Monday, January 25, 2010

Who Will Hear a Pipsqueak?

Guest Blog

by Jim Culleny

Jim Culleny has lived and written in western Massachusetts since the 1970s. He taught art in NJ publicschools after graduating from William Paterson University in that state. He and his wife Pat have raised their family in the Berkshires.

Jim wrote songs and performed in various groups and continued writing poetry as he'd done in earlier years. In addition to his poetry and songs, he has written and performed radio commentary for public radio on and National Public Radio's All Things Considered. He also writes a regular award-winning column for the Greenfield Recorder in Greenfield

One-upping God, the Supreme Court has just ruled that a corporation is a person with all the rights to buy a Senator that individuals enjoy. The court ruled on Jan. 21 that corporations have unlimited free-speech rights to influence elections with cash.

In fact, as the Christian Science Monitor reports, “In a landmark 5-to-4 decision announced Thursday, the high court overturned a 1990 legal precedent and reversed a position it took in 2003, when a different lineup of justices upheld government restrictions on independent political expenditures by corporations during elections.”

One salient point in this is noted at Talking Points where we’re told, “At the heart of this ruling is a judgment by the Court that the law cannot distinguish between corporations and individuals in prohibiting speech – so free speech rights that apply to the latter must also apply to the former."

Poor God merely made Man in his image.The Supreme Court has done something more far-reaching and miraculous. Practically speaking, with just a wave of a pen, without even bothering to reach down for a lump of clay to breathe life into, five justices have transformed corporations (entities without even one living organ —especially hearts; and with no spiritual component, like a soul) into beings which (as we shall soon see) are equal to or more significant than living breathing praying Man.

And in their judicially-active challenge to the Lord, the supremely-robed Alito, Roberts, Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas have ruled that in the USA corporations may legally compete with Man for control of the world, starting with the country. And if you think man has screwed things up, wait’ll you see what soulless corporations will do now that they're able to legally write checks bigger than a Publisher’s Clearing House prize to soulless politicians. Goodbye breathable air. Hello portable oxygen pack.

The other effect of this ruling is to confirm once and for all that every mouthful of mincing speechifying from our leaders about our great democracy is just silly-talk. The Supreme Court has made it official without even going to the trouble of introducing a constitutional amendment: the USA is a plutocracy. Given the money required to conduct a modern political campaign, if multi-billion dollar corporations may, without financial restraint, compete with our paltry donations to the candidates of our choice, our vote is really nothing more than an empty procedural gesture. Be real! Who will a mostly-corporately-funded candidate be hearing upon assuming office, the Bank of America's fortissimo 5 million buck donation or your very pianissimo Benjamin?

But beyond their cynicism in officially encouraging a corporate power-grab, Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post slams the court majority’s intellectual dishonesty. “In the face of logic and history,” she says, “the majority acted as if there could be no constitutional distinction between a corporation and a human being. Untrue… Congress has barred corporations from making direct contributions to political candidates, with no suggestion that it must treat corporate persons the same as real ones… The 'conceit' of corporate personhood… does not mandate absolute equivalence...”

“Is a corporation entitled to vote?” she asks, “To run for office?”

I wouldn’t dismiss these questions as absurdities too quickly. If in a few years we have another right-wing president and a Republican congress installing more conservative justices, the court may finally be not much more than a rubber stamp of Wall Street — nine perfunctory pasties in a crass burlesque. who’s to say a corporation doesn’t have the same right as a person to vote or run for office, the Constitution? (Eyeroll)

None of us who love the idea of democracy, liberal or conservative, should take this decision lightly. Any honest person will acknowledge how, up till now, money has corrupted our politics. It's no stretch to say politicians are bought – many lock, stock, and barrel. And purchased pols come in a variety of flavors from democrat to republican to independent. The infection of money has a long political tradition. Money is simply, power, and what the court has done with this ruling (sticking their fingers in the eye of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law in the process) is to concentrate more power in the hands of those who have the most of it already.
But the most cynical part of the whole ugly charade is how the court has crammed their bias into the skin of “free speech.”

The court has ruled that a limitation of campaign contributions is a limitation of free speech — as if buying something is the same as saying something. They are not — but if they were then where’s the practical fairness of not limiting corporate speech when corporations have the power through their huge wealth (not to mention ownership and control of the media) to speak as freely and loudly as they wish, while we, with our pathetic shallow pockets are left to squeak our objections into the hurricane of a stage-wide bank of thirty foot speakers at a Metallica concert?

Who will hear a pipsqueak? What use will our free speech be then?

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