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Old 08-18-2004, 05:47 PM
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godfry n. glad godfry n. glad is offline
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Default Re: Fucking America!

Originally Posted by Blake
Consequently, though I haven't developed the idea yet (why, I don't know, I've been convinced of it for years) is that the only viable, incredibly-long-shot solution is to organize from the grassroots to bring about a constitutional convention. Article V of the U.S. constitution says that one must be called if asked for by two-thirds of the states. (Quite a few actually have active resolutions calling for a convention floating around.) The convention would then have a chance to redraft the government completely; they might not think up a completely new brilliant system, but at least they could place limits on the executive, stiffen the powers of the representative assembly, curb the major parties, establish a truly independent judiciary, guarantee universal health care, etc. etc. etc....

If that new constitution survived its transition to embodying its first government without being co-opted by the prior ruling groups, then ... well ... hurray. We'd be there, at least for a little while.

</armchair dilettantism>

I think you are exceedingly optimistic on the possible results.

I'm not sure why you think that a constitutional convention would necessarily produce something better than what presently exists. Throwing open the entire process like that allows all the existing interest groups to push their own agendas. Stop and look at all the proposals for constitutional admendments that have been floated in the recent past. If recognized as a constitutional convention, it would allow conventioneers to dispose of all those petty impediments to effective law enforcement, like the Bill of Rights.

I'm not all that thrilled with the idea of a constitutional convention. I'm more interested in making the current constitution work correctly, rather than throwing out the whole ball of wax and starting over.

:wcat: :ecat:
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Old 08-18-2004, 07:17 PM
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Default Re: Fucking America!

Originally Posted by godfry n. glad
I'm not all that thrilled with the idea of a constitutional convention. I'm more interested in making the current constitution work correctly, rather than throwing out the whole ball of wax and starting over.

The American Constitution (inclusive of the BoR and most of the other amendments) provides the best legal foundation for change out there now.

One of the reasons I mentioned Palast's book (I know he's written others, but I'm talking about The Best Democracy Money Can Buy) is that he addresses this somewhat in his final chapter.

We're very used to hearing smug condemnations from Canadians and Europeans about US media's political coverage, and the fact that their media covered things like the US election scandal better than our own did.

And that is true. But the reason for this is not because of a fundamental problem with our system of government. The reason is complicated, but is likely a confluence of media ownership rules, which promulgate very distanced, bottom-line motivated thinking among media owners, and of some delicate social phenomena that lead to a sort of widespread information exhaustion among the public.

Fundamentally, the US has the best protections for freedom of information in the civilized world. We have the best legal foundation protecting journalists, and allowing freedom of expression among the population. Britain, for example, has stifling libel laws that effectively chill their own media from reporting on issues that may defame the character of those who can claim a right of action there. Germany has its laws about holocaust denial and the like. (France does, too, doesn't it?), and the Canadian media is subject to censorship as well, both governmental and de facto.

Censorship in the US is largely of the de facto variety, and thus should be simpler to eliminate. Note the distinction between 'simpler' and 'easier' here, because it's significant.

The reason that stories are under-covered in the US media has far more to do with things like the fact that we've loosened our fairness rules for the media, including ownership and fair time regulations. Massive media conglomerates make coverage decisions based on much broader baseline factors. It's all about appealing to the broadest base possible for the least amount of time and effort.

Corporations do not have consciences, but they do have agendas. Their agenda is to make as much money as they can. As such, the large media conglomerates make coverage decisions based on 'lowest common denominator' factors, thus tending to eschew things like investigative reporting as a rule; and they will tend to protect their other corporate interests as well.

The problems with the US government's actions are primarily rooted in the fact that the population is largely ignorant of current affairs. This is not endemic to the US, though, as many seem to think. People are lazy. Not just Americans. And if you think for a moment about the sheer time and effort involved in really keeping up to date on the news, you'd have to apply some pretty broad values of lazy to pass that particular judgment. As a result rampant corporatism, we simply do not have the variety and competition that keeps the media relevant and vital.

What we need is not to change the fundamental nature of the American political system. We don't need a new constitution. The most effective course of action would be to reign in corporate interests--not just in the US, but worldwide. We need a vital and dynamic media that, at the very least, is diverse enough that various outlets answer to different corporate interests, and that there is real competition in the field. We need a return to the equal access rules that provided airtime for opposing viewpoints.

It's hardly an easy answer, but the problems are very entrenched, not only in the US but worldwide. The corporate interests that control extragovernmental entities such as the WTO, the World Bank, and the IMF have worked very hard to protect their own interests, and they have a great deal of money and power at their disposal.

Of course these influences can't be effectively hobbled in a generation or two. To do so would require a consistent trend toward a more enlightened and engaged public, and a long-term chipping away at the license they've been afforded over time. And the best place to start that is in the US, where we have the most effective protections for our press and our private right to expression already in place.
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Old 08-18-2004, 10:55 PM
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Default Re: Fucking America!

Originally Posted by lisarea
Censorship in the US is largely of the de facto variety, and thus should be simpler to eliminate.

If all there was to the problem was media ownership concentration, that'd be one thing. But it's not clear to me that the bigger problem isn't that impossibly nebulous whatsit, culture. Of course popular demand and the media feed off one another, but the fact is, even such variety as there is in the American media is not effective in overcoming market-driven media self-censorship. Limited though the mainstream options are, people don't have to watch Fox News. They watch it because they like what it tells them.

This phenomenon too is found in every nation; the question is one of degree. But there's something about American culture -- like that daily pledge recitation throughout childhood, or that compulsory God Bless America at the end of every public announcement from presidential addresses to bus departures -- that seems to have created a nation with a particularly strong wish to have a particularly attenuated stream of information.
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Old 08-20-2004, 07:36 PM
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Default Re: Fucking America!

Hi godfry and lisa and everybody--I've replied and continued the discussion about a constitutional convention in this new thread. Thanks!
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