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Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Art Pope Party's Dickensian Nostalgia: rotten boroughs, policy for sale, and rigged elections; while the rest of the world moves toward transparency

Once you have gutted campaign finance laws to ensure you will always have more money than your opponents; once you have suppressed enough voters, and gerrymandered enough districts, to ensure you will hold power even as your base of support ages and dies; and once you have got a media support system in place that will tell your voters everything you do is right, and they believe it- well, all that's left is a few tweaks to public disclosure laws and we can get back to doing bidness the old-fashioned way:
* Last year, they passed legislation that makes it a crime to reveal the specific toxic chemicals involved in fracking. 
* Last week, they passed legislation that would keep secret the specific drugs and the names of the companies that manufacture the drugs used in executions. 
* Now, the Senate, in its proposed budget, wants to essentially close police records. According to the Charlotte Observer,  “Practically speaking, that would mean most every police department record, including police reports on arrests, could be kept secret.” (H/t to Peter St. Onge for the pointer.) 
No reason for you to know about murders or rapes, robberies or assaults in your community. Say there are a slew of break-ins in one particular area of the city. Or perhaps heroin use is going up or down in town; would you care about that? 
Or worse, say there was an officer-involved shooting in which a body camera records the action? Should the public be able to see that? Oh, wait. Police are already keeping those secret. 
In both the fracking and the execution secrecy laws, the legislators say they want to protect the corporations involved (rather than citizens). In the police records case, no senator has stepped up to claim ownership of the language in the bill. That’s right, as with many things in the budget, the wording was added, and no one is owning it. Courage. 
This is a legislature that doesn’t trust the people it purports to represent. 
It has consistently taken power away from local governments. It has refused to let citizens vote on issues that pertain to them.
Another striking aspect of this trend-and is is happening in other states, under other Republican legislatures- is how tone-deaf the Party of Business is to what is going on in the business world. Indiana Governor Mike Pence was gobsmacked, truly stunned, when his religious freedom to discriminate law came under withering fire from traditional corporate allies. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal dared corporations to get in the way of his gaybashing; IBM, which has a major presence, cancelled the grand opening of a huge facility, robbing Jindal of a chance to tout his largely imagined record of economic development.

Seth Godin sums it up:
There’s an increasing gulf between the privacy of individuals and that of corporations and monopolies. 
An individual is almost certainly going be videotaped every time he leaves home. You will be caught on camera in the store, at the airport and on the street. Your calls to various organizations will also be recorded “for quality purposes.” 
At the same time, it’s against the law to film animal cruelty on farms in many states. And if you say to a customer service rep, “I’m taping this call,” you’re likely to be met with hostility or even a dead line. 
Kudos, then, to police departments for responding to the public and putting cameras in cars and on uniforms. And points to Perdue for building a chicken processing plant where the animals aren’t covered with feces and where they’re able to proudly give a tour to a reporter. They're not doing this because they're nice guys... they're doing it because customers are demanding it. They view a transparent supply chain as a competitive advantage that their competitors will have trouble replicating. 
Your online history with a company ought to include a complete history of all the emails and phone calls you've had with them. And when you choose a piece of clothing or a piece of fish, it ought to be easy to see where it was made and who touched it along the way. 
 If we're willing to see it.
It's not a technical problem. It will happen as soon as enough voices in the supply chain (perhaps us, the end of the chain) demand it.

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