Tuesday, January 26, 2010

SCOTUS Shows Itself

First, from the Department of Snappy Names: I contend that anything, down to washing dishes, is way cooler when you're doing it with Fabio Fognini. In real life, Mr. F. is an Italian tennis player, ranked about in the middle of the world's top 100 players. I can see his future as a "rental celebrity", where you state the time and place, and Fabio shows up, in exchange, of course, for a hefty fee. Ciao!

And from the vault of Headlines We Thought We'd Never See, I bet you missed "Prince Writes New Vikings' Team Fight Song". I never thought I'd see Prince and an NFL team mentioned in the same sentence, since Prince, last I knew, was kind of a small person. On the other hand, Irving Berlin wrote "White Christmas", so I guess anything's possible.

Now, suppose you're a political office holder. Last week the Supreme Court puts a bomb in your lap. Overturning one hundred years of precedent, something, by the way, that current chief justice Roberts told the Senate he was loath to do before they ratified his nomination, the Court rules by a 5-4 margin that corporations are not only people, but have NO LIMITS on what they can spend to influence an election, right up to the end of the campaign. No matter WHAT your convictions are, won't your next phone call be to the richest corporation you can think of, with or WITHOUT interests in your district to say either, "I no longer oppose your corporate policies in any way" OR "Please use your resources to help me defeat so and so, your legislative enemy. I pledge my loyalty to you, regardless of future circumstances."?
I write this little blog, seen worldwide by maybe a dozen people. But if I'm Goldman Sachs or Exxon Mobile, is there any doubt that the message will go to millions, perhaps billions of people? Yes, we're both exercising free speech, but the Court claims there is no legal difference. My question is this: On what planet does this not give an enormous advantage to corporate suck-ups and professional sycophants struggling for their turn at the financial teat of those most able to pay for performance? No difference? Please.
I recall a smaller version of this principle from the caucus campaign of 1996. Steve Forbes, publisher and multimillionaire, came into the race for president with little public recognition. He turned that around by buying up blocks of ad time using his own money, which allowed voters to see him at his best, in which he still resembled a rusting robot with a permanent painted-on smile. His numbers soared from zero to the high teens in just a few weeks, forcing other candidates to spend all they could spare in response. TV advertising for a short time in Iowa was completely given over to ads for presidential candidates in an orgy of spending that could only expand nation-wide under this new ruling.
For years we heard the cries from the Right about "activist judges", which really meant "judges who make rulings I don't like". This particular decision was so completely activist as to far surpass anything the original parties sought.
The 5-4 margin backs up what I said a year ago in this space about the Court being Bush's most lasting legacy. You have four justices (Scalia, Roberts, Thomas and Alito) always willing to back corporate and police power and needing just one ally to make almost anything happen. This time it was Kennedy, and they did. Don't look for these ersatz "persons" to give up power easily. I saw a cartoon which describes the situation well: a circle of Robber Barons in tails and top hats joining hands and singing "Free at last. Free at last..." Yes, free to consolidate political power in our country thanks to our own Supreme Court, acting in OUR name.


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