Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Best Congress (and Supreme Court) Money Can Buy

Will Rogers said it long ago. "We have the best congress money can buy". 


The Washington Post says: 91% of the time the better-financed candidate wins. Don’t act surprised.

Now we have the best Supreme Court money can buy.

In 1971 Lewis F. Powell, Jr wrote his famous memo to the US Chamber of Commerce. It was as close as anything we’ve seen to a declaration of a corporate class war against most Americans.

Powell realized that their class warfare would need to be waged on multiple fronts, from manipulating the content of textbooks in public education to taking their lawyers to the Supreme Court.

Neglected Opportunity in the Courts

American business and the enterprise system have been affected as much by the courts as by the executive and legislative branches of government. Under our constitutional system, especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change. Other organizations and groups, recognizing this, have been far more astute in exploiting judicial action than American business. Perhaps the most active exploiters of the judicial system have been groups ranging in political orientation from “liberal” to the far left. The American Civil Liberties Union is one example. It initiates or intervenes in scores of cases each year, and it files briefs amicus curiae in the Supreme Court in a number of cases during each term of that court. Labor unions, civil rights groups and now the public interest law firms are extremely active in the judicial arena. Their success, often at business’ expense, has not been inconsequential. This is a vast area of opportunity for the Chamber, if it is willing to undertake the role of spokesman for American business and if, in turn, business is willing to provide the funds.

Yes, it turns out business is more than willing to provide funds in order to dismantle democracy and to transform it into corporatocracy. And do note how defense of civil liberties is considered “far left” by the Chamber of Commerce.

But those were the “bad old days” of 1971. Much has changed.

The Supreme Court is now stacked with judges who are not only very corporate friendly, but also willing to subvert the Voting Rights Act in last year’s Shelby County v Holder.

It’s been a long climb for corporations to be anointed with rights that supersede individual rights. It’s been an incremental process that has opened our elections to the highest bidders. There were significant decisions that have added to the rise of corporatocracy. Here are the most important:

Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company in 1886 was the first decision infected with the notion of corporate personhood. It wasn't in the decision itself, but added by a clerk sympathetic to the railroads.

Buckley v Valeo in 1976 opened the door for campaign money as free speech.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010 struck down McCain-Feingold.

And the final nail in Democracy’s coffin:

McCutcheon v FEC in 2014 swept away aggregate limits of “free speech money”.

The Corporate Lawyer led Supreme Court has effectively expanded corporate and wealthy individuals’ rights proportional to their wealth.

If "Money is free speech" then Big Money has more freedom of speech. 

What is diminished is the standing of free speech for the 99.9%. You and I can’t buy TV ads for millions to see. That’s not a right, but a privilege of wealth. More money equals more "free speech". 

And that aint rocket science. 

Roberts’ opinion in McCutcheon defines the word “corruption” so narrowly that it is practically meaningless. 

The only type of corruption Congress may target is quid pro quo corruption. Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to such quid pro quo corruption. Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner “influence over or access to” elected officials or political parties.

If you buy that, I have some real cheap land in Florida for you. 

So Roberts, you're telling us there's no expectation of favors behind all that donated money? You're telling us all that "free speech" is simply their selfless support of democracy?

Yeah, right.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Little Light

While complete dictatorial power is their goal, the radical Right has been enjoying its seizure of the House of Representatives by suppressing democracy. In 2012 more Americans voted for Democratic representation than Republican, but gerrymandering by the Right overruled the will of the American public.

Now the radical Right is salivating for seizing control of the Senate this year. They might get it too. Ignorance, massive Right Wing corporate media propaganda, and voter apathy are aiding and abetting the Right’s war on democracy.

Thanks to corporate media, the public only hears from the two corporatist parties. We hear very little outside that narrow framing of our politics. In fact we almost never hear or see the words "corporatist" or "corporate media", for that matter.

Looking past that darkness, I’d like to share some light of truth out there in an interesting interview at the Nation.  I gathered a few insightful remarks below:

===

Bernie Sanders: 'I Am Prepared to Run for President of the United States'

"What's most important is this idea of a political revolution," says the Independent Senator from Vermont, "rallying the working families of this country around a vision that speaks to their needs."

...Somebody has got to represent the working-class and the middle-class of this country in standing up to the big-money interests who have so much power over the economic and political life of this country. So I am prepared to run for president of the United States. I don't believe that I am the only person out there who can fight this fight, but I am certainly prepared to look seriously at that race.

There is today more and more alienation from the Republican and Democratic parties than we have seen in the modern history of this country. In fact, most people now consider themselves to be "independent," whatever that may mean. And the number of people who identify as Democrats or Republicans is at a historically low point. In that sense, running outside the two-party system can be a positive politically.

But there is no question that the Democratic Party in general remains far too dependent on big-money interests, that it is not fighting vigorously for working-class families, and that there are some members of the Democratic Party whose views are not terribly different from some of the Republicans.

I think one of the great tragedies that we face today politically, above and beyond the simple economic reality of the collapse of the middle-class, more people living in poverty, growing gap between the rich and poor, the high cost of education - all those objective, painful realities in American society - the more significant reality from a political perspective is that most people have given up on the political process. They understand the political deck is stacked against them. They think there is no particular reason for them to come out and vote – and they don’t.

In Vermont, people understand exactly what I mean by the word. (Democratic socialist) They don't believe that democratic socialism is akin to North Korea communism. They understand that when I talk about democratic socialism, what I’m saying is that I do not want to see the United States significantly dominated by a handful of billionaire families controlling the economic and political life of the country. That I do believe that in a democratic, civilized society, all people are entitled to health care as a right, all people are entitled to quality education as a right, all people are entitled to decent jobs and a decent income, and that we need a government which represents ordinary Americans and not just the wealthy and the powerful.

...Why are so many people voting against their own economic interests? It happens because the Democrats have not been strong in making it clear which side they are on, not been strong in taking on Wall Street and corporate America, which is what Roosevelt did in the 1930s.

The bad news is that people like the Koch Brothers can spend huge sums of money to create groups like the Tea Party. The good news is that, once people understand the right-wing extremist ideology of the Koch Brothers, they are not going to go along with their policies. In terms of fundamental economic issues: job creation, a high minimum wage, progressive taxation, affordable college education — the vast majority of people are on our side.

I think what people are looking for is leadership that is prepared to take on the big money interests (to deliver that message). That's not what we're seeing, by and large, from most Democrats.

===

Is it possible for a liberal to actually run for president of the American Corporate Empire? Sure, as far as Big Money tolerates it, (yeah, we know how far that would go) but can he win? I doubt it, but it’s a nice fantasy.


Run, Bernie, Run

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Small Step Down the Long Road


Pertinent to the previous post, we have Obama talking more sense than any sitting president so far on marijuana legalization. He predictably waffles back to the “center” on harder drugs, though. 

===

From “Stop the Drug War”:

The comments came as interviewer David Remnick prodded Obama on the issue of marijuana policy in the midst of a whopping 15,000-word profile of the president.

Obama said, "As has been well documented," Obama said in response to a Remnick question, "I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."

But is it less dangerous, Remnick asked?

It is "in terms of its impact on the individual consumer," Obama conceded. "It's not something I encourage, and I've told my daughters I think it's a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy."

Perhaps marijuana smoking is a bad habit, but racially biased marijuana law enforcement is bad policy, Obama said.

"Middle-class kids don't get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do," he said. "And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties. We should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing."

And thus, the administration's hands-off policy toward marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington:

"It's important for it to go forward because it's important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished."

But then, the professorial president argued the other side of the issue.

"Having said all that, those who argue that legalizing marijuana is a panacea and it solves all these social problems I think are probably overstating the case. There is a lot of hair on that policy. And the experiment that's going to be taking place in Colorado and Washington is going to be, I think, a challenge."

“I also think that, when it comes to harder drugs, the harm done to the user is profound and the social costs are profound. And you do start getting into some difficult line-drawing issues. If marijuana is fully legalized and at some point folks say, Well, we can come up with a negotiated dose of cocaine that we can show is not any more harmful than vodka, are we open to that? If somebody says, We’ve got a finely calibrated dose of meth, it isn’t going to kill you or rot your teeth, are we O.K. with that?”

===

What we are OK with is drug abuse being treated as a medical issue rather than a law enforcement issue.

Why is that so difficult? Our government is still under the influence of corporatists and puritans. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Long Road

As the militarists love to tell us, freedom isn’t free. What they don’t like to recognize is our freedoms have suffered more from the narrow vision of reactionary and conservative government policies than from terrorists or drugs.

Enter democracy, the last tool Americans have in defending freedom. Citizen ballot initiatives have paved the way for sane drug policies, along with the restored freedoms long suppressed by the war on drugs.

Colorado Makes History with First Legal Retail Marijuana Sales

Thank you democracy.

Meanwhile in less fortunate states, run primarily by Republicans, we see the cruelty and insanity continue.

Texas Deputy Killed in Dawn No-Knock Drug Raid

How many more casualties must be suffered in their war on sanity?

Not enough, apparently. More will die. More will be imprisoned. More will lose the meager sustenance they can muster. Republicans are doubling down on their class war by sticking it to the unemployed:

Drug Tests Falter as Way for States to Deny Public Aid

If signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, the Michigan bill would join drug-testing laws enacted this year in Kansas, Texas and North Carolina that try to navigate a delicate legal landscape.

Taking it to the courts is a long battle, but slowly progress is being made.

Federal Judge Throws Out Florida Welfare Drug Test Law

Florida's law mandating the suspicionless drug testing of welfare applicants has been found unconstitutional by a federal district judge. Gov. Rick Scott (R) says he will appeal.

Yeah, the same corpo-crook Rick Scott who led his Columbia/HCA into fraud charges. But does he get to take a drug test? Whatever for?

From Politifact:

Was Scott running Columbia/HCA when it found itself at the center of a massive federal investigation? Yes.

Did the company pay a record $1.7 billion in government penalties and fines? Yes, Columbia/HCA paid.

And as we checked in this item, did his former company commit fraud? Yes, it pleaded guilty to fraud charges as part of a settlement.


With little to no help from Democrats, the war between democracy and the Republican-led war on drugs continues. 

We the people have a long road ahead. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Then and Now


Seven score and ten years ago today...

===

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863


===

How things have changed from then to today.

Now the far Right Republican Party is openly hostile towards the concept of "government of the people, by the people, for the people"

They are legislatively suppressing democracy itself, doing their utmost to discourage and restrict voters from registration and poll access.

Their goal is an inverted totalitarianism, domination by the elite minority, a government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.

Their words and behavior show us how they truly resent "government of the people, by the people, for the people".

Here, reduced to the simplest terms, is the GOP's Grand Oligarchy Plan:

Every man for himself, and let the powerful wealthy elites dictate our laws.

That's what it boils down to.

And of course, a healthcare system that amounts to "Let 'em die", as cheered in a Republican Presidential debate.

And shame on the Democrats!  They are abetting Republicans, and conceding the people's Constitutionally provided general welfare away from them, while doing the bidding of the economic elites.  

The Wal-Mart heirs have as much wealth as the bottom 40% of ALL Americans. Their employees are paid so poorly they need public assistance.

Can we ask that something be done about this?

And whose vision are we following as a nation? What is the government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich doing about this neo-feudalist economic travesty?

The Republicans tell us the Wal-Mart heirs deserve MORE tax cuts. And that food stamps, Social Security, Medicaid, and unemployment benefits should be slashed.

What would Lincoln see in his Republican Party today? What would he see in his nation; one he'd given his life to preserve?

Something would be familiar. He would see similar hateful divisions in our people. Divisions nurtured by powerful economic interests that have no use for liberty and equality for all, but an antagonism for "government of the people, by the people, for the people".

Lincoln would be enraged, and then weep, at what the Republican Party has become.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Not Racist

Thank you, Aasif Mandvi of the Daily Show. Your interview of Buncombe County North Carolina GOP precinct chair Don Yelton was fascinating.

“Well, I been called a bigot before,” admitted the persecuted Don ”Not a Racist” Yelton

For some nuance Don informs us, “I had a picture one time of Obama sittin’ on a stump as a witch doctor and I posted it on facebook.”

Hmm. Nothing racist there, unless it’s done by a liberal, of course. So maybe those “not racist” Obama witch doctor pictures at Tea Party rallies were not all planted by liberals after all.

Whodathunk? Just don't forget Rush tells us, "You know, racism in this country is the exclusive province of the left."

Don clarifies a crucial point for us:  “Now you have a black person using the term, ‘Nigger this and nigger that,’ and it's OK for them to do it.”

You tell ‘em Don. Never mind Mandvi reminds you, “You do know we can hear you?” Don pays no attention to this strange remark.

Now about those voter restrictions..er, I mean voter ID laws, we’re seeing the GOP frantically enacting.

“The law is going to kick the Democrats in the butt. If it hurts a bunch of college kids [that are] too lazy to get up off their bohonkas and go get a photo ID, so be it. If it hurts a bunch of whites, so be it...if it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.”

So there it is, straight from the Southern Republican conservative’s mouth. So be it, all you “lazy blacks” that want the government to give you everything. Take that.

And just for the record, let’s be fair and balanced, shall we, Don?

“As a mater of fact, one of my best friends is...black.”

Well, then. What better proof can we have Don is not a racist?

So why was this innocent “not racist” ever called a bigot? I just don’t get it. Must be those damn liberal lies.

There’s no justice for Southern ‘not racist” white guys, is there, Don?

It seems, for some racist liberal reasons, poor Don is now former Buncombe County North Carolina GOP precinct chair.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Liberals, Commies and Nazis, Oh My!

California Republicans, dwindling species as they've become, are on the move.

Their three-day convention focused attention on recruiting new Republican voters, specifically women, the Associated Press reported. 

They even had cool buttons to entice new female converts to their cult.

KFC Hillary Special
2 Fat Thighs 2 Small Breasts
One Left Wing

Yeah, that should do the trick. Women just love that misogynist kind of stuff.

But they didn't stop there. They had to goose-step even further to the radical Right. They just couldn't restrain their hate.

I Still Hate Commies...
Even After They Changed Their Name To
Liberals.

“Commies” and “Liberals” are in red letters, of course.

And there you have it. The Koolade Cult bubble in all its radical hateful essence.

Assholes like these want a one-party dictatorship, and its time for Americans to wake up.

Theses nuts make Nazis look like liberals...literally. The Cult leaders have decided to tell their dupes Hitler’s “National Socialism” was really liberalism, the same as government public health programs or Social Security. 

Yes, they say Nazis were liberal socialists, as well as liberals are commies. And the cult chugs that koolade down.

One koolade cult member even challenged me with, “Nazis were for socialized health care, you ok with that?”

Never mind Germany had socialized health care decades before the Nazis.

For those not in the koolade cult, we refer to the Jewish Virtual Library:

In April, 1920, Hitler advocated that the party should change its name to the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). Hitler had always been hostile to socialist ideas, especially those that involved racial or sexual equality. However, socialism was a popular political philosophy in Germany after the First World War. This was reflected in the growth in the German Social Democrat Party (SDP), the largest political party in Germany.

Hitler, therefore redefined socialism by placing the word 'National' before it.

Yes, Nazis and commies too, according to the cult, were nothing but liberals.

So... If it’s fair to compare liberals to commies AND Nazis... then it’s more than fair to say:

“I still hate Nazis, even after they changed their name to Republicans”.

Sounds almost as crazy, right? Except Nazis hated, and still do hate, liberals, just like Republicans.

In reality, in addition to Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and communists, Nazis rounded up liberals. Even socialists. Imagine that.

Did you know Nazis partnered with big business? They worked with Krupps, Siemans, BMW, even Ford while they could. They even got rid of unions, and that pesky minimum wage that Nazis and Republicans dislike so much.

Remember:

Fascism n. A philosophy or system of government that advocates or exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with an ideology of belligerent nationalism. – American Heritage Dictionary

Yup, just like Republicans do today with the Koch Tea Party, FOX(R) Tea Party, etc. Ever see a Tea Party rally against the Patriot Act? How about a rally against the Roberts appointed conservative FISA court?

No. They hate liberals and call a public health program communism.

Nazis hated and demonized liberals, college professors, teachers, real socialists, journalists and unions. Yup, just like Republicans do today.

“Papers, please”, has gone from a stereotypical Nazi demand to a Republican mandated stop and checkpoint phrase. “Stop and frisk” has only been temporarily declared unconstitutional. It will be back with the next GOP leadership. That’s a promise.

Nazis also hated democracy. They took power and overcame the will of the people with a minority of votes.

Likewise, the Republican Party in our time.

Bush v Gore overruled the will of American voters. “HALT! ze vote count! “ And Bush “won”.

The House of Representatives is controlled today by Republicans through gerrymandering. As with Bush v Gore, the American voters cast about a half million more votes for their Democratic candidates.  And of course the Tea Cult now preposterously claims to represent the “will of the people”.

Right.

The Republicans are also actively working to suppress voter registration and poll access in the states they control.
  
“Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done." - GOP State House Majority Leader Mike Turazi (R-Allegheny)

"We do make it convenient for people to vote," Senate Republican Mike Bennett, from Bradenton said. "But I have to tell you, I don't have a problem making it harder. I want people in Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who walks 200 miles across the desert. This should not be easy”.

Former Florida governor Crist testified in the Senate that there was voter suppression in Florida:

Former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer said he attended various meetings, beginning in 2009, at which party staffers and consultants pushed for reductions in early voting days and hours.

“The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates,” Greer told The Post. “It’s done for one reason and one reason only. … ‘We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us,’ ” Greer said he was told by those staffers and consultants.

“They never came in to see me and tell me we had a (voter) fraud issue,” Greer said. “It’s all a marketing ploy.”

The Republican Party’s opposition to democracy is clear.

Nazis hated to compromise too, just like Republicans do today.

And finally, as their Nazi forbears, Republicans are making it party policy to accuse liberals of being communists. Do they require reading “Mein Kampf” for membership now?

As every sane person knows, government public health programs and safety nets do not constitute communism. “Sane” being the operative term.

But it is getting very difficult to discern radical Right Republicanism from fascism. They see, or at least portray, liberals as communists out to destroy America.

And they seek, and stop at nothing, to gain absolute power. In light of this cult’s terrifying mission, we need to ask this question:

If the radical Right seizes their one-party dictatorship, what measures would they take to impose their final solution to the “liberal problem”?

You know they would if they could.

If they don’t like being compared to fascists, then they should stop acting like fascists.


Democracy by ballot is their enemy, and our only hope is to vote the neo-fascists out of our government. Then we go to work on their appeasers in the Democratic Party.