Supreme Court Just Destroyed the Country, Liberals Say

Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling giving corporations the right to advertise on political issues and candidates has liberals’ heads exploding.

It’s a tough issue. Justice Anthony Kennedy called this a free speech issue, and he’s right. And when there are challenges to free speech, as the axiom goes, the answer is never less free speech but more. Those who object to the decision — Keith Olbermann of MSNBC called it the worst decision since Dred Scott — are also right that it gives corporations too much power.

It’s amusing that Olbermann is going apoplectic tonight, but has to break for — wait for it, wait for it — advertisements from corporations that keep his program on the air.

There are other remedies to corporations having so much power. One is to drag it out in the light of day and let people see how it works. I’ve for years advocated that every media story about legislation should routinely report to the public what interested parties have given to each legislator. “Senator Leghorn, who leads the opposition to the bill outlawing electric dog food, has taken $2 million in the last five years from the electric dog food industry, which has also spent $7 million advertising on his behalf, and only $300,000 from organizations trying to outlaw electric dog food.” Show the public exactly where each legislators’ funding and advertising comes from. Let people know who’s bought and paid for by whom. Right now, all that funding stuff comes out quarterly at best and is buried in wonkish stories that nobody outside political boiler rooms understands.

Another remedy — take back the airwaves. Under Ronald Reagan we lost the Fairness Doctrine and the Equal Time Rule at the FCC. We could bring that back with a vengeance. The concept was that, because the airwaves radio and TV broadcast on were public, the public, through the government, could regulate what traveled on those airwaves. Let’s use the same rationale — which was creative, at best — to regulate cable and satellite TV, not just traditional broadcast. The internet is public, so we can if we want regulate that. We could require TV and internet broadcasts (and narrowcasts) to give free “air time” or cable time or satellite time or screen time to all bona fide candidates (5% of vote at last election, a certain number of signatures, whatever). So the advantage of rich companies and candidates buying advertising time could be blunted.

The republic might be able to survive giving more advertising power to corporations if we in turn give more power to opposing forces through even more freedom of speech.

That said, I think corporations already have way too much power and influence in our society. The court decision from the 19th century that gave corporations the rights of people was ludicrous and started us down the path where we are not a democracy or a republic but a corporate subsidiary. Corporations are not people and should not have the rights of people.

But Olbermann is saying tonight that within 10 years all politicians will be bought and sold openly. Mark Twain talked about purchasing congressman in the 19th century — this is nothing new. Today we don’t have legislators bought by their contributors? Come on.

This is a big deal, and probably a bad decision. Corporations don’t need more power. But we have power too, and we can survive this if we exercise that power. Reporters and bloggers and watchdogs will have to do a better job of informing the public who’s buying their legislators and their opinions, and opponents of corporations’ points of view will have to be more creative in getting the public’s attention.

It was amusing to see the authors of Game Change, the book about the 2008 campaign, talking about how little John Edwards read, how little attention he paid to legislation, on Chris Matthews’ show tonight. Where were these reports when Edwards was running? Mark Halperin, one of the authors, said most senators considered Edwards a fraud when he ran for president because he knew so little about issues and legislation. Halperin was shocked at how little Edwards knew about one of his own legislative proposals. But did these guys write this at the time? No!

Journalism needs to start covering not just he-said-she-said pissing matches in Congress, and not just parroting candidates’ message points, but actually reporting what these people are like, what they know, and who’s paying for them. Now, more than ever.

— Bruce Benidt
(AP photo of liberal spokeshumans denouncing today’s decision on steps of Supreme Court)brand marketing nice

“Celebrate That In Your Classrooms….”

One of my favorite “I-wish-it-was-a-real-speech-by-a-real-politician” movie scenes is from The American President when Michael Douglas aka President Andrew Shepherd finally grows a pair and comes out swinging against his opponents and their smear tactics against him and his girlfriend (Annette Benning). The relevant part of the speech for today’s topic is fairly early on:

America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms.

Here’s our opportunity.

I read today where a young man in Colorado was suspended for wearing a t-shirt reading, “Obama, A Terrorist’s Best Friend” to school to “on a day when students were asked to show their patriotism by wearing red, white and blue, according to MyFOXColorado.com.”

As usual in such cases, the school district has tried to hide behind the “disruption of the learning environment” argument, but as usual the argument rings hollow to me.  Would they have suspended him for wearing a t-shirt reading “Obama, Inexperienced and Unprepared”?  How about a anti-Republican “Lying Liars” t-shirt?

I’m with Andrew Shepherd on such issues; this is one of the things that makes us special as a society, our willingness to give room for a wide, wide spectrum of voices to be heard.  Especially in our schools.  Even for opinions as offensive to me as this one, espoused by people with whom I have little in common.

– Austin

PS – The whole Andrew Shepherd speech runs 5 minutes and is well worth watching for a reminder of how far short of stirring rhetoric the current conversation falls (gosh, if only an actor would run for president…wait…didn’t we do that?).  And, as a challenge, watch the speech and see if you can detect an echo of it in one of the major speeches delivered in the last month.  As I listened to this particular line in the speech in question, I thought, “That sounds like…”

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Read This Book

If you’re looking for a scary but very realistic scenario about how we could see a further erosion of civil rights in the name of keeping us safe, check out Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.  Set in the here-and-now, it details how another attack on U.S. soil – in the Bay Area this time – triggers a rapid and dramatic increase in the use of monitoring and surveillance technology by the Department of Homeland Security and how innocents could easily get caught up in the system of hidden detention and interrogations that has made us reviled by many in the world.  As the story points out with great effect, the next time the disappeared might be our sons and daughters instead of brown- and black-skinned foreigners.

What I found most disturbing about the book is that – unlike most of what I read – there was no science fiction required.  All of the technology described in the book pretty much already exists.  In fact, the only part of the book I found unrealistic was a scene in which the president’s chief aide conspires with the military leadership in the Bay Area to use continued “terrorism” and plans for an October surprise to swing the election.  Even I don’t believe that happens.

The book gets a little preachy and predictable at times, but it’s a fast, easy read (it’s actually published as a “young adult” book).  Highly recommended.

– Austin commercial banks fine

The Third Rails of American Politics

Whew, we’ve had a busy couple weeks here at the Crowd.  Lots of good posts and some even better comments. Thank you one and all for making the SRC worth visiting – as it turns out Voltaire didn’t say, “Some of you are whacked but I’m totally behind your right to say any crazy thing which pops into your head.”

Of course, some of the things you might say will lead to eating alone in the lunchroom.  As free a society as we are in terms of expression, there are some places you just don’t go in American politics.  There are no laws per se about most of them – some “hate crimes” laws cover speech and there are public safety type laws about shouting “Fire!” in the theater and such things (“Bomb” in the airport security line is also ill-advised) – but there are certain unspoken but pretty rigidly enforced social conventions that most of us – politicians and the like – avoid like the crazy guy on the corner walking in circles muttering to himself (“That’s a mirror, Jon.”)  Step on them and you’re zapped with 50,000 volts (or amps or watts, I forget which one is the killer) of political excommunication.  Even stepping too close to one of these “third rails” can be a fatal or near-fatal political experience.

Sometimes it’s hard to detect the absence of something, but – like stuff that’s not porn – you know it when you don’t see it.  Here’s a few of the America’s no-fly zones that our politicians avoid:

  1. Not supporting Israel.
  2. Criticism of”soldiers on the ground.”
  3. Criticism of “working men and women.”
  4. Race- or gender-based differences.

What are some others?  What won’t be popping out of the word processors of campaign policy advisors and speechwriters – on either side of the aisle – this fall?  Should any of them be dragged out and debated?

– Austin sample invoice template fine