Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Supreme Court to Corporations: Take all the Megaphones You Want, It's Your Right

This week, the Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to lift spending restrictions on corporations and unions, claiming that such restrictions are a violation of Free Speech, a right given to all "citizens" by our Constitution.

Given that corporations are allegedly "Persons"*, and given that there is legal precedent dating back to the 1970s for equating money spent on lobbying and advertising with Free Speech, the winning side here believes that the Constitutional Rights of these poor helpless fictional entities have been justifiably restored

To me this means we've just cleared the way for America to be a Corporate Fascist nation, not a Democracy.

Sure, there are Constitutional Purists, like Glenn Greenwald, who drank the Kool-Aid and think this ruling was about an abstract fight against the notion of limiting free speech to some category of entities.   He and others think having any such regulation in any context is paramount to censorship and must be stopped.

I don't buy it.

We're dealing here not with stopping ideas we may or may not agree with.  Glenn is right when he points out that government banning and censoring human communication in one context, but not in others, is unacceptable in a true Democracy.  Either you have Free Speech or you don't.  If you don't, you live in China and mere mentioning of certain topics will get you imprisoned or killed.

But, even if we don't restrict its content, the intent of Free Speech was never to allow one group of entities to have more of it than anyone else. The problem is how to mix all the communications channels in a fair, informative way.  Prior regulation kept the Corporate voice lower in the mix.  Now that regulation will be off.

Thanks to these Supreme Court idiots, Corporations will able to seize the control room, crank up the volume and mix everyone else out of the dialogue.

The Megaphones vs. The Unmiked.

It is not that Corporations have not been able to speak.  (They already have).

It's not that they cannot speak the particular messages they would like to (even if those might be misleading or false).

No.  The problem now is that Corporations do not speak.   With billions of dollars, they can YELL.

They can now yell louder, and across more loudspeakers and channels than any other entity on the planet.  These entities can now buy up all the megaphones and boomboxes. 

Speech?  Or Corruptive Influence

Then there is the matter of corruption.  Corruption can trump even the fairest of dialogues and messaging between elected officials and the citizens voting for them.

When a human being donates money to a politician in the hopes of getting him or her elected, there is the hope (or expectation) he or she will vote in a way pleasing to the donor.

But with a corporation, we're talking HUGE sums of money that no mere mortal human being can simply walk away from.  In effect, the politician will think twice before enacting any laws against such a "generous" donor.  In effect, the Corporate Donor has just bought the Law, custom-made for its own self-interest.

Theodore Roosevelt and our preceding governments recognized the danger of granting unlimited power to Corporations.  We had protections in place to separate government and commerce.  They gave corporations a voice, but muted so that the rest of us could be heard too.

But now our members of Congress are former members of Corporations and vice versa.  They have debts to repay, Laws to create on their donor's behalf.  This ruling will make he voice of the Corporations so overwhelmingly loud that we human beings might as well call it a day and do what Douglas Rushkoff suggests -- forget about government and do stuff ourselves.

* Albeit fictional, and only made so in the 1800s by a clerk writing notes on a court case about granting rights to slaves.

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posted by Brian at 12:42 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, January 05, 2009

End Corporate "Personhood"

Now here's an idea I have to support -- eliminate the legal "personhood" that all American public corporations have. Because corporations have the rights of people without the responsibilities and considerably more money than regular people, they have become exploitive monsters above Law and Government. Commerce worked quite well, arguably, before when corporations were not people under the Law. They should be made lesser beings, and while we're at it, programmed to seek profit responsibly rather than exclusively.

Of course I can just hear the corporate lawyers saying it's unconstitutional to take rights away from people and therefore this can't be done.

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posted by Brian at 4:16 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Alternative to the Bailout: Why Paulson Is Wrong

The assumption that both McCain and Obama and everyone who wants to save the economy from apparent ruin is that the Bailout is the only responsible way to stop it. But it's not. Even you don't believe it's reprehensible for taxpayers to subsidize corporations, there's no guarantee it will even work! University of Chicago Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance Luigi Zingales has written a critique of Paulson's bailout plan which provides an alternative solution.

It's sad that the White House has not brought in economic experts (many of whom think the Bailout is absurd) or anyone else with other solutions -- they'd rather meet in secret and ram things through quickly, without explaining anything to the general public. I've not seen any rational discussion on major networks about alternatives. It's either Taxpayer Bailout or Doom.

We all want the situation to end but accepting a solution proposed by one of the people who caused it at face value is just ridiculous.

UPDATE: Even chief economist at Business Week magazine Michael Mandel, and 200 other economists think the Bail-out is an awful idea. They've petitioned Congress to vote No. Why aren't we hearing their opinions on the TV news? (Oh right, the Media and the Government are buddies.)

Meanwhile, instead of rethinking the solution members of the Senate are trying throw in unrelated frosting (like tax cuts) on top of the original plan to entice Republicans to vote Yes. AND, they've deliberately shut down their email servers to prevent the public from petitioning via Internet (the strategy which had a huge effect on the rejection of the Bailout proposal). Unbelievable.

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posted by Brian at 12:01 PM 0 comments links to this post

In Case You Thought Saturday Night Live Was Exaggerating Palin's Scariness...

This would have been a good opportunity for Palin to dispel the negative press, to quell those that question her experience, to prove she's a competent, knowledgeable, strong woman ready to rule the country.

Ooops. And this is just one example.

And so predictable is her speaking style that someone made a random Sara Palin interview generator.

Though I disliked Clinton, she was 10,000 times smarter and more qualified than this lady. Even infamous and often mocked Vice President Quayle seems a better candidate.

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posted by Brian at 9:14 AM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, September 29, 2008

How Our Government is Abusing Democracy: The Bailout Bill

Glenn Greenwald wrote on his blog about why the proposed $700 Billion taxpayer dollar payment -- demanded by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (to be paid to him with very little accountability, and which would likely be paid to his buddies in the banking business who made the poor decisions that caused the collapse) -- is not unlike the other examples of how the recent Administration has undermined the democratic process. These are his 10 principles, which all recent crises our country has faced have in common:
  1. Incredibly complex and consequential new laws are negotiated in secret and then enacted immediately, with no hearings, no real debate, no transparency.

  2. Those who created the crisis, were wrong about everything, drive the process. Experts who dissent from the prevailing Washington orthodoxy, particularly ones who were presciently warning about what was happening, are simply ignored -- systematically excluded from the process.

  3. Public opinion is largely ignored, as always, and public anger is placated through illusory, symbolic and largely meaningless concessions.

  4. The Government begins with demands for absolute power so brazen and absurd that anything, by comparison, seems reasonable ... [P]eople thus end up grateful for what is, by any measure, an extreme outcome, all because it's not quite as extreme as what the Bush administration began by demanding.

  5. Wall Street, large corporations and their lobbyists own the Federal Government and both parties, and (therefore) they always win.

  6. The people who run the Washington Establishment are drowning in conflicts of interest.

  7. For all the anger over what Wall St. has done, the Government -- as it bails them out -- isn't doing anything to rein in their practices.

  8. When the Government wants greater and greater power and wants to engage in pure corruption, it need only put the population in extreme fear and it gets its way in every case.

  9. On the most consequential and fundamental questions that define the country, the establishment/leadership of both political parties are in full agreement, and insulate themselves from any political ramifications by acting jointly.

  10. Whenever you think that the Government has done things so extreme that it can't top itself -- torture, theories of presidential lawbreaking, a six-year war justified by blatantly false pretenses -- it always tops itself.

I believe these behaviors are what emerges when self-interest is allowed to run rampant; when key rules of democracy designed to reduce corruption are eliminated, business and government become indistinguishable. Democrats and Republicans become indistinguishable. All that's left are rich people (and their friends) doing what's best for themselves and fooling everyone else into believing all is well. Unfortunately, THIS is what needs to be changed.

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posted by Brian at 12:35 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cartoon: Save the Economy by Paying the Bankers $700 Billion for $#@&ing up our Economy? Awesome.

There is something fundamentally wrong with companies -- which caused the financial crisis in our country (affecting the entire world) -- urging Congress to reward them with taxpayer's money for making extremely bad decisions. Those on the Right and the administration argue that the market should have no regulations, should not have any government constricting them in pursuit of infinite wealth, and yet when they fail, by all means, the government should pay them our money, because otherwise they'll take everybody down with them. If they truly believed in the Free Market, companies that fail should die and new ones should step in.

How about we throw every CEO banker involved with this mess in jail (instead of giving them millions in golden parachute money)? If this were China, the folks committing what amounts to massive corporate fraud would be sentenced to death. Oh wait, that won't happen, these people also are in government. Oops.

The last time we had a collapse like this the government refused to give away the people's taxes. A rich person fixed the problem, bailed out the system. Instead, the rich involved are rushing to save themselves and scare everyone with doom and gloom unless "something is done now!"

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posted by Brian at 1:21 PM 0 comments links to this post