Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 21, 2010

THURSDAY'S MINI-REPORT.... Today's edition of quick hits:

* Haiti: "Aid flowed into the ravaged Haitian capital on Thursday, and relief workers began shifting their focus to longer-term challenges, primary among them providing shelter for as many as a million people displaced by last week's earthquake."

* Mass relocation for Haiti's homeless: "Haitian officials launched Thursday a huge operation to move hundreds of thousands of homeless outside the ruined capital, as medics worked feverishly to treat the countless injured. In a bid to house an estimated 500,000 left destitute by the January 12 quake, the Haitian government said it was seeking to relocate them out of squalid, stinking tent cities into accommodation outside Port-au-Prince."

* Looks like Wall Street doesn't care for calls for additional accountability on Wall Street.

* Good advice: "The reform campaign Health Care for America Now has taken stock of the week's events, and have a simple message for Democrats: As leadership, and leading members and labor groups are suggesting, pass the Senate health care bill, tie it to a separate bill enacting key fixes. But more importantly: Get it done. Now."

* Good stuff from Clinton on Internet freedoms: "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Thursday for unfettered access to the Internet around the globe after several incidents of online censorship and cyber attacks have presented new questions for the role of technology in diplomacy."

* Not good: "More Americans than anticipated filed claims for unemployment benefits last week, reflecting a backlog of applications from the year-end holidays."

* Republicans are "overjoyed" at the "unprecedented influence corporations will now have in federal campaigns" in the wake of the Citizens United ruling from the Supreme Court.

* Air America Radio is no more.

* The Anti-Defamation League isn't pleased with Rush Limbaugh's casual anti-Semitism.

* Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) isn't exactly in a rush to help those suffering from a broken health care system.

* Today's college freshmen seem awfully nervous about the future.

* A newspaper in Philly ran a photo of Sen.-elect Scott Brown (R) today, with a caption that read, "How will Dems recover after losing majority?"

* Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), who was just inaugurated last week, will deliver the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address on Wednesday.

* Be on the lookout for a new right-wing talking point: Obama "invaded" Haiti without congressional approval.

* And it was a bit of a surprise to see Cindy McCain, Sen. John McCain's wife, endorse gay marriage and publicly protest California's Prop 8.

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.

Steve Benen 5:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (51)

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Comments

The Hill is reporting Reps. Bobby Bright (D-Ala.) and Mike McMahon (D-N.Y.) are asking Obama and Congress to extend the Bush Tax Cuts.

The Hoover is strong in these Reps.

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/77415-vulnerable-dems-want-extension-of-bush-tax-cuts

Posted by: Frank Chow on January 21, 2010 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

Does Cindy McCain know what she signed up for? Or is she back to popping pills?

I can't even construct a sentence to convey my disgust with the SCOTUS!

Posted by: vwmeggs on January 21, 2010 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Someone please stuff a rag in Joe Wilson's mouth before the State of the Union. Thanks.

Posted by: MissMudd on January 21, 2010 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

"Air America Radio is no more."

For those who argue that they couldn't get the ratings, note that their agenda contradicted that of radio conglomerate owners and their advertisers (major corporations threatened, in writing, to pull ads from any station that aired an Air America show).

Their demise had nothing whatsoever to do with ratings and everything to do with the fact that corporations control the content on our airwaves.

Posted by: Chris on January 21, 2010 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Contrary to what you've been led to believe, it is good when the Dow-Jones drops, bad when it goes up. You have to see the larger picture.

Posted by: anonymous on January 21, 2010 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

What are the parameters the define the 'end of the window' for the house to pass the Senate HCR bill? Indefinite? 30 Days? Until a bug flies up my nose?

Posted by: rmp on January 21, 2010 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

I am likely in the minority with this P.O.V. but I think the media is raking Edwards through the coals with no mercy.

It's much more complex than Chris Mathews wants to make it--today he essentially made Edwards into a complete and total monster of being and attributed all of his very real good works into nothing but a pile of P.R.

You can't do that if you believe in redemption, Mathews.


Look, the guy was an ass for what he did, but at least he never preached family values and insisted others who had 'fallen from grace' step down...so he's certainly not a hypocrite as many others are..

I truly think he was a man suffering with a wife dying and acted out in a sort of unreality/ frenzied campaign in an effort to avoid his internal agony. With tragic consequences.

But consider this:

Did he have a history of 'cheating' ever before?

Has he otherwise been a charitable citizen, a caring and loving husband and father all along?

What kind of husband and father had he been until recently?

And Chris Mathews really pissed me off today with his arrogant rant and likening Edwards to Palin because apparently Edwards doesn't read much of anything. Well, he certainly had to have read a whole lot to get his Law Degree. So he's not illiterate and I'll bet he knows basics like proximity to another country doesn't automatically make you an expert diplomat re: the same..I'll bet he gets information here and there..

Palin is more than just a non-reader..she's indifferent..what sort of community service has she done? How many helpless, voiceless people has she defended in a court of law?

I'm not condoning what Edwards did..but I do have compassion for the guy and for his family..and I think it's just way to easy to go for blood versus look at the good and look at the larger picture here for some compassion.

Again, not saying he shouldn't take full responsibility, but it sure looks to me he is trying to make up for some of this is some small way..his current service in Haiti was complethey dismissed and being mocked by Mathews as being nothing more than "all show".

Hmm..wonder who is really "all show"..maybe the truth is it's hard for Mathews to look in the mirror.

Chris Mathews makes me sick..he's so simplistic that he can't see the complexities here..someone can actually be a good person and do really stupid hurtful things.

I hope Edwards and his family find some peace and reconciliation. I hope only the best for all of them.

Posted by: Insanity on January 21, 2010 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans are "overjoyed" at the "unprecedented influence corporations will now have in federal campaigns" in the wake of the Citizens United ruling from the Supreme Court.

What a sad day for America! Scott Brown's a tool. We can tolerate him for , hopefully , a couple of years. But this decision will cause decades of suffering.

* Good advice: "The reform campaign Health Care for America Now has taken stock of the week's events, and have a simple message for Democrats: As leadership, and leading members and labor groups are suggesting, pass the Senate health care bill, tie it to a separate bill enacting key fixes. But more importantly: Get it done. Now."

Exactly, and then lose the "bipartisan" deficit reduction panel. YAWN!

Posted by: John Henry on January 21, 2010 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

The Democrats are now officially the "Party of Nothing".

Think about this: 7 years ago George W. Bush and Co. sold, among other things, a disasterous WAR (bad foreign policy, bad fiscal policy, unconstitutional declaration of war, etc.) that was terrible for the nation, for the American people and the Democrats watched, cowering; 7 months ago the Democrats FAILED to sell a health care proposal (WITH A FUCKING 60 SEAT CAUCUS IN THE SENATE!!!!!!!!) that was beneficial to millions of our fellow citizens (not to mention the budget benefits, etc.) and then, cravenly, cowered because a bunch of reactionaries in Massachussets voted for a Republican on Tuesday.

I, for one, am done with the Party of Nothing -- pissing away a strong stimulus (then wondering why the job market hasn't turned around), pissing away health care reform...The next question is how will they piss away banking reform? Answer: who cares. They pissed me away too. I am done. FUCK YOU VERY MUCH!

Posted by: plim schmuggin on January 21, 2010 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

The Dems have been revealed to the public as spineless cowards. They will be treated as such come Nov.

Posted by: Dems lose huge in 2010 on January 21, 2010 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

Remember, like, 2 days ago when people said the stock market would go up if Brown won in Mass.? And then it went down almost 200 points? But today we KNOW, we just know, that the market is down because Obama talked about, mentioned, raised the possibility of, some sort of bank regulation. Have to love the brilliant analysis!

Posted by: bobbo on January 21, 2010 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

Just called the Metro and it seems like they'll be running some sort of retraction tomorrow for the "How will Dems recover after losing majority" caption. We'll see!

Posted by: red on January 21, 2010 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Today's college freshmen seem awfully nervous about the future."

I don't blame them, and I'm just so grateful that I was finally able to retire on a pension as of last September and don't have to worry about jobs anymore, at least for the time being. How the next generation is going to survive....heck, how the *country* is going to survive....the next decade I just don't know anymore.

Posted by: Curmudgeon on January 21, 2010 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

So the Supreme Court has said that corporations can spend as much as they want to further or trash a candidate? How will they spend all that money? How about hiring some out-of-work people to do some community activism? It would make some good PR.

Posted by: anomaly on January 21, 2010 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a tip: it's not just college freshmen who are worried about the future.

Posted by: anomaly on January 21, 2010 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

If they don't pass HCR when we're at the finish line... for the first time in my life, I may actually be an independent looking for a third party.

Nader's looking awfully good right now.

Posted by: Memekiller on January 21, 2010 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

I say we pool our resources and by full page ads in all the major newspapers demanding that the democrats:
1) Pass HCR with a public option
2) pass Cap and Trade
3) Re-regulate Wall Street, bringing back Glass- Steagel act and Volcker rule

If not, progressives will sit out the vote in the upcoming elections and they will surely be defeated.

It comes down to threatening their livelihood. It's the only thing that will save us.

Posted by: citizen_pain on January 21, 2010 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

red @ 19:03, The fix will come in the form of redefining "majority".

Posted by: Kevin on January 21, 2010 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

What people are forgetting is that Dems still have the bank-bailouts to run on in 2010.

Posted by: Harry Reid on January 21, 2010 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

The future?

I predict a further privatization of our military.

I predict unemployment of 10 percent for the next 3 years.

I predict the stock market to rally on the day that
Obama rescinds his threat to punish (oops I mean regulate banks' ability to invest in themselves) the financial world.

I predict a massive voter boycott in November of this year.

I also predict that any meaningful "climate change" legislation is a bunch of carbon crap.

Finally, I predict that the SOTU will be something less than game-changing.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 21, 2010 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

I'm finally pissed at Obama. He needs to take charge of his party and rein in their utter pathetic wimpiness.

The republicans are like feeding sharks. They are so elated. This could be their achilles heel. Unfortunately dems are too busy living up to their reputation as being totally weak. Weakness is the reason Democrats can't stay in power and get their agendas passed.

Posted by: Elizabeth on January 21, 2010 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

Since there is really no inherent, true conservative issue of Constitutionality here (corporations are not mentioned in COTUS, etc.), any "conservative" who is pleased by this is tipping his hand about it being an interest group and power issue. (As are the "Justices" in SCOTUS who voted for this.)

We knew that, but maybe lots of independents and genuine populists will be appalled and drop out of the Republican tent. And it would be cool for Soros to form a corporation and collect donations to fight Republicans.

Again, the original "precedent" was phony anyway:
http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/node/664

Posted by: Neil B on January 21, 2010 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

Remember all those "signing statements" that Bush put forth whenever he disagreed with laws or SCOTUS rulings? Well, turnabout is fair play. If Obama has the guts, he can issue signing statements effectively voiding this revolting decision. He can at least try. (BTW I am willing to sympathize with genuine conservative sentiments when I think they have a point. Prime example, the execrable Kelo decision.

Posted by: neil b on January 21, 2010 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

wrong link Arrrr!!

American Pirate Party beginnings:

APP on reddit.com

Posted by: MuddyWench on January 21, 2010 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

I'm surprised at those who are mad at Obama, or disappointed that he hasn't delivered. What exactly was his track records for executive and legislative success?

He spent one term in the Senate. Nothing really impressive came out of that.

He spent time as the Illinois state senate. A lot of "present" votes and not much else.

Before that, some community organizing and some legal work.

Where is the executive experience? Where's the proof of his political handiwork?

He's a great orator. And so far, that hasn't amounted to anything.

Give me a president who can't orate but who can get things done.

Posted by: Mortgage This on January 21, 2010 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

re: supreme court - this could be a start of the repub court reversing or striking down any law their corporate masters don't like. I do not know what's coming up case wise, but you can betcha every random christian corporate conservative lawyer will be filing suits in hope of getting a hearing before the court.

meanwhile - for the gigantic cororations, this could be a double edged sword. The Tom Delays of the world are going to start their extortion rings up as soon as possible -- 'elect me and its drill, baby, drill.' 'Support me and those pesky work place safety laws, go away.' 'Just a few million and it will be like Teddy Roosevelt and his communist cousin were never elected.'


Plus, corps like stability, esp political stability and this has destabilized the system.

Also, voter have never cared about donors to campaigns.

Posted by: kurt on January 21, 2010 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

The future? All triage will be self-serving

I predict the rise of a right-wing dictatorship that will come incrementally at first, and then in the hurry of necessity.

Incrementally:

We will still vote for quite some time and the dictatorship will at first be transparent. Soon enough republicans will control both houses, the presidency, the supreme court, and the media. They will have great success funding their immediate (and permanent) ascendancy via corporate-funded campaigns. How could they not? There are no checks in this brave new model born today...

As an aside: the Obama model of 5-bucks from everyone is dead. We're all too goddamn broke and pissed to buy into that ever again. And I suspect if he wants to get reelected he better start playing golf with the banksters...

Of course their won't be any filibustering from Dems over the next 20 years of our play-pretend democracy. Corporate media would hammer them if they tried that, and republicans wouldn't stand for such obstruction. So the filibustering model is dead too...

In the hurry of necessity:

The effects of global warming will ultimately require a greater martial presence on the "homeland front." That's when the final curtain closes on the American experiment for all to see. Perhaps Mary Cheney will be our first empress? Corporate America obviously regards the Cheney family as royalty. So that's a possibility. At any rate, once the ocean starts to wash over NY and Florida all hell will break lose. It will be madness. We are going to need a dictatorship to shuffle people around and protect the oligarchs and make the hard triage decisions. (By the way, did you "see" the latest news on Antarctica ice?)

By then I suspect too, the Murdochs and Cheneys of the world will probably be hoping to relocate to lavish earth orbiting stations containing nothing but the finest. Space, (actually near earth orbit) will be the final and last frontier for the rich. Fortunately for them, the private space industry is just now kicking into gear. In 30 years there will likely be nascent interim hotels for the wealthy.† Yes you are right: that still is a long way from from mansions and palaces, but the Earth will be a fucked up, dying, and miserably place. Once the ecology of the planet as a whole splinters things are going to go to hell very fast.

And so the rich will find funds to build some nice lairs in space. And just as they have always done after they've squeezed the beauty out of the landscape, they will flee for this final exubia-in-the-sky. Ultimately this is how the game ends for man-unkind. If it's any consolation: the palaces in the sky will ulimately hiss away too...

† For you space nuts: Not one cent will be spend for the democratization of space via the wonderful space ladder idea. Forget about that. The powers that will be solely to save themselves. In the near future, all triage will be self-serving...

Posted by: koreyel on January 21, 2010 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a lurker who comes here 3-4 times a day ... have done so for over 5 years now ...

As a born-&-bred Chicagoan, raised in a Steamfitter's Union household, who has lived in the South for the past 25 years, I can assure you that November is going to be a *DISASTER* for any thinking, caring individuals that are still here.

Posted by: DanS. on January 21, 2010 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

That's really sad about Air America Radio. It was really really good for a while. I greatly enjoyed the months when I could actually hear it on the real, live radio like in my car. Stephanie Miller and Maddow in the morning. Franken at lunch. Randi Rhodes on the ride home. Damn.

Posted by: Haik Bedrosian on January 21, 2010 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

Not sure if anyone here who is criticizing the SCOTUS decision has bothered to read it. The idea isn't that a corporation is a person, per se, but that Congress can't limit a person's free speech just because that person, rather than acting in his sole, individual capacity, chooses to be part of a group and exercise his free speech rights in a group capacity.

In principle, if Congress can deny the shareholders of Mobil the right to collective free speech, it could deny members of NARAL the same right. But it can't deny either group free speech without violating the 1st Amendment.

Anyway, that's that theory. People can lament the fact that groups of people can usually afford a bigger megaphone than individuals, but that's hardly a novel development. By the same token, wealthy individuals can afford more "free" speech than poor people. Again, no big shocker.


Posted by: Conrad on January 21, 2010 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

Give me a president who can't orate but who can get things done. -- Mortgage This, @20:22

Verily! We need us a nucular war with Iran; the two piddlin' ones we got goin' ain't no-way enough! We otta have Waterboarding televised on PBS; real 'muricans wanna see real masculine muscle! And let's cut us some brush an' read all them papers of all them Foundering Fathers; surfin's for the Kenya-born sissies! Put "Act first, think later (or never)" on every dollar bill, along with "With Jesus we bleed"!

What a wonderful world it would be...

Posted by: exlibra on January 21, 2010 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

"chooses to be part of a group and exercise his free speech rights in a group capacity."

Chooses, huh ? Be sure to get back to us on how exactly all of the shareholders of a big corporation like Mobil are choosing which political candidates or actions to favor with ads. Aren't some of those shareholders not even American citizens ? How exactly is that going to work ? And, of course, all of this is going to be reported upon and monitored so that we always know that the shareholders are being consulted to vote on everything, right ?

Do you actually even understand how idiotic and contrary to our democratic institutions this ruling is ?

Posted by: OhNoNotAgain on January 21, 2010 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not a concern troll, and I've posted before.

But I'm really, honestly curious: what will be the theme/subject matter of the State of the Union next week?

After failing to get HCR, what will be the big accomplishment? Bailing out banks last year? Saving GMAC? A stimulus that didn't stimulate? There sure as hell weren't any foreign policy wins. Copenhagen was an epic fail. Unemployment is still heading north. The economy is in a mini-Depression.

I guess the President could always rail on about fat cats and such for an hour.

I really hope the President gets something substantive passed this year, otherwise November is going to be a blood bath. If financial industry reform is also neutered by Congress (Chris Dodd and Barney Frank are already sounding iffy) then Obama's Presidency is toast.

Posted by: Johnny Tremaine on January 21, 2010 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

The Global Presidency

Mark Kleiman on Citizens United

One aspect of the ruling that hasn’t gathered much attention: as far as I can tell, the analysis doesn’t distinguish between domestic and foreign corporations. Not that it would matter much, since a foreign corporation can always establish a domestic subsidiary, or buy an American company: Cities Service, for example, is a unit of PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company. So the ruling allows Hugo Chavez to spend as much money as he wants to helping and harming American politicians. If the Russian, Saudi, and Chinese governments don’t currently have appropriate vehicles for doing so, you can count on it: they soon will.

Consider then this argument:

The American presidency is too valuable and powerful a position to be decided by just one big dumb country. Suppose instead we decided, in a bow to the World, to allow other countries (and their more progressive corporations) to influence the selection of our president. We can't give them the vote of course. That would be too shocking to Americans. But instead we can let them make commercials and pump in money. In other words we give everything but the actual vote...

I suspect if we could do that, enable Europe say to participate... then overnight...
Republican cheers would turn to jeers.
Oui?

Posted by: koreyel on January 21, 2010 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans are "overjoyed" at the "unprecedented influence corporations will now have in federal campaigns" in the wake of the Citizens United ruling from the Supreme Court.

Rollerball may soon replace NASCAR as the favorite Republican sport.


Posted by: SteveT on January 21, 2010 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

air america had ratings?? according to wapo, they had 'no measurable audience' in the DC area.

michael savage's audience=millions

Posted by: skeptic1 on January 21, 2010 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

The Anti-Defamation League isn't pleased with Rush Limbaugh's casual anti-Semitism.

I am sorry to say it, but Foxmabn's response about Jews voting their religious interest rather than their interest as Americans rings false, at least here in Los Angeles, home of the largest Jewish community outside of Israel.

Recently, Hentry Waxman, outspoken liberal, e-mailed a blatantly pro-Israel message to Jewish voters in Jane Harman's district, telling them not to vote against Harman's primary opponent, Marcy Winograd, who opposes current Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza, saying Winograd favors a "single state" solution. Both Harman and Winograd are Jews. Harman regularly votes close to the opposite of Waxman on nearly every political issue other than Israel (where they are both committed Zionists), while Winograd supports nearly every cause that Waxman supports, and opposes every conservative position Harman ever took (pro-torture, pro-eavesdropping, pro-Gitmo imprisonment, pro-Iraq war votes, etc., etc.) that Waxman opposed.

But Waxman opposes Winograd and supports Harman and tells Jewish voters (a significant minority in the district whose votes can swing it one way or the other) to vote for Harman strictly on her support of current Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza.

And this isn't a blatant appeal to Jewish voters to vote their "religion"???

Trust me, this dynamic works in every congressional district represented by a Democrat in Los Angeles. But nobody says anything about it, because no one wants to be treated as Marlon Brando was and have to go pay "penance" at the Museum of "Tolerance" with Rabbi Hier.

Posted by: TCinLA on January 22, 2010 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

With respect to the no-reins-on-corporate-spending-for-political-campaigns issue, Michael Steele is credited with the lofty statement, "Free speech strengthens our democracy".

In a just world, a split-screen would have popped up showing the "leftist traitors" who dared to protest at Bush's appearances, herded into "free-speech zones" that were contained with a wire fence like a cattle pen and far from the Dear Leader's speaking venue.

Then Steele's tongue would have turned black, started to smoke and fallen out of his head.

Maybe there's even still a photo of one of those "free-speech zones" around somewhere. Combined with Steele's hypocritical pronouncement, it'd make a dandy campaign ad if America was still having elections rather than mouthpiece-for-sale blockbuster events.

Posted by: Mark on January 22, 2010 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK

"Chooses, huh ? Be sure to get back to us on how exactly all of the shareholders of a big corporation like Mobil are choosing which political candidates or actions to favor with ads."

By definition, a shareholder has chosen to own a piece of Mobil. Shareholders collectively choose the directors, who in turn control the management of the company. If a shareholder doesn't approve of Mobil's use of corporate funds to advocate a particular candidate, or its advocacy of any candidate at all, that shareholder can either work on trying to change the board of directors or sell his shares so as not to be associated with such advocacy.

Of course, if a person -- you perhaps? -- objects to ALL large and successful corporations on principle, then they may find their investment options seriously limited by their own desire not to associate with such corporations. However, I don't see why "your" objections to a company like GE, for example, should keep other people from owning stock in it and, if they do, associating themselves with GE's advocacy of green technologies, for example. If the govt can limit GE's support for candidate x, then why can't the govt limit the Sierra Club's support for candidate y?

"Aren't some of those shareholders not even American citizens ? How exactly is that going to work ? "

Some shareholders are of course foreigners. So what? We don't generally prohibit foreigners from partaking in free speech as individuals. I seem to recall John Lennon was a fairly vocal critic of the U.S. policy in Vietnam. Would you have defended the constitutionality of a govt ban on the Apple label's issuance of "Give Peace a Chance" based on the fact Lennon was a British subject and thus not entitled, through his corporate record label, to partake in political speech in America?

"Do you actually even understand how idiotic and contrary to our democratic institutions this ruling is ?"

It's not undemocratic for people to be able to partake in free speech through group associations. Granted, the larger and wealthier the group, the easier it can afford to express its views. However, the currency of democracy is votes, not speech. Even a billionaire still only gets one vote.

Posted by: Conrad on January 22, 2010 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

I propose a Memorial Day March on Washington.

Who's with me?

Posted by: karen marie on January 22, 2010 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

Why, lookie hyar; http://www.brumax.com/freedomofspeech.htm . There are quite a few photos of the "Demonstration Zone" taken during the Republican Convention. I guess Michael Steele wasn't a big fan of free speech back then - at least, I don't recall his taking a stand and saying it was a travesty of freedom, something like that (only with more "freedom" in it, of course). My favourite is the one of the poster that says not even poles or sticks are allowed in the "Demonstration Zone". George W. Bush's security phalanx, gunned-up and clanking with Tasers, was afraid of STICKS??

Speaking of free speech - hey, Conrad! The de facto CEO of CITGO is Hugo Chavez. Are you in favour of Hugo Chavez being able to put his money where his mouth is during the next American election? And what's that crap about even a billionaire only gets one vote? Yes, he or she only gets to PERSONALLY vote once; how many unbillionaires do you think I could get to vote the way I wanted if I had a couple million bucks to throw around?

Either you just emerged from a biopod where you've been in suspended animation since Beaver Cleaver was a twinkle in his Daddy's eye, or you have a childlike faith in the essential goodness of your fellow man that is sort of sweet. Totally out of step with the world as it is....but sweet.

Posted by: Mark on January 22, 2010 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

@Mark: What's your point, exactly? Are you saying that Steele was responsible for creating the "free speech zones" you complain of, and therefore he must support any and all future curtailments of free speech that may be proposed? Presumably, you would want Michael Steele to adhere to whatever interpretation of the Constitution happened to be correct rather than whatever interpretation happened to be consistent with his prior beliefs and conclusions, which you deem incorrect. Therefore, I don't really see the relevance of his prior position (if any) on "free speech zones".

Posted by: Conrad on January 22, 2010 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK

My point, which I thought was obvious, is that Steele and other Republican movers and shakers as quoted in the linked article are vocal boosters of free speech only so long as it involves corporations being allowed to spend unlimited funds in support of chosen candidates. Everybody who attended the Bush appearances was aware of the Demonstration Zones, and not one Republican said they were Unconstitutional or a violation of Free Speech. Did you catch any of those staged "Town Halls" featuring crazy people slobbering and spitting that Obama was a Nazi? Watch any of those Teabagger get-togethers? That's free speech without any limitations imposed on it.

Steele's and his Republican pals' current love affair with free speech seems a little hypocritical to me.

Posted by: Mark on January 22, 2010 at 1:35 AM | PERMALINK

@ Mark 1:19: What prevents Chavez from playing such a role before this SCOTUS decision? What prevented him from funneling money to someone in the U.S. who could buy tv spots in his own name saying "vote for candidate x"?

Anyway, the issue of foreign influence is a side issue. If you want to pass laws that would effectively deny foreigners the ability to participate in American political debates, I don't see why that wouldn't pass constitutional muster. Just don't come running to me if, because of such laws, the FBI is out arresting the next John Lennon. The fact that those laws might be constitutional as applied to foreign nationals doesn't make them constitutional as applied to Americans.

As the millionaires getting more "free" speech by virtue of being wealthier, that's true, but there's no way to change that without violating the 1st amendment. If Bill Gates wants to spend a billion dollars on political ads, you can't pass a law saying he can only spend a half billion. You are still "abridging" his speech rights to the extent of a half billion. And if, as someone suggested, you give everybody a $10 speech voucher, that still won't eliminate the potential free-speech spending advantage enjoyed by billionaires. The only "solution" is to somehow outlaw wealth accrual in the first instance, but that's obviously fraught with huge constitutional problems and would so undermine property rights as to threaten a complete social breakdown.

Posted by: Conrad on January 22, 2010 at 1:54 AM | PERMALINK

RE: Wall Street Accountability

It doesn't matter much now that the Supremes, fronted by divas Thomas and Scalia, have cleared the way for them to spend boatloads on negative ads. The prospect of such ads will make even the most stalwart politician think twice. With a stroke of the pen, this "Gang of Five" hamstrung any reform that monied interests oppose.

At the least, it should be a good day for media stocks.

Posted by: Bob on January 22, 2010 at 6:44 AM | PERMALINK

"By definition, a shareholder has chosen to own a piece of Mobil."

Yes, for the purposes of making money doing what Mobil does, not interfering in our political process.

"Shareholders collectively choose the directors, who in turn control the management of the company. If a shareholder doesn't approve of Mobil's use of corporate funds to advocate a particular candidate, or its advocacy of any candidate at all, that shareholder can either work on trying to change the board of directors or sell his shares so as not to be associated with such advocacy."

Yes, and all of the shareholders have an equal say in what goes on, right ? Wait, no, they don't ? Then how in the hell is a person without a lot of money going to affect how a corporation practices its newly-found free speech ? I'll answer that for you - they're not going to. IOW, they'll be out of the game, and their one vote won't mean shit.

"Of course, if a person -- you perhaps? -- objects to ALL large and successful corporations on principle, then they may find their investment options seriously limited by their own desire not to associate with such corporations."

You see what is happening already ? I'm being labeled anti-corporate because I don't think they should have equal footing with a real live human being. Boy, I can't wait for the pledges of allegiance to our new corporate overlords. For your information, I happen to own a company that is incorporated. You see, you can think that capitalism is an efficient and optimal economic system, without thinking that it should be completely unfettered without any controls. I know that its two separate thoughts, but some of us can handle it.

"However, I don't see why "your" objections to a company like GE, for example, should keep other people from owning stock in it and, if they do, associating themselves with GE's advocacy of green technologies, for example."

What a bunch of BS. Anyone is free to associate themselves with the advocacy of green technologies today. They don't need GE to do that. People own stock in GE because they think it is going to make them money, pure and simple. Trying to dress up this pig like that is really a smarmy move.

"If the govt can limit GE's support for candidate x, then why can't the govt limit the Sierra Club's support for candidate y?"

Seriously? You don't understand the difference between an advocacy group and a corporation ?

"Some shareholders are of course foreigners. So what? We don't generally prohibit foreigners from partaking in free speech as individuals. I seem to recall John Lennon was a fairly vocal critic of the U.S. policy in Vietnam. Would you have defended the constitutionality of a govt ban on the Apple label's issuance of "Give Peace a Chance" based on the fact Lennon was a British subject and thus not entitled, through his corporate record label, to partake in political speech in America?"

Not even close to the same thing, and you know it. A single person writing and singing a song is exactly the kind of free speech that the writers of the Constitution envisioned, not this bastardized version whereby a foreign-held corporation can run ads against a candidate for office in New York State because they want to keep dumping chemicals in a local river, and that candidate wants to stop them.

"It's not undemocratic for people to be able to partake in free speech through group associations."

But that's not what is going on here. You aren't going to have a group of individuals advocating for a specific cause that is well-defined and not contrary to our democratic process. You have a corporation that is going to use its influence to try and change anything that is an impediment to a higher profit, including gaining access to specific government contracts or subsidies, and trying to completely eliminate all taxation.

Posted by: OhNoNotAgain on January 22, 2010 at 7:03 AM | PERMALINK

"My point, which I thought was obvious, is that Steele and other Republican movers and shakers as quoted in the linked article are vocal boosters of free speech only so long as it involves corporations being allowed to spend unlimited funds in support of chosen candidates. Everybody who attended the Bush appearances was aware of the Demonstration Zones, and not one Republican said they were Unconstitutional or a violation of Free Speech."

Maybe because they weren't? Reasonable time/place/manner restrictions aren't unconstitutional. If the ones you're talking about were so clearly unreasonable, then why didn't the ACLU find a liberal judge to slap a TRO? Oh right, the rich corporations that run everything probably bought those judges off to protect the Republicans.

Posted by: Conrad on January 22, 2010 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

"Yes, for the purposes of making money doing what Mobil does, not interfering in our political process."

Pretty Orwellian concept. You really think that engaging in political speech equates to INTERFERING with our political process?

"Yes, and all of the shareholders have an equal say in what goes on, right ? Wait, no, they don't ? Then how in the hell is a person without a lot of money going to affect how a corporation practices its newly-found free speech ? I'll answer that for you - they're not going to. IOW, they'll be out of the game, and their one vote won't mean shit."

Neither is one vote likely to decide a presidential election in which 100 million votes are cast. Seriously, what's your point? Obviously, the way a person who owns one share is going to influence Mobil's practices is by banding together with like-minded shareholders. If there aren't enough like-minded shareholders, then they lose -- which is how things work in a democracy. It's majority rules. Do you have a problem with that now?

"You see, you can think that capitalism is an efficient and optimal economic system, without thinking that it should be completely unfettered without any controls. I know that its two separate thoughts, but some of us can handle it."

Not sure why you're onto capitalism now. This is about associational rights. Not all groups are organized for the purpose of engaging in commerce. Some are strictly for advocacy, like the Democratic Party. Do you think Congress should be allowed to enact a law that says individual Democrats have free speech but the party itself can be muzzled within 60 days of an election? That's really the issue, whether free speech disappears whenever people choose to partake in a group.

"Not even close to the same thing, and you know it. A single person writing and singing a song is exactly the kind of free speech that the writers of the Constitution envisioned, not this bastardized version whereby a foreign-held corporation can run ads against a candidate for office in New York State because they want to keep dumping chemicals in a local river, and that candidate wants to stop them."

So in other words, Congress should be allowed to decide what government policies a wealthy foreigner is permitted to advocate and what policies he can be jailed for? Umm, okay.

"You aren't going to have a group of individuals advocating for a specific cause that is well-defined and not contrary to our democratic process. You have a corporation that is going to use its influence to try and change anything that is an impediment to a higher profit, including gaining access to specific government contracts or subsidies, and trying to completely eliminate all taxation."

Your problem is that you just don't believe in free speech. You seem to think its okay for some groups to advocate something that's in their perceived economic interests but not okay for other groups to do exactly the same thing. The government should decide, or so you think. I'm sorry you have such utter disregard for the Constitution, but at least you're attempting to be fairly open about it.

Posted by: Conrad on January 22, 2010 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

" And it was a bit of a surprise to see Cindy McCain, Sen. John McCain's wife, endorse gay marriage and publicly protest California's Prop 8."

It shouldn't be.

The McCains are Goldwater conservatives, not social conservatives, and Goldwater is famous for his thoughts that private things remaining private.

If you google Barry Goldwater's thoughts on gays in the service ("You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight") or the influence of religion on the party ("I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass")you will see that her actions are right in the spirit of this side of the conservative movement.

Posted by: mikeyes on January 22, 2010 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Conrad, your arguments are mostly fraudulent. First, a corporation is not just "an association of people", it is a legally defined entity with partial rights of personhood that are granted it by a government, not "inherent" (in the mind of any reasonable, non shill v. someone like you.) "It" can be a party to lawsuits, owe and be owed money etc. (without the owners being personally liable - that alone proves it's not just like an unincorporated "club" that can't borrow money as a separate entity etc.) That means, when acting as "an entity" it can be fully circumscribed by the public representatives who grant these provisional "rights" just as a means to a limited commercial end. So any argument that why not let them spend money to campaign etc. is a fraud. The distinction about corporations is exactly the relevant one because of how they are chartered. Furthermore, what if some owners object to money being spent in that way, shouldn't they be able to sue for mismanagement, violation of real or implied charter, etc?


A non-profit that is organized for the very purpose of advocacy does have rights to spend on advocacy, but both their chartering principle and their implied representation to holders/donors etc. is different. Indeed, the irony is that the case could have been narrowly decided if Citizens United made that specific argument, but Roberts and his fellow fools and tools went even further than that.

Posted by: neil b. on January 22, 2010 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Your problem is that you just don't believe in free speech. You seem to think its okay for some groups to advocate something that's in their perceived economic interests but not okay for other groups to do exactly the same thing. The government should decide, or so you think. I'm sorry you have such utter disregard for the Constitution, but at least you're attempting to be fairly open about it."

Save the sermons for someone else, useful idiot.

You're simply being purposefully ignorant and conflating not-for-profit advocacy and political organizations with for-profit corporations in order to further your agenda. For-profit corporations are not just an "association" of individuals, and you'd know that if you cared to let it seep into skull.

Posted by: OhNoNotAgain on January 22, 2010 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK
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