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Friday, 22 January 2010

The Supreme Court's Awful Decision

category_bug_politics.gif In a week of rotten political news, it got worse yesterday. The Supreme Court of the United States, in a 5-to-4 decision, rolled back almost all restrictions on corporate spending in federal election campaigns. And get this: Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the (conservative) majority, said:

"Because speech is an essential mechanism of democracy - it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people - political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it by design or inadvertence."

I'm no legal scholar and those who are, if they read this little blog, would surely dismiss me as an ignorant simpleton, but it looks to me that in that one sentence Justice Kennedy massively contradicts himself. In the Court's unleashing of corporate election spending with no limits, he cites holding officials accountable to the people.

Ahem. Corporations are not people.

Okay, that's not strictly true or, rather, it has been an ongoing debate in legal circles since 1886, with – you guessed it - the doctrine of “corporate personhood” winning most of the time, as it did yesterday. If you are interested in the history and arguments pro and con, Wikipedia has an overview that will get you started on this esoteric, but important concept.

For many years, I have kept a miniature copy of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution on my desk.

Constitution

I use the little book when various clauses and amendments come up for discussion in politics and the news, like yesterday. I frequently dip into it at random and not infrequently, I read it all the way through. Of all the cultural uber texts, these two documents are my favorites. The Declaration and Constitution are overflowing with references to people.

We the people...

...it becomes necessary for one people...

...all men are created equal...

...it is the right of the people...

...retained by the people...

...reserved...to the people.

...elected by the people...

And so on. These are thrilling documents - and nowhere within them does the word corporation appear. Nevertheless, the personhood doctrine is not just being upheld with this decision, it has been expanded.

Reaction to the decision yesterday was swift and, aside from the usual suspects, negative. Senator Russ Feingold (D. Wisc.) took an historic view in his statement:

“It is important to note that the decision does not affect McCain-Feingold's soft money ban, which will continue to prevent corporate contributions to the political parties from corrupting the political process. But this decision was a terrible mistake.

“Presented with a relatively narrow legal issue, the Supreme Court chose to roll back laws that have limited the role of corporate money in federal elections since Teddy Roosevelt was president. Ignoring important principles of judicial restraint and respect for precedent, the Court has given corporate money a breathtaking new role in federal campaigns.

“Just six years ago, the Court said that the prohibition on corporations and unions dipping into their treasuries to influence campaigns was 'firmly embedded in our law.' Yet this Court has just upended that prohibition, and a century's worth of campaign finance law designed to stem corruption in government.

“The American people will pay dearly for this decision when, more than ever, their voices are drowned out by corporate spending in our federal elections. In the coming weeks, I will work with my colleagues to pass legislation restoring as many of the critical restraints on corporate control of our elections as possible.”

Given the nihilism of Congressional Republicans, I don't hold out much hope for Feingold's legislative initiative.

Now that corporations and labor unions can spend as much of their collective trillions as they want not only on issue advertising, but in support or opposition of individual candidates for Congress or president, what possible chance do “we the people” have. This year's mid-term Congressional election will be like no other we have ever seen.

It is bad enough that corporations have bought most of our elected representatives with their campaign contributions. Now they can buy the people's votes. I am heartsick for my country today.

The Washington Post has an ongoing page linking to reactions to the decision from all over the web. And SCOTUSblog has more.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Grandma Ida


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:35 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Criminals posing as jurists

Clearly there is a trend in the country that people like us don't understand. Because it's happening so much, and it has us wringing our hands in such sadness and disgust, I wonder if it means we are out of touch with how people actually DO feel. Could it be that things have changed so much since we were younger? I am questioning myself and my beliefs today.

Although I will admit many of my Bay Area young friends share my beliefs.

Awful news. A popular uprising is called for. Truly. Corporations and their power to shape our lives must be curbed.

This was a horrible decision and showed in a bright light the lies of Roberts when he claimed he'd uphold previous law, when he claimed he'd be a modest jurist. Most suspected the man was lying based on his record but we now have the proof. He believed no such thing and has been in the hands of the neocon/corporatists all along.

People had the right to advertise, but corporations are not people. They do not vote. They don't even have to be owned by citizens. This court has just said our country is open for the highest bidder. Those four judges should be ashamed of themselves, but I suspect this is just the beginning of how they intend to rewrite common law basing it on a document written and signed when there was no concept of corporations or the kind of advertising possible today.

There are several ways we can deal with this. One is put more money into organizations like move on.org which present the other side but that works best when it's issues and least well when it's someone running for office.

We can stop letting advertising phase us, but I fear the kind of people easily swayed by advertising are not reading Ronni's blog. If advertising quits buying elections, if voters found their sources of information in newspapers and online with facts, not opinions, then the advertising money would dry up. This has little hope of happening given the American people and their shallow appetite for thrills and chills.

The third option is change the Constitution. It has been done before and can be done again but it is not a fast process.

Congress can try rewriting these laws but the court is likely to just say it's unconstitutional again and this time with their own precedent.

The very idea that the Constitution is some kind of divinely inspired bible is how we get to where we are today where this narrow-minded little body of men overrode historic decisions, Congress and Presidents in decreeing a Corporation to be a person. They have set themselves up as superior to all Americans and our government for deciding what is 'best'. It's amazing, maddening and a disastrous decision for everybody but the corporate interests. It's not the least unexpected given the makeup of that current Supreme Court. I don't even like to think about what is going to come next!

five judges

Minor comment: I wish the unions had those trillions to counter-balance those corporations, but they don't. One of the results of decades of corporate domination of the political process is that, as in so many arenas, though there is law that allows union organizing but in practice organizing is impossible. The law is so weak that private sector employers treat its penalties for union busting as simply a cost of doing business.

That said, drastic as this is, it is important for us to realize that campaign finance law was in tatters before 5 judges told us yesterday that elections were for sale to the highest bidder. I work in campaigns: evading restrictions is a growth industry for smart accountants and lawyers. Money will always flow toward winning power -- and it has been.

Think, for example, of the Fox News channel --and entire network devoted to propaganda that presumably also makes some profit.

No solutions from me. Ronni: you live in one of the states using a public financing method. Is it better? Is this something to push?

How ironic. I was just thinking that I no longer recognize the country in which I was born. I no longer feel connected to it's heart and am no longer passionate and proud about being an American. This supreme court (deliberately not capitalized)decision is one of the reasons. I have come to believe that we, the People, are no longer important in America, that it is the corporations that are actually running the government and we common folk are mere puppets in their hands. Until now I thought I was being a bit over the top and perhaps even paranoid -- now I know my instincts were spot on.

I'm in search of a new country to die in.

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse the 'Supremes' put the nail in the coffin of democracy.

Roe vs Wade will be next. The public was warned that the most disastrous thing that would come out of electing George Bush would be his nominees to the Supreme Court. This outrageous ruling proves that the ones who warned us were right.

I am so depressed by it all. I feel like we are all voices crying in the wilderness. Money, Greed and Power have taken over our country.

One more bit of reading on this: Heather K. Green suggests that the greater result of this decision, even more than blatant election buying, may be a slide toward legalizing unabashed corruption of elected officials.

All too plausible. Take a look.

I’ve been robbed of something great. I’m sorry I’ll no longer feel as though my heart will burst with pride while singing America the Beautiful and the Stars Spangled Banner as in elementary school and at baseball games on the 4th of July, etc.

Bad as I feel, I won't be leaving this country although the thought has come into my mind. My husband recently announced he would like to secure a spot for our burial at the recently opened Washington Crossing National Cemetery not far from where we live. So I'm here in life and in death.

We don't allow non-citizens to vote in elections, so why would we allow them to fund campaigns, through their interest in quasi-international corps? Think of all the companies with international ties, as well as the oil cartels, Rupert Murdoch et al, Japanese automakers, European food product manufacturers. All will have no restrictions on how much $$$ they can throw behind the candidates that promise to give them whatever they need to make their businesses grow in the US. In addition to buying candidates, they give themselves a competitive edge in our marketplace. All they need is cash. It's like opening a whole new front for lobbying, while undermining the US economy/jobs market at the same time. We're screwed.

Justice Kennedy is at least 70 or more...Went to school with his wife...I'm aghast at his "judgement"....

I was struck by Francine Hardaway's comment. I, too, wonder if we're the ones who are out of touch. (By "we," I mean what we used to admit to being: liberal democrats.)

Pundit after pundit has been analyzing this week's news, and I haven't heard anyone say what Hillary Clinton said years ago, that it's a "vast right-wing conspiracy."

I thought she was right then, and I think so now, although I'm not sure it's a "conspiracy" when it's as open as broadcast TV and AM talk radio.

We may be the first nation to be subject to mob rule through the actions of democracy.

When I first heard Hillary Clinton talk about the " vast right-wing conspiracy." I thought she was just doing a little political showboating but the more I thought about it, the more I knew that she was dead right. There is a conspiracy and now it's probably too late to stop it. They have taken the high ground and they're going to pick us off until they have absolute power over the government.
Maybe I was lucky to be born 75 years ago. God help my grandchildren

So...if I'm understanding this correctly, we no longer contact our political servant when we need voice, we boycott the corporation by not supporting their products and services? It appears as though we will now need a new political paradigm to work with to follow ALL the money ALL the time before we even get to debate the real issue.

I don't think there is a political conspiracy. I think as liberals we deny that we are, essentially, a capitalist society that is dictated by economics and in that denial we become weakened and easily defeated. Everybody is going to the same stores (for the most part) and using the same goods, whether Republican or Democrat. The only difference is that when the Republicans are buying, are they investing in what they want and believe in and the Dems are buying what is available - not understanding that their dollar is a political investment. This is not a hard horse race to call.

"Heartsick" is the perfect word, Ronni.

I recommend for viewing, by anyone who cares to, a marvellous documentary made several years ago which outlines exactly how 'personalizing' a corporation will irretrievably damage a democracy.

http://www.thecorporation.com/

And defines a corporation as a psychopathic entity.

The thing that makes me a little nuts is the logical inconsistency of the far right.
I haven't found anywhere in the Bill of Rights that it applies only to citizens, but the far right has insisted that it does... until now when they also apply its protections to corporations.
It's kind of like trying to debate the Mad Hatter, isn't it?

You put it so beautifully: "heartsick for my country." That's exactly how I feel, too.

Ah, did you say we now could buy an election?

My god.

It's terrible decision. A couple of rays of light:

* From everything I read, the decision is so unwarranted and poorly reasoned that it can probably be overturned. Of course, this requires a liberal -- even moderate -- majority. Justice Kennedy can't live forever...

* Only some corporations will take advantage of this. I just can't see Microsoft or Bank of America, for example, risking the good will of their customers by taking sides. Having said that, I can easily imagine Dick Cheney sneering and chortling when he heard about the decision, then high-fiving the Halliburton board of directors.

Are corporations really persons?

Do corporations think?

Do corporations grieve when a loved one dies as a result of a lack of adequate health care?

If a corporation ever committed an unspeakable crime against the American people, could IT be sent to federal prison? (Note the operative word here: "It")

Has a corporation ever given its life for its country?

Has a corporation ever been killed in an accident as the result of a design flaw in the automobile it was driving?

Has a corporation ever written a novel that inspired millions?

Has a corporation ever risked its life by climbing a ladder to save a child from a burning house?

Has a corporation ever won an Oscar? Or an Emmy? Or the Nobel Peace Prize? Or the Pulitzer Prize in Biography?

Has a corporation ever been shot and killed by someone who was using an illegal and unregistered gun?

Has a corporation ever paused to reflect upon the simple beauty of an autumn sunset or a brilliant winter moon rising on the horizon?

If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise if there are no corporations there to hear it?

Should corporations kiss on the first date?

Our lives - yours and mine - have more worth than any corporation. To say that the Supreme Court made a awful decision on Thursday is an understatement. Not only is it an obscene ruling - it's an insult to our humanity.

And sick to my stomach, too.

I head a committee to educate the public about the loss of democracy because of Corporate Personhood. It is appalling that it took from the late
1800s until this last Supreme Court case
for the public to become incensed.

After all the three major mega-media corporations don't mind people knowing the truth now that corporate Personhood is finalized and without restriction. The next national election is assured to favor the candidates that the corporations can now buy with their Corporate Personhood power totally intact.

Up to this point only the rarely read activist writers were telling the people that the king had no clothes on.

Noam Chomsky, the champion of democracy, is rarely heard because he tells the truth and does not get the big chances to speak on TV. Through the years the truth was stifled by this Corporate Personhood.

The corporate media doesn't care anymore who knows as they have it all now. The Corporate Personhood is
now in stone without a crack in it.

As to "All men are created equal" I will say that this points up the constitutional amendment that was to bring equality to females but was never passed in this country.

Only 20 states have equal rights for women and that is becasue those single states passed ERAS of their own.

We not only have inequality for women under the federal law but we have corporations with their money bags buying Congress and with unlimited power in the market place as already three corporations control the media.

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