Magical Thinking and Public Safety
“If the First Amendment has any force it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.” U. S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy
Politics of Public Safety
Recently, both Republicans and Democrats in the U. S. Congress cut the budgets of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s planned production of plutonium triggers at LANL. LANL scientists are hardly seen as objective or impartial agents when it comes to “jobs” for themselves. Scientists, administrators, and politicians promote nuclear development–forsaking objectivity–while attempting to create an atmosphere of fear in order to persuade the public to support their jobs.
Costs of Public Safety?
Currently, Mayor Darren Cordova and the Town Council are seeking a “reasonable solution” or study by LANL scientists of the conundrum posed by Kit Carson Electric Cooperative’s Command Center, regarding “Public Safety.” Critics of the Command Center proposal, including E911 employees at the town, a former town councilor, and a variety of activists say the Command Center is unnecessary, wildly expensive, and inadequate. The extant E911 center, might need minor upgrades but it is already housed in a building that is far superior to the KCEC facility, which possesses neither the security of the current site, a former bank, nor technological efficiency due to the higher elevation of the current tower.
Initially, the need for the Command Center was an idea formed in the mind of KCEC’s CEO Luis Reyes. The town, serving as the Coop’s agent, received a grant of about $200,000 from the state legislature for an architectural study. Reyes promoted the idea the three million dollar “Command Center” to coordinate federal, state, and local governmental responses in the event of natural or potential “terrorist” attacks during the aftermath of 9/11.
Critics say local realtors, a land-poor investor, local contractors, and a bank benefitted from the initial deal.
None of the agencies mentioned above, including the Town of Taos or Taos County, signed on despite years of lobbying by the Coop’s CEO. Still, the USDA and its department of Rural Utility Services loaned the Coop the money to build the facility. At a famous photo op, Senator Pete Domenici appeared at Coop headquarters, to hand over the giant check at KCEC HQ. Some trustees, like Francis Cordova, charged the members $150 for appearing at the photo op with Senator Pete.
At one of the hearings before the town’s planning and zoning hearings, the architect for the Command Center discussed the Homeland Security mandate for blast-hardened walls, lock-down procedures, etc. He frightened the neighbors by talking about terrorists, including the members of the Episcopalian Church and Taos Middle School representatives, who opposed the location. The members of the town’s P&Z commission at the time expressed dismay.
Given the history of this most famous of bomb-makers in the 20th Century, LANL could be a terrorist target. It is not far from Taos as the crow flies. A more real threat, however, concerns the atomic lab’s pollution of land and water, according to a plethora of documentation. Abnormally high rates of cancer exist in Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, and downwind in Taos.
Magical Thinking and Colonization
Though the Taos Mayor and KCEC CEO, and their supporters, say we need the Command Center for “public safety,” critics point to news reports that show how the Mayor and some council members benefit from private contracts with the Coop. Similarly, the CEO has been promoting a sixty million debt shouldered by the taxpayers to create Broadband opportunities and “jobs” in El Norte. The promise and promotion of Broadband money, due to taxpayer largesse and Coop member debt, is funding travel, contracts for cuates, and corrupting the political process somewhat excessively in Taos.
Culturally speaking, the Broadband project and the proposed Command Center can be interpreted as one more effort at colonizing El Norte. Local leaders are promoting the corporatization of an isolated subculture via the technique of divide and conquer, while exploiting citizens suffering from the Great Recession.
Politics and The Rule of Law?
The courts and the District Attorney have refused the peoples’ request to investigate the trustees or towns’ complicity in corrupt practices by quashing recall petitions or requests for grand jury investigations. Critics of local politicians are routinely crushed for calling attention to the status quo—a status quo that is in danger of bankrupting the Coop and privatizing the Town’s balance sheet.
The magical thinking of the Courts, Coop, and Town has been repeatedly questioned by the Sign Man. In response, and despite the U.S. Constitutional safeguards regarding the First Amendment, ironically, reiterated in the infamous Citizens United Case, the town, its cops, and courts have seen fit to criminalize the protester.
By expanding the alliance with LANL, the Town and Coop might use Homeland Security and the Patriot Act to further criminalize dissent–turn the Sign Man into a local “terrorist.” (Cops in Chicago have already defined protestors as terrorists, arrested them, and confined them to the “hole.”)
The First Amendment
“In Money Unlimited: How Chief Justice John Roberts orchestrated the Citizens United decision, by Jeffrey Toobin (The New Yorker, May 21,2012), the reporter quoted Justice Kennedy, which excerpts Taos Friction posts below. While Kennedy rationalizes corporate speech as an equivalent citizen-like corollary, he restates the constitutional protections guaranteed for persons under the First Amendment. And he’s a conservative. While we all know that the U.S. Constitution need not apply in the Land of Enchantment, we are not without hope as we seek out a few honest men and women in the courts. Here’s Justice Kennedy:
“Speech is an essential mechanism of democracy, for it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people. The right of citizens to inquire, to hear, to speak, and to use information to reach consensus is a precondition to enlightened self-government and a necessary means to protect it.
“By taking the right to speak from some and giving it to others, the Government deprives the disadvantaged person or class of the right to use speech to strive to establish worth, standing, and respect for the speaker’s voice. The Government may not by these means deprive the public of the right and privilege to determine for itself what speech and speakers are worthy of consideration. The First Amendment protects speech and speaker, and the ideas that flow from each.”
“The Court has recognized that First Amendment protection extends to corporations. The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach. The Government has muffled the voices that best represent the most significant segments of the economy. And the electorate has been deprived of information, knowledge and opinion vital to its function. By suppressing the speech of manifold corporations, both for-profit and nonprofit, the Government prevents their voices and viewpoints from reaching the public and advising voters on which persons or entities are hostile to their interests.
“If the First Amendment has any force it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.”