Tag Archives: Citizens United

The Supreme Court and Chrisley Knows Best: The Death of Social Justice?

4 Apr
Heads They Win/Tales We Loose

Heads They Win/Tales We Loose

While at first glance,The United States Supreme Court and the reality television show Chrisley Knows Best may seem like two very disparate platforms, they are sadly very similar when it comes to eroding social justice.

To my great sadness, Chief Justice Roberts and his inhumane colleagues voted to remove financial caps on donors to federal candidates.  Re-enforcing Citizens United, the Supreme Court has made it abundantly and painfully clear that money trumps democracy. The exceedingly misguided Chiefly On the Wrong Side of History Roberts tried to defend the 5/4 decision with a bastardization of the 1st amendment:

There is no right in our democracy more basic than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.

That would hold some truth if we had a categorically different distribution of wealth in the United States.  Fortunately, Justice Breyer offered an unprecedented dissent from the bench that perfectly captures the many inequities this decision puts in motion:

…the majority opinion is a disturbing development that raised the overall contribution ceiling to the number infinity. If the court in Citizens United opened a door, today’s decision may well open a floodgate.

Well done, Justice Breyer.  I’m at least grateful that four of the nine justices understands the power of money and how it ties into buying elections, continuing to disenfranchise already targeted populations, and fostering an increased cynicism in our election process.

So how does this have anything to do with the rather awful television show, Chrisley Knows Best?  Sadly, this show is about how money trumps all!  If you have enough money you can now buy yourself a television show and create more wealth while obtaining a bizarre and shallow status of “celebrity.”  This vapid tv show is nothing more than an obnoxious display of conspicuous consumption, misogyny, and a reckless celebration of bad behavior.  Are we really supposed to feel bad for a white 17 year old boy because his father put a boot clamp on his $100,000 Range Rover.  Really? What does this say about us as a culture?  While I am the first to admit that I enjoy what I call popcorn television, is there no limit to how awful the impact might be of pop culture?

What happened to a purported government that worked towards equity and removing barriers from voting? We don’t even seem to offer the pretense of equity and equality.  Now we just have huge For Sale signs tagged to elections.

What happened to television shows that were amusing and didactic both? Shows like Maude, The Jeffersons, and The Mary Tyler  Moore Show seem to have been replaced by the uber wealthy that can buy their own “Reality” tv show.  What isn’t for sale now?

Call to action: Here I invite all of you to recommend ways in which we can both collectively and individually works towards social justice — work towards making the world a better place for all.

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Hero of the Week Award: February 15, Rep. Rick Nolan of Minnesota

15 Feb
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

This week a newly elected member of the 113th Congress took a stand against Citizens United — one of the worst decisions to come from a very biased U.S. Supreme Court — and put forward an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Rep. Rick Nolan (D – MN) is one of the Democrats who unseated a rabid Tea Party Republican in the November elections. He was in Congress before (1975 – 81), so he brings both experience and fresh eyes to the House.

Working with Rep. Mark Pocan (D – WI), Nolan crafted what he calls a “We the People” Amendment. It would clarify the Constitution by establishing two things.

  • Rights recognized under the Constitution belong to human beings only, and not to government-created artificial legal entities such as corporations and limited liability companies; and
  • Political campaign spending is not a form of speech protected under the First Amendment.

What? You mean corporations are not human beings?  Scalia and his merry band will be sad to learn this. The full text is available at the Move to Amend website.

It is significant to note that during his time away from Congress Rep. Nolan served as president of the U.S. Export Corporation and the Minnesota World Trade Center. He is not anti-corporation but understands their limited and appropriate role. How wonderful to see him bring that experience to bear for the benefit of all.

A Constitutional amendment is a tall order and will take time and effort. It may even be a non-starter in Boehner’s House of Tears. Congress has the power to amend, however, to check the decisions of the Supreme Court. Thanks to Reps. Nolan and Pocan, however, the momentum has started.

Hero of the Week Award: November 9, American Voters

9 Nov

Hero of the Week

Despite the billions of (often anonymous–thank you Citizens United) dollars poured into this year’s elections, democracy prevailed. It did so largely because millions of people participated in the democratic process, voting their hearts and consciences despite the bleating ads and cynical lies.

The racist and oppressive attempts to intimidate voters and suppress turnout had a splendidly ironic effect. Turnout — especially for early voting — was high and the minority communities targeted specifically refuted the attempts. Many exit polls indicated that Latino and African American voters specifically made the effort to vote — even when disenchanted by their choices — to reinforce their constitutional right to vote in the face of efforts to disenfranchise them. Almost without exception, these voters repudiated the Tea Party right and supported the President. While the final outcome might not have changed, results in Ohio, Virginia, and Florida (at least) were helped enormously by this turnout.

And what a result! Not only did the Tea Party suffer major defeats (Goodbye, Reps. Walsh and West!) but the overall results were progressive. The new Senators are almost universally to the left of the people they replace, including wonderful people-powered winners like Tammy Baldwin and Elizabeth Warren. Women repudiated the Republican attacks on their minds and bodies, demonstrating a gender gap and voting power never seen before. Thanks in part to the President’s bold leadership, gay rights — which should never be put to a vote but sadly still are — saw unprecedented victories with marriage equality ruling the day.

Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, and Citizens United poured huge sums of money into this election. They lost the top of the ticket, failed to take the Senate, and lost ground in the House. Ballot measures around the county routinely favored the people over corporate power and greed. We have a long way to go, and the President — despite his mandate — has a hostile House to contend with, but the message is clear and the direction is sound.  I am enormously relieved to see that a platform of hate and marginalization of so many people failed!

Supreme Court Sanctions Purchasing of Elections…

25 Jun

The Fecal Five Strike Again

The Fecal Five strike again.  In a very disappointing but not surprising ruling, the Supreme Court rejected corporate spending limits, thus affirming Citizens United.  This morning, in a 5 to 4 vote (big shock there) the U.S. Supreme Court declared that corporations may spend as much money as they wish to influence elections, thus striking down the Montana law limiting corporate campaign spending.

The five conservative activists judges maintain the “personhood” identity to corporations: “corporations have a constitutional right to be heard in election campaigns.”  Let me understand this.  We will give corporations huge tax breaks, or not tax them at all, but they have the right to spend endless amount of money to support a candidate?  Does this disturb anyone else?

Very sad for Montana, which was trying to limit corporate spending, so as to help prevent any type of corruption.  The New York Times reports:

But Montana aggressively defended its 1912 law against a challenge from corporations seeking to be free of spending limits, and the state Supreme Court sided with the state. The state court said a history of corruption showed the need for the limits, even as Justice Anthony Kennedy declared in his Citizens United opinion that independent expenditures by corporations “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

While Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer pointed out the obvious flaws in Kennedy’s argument around corruption and corporate spending, their efforts were to no avail.  My chief concern right now is the potential for the corrupt purchase of the Presidential election. More from the Times:

Ginsburg issued a brief statement for herself and Breyer saying that campaign spending since the decision makes “it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.'”

Ginsburg appeared to be referring to the rise of unregulated super PACs that have injected millions of dollars into the presidential and other campaigns. She said the case “will give the court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates’ allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway.”

Another larger looming question is what do we do with the Fecal Five who seem to have complete control over the Supreme Court?

Number 2 Hero of the Year Award 2011: Occupy Movement

30 Dec

Number 2 Hero of 2011

Thank you to the overwhelming number of TSM readers for nominating the Occupy Movement for Hero of the Year!  How I understand the Occupy Movement is that finally the 99% woke up and spoke truth to power–the absurd distribution of power and wealth in the United States must come to an end.  Of course, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission certainly brought home the point that America was officially for sale.  Extending the Bush tax cuts to the top 2% of Americans just added insult to injury.  We can thank the Fecal Five for selling out America.

While I only attended a dozen Occupy Portland demonstrations, I was consistently impressed that people were getting the message out about the maniacal distribution of wealth and power, despite the heroic efforts of the media to vilify the movement.  My heart was also warmed when many of my cohort of social workers withdrew their money from the big banks and put it credit unions–go social workers!

My hope is that the Occupy Movement will continue in its various incarnations and will eventually affect real change in how wealth and power are distributed–that humanity will prevail over greed.

Flashback 2010: Number 2 Hero of 2010 was Bernie Sanders.

Take Action on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

25 Jan

I know I have posted many articles regarding Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, but this article by my friend James Russell gives us some hope that we can all take action!  We don’t have to be passive.  “We are gathering because we do not want the government in conflict between serving corporations or serving people,” is one of my favorite quotes from Russell’s article. His article serves as a Call to Action for those of us paying attention.  I  hope it will wake up those that are not paying attention.  Click here to see the full article.

We the Corporations, In Order to Form a More Perfect Profit…

23 Jan

That doesn’t sound quite right.

Eleven score and fifteen years ago, our forbearers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in greed, and dedicated to the proposition that most should toil for the bottom line while few profit mightily.

Still off, isn’t it?

Ask not what your company can do for you, but what you can do for your company!

Okay, I suspect you get the picture. Are we a nation of citizens or a nation of companies? The two ought not be mutually exclusive, but which has primacy? When laws are made and cases decided, where does the privilege lie? One look at the shrinking middle class, the power of the lobby, and corporate greed even in the face of shameful behavior nearly toppling the economy gives us the sad answer.

The highest court in the land ruled not just that companies were effectively people, but that they had even more powerful rights to anonymously influence our elections. People run for office without any understanding of minimum wage, proudly pushing unfunded tax cuts while dodging their own taxes.

You have meddled with the Primal Forces of Nature!

When one of the few truly liberal journalists in the country suddenly announced that he was terminating his show, people widely assumed it was because of the new corporate masters. Our media certainly are not left-wing, but, other than FOX, few are aggressively right-wing. They are a strange mix of sinister timidity because they are driven by corporate desire for profits. We are truly living out Mr. Jensen’s dream.*

The bread-and-circuses media and the crumbling educational system leave us stultified and ill-prepared, little better than yahoos, distracted by shiny baubles while living miserable, petty lives.

So what can one person do in the face of these pressures? Hit them in the bottom line. Don’t spend money at places who use that money against your best interests. Pay attention to where you shop and what it means in the bigger scheme of things. Just as the accumulation of votes, one citizen at a time, elects our leaders, the reduction of profits, one refused purchase at a time, puts pressure on the corporations.

It takes time and effort to learn what corporations are up to. It takes some fortitude and a little sacrifice to give up a favorite store. It also takes compromise, since like people, corporations are seldom all good or all bad. Besides the usual suspects like Wal-Mart, find out which corporations spend against civil rights and don’t give them your money. (Are you listening Chik-Fil-A, Target, McDonald’s, Gold’s Gym?) Look at the regular business practices of the companies you patronize and shop accordingly. Does a retailer abuse employees just to run big sales around the holidays? Go somewhere else!

It’s easy to feel resigned, that one person’s efforts are meaningless. But the actions of a single person, living with integrity, accumulate. We can only be powerful together if we choose to be powerful individually.

*  Just for fun, I searched Google for “olbermann mad as hell” just for the past 24 hours and found over 44,000 hits. Coincidence? I think not.

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