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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/27/10

Gone a Week and You Trash the Country

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Wow, I was gone less than a week to the Conch Republic, and now return to a nation in which I would heartily recommend to any city, county, or state that it follow the example of the Florida Keys and secede from the so-called union.

We now have an official presidential list of Americans to be assassinated -- by America's government. A pollster says Fox News is the most trusted news source in the United States. The Supreme Court says corporations are people and bribery is speech; and people like Jonathan Turley and Glenn Greenwald, not to mention the AFL-CIO, support this insanity.

A rightwing nut at least came close to winning a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, his opponent broke the land speed record for conceding, and progressive blogs are posting defenses of the filibuster rule. Peace groups, which shall go unnamed purely because they're so damn unpeaceful when you criticize them, have begun lobbying for a better war spending bill, instead of opposing it, while the president has proposed freezing spending on everything except killing people -- sending former advocate for the working class Jared Bernstein out to complete the sale of his soul defending this policy.

Meanwhile our real progressive geniuses now want the same president to fix healthcare with a signing statement, oblivious to Obama's opposition to decent healthcare, the ease with which a future president could unsigning-statement the bill, and Obama's evolution to worse legislative abuses than those oh-so-2009 signing statements. And, finally, China is afraid that if its people see "Avatar" they'll rebel, but America is relaxed and focused on better ways to sell its sedated moviegoers more popcorn.

Of course, there's lots of good, but smaller, news too, as there always is. Various labor unions broke with the AFL-CIO's backing of fascism, and even the ACLU is considering dropping its free speech fundamentalism. Oregonians voted for progressive taxation. Congressman Grijalva at least feinted in the direction of taking a stand on healthcare, breaking a 19-year streak of the Congressional Progressive Caucus not even appearing to do anything. Peace protesters in DC and at the School of the Americas went to jail while others stepped up and escalated the protesting. PDA began holding monthly vigils against war funding, and other groups began to support the effort. Millions of people across the full half centimeter of our political spectrum became more energized this week by the Supreme Court's latest outrage than had been off their asses in the past two years. But I'm not going to point out all the good signs to a bunch of victory-dependent slobs when we have a moral duty to resist injustice regardless, and I've spent a five-month book tour evolving from an analyst into a public therapist for discouraged activists who got their wittle feelings hurt when the new emperor acted like an emperor. That's not my job, and if you really had given up you wouldn't be making the effort to try to convince me to give up, which only makes you feel worse no matter what I do.

There are some very smart people -- I've been reading Morris Berman -- who claim to have scientific knowledge that we're all inevitably doomed, and they are exactly as childish as blissful global warming deniers and cheerleaders for empire. What we have to do can very easily be done, if we choose to do it, which is entirely up to us. But we've got to be thinking straight. So let's try. And let's start with corporate personhood and the First Amendment rights to bribery and plutocracy.

My first step dipping my toes into our national swamp north of the Conch Republic came when I spoke to the Palm Beach Democratic Club on Monday Night in West Palm Beach. Great bunch of people in a great organization, and John Heuer, leading advocate in North Carolina for accountability of high federal officials, was there. Eric Johnson and Brian Franklin, who did great work for Congressman Robert Wexler and helped try to impeach Dick Cheney, were there. Nobody asked any "Why don't we all kill ourselves?" questions. People who gave speeches instead of asking questions, actually explained things that not necessarily everybody knew, and concluded by advocating their favorite solutions. And yet the whole thing was still drenched in infantile partisan discouragement over the "betrayals" of a political party, not to mention the Supreme Court.

I talked about some of the possible responses we should be working on. I've heard proposals ranging from the useless to the certifiable. One idea is for Congress to sit up on its hind legs and declare people to be creations of god, and corporations to be creations of people. Time to destroy the first amendment to save it!

Other ideas involve focusing on the foreign influences on corporations, playing into good ol' xenophobia. Of course it's unconstitutional and possibly treasonous to allow foreigners to influence our elections, but so is the whole enterprise, and U.S.-based corporations and corporate friends like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are going to do far and away the worst damage to our country, just as they do to other people's countries. I'd take the focus on foreign companies seriously if we were going to expel Delaware Inc. from the United States at the same time.

Others have urged lobbying media outlets, or organizing shareholders or consumers. I favor all such activities, but they're harder than forcing action out of our elected officials, and pointless unless we can control our elected officials (or the corporations' elected officials as the case may be). We need more local and state clean election laws, plus free media for campaigns laws. We need reforms like those Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin is introducing (two-thirds of shareholders must pre-approve corporate election spending, dissenting shareholders get rebates, state contractors cannot spend on elections, and [euphemism for bribery here] cannot be deducted as a reasonable business expense).

We need similar reforms from Congress, and two other Congressional approaches as well. Congressman Alan Grayson has introduced bills to bar government contractors from spending on elections, to tax such spending at 500%, to banish election-spending companies from stock exchanges, to apply anti-trust laws to PACs, and to require majority shareholder pre-approval of election spending. All of this can be done without undoing the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, but all of it is quite limited. Ultimately we'll have to amend the Constitution, and Congresswoman Donna Edwards has already introduced a good amendment. Other campaigns are pushing for similar amendments or for a Constitutional Convention. And others are pursuing the equally necessary strategy of impeaching Justices Roberts, or Alito, or in fact five members of the Supreme Court.

And yet there are those voices of appeasement. Jonathan Turley thinks the Supreme Court's ruling will be very bad for the country, and he supports it. He also opposes amending the Constitution to directly fix it. Glenn Greenwald takes a similar approach:

"Critics emphasize that the Court's ruling will produce very bad outcomes: primarily that it will severely exacerbate the problem of corporate influence in our democracy. Even if this is true, it's not really relevant."

Greenwald undoes much of his wonderful past work to back this up:

"One of the central lessons of the Bush era should have been that illegal or unconstitutional actions -- warrantless eavesdropping, torture, unilateral Presidential programs -- can't be justified because of the allegedly good results they produce (Protecting us from the Terrorists)."

Who has posted more evidence that these policies have had disastrous results than Greenwald? Even setting that aside to climb our ivory tower, how could the above "lesson" have been learned from the Bush era? Either we recognize the value of the rule of law, and the disastrous consequences of diminishing it, or we do not. There could be positive consequences to violating a law and negative consequences involving the damage thereby done to the rule of law. But that is not a description of anything that happened during the Bush era. And a Supreme Court decision radically reversing long-standing and widespread precedent, overturning past Supreme Court decisions and threatening dozens of state laws can -- at best -- appeal to a new conception of what five people want the First Amendment to mean. They cannot appeal to secret holy revelations of what the First Amendment REALLY meant all along. And to my notion of what that amendment should mean, the outcomes of that meaning are perfectly relevant. In fact nothing else is relevant at all.

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)
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