Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Right-Wingers Don't Understand the First Amendment

[Corporations] are not the same as us. They do not have the same rights as all of us. And that decision is wrong on the law, and wrong for America, and an enormous danger for the political process as we go forward ~ Russ Feingold (b. 3/2/1953) an American politician from Wisconsin who served as a Democratic party member of the U.S. Senate from 1993 to 2011, in a speech on the Citizens United Case delivered at the Fighting Bob Fest on 9/10/2010.

The First Amendment says: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Move to Amend says: On 1/21/2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions. The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule.

Dervish Sanders says: I agree with the folks at "Move to Amend". Clearly the Founders did not intended for corporations to be considered people. Just as Thomas Jefferson warned us that inherited wealth is incompatible with democracy, he also warned us of the dangers of allowing corporations to become too powerful. Now I'd wager that most people believe one of the functions of the The Supreme Court is to determine if laws are Constitutional (if there is a question). It's one of the checks and balances set up by the Founders, right?

Actually the power to rule laws passed by Congress and signed into law by the president "unconstitutional" is NOT a power granted to the Supreme Court by the Constitution. The SCOTUS granted itself this power with the 1803 Marbury v. Madison decision. A horrified Thomas Jefferson declared that the ruling by the Marshall court paved the way for Judicial tyranny. Specifically Jefferson said...

If ... the judiciary is the last resort in relation to the other departments of the government ... then indeed is our Constitution a complete felo de so (suicide pact). ...The Constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they may please. (Letter to Judge Spencer Roane, Nov. 1819).

This is exactly what the Roberts Court did on 1/21/2010 when they ruled in favor of "Citizens United" (a conservative political organization). The Conservatives on the court molded the First Amendment - exactly as if it were a mere thing of wax - changing it's meaning so that it pleased them (and the corporations they serve). This act, as predicted by Jefferson, edged our nation closer to plutocracy. It seems conservatives have no problem what-so-ever with judicial activism when the Conservative judges rule to further empower the wealthy elites.

What the Supreme Court did, specifically, was to strike down "a provision of the McCain–Feingold Act that prohibited all corporations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, and unions from broadcasting electioneering communications". McCain–Feingold said that "broadcast ads mentioning a candidate within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election" are prohibited. Citizens United thought they could bypass McCain–Feingold with a "documentary" trashing Hillary Clinton. Hillary the Movie was set to air on cable TV as an on-demand movie when the FEC objected and filed a lawsuit. The airing of the documentary was stopped when a lower court ruled that, under McCain–Feingold, Citizens United could not broadcast their film 30 days before a primary election.

But the douches at Citizens United insisted that their film wasn't electioneering (and thus exempt from McCain-Feingold) because, "the movie did not say explicitly that people should vote for or against Clinton". When the CU a-holes decided to petition the SCOTUS - Judge Roberts and his Right-wing buddies agreed to hear the case (instead of laughing and turning them down as they should have). Not only that, but Judge Roberts said, "I'll do you one better". Instead of ruling on whether or not the Hillary-bashing movie was OK to air whenever (because it didn't tell people who to vote for and was thus not a political ad), Roberts decided the court should decide if corporations should be able to air any political ad, anytime, and spend as much money as they liked on them.

What Roberts proposed what that his court should overturn decades of settled case law, something he specifically promised he would not do during his confirmation hearings. Former "Law & Order" actor, TN Senator, and failed 2008 presidential contender Fred Thompson thinks Roberts, "was very forthright in explaining that he would not tell the senators how he was going to vote but that he would follow the law and the intent of the framers". Fred believes Roberts has done just that, but Fred is wrong. Roberts lied in his Senate confirmation hearings and should be impeached.

Justice Scalia, another corporate fascist like his buddy Roberts, authored a concurrence in which he states that the First Amendment, "never shows why the freedom of speech that was the right of Englishmen did not include the freedom to speak in association with other individuals, including association in the corporate form". Scalia also "argued that the first amendment was written in terms of speech, not speakers", and that "it's text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker".

Both Roberts and Scalia are members of the Federalist Society, which is "an organization of conservatives and libertarians seeking reform of the current American legal system in accordance with a textualist and/or originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution". The stated goals of this organization are, of course, total bullshit. Their real goal is to reinterpret the Constitution so that the law favors the wealthy elites (even more so than it currently does).

Justice Thomas also concurred, even though the hypocrite supposedly believes "America was founded on a philosophy of individual rights, not group rights". But he was talking about his opposition to Affirmative action. So, when the government grants additional rights of groups of individuals it is WRONG if the purpose is to promote equal opportunity and address existing discrimination, but when it does the same in regard to groups of individuals who get together to form a corporation - it's the bee's knees?

Conservatives claim that the considerations afforded by Affirmative action amount to special privileges, while people who get together to form a corporation are not asking for anything special, only that they not be stripped of their first amendment rights. But the fact is, they are not. These people retain their individual right to free speech, but do not gain the special privilege of a free speech group right. Clarence Thomas may be a hypocritical dipsh*t, but he's right (even if he conveniently forgot when he wrote his Citizens United concurrence), that the Bill of the Bill of Rights affirms individual rights, not group rights. There is ONLY ONE group that the First Amendment mentions, and that is The Press. All other groups can suck it.

Individuals have the right to associate with other individuals, but they do not then gain additional rights to speak as a group under the First Amendment. Only the Press does, which is why the Founders specifically mention it. Seeing as any specific press organization is also a corporation, why would the Framers single out the press if they were already covered (by virtue of being a corporation)? Clearly the Bill of Rights was intended to apply to individuals and not groups. Neither did the Framers intend for corporations to be able to spend unlimited amounts of money influencing elections or buying off politicians. Congress is within it's rights to pass laws restricting campaign spending by these entities.

I agree that "judges are like umpires. Umpires don't make the rules. They apply them". John Roberts said this during his confirmation hearing. Then he did the exact opposite when he ruled in favor of Citizens United, changing the meaning and intent of the First Amendment. Both of the justices appointed by President doofus made similar statements before Congress, and because fibbing to Congress is illegal, both should be impeached. Alito, in his confirmation hearing said, "courts should respect the judgments and the wisdom that are embodied in prior judicial decisions", but when Roberts said prior judicial decisions (regarding this issue) were a "mistake" and that he was obligated not to repeat them, Alito concurred.

In elections whichever candidate outspends the other generally wins. This is according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a non-profit, nonpartisan research group that tracks money in politics and their effect on elections. In a 11/5/2008 article examining the 2008 election, CRP reports that "Money Wins Presidency and 9 of 10 Congressional Races in Priciest U.S. Election Ever". Their research shows that "in 93 percent of House of Representatives races and 94 percent of Senate races... the candidate who spent the most money ended up winning".

According to the 2/17/2011 broadcast of the Rachel Maddow Show, "In 2010, post-Citizens United, 7 of the 10 top outside spending groups in the election were all Right-wing. The Chamber of Commerce, both the Karl Rove groups, the American Future Fund, Americans for Job Security - all of these Right-wing groups. The only non-conservative groups that cracked the top 10 were the public employees union, the SEIU, and the teachers union. That's it".

The Sunlight Foundation confirms that spending on the Republican side outpaces spending on the Democratic side. Their 2010 report says, "the big change... is that independent groups are now spending more money on influencing the election than political parties", pointing out that "the outside groups are supplanting traditional party spending largely on the Republican side of the aisle. There are currently eight outside groups that have each spent at least $2 million exclusively on aiding Republican candidates. These groups are American Crossroads, American Crossroads GPS, American Future Fund, The 60 Plus Association, Americans for Job Security, Club for Growth Action Fund, Club for Growth and Tea Party Express".

I say you are naive in the extreme if you think this ruling will not allow corporations to get the politicians THEY WANT elected. Corporations will run adds FOR the politicians who dance to their tune and AGAINST those who do not. Obviously Righties believe that "free speech" is dependant on how much money you have. The more money you have, the more FREE speech you can buy. Those of us who don't adhere to corporatism recognize that this ruling is straight up fascism. Most people don't even bother voting. Of those that do vote, some of them will vote for the politicians the ads tell them to vote for. Outside groups wouldn't be spending these huge sums of money if this were not true.

My conclusion is that money is corrosive to the political process. We need to reduce the amount of money spent on elections, not increase it. Money is not speech, corporations are not people, and the first amendment only applies to individuals (and the press). For this reason we must re-elect Barack Obama so that he can appoint the next one or two Supreme Court Judges and move the court away from the radical Right. Hopefully then this very bad ruling can be overturned.

Conservative Q&A Re: The Citizens United Decision

The following questions and assertions were made during a heated debate I engaged in with a Conservative on another blog. This debate was what prompted me to compose this blog post. I've written on the topic before, but this commentary greatly expands on my prior posts...

Conservative position: A law requiring shareholders in a corporation be allowed to vote before any corporate money is spent supporting a political candidate would be wrong because shareholders all CHOOSE to invest on a corporation. Their choice to invest means they approve of the company's policies (including it's political support).

My response: This claim is utter nonsense. The primary reason people invest in corporations is to make money, not political statements. In deciding whether or not to invest an individual usually looks into past performance of the corporation, they usually do not investigate the political positions of the corporation, which are not a part of the company's prospectus. A law requiring a vote by stockholders (the OWNERS of the corporation) before any money is spend for political reasons is completely reasonable. If everyone who buys stock is assumed to agree with the CEO politically, then what is the harm in holding a vote? The only reason anyone would oppose such a law is because they want corporate CEOs to be able to spend corporate money for political reasons - even if such expenditures would be OPPOSED by their stockholders.

Conservative position: The New York Times is a corporation. Putting in the censorship regime you favor would gag any political opinions from being expressed in it.

My response: The First Amendment says that no laws shall be passed abridging the freedom of the press. the New York Times is a press organization and thus political opinions expressed in it can not legally be gagged. Furthermore, I do not favor a "censorship regime"; I favor adherence to the First Amendment as written. The First Amendment guarantees individual rights. It does not guarantee group rights for corporations or any other entity (with the exception of the press).

Conservative position: Do you honestly support the idea that caused the court decision in the first place... the government gag on a film [Hillary: the movie] people made that was critical of a US senator?

My response: I fully support reasonable laws governing how our elections are conducted. Citizens United was not "gagged" in regards to Hillary: The Movie. They were only prohibited from airing their "documentary" during a certain period of time. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (also known as McCain-Feingold) said that "broadcast ads mentioning a candidate within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election" are prohibited. They were free to air their "documentary" any other time.

Conservative position: What ever happened to, if you don't like what someone says, ignore it? We need to stop looking for excuses to censor and to bar people from the political process.

My response: I am not looking to censor or bar any individual person from the political process. I simply believe we should follow the First Amendment as written. The First Amendment protects individual rights, not group rights. Corporations (aside from press corporations) do not have rights under the First Amendment.

As for your argument that political ads can be ignored... this clearly does not happen. Why else would politicians spend so damn much to get elected? Why do they hire slick PR firms to carefully craft their message? Money has a HUGE impact on elections. This is a FACT that cannot be denied. Politically informed individuals may ignore political commercials they know are pure spin, but the average citizen is most often not informed enough to be able to identify what is true and what is spin (or an outright lie).

If you agree with the Citizens United decision it is my opinion that you do not believe in democracy. Only a supporter of plutocracy would say our election results should be determined by who spends the most.

SWTD #82

9 comments:

  1. Ayn Rand quotes re: the rights of groups...

    There are no "rights" of special groups... There are only the Rights of Man -- rights possessed by every individual man and by all men as individuals ~ Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness (Man's Rights).

    A group, as such, has no rights. A man can neither acquire new rights by joining a group nor lose the rights which he does possess. The principle of individual rights is the only moral base of all groups or associations ~ Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness (Collectivized Rights).

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have no idea WHY this is the world's least read political blog...it should be the most highly read.

    I drop by here now and again to take in your words...and they are brilliant. In fact, I feel inadequate to comment, usually.

    Just wanted you to know that I for one am a fellow traveler and enjoy your special genius.

    In my view, this particular action by the SCOTUS is the single most damaging decision ever made by them.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I totally agree with JJ, your writing is far and above the average blogger W, this is why I find it difficult to comment too. I feel like a brain dead dunce and can't think of a thing to add after I read something from you. You need to find some place to write where your work is appreciated. I have said it before and I'll keep saying it! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. The Constitution (and other founding documents) do not mention corporations, capitalist, capitalism, or any other economic ideology.
    "We the people...." makes it clear (along with other wording in specific clauses) that the Constitution is for people.
    Twisting the words of the Constitution to fit a particular political view point, is nothing new.
    The "people" have a civic responsibility to counter such delusions of intent. Voting is only the first step in a participatory Democracy. Your writing is a perfect example.
    All this "original intent" crap, is just that. If the founders wanted that strict of an interpretation, they would not have installed an amendment process.
    To make law regarding guns in the 21st century, based on gun use of the 18th century, is stupid and not what the Constitution is telling us.
    If left to original intent, then slavery would still be legal, women could not own property, or vote, and so many rights that have been given backed by the intent of the Constitution.
    The founders knew of their weaknesses and hoped future generations would improve law and society.
    There is no negotiating today, even though the two parties are so closely similar.
    Can you imagine compromising on slavery, just to preserve the Union?
    Great post, as usual.
    I too feel inadequate to comment most times, but have had you linked to my blog(s) for a long time.
    My thing with RN is based on his attacking my blog like a troll ass. He is an easy mark given his cult political beliefs in Rand.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great post. I basically stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that we have genuinely enjoyed reading by way of your web page posts. Any way I'll be registering to your feed and that i hope you post once again soon.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Firstly, this article is very informative. I love when people point out philosophical contradictions, such as done with Scalia here:

    Torture is not Punishment

    The article is short, sweet and highly amusing.

    Your concluding sentence: Only a supporter of plutocracy would say our election results should not be determined by who spends the most.

    I think that sentence as an extra “not” in it, which completely changes its meaning.

    I have heard people argue this many times, Dave Dubya and S.W. Anderson especially, but no one has put so much into it. I saved a link. Excellent post. Outstanding Post

    P.S.

    You are still a jack ass. You are just a jack ass with an excellent post, no offense intended, of course.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yes, you are correct... the "not" changes the meaning of what I meant to say and is a mistake.

    I have corrected it... 3 months after publication and after everyone who's EVER going to read it most likely have. This is one of the things I dislike about blogging the most... it seems that no matter how many times I proof read an article mistakes still slip by.

    btw, what's up with you repeating the "jackass" charge? I assume it's due to things I've said on Will's blog? For the record... some of my comments on Will's blog are intentionally hyperbolic and also written intentionally to get Will's goat. Why? Because turnabout is fair play.

    My worldview isn't black and white and I'm not a fanatic... and I don't like being condescended to.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Your passion on Will's blog, yes, that is the origin. It's OK, though. All great men are jackass's.

    To be great is to be a jackass.

    ReplyDelete

Comment moderation has temporarily been suspended. Although I may be forced to reinstate it if the trolls take advantage.