Monday, March 28, 2011

SCOTUS to End Fairness for Humans

“Fairness” as an American value is suffering from a terminal illness. 

The dictionary defines “fair” as being marked by impartiality and honesty; free from self-interest, prejudice or favoritism. 

Americans allowed Ronald Reagan to do away with the fairness doctrine in broadcasting in 1985. Now, corporate America is challenging laws that treat candidates for public office fairly, and the Supreme Court of the United States, those nine judges everyone expects to be fair above all else, is poised to make it absolutely legal for big money interests to buy public offices in the United States. 

Citizens United gave corporations the same right of free speech natural people enjoy. This might be acceptable if corporations had the same kind of financial resources as natural people, and if they were held to the same kinds of rules as natural people, but that is not so. Corporations often have vast financial resources, and those resources shield them from the kinds of rules that make natural people cut their grass and refrain from putting toxic waste dumps in their back yards. 

Now, thanks to Citizens United, corporations are entitled to spend as much money on getting candidates elected as they please. This fact forces candidates into a kind of keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mindset. In order to be competitive, candidates must raise as much money as their opponents do. Candidates’ taking large sums of money from anyone is fraught with ethical peril. 

Money buys access and money buys influence. If John Q. Publicservant wants to get elected, he must be able to run as many ads as his opponents. If his opponents have a trillion dollars, so must he.
After 10 per cent of Arizona’s state senate was implicated in a bribery scandal, the state passed a law intended to battle corruption. The law allows candidates for state office to use state money for their campaigns if they forgo private funding. If privately-funded candidates in the race outspend the publicly-financed candidates by a certain amount, the public-money candidates get more money, allowing them to compete. 

This arrangement makes it feasible for a candidate to use the public campaign fund. Otherwise, no one would take public funds, since private campaign donations are basically unlimited. The law prevents elections being bought by the best fund-raiser. The best fundraiser is always the guy who makes the best promises to potential donors. All the very best promises can be left unspoken until it’s time to vote on that rule or regulation that requires a big donor to (1) treat employees or customers fairly; (2) clean up after itself; (3) take care of the people it injures; or (4) pay for the infrastructure it uses to make its money.

The Supreme Court heard arguments today about this law. Five of the justices don’t like it. These five justices will rule against the law if it “levels the playing field” for candidates. In other words, if the law has the effect of making elections fair, Justices Alito, Thomas, Roberts, Scalia and Kennedy want it overturned. 

There are indications that Justices Thomas and Scalia are partially-owned subsidiaries of Koch Industries—um—good buddies with the people who benefitted from the Citizens United ruling (Common Cause).

Recent trends in policy have been about protecting the so-called “rights” of corporations and businesses. What these policies have done, in effect, was deprive private citizens of their rights. The corporation has the right to spend unlimited sums of money to influence a political campaign to suit its aims. The private citizen is thereby deprived of the right to hear the complete story from the candidates themselves. 

Regarding free speech, this one thing is true. Money is a very big amplifier. If one candidate’s speech drowns out everyone else’s, he or she deprives others of their right, since the right to be heard is inherent in free speech. If that happens in politics, the people will be the biggest losers.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Corporate Erosion of Civil Rights

The following is an unabashed slam of the methods used by big business corporations in this country. These businesses are running the United States of America into the ground without remorse or concern for the people who have produced the extreme wealth which their owners enjoy. That these corporations supply jobs is perfectly well known; however, the cost the American people ultimately pay for these jobs remains undisclosed until something goes terribly wrong. At that point, corporate malfeasance becomes public and unashamed, and the "people" lose, pretty much every time.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Crashing the System

James O’Keefe is a handsome young man who proves looks can be deceiving. In a speech at Mount St. Mary’s University, he quoted G. K. Chesterton, “‘The position we have now reached is this: starting from the state, we try to correct the failures of all the families, all the nurseries, all the schools, all the workshops, all the secondary institutions, that once had some authority of their own; everything is ultimately brought into the courts. It seems like the world has become one giant divorce court. . .’” James O’Keefe has set about to remedy this situation, it seems, by destroying those institutions.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Free Speech Isn't Free

An interesting confluence of news stories and advertisements this week points up a re-emerging theme recycled from the Bush administration: Free speech is okay if the radical right agrees with what is being said. In their defense, the radical right would have the same complaint were the system to undergo a coup by the radical left tomorrow.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Democrats: False Heroes

The news from Wisconsin last week was interesting, and the amount of support shown state workers was wonderful. While everyone loves a hero, the Democratic lawmakers who fled the state rather than be forced to allow the GOP-controlled legislature to gut workers’ rights were only playing at being heroes. The entire Democratic Party has been playing at being the hero for quite some time now, and for the most part, has had everyone fooled. Unfortunately, playing the hero and being the hero are not the same.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Human Rights & the TP

Democratic legislators in Wisconsin are not in Wisconsin this week. They have been on the run from a Republican majority intent on stripping state workers of their right to collective bargaining. Tea-party-fueled Republican majorities in other Midwestern states have similar union-busting bills in the works. It is easy to dismiss the collective bargaining rights of state workers as someone else’s problem, but it is anything but someone else’s problem.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice Debate Never Ends

The United States is tremendously rich in resources and short on history. Because parts of it were sparsely populated when the first Europeans arrived and because the indigenous population was susceptible to diseases like smallpox, it was relatively easy to conquer. 

About Me

I love my country, that is why I criticize its absurdities; I love my freedom, that is why I do it publicly.