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Saturday, January 23, 2010

The SCOTUS: Precedent sez: Corporations are Persons. Yeah – about that…

The SCOTUS ruled a few days ago that, because the Court said in “Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company” in1886 that Corporations are Persons, they get to give any amount of money they want to any political campaign in any fashion they wish, just like any OTHER persons (e.g., you and me). This is known as the use of precedent (past decisions) to decide present cases.

Well, since an earlier SCOTUS ruled that Corporations are Persons, the campaign contributions ruling makes perfect sense, except… NO PREVIOUS SCOTUS EVER RULED ANY SUCH THING. More recent iterations of the SCOTUS just ACT as if their predecessors did, because they BELIEVE they did (or should have... I'll explain later).


Yep. The SCOTUS is using a precedent that doesn’t exist, or didn't… until it was used for the first time! And it’s all because a court reporter with ties to the railroad magnates wanted to give his friends a leg up, and snuck something that was never there into the record (headnotes) of a ruling.

According to an article written in 2003 for a website called “The Straight Dope,” here’s what happened (and there’s a really neat irony at the end). It begins with a letter to The Straight Dope’s writer, Cecil Adams:

September 19, 2003

Dear Cecil:

A recent article on the Straight Dope Web site says that in a famous 1886 case the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations are "persons" having the same rights as human beings based on the 14th Amendment, which was intended to protect the rights of former slaves. Not to nitpick, but the Supreme Court made no such decision. If you look at the case in question, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, you see that the court itself never rules on personhood. A court reporter by the name of J.C. Bancroft Davis (a former railroad president) snuck that "ruling" into the books.

— bex, via the Straight Dope Message Board

Cecil responded withan article I highly recommend. It shows you exactly how America was hijacked by the corporations, in far more ways that paying off politicians. A couple of pertinent passages are copied below:

You're thinking: By what tortured reasoning did the Supreme Court decide that corporations were protected by the 14th Amendment, which everyone knows was enacted to protect the rights of real people? Answer: Apparently it didn't decide. As revealed by our friend bex--and detailed by Thom Hartmann in Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights(2002)--the whole thing began as a courtroom comment by a judge, which was elevated to the status of legal precedent by an overreaching court reporter.”

Hm-m-m-m… now HOWINELL did THAT happen? Well, let us read a little further:

In a letter, Davis {the court reporter} asked {Justice} Waite whether he could include the latter's courtroom comment {that suggested corporations WERE persons}--which would ordinarily never see print--in the headnotes. Waite gave an ambivalent response that Davis took as a yes. Eureka, instant landmark ruling.

“HOW…?!? “

Well, Mr. Davis published the “headnotes” that everyone involved with the court normally uses to decide what the court said. Oops!

Read on for “the REST of the story:”

Does this flaky procedure mean all later cases relying on Santa Claraare null and void? Nope--in the world of the law, a precedent is a precedent, even if it's a stupid one.

And THEN Cecil says (in 2003, mind):

But it'd be nice to have a clear-cut ruling, say, that limiting campaign contributions by big businesses doesn't mean you're restricting their First Amendment rights. “ (Emphasis mine)

Cecil Adams

How’s THAT for irony?

A couple of personal notes:

1. Basically, either this terrible decision was inevitable, given the precedent they were using, or the SCOTUS would nullify the personhood of every corporation in America, and about half the things they do would become void.

2. The SCOTUS has been avoiding making this decision for generations. Why this one didn't try to find narrower grounds is beyond me. Unless the “conservative” justices decided this would be a good time to tell the world that the non-existent precedent, the decision that wasn’t, should have been, and make it so now.

3. Why no one on the "good guys" side didn't try to argue the reality of Santa Clara is even FURTHER beyond me. Wel-l-l-l... no it's not. Lawyers today probably don't even KNOW about that little piece of legal skullduggery. And if they did, they may have feared just this affirmation.

Wonder if it’s possible to ask the Supremes for a reconsideration…

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Well, We Screwed The Pooch For Fair This Time

We had it locked. We had a Democratic super-majority in the Senate, a solid majority in the House, a Democratic President committed to healthcare reform, a fully realized plan that had been developed over YEARS of trying (including a National Single Payer Plan), and a solid year to "git 'er done!" And we managed to fail.

Not THAT took work. First we had to drop Single Payer the first day of Senate Committee consideration. Baucus did that unilaterally, as a sop to Republicans I think, and actually had witnesses arrested for trying to testify in favor of it. Then the President sold us out to the Pharmaceutical companies and Insurance companies.

THEN we started infighting. Liebermann decided to get even with the Party for throwing him under the bus in the last election and threatened to "veto" it if there was even a public option. Then that idiot Stupak in the House stuck the anti-abortion poison pill in it, which was promptly countered by a promise by one Senator to vote against the bill if that WAS in it.

And we delayed and delayed while the neocons and Republicans lied and lied until the people they were lying to began telling their lies FOR them. STILL we had a chance, until...

Ted Kennedy died, and the Democrats nominated a supercilious twit who wouldn't campaign, and managed to lose a 30 point lead and drop the election by a full five points.

WE DID THIS! We managed to slowly, painfully, excruciatingly drag defeat from the jaws of easy victory ourselves. Despite Republican and neocon efforts, THIS WAS WON FOUR MONTHS AGO! And we hammered it into the ground and buried it ALL BY OURSELVES!

This was obdurate stupidity's finest hour. Watching this collapse day by day and hour by hour... we Democrats did did NOTHING, and let it die.

Blamed Idjits!!!

I'm done. I'm old, I'm tired, I'm fed up, I'm discouraged and I'm depressed. Y'all fight this out now. Try again in sixteen or twenty years, because nobody's gonna try again now.

And for all you Republicans who said you had a better plan... let's see it. Let's see if you really care about us out here.

But of course you don't, so we won't see anything, will we?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Big folks (us) help little folks.

I wrote the title of this piece as a throw-away line in a piece I did on on the need for health care reform. Some Moonbat Right-Wingnut promptly dropped a comment that it sounded like Communism to him. Leaving aside the jump right over Socialism, let's explore my statement a bit. To begin with, it's a family credo. The Old Man and my Mother (Dick and Hattie Larlham taught it to us by living it., and any lesson taught by constant example is the hardest lesson to forget.

So-o-o-o-o... who are "big folks?" You and I are, that's who. Simply put, "big folks" comprise those who can do something or have something. Conversely, "little folks" comprise those who CAN'T do something for themselves, or DON'T have something they really need. And it's our family's considered opinion that those who can or have, oughta be helpin' those who can't or don't.

But none of that is to say you have to do everything for anybody. And none of it is to say you have to beggar yourself to make someone else rich, or even to just help them (although my folks nearly did early on). Dick and Hattie taught us that the small help of the many will far exceed the great help of one or two. They taught us that if you can't find a spare dime, you might be able to find a spare hour. And they taught us to be fair.

If you see someone who has none at all of a needful thing, and you have a great deal of that same thing... it's no crime to ask that you and your fellows give up a little of what you have, so that others may have any at all. And when you see a great wrong that looks like it will take more than you could ever do to right it... start in anyway. Somebody'll come along and give you a hand, and they'll have a friend, and...

Those who know me, know that I am not religious - not, in fact, even a believer. However, for those who are, I offer this... Remember the parable of the widow's mite. Remember that there is a biblical injunction to "... sell your possessions and give the proceeds to the poor." There is Christ's injunction to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," and to "Love thy neighbor as thyself." But nowhere in there does it say, "Sell everything and give it to the poor... and become poor yourself." It does not say the Widow gave her last mite and could not buy food. It does not say "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and love thy neighbor as thyself... neglecting to feed, care for and house thy family." No, big folks help little folks, and maintain a standard that allows them to KEEP helping.

And that's the point of Medicare, Medicaid, Nichigan's MI Child program, and many other... AND of the proposed healthcare reforms. The cost of providing care for those who have no way to obtain it is spread in small increments around those who HAVE the wherewithal. To allow uninsured people to remain uninsured in unconscionable. To allow people to remain uninsured because their husbands beat them, because they had a disease thirty years ago, because... Well, you get the idea. We can't keep doin' this. WE'RE BIG FOLKS! We need to step up!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Representative Candice Miller (R-Mi) POLL

My Representative, Candice Miller, a very nice person who is, inexplicably, a Republican, sent me her newsletter. In addition to the usual Republican reasons why we can’t do anything to help real people, and how “her” $61 Billion Health care Reform program is superior the proposed program, she threw this incredibly dishonest “POLL” at me:
The top Priority of Congress should be:
• Passing tax cuts for families and job providers to create new jobs

o Response: Yeah, we tried that. The only “families” that benefitted to any actually helpful degree were those who make more than $100,000/yr, and “job providers” turned out to be folks who make more than $250,000. Instead of creating jobs, they pocketed the money and sent the jobs across the Pacific Ocean.
o So, no – let’s NOT do this one.
Passing a market based approach to health care which will lower costs
o Response: Sure, that’s the ticket… Oh, wait… a market based health care system is what we have NOW. If that’s what we need, why do most folks (except Rush Limbaugh) think it needs changing? And why do at least 30 million American CITIZENS have no effective access to any of it?
o And let’s NOT do this one, either.
Passing a health care plan that expands the role of government
o Response: Well, of course… the ONLY reason we believe a comprehensive overhaul of the American health care delivery system is needed is because it’s our goal to see just how much we can grow government year over year for the next decade. It has NOTHING whatsoever to do with the abjectly rotten delivery system and astonishingly poor national average healthcare outcome in the USA, or those 30 million American CITIZENS who have no effective access to any of it whom I mentioned above.
o Tell you what… Let’s DO this one. We’ll see how the government expansion thing works out.
Passing Cap and Trade, national energy tax to reduce CO2 emissions
o You know, substituting the word “tax” for “policy” doesn’t ake it so. The POLICY is, indeed, to add to the cost of burning fossil fuels and encourage the use of alternative methods of energy production. That much is true, but to call it a tax is simply to pander to the nonsense “government should be free” nonsense Republicans have fostered for the last hundred years.
o I’m thinkin’ we SHOULD do this, or something very like it. Global Warming, and our part in it, are both very real. Time we stepped up.
Passing an “All of the Above’ energy plan to create new jobs.
o Since you have not listed or otherwise identified “All” in that statement, I dunno that I can support that…
o So-o-o-o… NO, unless you give me a hint.
Reducing spending to lower our federal budget deficit.
o OK – what spending are we talking about? I’m guessing that we're just gonna have to drop that whole heath care reform thing, eh? And mebbe let the majority of major banking institutions and the “Arsenal of America” go down the tubes and be outsourced when we need ‘em next time?
o I’m thinkin’ we’ll take a pass on this one for a bit, as well.
Thanx for thinkin’ of me, anyway.

BTW – the vote on her website is about 50 -50 on the healthcare options. Market-based is leading slightly at 124 – 113.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Reboot the Health Care Bills?

Um-m-m-m… NO!
OK! You didn’t like that answer? How ‘bout, ”HELL NO!”?

Folks, we can’t DO that. Here’s a prediction (prophecy, for those of you who prefer that): if the Health Care bills now ready for Conference Committee are tossed, and the process restarted… it won’t. It won’t – period! It will be at LEAST twelve years (two Senatorial Elections AFTER 2010) before anyone tries again. You can bet the farm, the wife’s best jewelry and your first-born on that. We’ve tried this as a health care strategy before. It has NEVER worked. NEVER!

What we have to do is, stay with our senators and representatives. The Conference Committee is the place where the final fate of a woman’s right to control her body will be decided, where the last arguments on the public option will take place, where trial balloons will be floated for things that aren’t in EITHER bill. And when all’s said and done, ONE Democratic or Independent vote in the Senate or House could doom the entire enterprise.

And THAT’S why we can NOT be too demanding. We need to take what BOTH houses will adopt, and the President will sign. Then we’ll need to see to it that it’s amended over the next few years to make it whole. And we can directly amend Medicare/Medicaid to cover folks not now covered by ANY insurance.

It’s going to be a long slow process, and many people will remain without coverage for many years. But if we don’t demand everything today, which will get us NOTHING today, we CAN eventually get the package this country needs. Perhaps we can even eventually get to a single-payer system. And that’s what we need to aim for.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Why Am I Here?

I am here, writing this blog, primarily to help counter the absurd neo-con (hyper-conservative) overload in the blogosphere and on the air. The hatred and evil being spewed daily against President Obama and the Democratic Party is nauseating. These people would have you believe that I, and all liberals (pronounced "lib'rul"), are active enemies of America. They will tell you that we, led by President Obama, are deliberately and consciously attempting to turn America into some sort of client-state of a One World Government dominated by some shadowy group of people who will enslave us all.

I'm here to tell you that's nonsense. We do NOT "hate America," nor do we "hate freedom and liberty," NOR are we planning the deliberate destruction of the USA. Oddly enough, we don't think the neo-cons do either. We think they're silly, maybe in some instances moonbat crazy, but we DON'T think they're deliberately and consciously trying to destroy the country.

We DO recognize that there is a terrorist threat, but we think this country has done enough declaring war. We'll fight the terrorists, but we don't see any point in running so scared that we give up our freedoms and liberties to save them. We ALSO think that, so long as we're dependent on the medieval people who run things in the middle east for our energy needs, maybe we should quit constantly antagonizing them, get on with the business of making them irrelevant, and maybe avoid fighting any more two and three-front wars.

We're generally great proponents of science and technology, and we see freedom FROM religion and Ludditeism as essential to maintaining constant increase in our knowledge and scientific ability. It is apparent to us that mixing science and religion does NOTHING to forward scientific knowledge, but DOES result in distraction and confusion to no purpose.

In short, liberals are NOT anti-American, are NOT anti-Christian and are NOT anti-defense. We ARE anti-scare-mongering, we ARE pro-science, and we ARE anti-terrorist. We simply think the previous administration went about all these things SO wrong-headedly that we're actually worse of in ALL those arenas than we were nine years ago.

Obama had a 'Pretty Good' First Year

Somewhere in November, President-elect Barack Obama found out just how much trouble he was going to be in the day he took his oath of office. He had announced several major initiatives, not the least of which was health care reform, and was putting together teams to focus on and move those initiatives forward. He had no idea that the most destructive distraction possible, short of nuclear war, was about to scramble every plan he had announced. In fact, NO ONE knew, until the melt-down started, that the banking industry had bet itself out of money. Unless something was done, and it had to be something he could continue after he took office, the looming depression was going to swamp the depression of the '30s. So he negotiated a workable version of President Bush's bail-out plan, and came into office with a plan and policy in place to fix a problem he hadn't known about until AFTER his election.

In the face of the economic disaster facing the country, the President laid quick groundwork for his previously announced plans, and turned to focus on the looming economic juggernaut. He amended and revised his stimulus plan, solidified the plans for automobile company bail-outs and bank recovery, and put the necessary structure in place within about four months... in Washington, four months translates to "instantly." Then he turned to his original agenda. He began pushing forward his health care expectations, planning for the closing of Guantanimo Prison, setting forth his plans for prosecuting and ending President Bush's wars (despite some of my fellow liberals' hopes and desires, once America's might and word is committed by one president, the next one can't just send in the C-10s and bring everybody home).

He also undertook to ease the tension between America and the rest of the "free world." He apologized for his predecessors bullying and trampling on the sovereignity of our allies... and promptly found himself the target of the haters of the moonbat right. Did they think he undertook this tour without making sure he knew how our allies felt? Were they truly so stupid as to believe he was being subservient (instead of just polite) when he 'bowed' to foreign leaders. I doubt it, but they used it to stir up the ignorant hyper-con base.

He came home to lies about, and mischaracterizations of, the health care reform package. Democrats in the Senate were giving away the house to Republicans who were lying through their teeth about supporting ANY health care reform. The house was hopelessly scrambled and Speaker Pelosi was allowing too much public wrangling about nonsense. Finally, and perhaps too late, the President got a bill out of each house of Congress, but each bill has a poison pill that has guaranteed votes against the bill if it stays, OR if it's pulled.

In an attempt to short-circuit the Pharmaceutical and Insurance opposition, he gave them both a free ride, and abandoned his support for the "public option." This may have been the most useless betrayal he has ever made, or will ever make. They STILL spend millions daily to kill the attempt. If they lose, they have carte blanch. if they win... ALL bets are off.

So, my assessment of President Obama's first term? I give him an average of C+ to B-. He gets an A- on Iraq, a B on Afghanistan, but a C on everything else... except Health Care Reform, on which he gets a D+ from me.