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Friday, January 22, 2010

Corporations are People Too

Money outweighs people on scales of justiceIn all the noise over healthcare reform and the election in Massachusetts, you might not have noticed that democracy took a gut punch yesterday, as the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can give unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns, candidates, and parties. They can do this directly, from their own general fund, without the permission of their shareholders. If elections weren't corrupt, money-driven, and anti-democratic before (and they were), they sure will be now. SCOTUS put a big "For Sale" sign on every district in the United States.

See, corporations are people too. The fact that they obviously aren't is beside the point -- an idiotic and absurd legal fiction is super-important because... Well, because. I challenge anyone out there to come up with just one way this ruling will help the average, ordinary citizen -- and if you say "jobs," I swear I'll come over there and hit you. You might not have noticed, but corporations are taking jobs out of America. The only jobs that will be created by this are more lobbyists, more "tea party"-style corporate front group organizers, and more people creating smear ads against candidates the corporations don't like. And let's not forget that the Bush years and their ultimate financial collapse were the result of eight years of de facto corporate rule. In short, this won't help you in any way.

For the majority of the court, corporations -- as people -- were an oppressed minority. Put down by the man in the form of what Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, called a "ban on political speech" which amounted to censorship. Sure, corporations enjoy special advantages such as "limited liability, perpetual life, and favorable treatment of the accumulation and distribution of assets," but that's just a minority superpower -- like being well-dressed if you're gay -- and we shouldn't hold that against them, because that'd be anti-corporate-person bigotry or something. These are nice advantages, but we shouldn't hold it against them. Wrote Kennedy, "[T]he State cannot exact as the price of those special advantages the forfeiture of First Amendment rights." Why should we hold it against them that they're immortal? And not actually people? It's just the way they were born -- except, of course, they were never born.

"The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves," Kennedy wrote, adding that "when Government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought." Remember, that logo on that letterhead is a person -- and don't you forget it...

I'm reminded of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where an all-powerful being named Q finds himself stripped of all his powers as a punishment by his people. Q has been rendered human, although the crew believes this is a trick.

Q: I have no powers. Q the ordinary.
PICARD: Q the liar. Q the misanthrope.
Q: Q the miserable. Q the desperate. What must I do to convince you people...
WORF: Die.

And that's my take on corporate personhood. I'll think it's not the stupidest damned thing I've ever heard when I see a corporation -- say, Nike -- laying in a coffin in a funeral home.

For their part, Democrats are livid. In a statement, Sen. Russ Feingold had this to say:

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.

Reports are that they're banging out legislation to counter this, but in the meantime we're going to have to live with this awful, stupid, asburdist ruling.

We should go with a constitutional amendment that strips corporations of this idiotic pretense of "personhood," but that seems unlikely. But clearly we have to do something. The influence of big money already threatens our democracy and this ruling, unchecked, would pretty much destroy it.


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SMG said...

See, sometimes we do see eye to eye. This is the biggest "fuck you" to the American people that I have ever seen. As you know I am a greedy capitalist bastard and yet you and I both think this is horse shit. Lets hope that means there will be enough political will to deal with this quickly.

M said...

Remember, four of those nutzoid justices, Scalia, Roberts, Alito, Thomas, recently ruled in Caperton V. Massey, a case where the court narrowly ruled 5-4 in favor of Due fucking Process, of all things, in what was essentially a "buying of a judge" case originating from the CEO of Massey Coal spending $3 million dollars worth of campaign contributions on a judge in West Virgina who later refused to recuse himself in a case where Massey was looking to have a case on appeal overturned because he was being sued by a dude named Caperton for $50 million.

Those four justices are dangerous. Thomas is certifiable.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY): The court took a step toward “restoring the First Amendment rights [of corporations and unions]. … By previously denying this right, the government was picking winners and losers.”

Drooling psycho and enemy of freedom on the inside-- calm, smiling, prick on the outside.

Greedy capitalists bastards will now do political war openly on the range while we're reduced to battlefield stenographers and pencil sketch artists documenting the demise of the people's voice and influence in their own affairs once and for all.

Money=speech. Clark Griswold can put his wallet away.

These are dangerous forces to recognize and protect under the 1st amendment umbrella.

A constitutional amendment will eventually have to settle this misreading of founding intent.

This is why EVERY election matters. One GOP prick gets elected and he elevates more pricks to higher posts and those pricks fill future vacancies and appoint an all new batch of pricks in perpetual lock-step prickdom.

Lifetime appointments...

M said...

I've decided I'm not finished.

Reading the text of the majority opinion, the five right wing justices draw precedent from THEIR OWN opinions recorded in previous cases. They do this dozens and dozens of times throughout in a way that's comically tragic. They really think highly of themselves and their opinion is saturated in delusional self-importance.

Justice Stevens calls them out on it in a way that only a man of colorfully aged prudence and sound awareness can offer.

The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Stevens, reveals a right wing majority court that needs to be impeached. They are out of their minds and out of control. It's like watching the U.S. Supreme Court being taken over in a violent fascist coup. They've asserted ideology through arrogance and inserted it in to the constitution on false pretenses-- when restraint was not only warranted, but demanded.

Stevens noted throughout that the majority on the court could have, and should have, as precedent and a lower district ruled, made their judgement based not only on the narrow scope the case was understood and being heard, but they should have ruled on the specific question in the case-- about whether a BCRA §203 was unconstitutional as it applies to the makers of Hillary and whether funds from corporate and union general treasuries could be used in political campaigns. The right wing justices had to manufacture the case wielding the gavel like a petulant child throwing an intellectual tantrum because they don't want to play by the rules, precedent, or even the game. They threw the Monopoly pieces to corporations and called their new game, "Boardgame."

Justice Stevens wrote: Under the majority’s view, I suppose it may be a First Amendment problem that corporations are not permitted to vote, given that voting is, among other things, a form of speech.52
In short, the Court dramatically overstates its critiqueof identity-based distinctions, without ever explaining why corporate identity demands the same treatment as individual identity. Only the most wooden approach to theFirst Amendment could justify the unprecedented line itseeks to draw.

Read pg. 119-130-something. Stevens really shows how the right wing justices on the court seem to really get a kick out of being radical sons of bitches.

The court's opinion, majority v. dissent, would be one of the most entertaining exchanges in recent Supreme Court history, if it wasn't for the fact that democracy is now weakened as a result by the ability of corporations to flood campaigns with billions of dollars worth of ads-- greatly undermining the already shaken confidence and broken trust the electorate has in the electoral process.

It's a big problem that is only going to worsen after this.

Confusion, chaos, and paranoia-- corporate campaign propaganda is based on years of psychological research and development to lure consumers.

There will be so many new corporate entities and spiderweb subsidiaries-- legally birthed-- to specifically confound and distract the political process-- who already know too well how to make you laugh and cry and kiss three bucks goodbye and drink Dr. Pepper and smoke Lucky Strikes and vote for Sarah Palin.

It's going to get silly, man.