thereby shifting the focus of the influence game.

First, the point was made that changes in ownership of media companies are not unusual. For example, the Q&A’s for our 3/10/2010 meeting that were re-posted for last evening’s meeting, noted that in December 2009, General Electric had agreed (subject to 18 months of governmental approvals) to transfer control of NBC to Comcast. And, also by way of example, on 1/2/2013 it was announced that Al Gore was selling his environmental cable channel to Al Jazeera.

Now suppose (however unrealistic such a Hollywood plot might seem), a modern-day Hitler has decided to dominate the U.S. government, not by military conquest, but simply by having his Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels surreptitiously buy up key American media companies with confidentiality agreements prohibiting disclosure of the changes in ownership (and accompanying changes in editorial and reporting content).

And, no, you are not permitted to object that the American public would notice the changes in editorial and reporting content. First, because the American public as a whole is not that alert. But secondly, because if you have ever read much about Joseph Goebbels, you would not be so confident in your complacency!!!

After all, Joseph Goebbels had German public opinion outraged over the alleged maltreatment of ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia before the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia. Which alleged maltreatment, of course, did NOT exist.

And just think about how the American media has whipped up American public opinion regarding The Islamic State (aka ISIS, formerly Al Qaeda in Iraq) since just last summer.

And how the American media is whipping up American public opinion regarding the Iranian nuclear negotiations during the last month or so.

In this regard, we had a serious discussion of the need for “fact checking” -- but who could be trusted to do it??? And how could it be fitted in as an exception to our other restrictions??? And what would prevent the fact-checking organizations from being acquired by tomorrow’s Joseph Goebbels???

Needless to say, we ran out of time!!!

But it would also be fair to observe that, at least in the opinion of Yours Truly, we probably would NOT have been able to devise any workable solution to this last obstacle regardless of how much time was available.

And that we would have been forced to concede defeat.

*****
Procedural Considerations If We Had Reached A Consensus

If we had been able to reach a consensus, Yours Truly would have proposed Six-Degrees-Of-Separation E-mail Campaigns to both President Obama and US Senator John McCain.

After all, President Obama has railed against the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

And Senator McCain was the Republican champion of the McCain-Feingold Bi-Partisan Campaign-Finance-Reform Legislation that was 7 years in the making and faced fierce opposition from Mitch McConnell who at that time was Senate Republican Whip and who, immediately following enactment, challenged McCain-Feingold’s constitutionality in McConnell vs. The Federal Election Commission which went all the way to the US Supreme Court.

Presumably President Obama, who has only 21 months left in office, and Senator McCain, who announced two days ago that he is running for re-election in 2016, would like to add to their legacies. And this would be an important issue on which to do so.

It should also be noted that unlike most Senators and Congresspersons, Senator McCain’s website DOES ACCEPT e-mails from non-constituents.

And unlike even President Obama’s website which has a limit on the length of e-mails he will accept, Senator McCain’s website will let you cut-and-paste one of our typical E-mails without any limitation whatsoever regarding length.

Most of us are guilty of never saying Thank You!!!

But President Obama should be commended for his willingness to accept E-mails!!!

And Senator McCain should be commended for his willingness to accept E-mails from non-constituents!!! And without any length limitations!!!

Thank You to both!!!

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