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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Denying Dennis and Detainees

dr. elsewhere here

No doubt this irony is like so many others we're becoming immune to in these Bush end times (is this what it means for irony to be dead?), but someone needs to say it out loud.

Tuesday, after a Nevada judge granted Dennis Kucinich the right to be included in the Nevada Democratic debates on MSNBC, the Nevada Supreme Court sided with the NBC argument that their First Amendment rights (presumably freedom of the press?) would be violated should they be forced to include Kucinich in the debates.

Now, before your head pops a joint trying to get itself around that pseudo-logic, include the reasoning employed by the DC Court of Appeals last week in upholding a lower court's dismissal of a lawsuit brought by four British Gitmo detainees against Rumsfeld et al.:
In a 43-page opinion, Circuit Judge Karen Lecraft Henderson found that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a statute that applies by its terms to all “persons” did not apply to detainees at Guantánamo, effectively ruling that the detainees are not persons at all for purposes of U.S. law.
It gets worse in a way I can't leave out, though it does disrupt the smooth poetics of my pet irony here:
Finally, the Court found that, even if torture and religious abuse were illegal, defendants were immune under the Constitution because they could not have reasonably known that detainees at Guantánamo had any constitutional rights.
So, let's just get this straight. In denying Kucinich's lawsuit, the Nevada Supreme Court upheld First Amendment rights of a corporation, while the DC Court of Appeals denied those creatures in bright orange suits at Gitmo any rights to even pursue a lawsuit because ....they are not even 'persons' under US law. And, to top it all off, regardless of whether torture is illegal, our leadership is immune from civil action because, well, they're ignorant. And, evidently, rightfully so.

Toto, I don't think we're in a democracy anymore. Both those courts are under the spell of the Wicked Witch of the West.
I agree with your basic thrust, especially regarding Gitomo. But for the sake of argument -- what would happen if corporations did NOT have First Amendment rights?
MSNBC is a corporation, but like it or not, it's still a news organization -- and as such, it has the right, under the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press, to exercise its editorial discretion in inviting candidates to debates that it's sponsoring.

Your criticism of the judge's ruling in the debate case, therefore, does not hold up under constitutional scrutiny.

On the other hand, your comment on the court ruling on the Gitmo detainees is RIGHT-ON -- in spite of the fact that the prisoners aren't U.S. citizens and thus aren't protected by the 14th Amendment.

They ARE protected by the Geneva Conventions, however -- and it's only a matter of time before the Supreme Court -- which has already overruled Bush on the Gitmo detainees twice -- will have to step in again.
Whatever happened to the position that the U S was a universal advocate of human rights? Oh, I forgot that in this era of "Republican Utopia" human rights are a thing of the past and "corporation rights" are the only ones that matter. And of course the corporate media wants to muzzle Kucinich because he is saying some things that might make people think,and they want to be the ones who control what people think-they are doing a good job and they don't want any static from someone like Dennis.
The gov't constantly violates our rights. Just add these latest atrocities to the list:
They violate the 1st Amendment by opening mail, caging demonstrators and banning books like "America Deceived" from Amazon.
They violate the 2nd Amendment by confiscating guns during Katrina.
They violate the 4th Amendment by conducting warrant-less wiretaps.
They violate the 5th and 6th Amendment by suspending habeas corpus.
They violate the 8th Amendment by torturing.
They violate the entire Constitution by starting 2 illegal wars based on lies and on behalf of a foriegn gov't.
Support indy media.
Last link (unless Google Books caves to the gov't and drops the title):
America Deceived (book)
hm. it appears the irony was lost due to some lack of clarity on the concepts.

with all due respect, anon, it is quite easy to consider what would happen if corporations did not have 1st amendment rights. when the constitution was crafted, they didn't. they didn't have any rights. at all. except those that were granted them in charters that had to be renewed annually, and only with proof that they were serving the public welfare.

this all changed in the late 19th century after railroads and other related (and not) industries became so big they could wield their power with some impunity. through a shady little incident, a supreme court decision TITLE (not the decision itself; for the details on this story, see Thom Hartmann's Unequal Protection), corporations suddenly began enjoying the same rights and privileges afforded living breathing flesh and blood persons. with one important difference: corporations don't die natural deaths. they live in perpetuity.

this fact makes them rather illogical candidates for bill of rights benefits. another is that corporations are just about the least democratic organizations this side of monarchies. enjoying democratic rights and privileges as persons flies in the face of what the constitution intended and what it states plainly.

so, to answer your question, corporations would do as fine as they should be allowed to without first amendment rights, and we as living breathing flesh and blood persons would do FAR better if they did not.

first consider the fact that every single ill we face today can be traced back to unbridled corporate greed (a point i have pounded repeatedly here), from iraq to the economy and global warming, the health care fiasco, you name it.

second, consider how much better off we would be if corporations were not allowed to lobby as individuals, or contribute to campaigns as individuals, or demand their rights in lawsuits such as that of kucinich or nike (where they honestly were arguing they had the right to lie to the public, free speech and all) or the tobacco companies, and on and on.

but it hasn't been the first amendment that they've relied on all these years. in fact, corporations have relied on the 14th amendment - equal protection designed to protect freed slaves and the black population - hundreds of times more than any individuals have ever done in cases heard by the supreme court.

ok, enough of that. skeeter's position is a little more complicated to knock down, because it looks at first blush like a logical argument. however, taking into consideration what i've just sketched out about the unconstitutional status of corporations as persons, we must also here consider what we might mean for a news corporation to exercise its 'free speech' right to make editorial judgments about who does or does not get to be viewed in debates for the presidential election process.

news corporations hold no such right. those judges have their heads way up their rear ends. free speech is not a right like having the right to breathe or even to have an opinion. free speech is guaranteed in the first amendment NOT to protect news organizations, but to insure that governments do not own the press (hence 'free' press), because if they do we will never get the truth. and if we don't get the truth, we cannot in a democracy make informed decisions about our self-governance.

the election process is NOT about a news organization's privilege and discretion in selection who does or does not get heard in a national format, nor is the first amendment protection of the free press about this! news organizations enjoy the privilege of airing news stories and debates - AND PROFITING FROM THEM - because WE THE PEOPLE grant them the privilege of using public airwaves.


as such, these news organizations - in enjoying the privilege of leasing and profiting from OUR airwaves - hold an enormous responsibility to maintain the public interests as a top priority. this little factoid has been lost in the shuffle over the years since reagan nearly completely trashed what was once almost decent newscasting and reporting.

sorry to be repeating myself, but it's late and i must crash, but - again, with all due respect, skeeter - a news or any other corporation does NOT enjoy rights and privileges afforded persons UNDER THE CONSTITUTION as it reads. period. again, check out hartmann's research on just how this all shifted; it was NOT constitutional or legal or even slightly democratic or at all public or transparent. it was a coup.

and given that they must adhere to certain responsibilities to the public interest, i want someone to explain to me just how it might be in the best interest of the public for NBC to decide just who is on the list of candidates i get to select my choice from?

each of those candidates went through a legal process of obtaining signatures etc in order to participate in this process. those signatures were from citizens like you and me; we all deserve for each of those individuals to have equal exposure to the public, and it is the responsibility of the news organizations to provide it for them, and for us.

i mean really; do you think scrutiny of the constitution would reveal that the writers intended for our elections to be decided by the kings of undemocratic corporations? that's a pretty sad twisting of the document. i suggest you read it again.
From the reportage I've seen, DK's argument relied on (1) MSNBC's invite/disinvite and (2) the FCC's licensing and regulatory function. But the defining loophole that won the case for NBC was that the debate was privatized at MSNBC, which is a cable TV station and not a broadcast (over-the-air) station, and therefore not subject to the FCC's regulations.

You're irresistible and I'm incorrigible: "unbridled corporate greed" looks like a rhetorical evolution from 'unbridled corporate power', but I wonder if you forgot that 'unbridled' is metaphoric, and works with 'power' but not so well with 'greed'. Also, aren't you personifying a corporation when you attribute greed to it? Do you want to do that in this particular argument?
Now wait a minute. Let's say we enter a world where corporations suddenly have no First Amendment protection.

An issue of Batman comes out which someone in the Bush administration doesn't like. Maybe Bats says something which W takes as a personal insult. Or maybe someone in the Justice Department thinks that the Bruce Wayne/Dick Grayson relationship carries hints of pedophilia. Whatever.

Time Warner, a media giant if ever there was one, is the proud owner of the Batman franchise. You saying they should have no rights? Can the gummint muzzle Batman?
ok, a minute is literally all the time i have today, but just to respond to joe's query (aitchD will have to wait)....

no, corporations have no constitutional right to free speech, or anything else guaranteed therein, because they are NOT persons.

if bush were to go after time warner for whatever batman might say, the corporation would RIGHTFULLY - according to the writing of the constitution, inclusive of ALL its amendments - have no free speech rights with which to defend itself.

and i have no problem whatsoever with this fact. the way it SHOULD work is that the individual/s creating the offending comic strip are contracted to work for timewarner, and THEY DO HAVE FREE SPEECH RIGHTS. timewarner is free - as their contracted employer - to proved monies and counsel for their defense, or to fire them, whatever strikes them, tho firing them for free speech issues would be tricky, and should be. however, timewarner had editorial rights (this is how this concept SHOULD come into play) when the offending strip was released for public consumption. timewarner can say, hey we don't want our name on such drivel, you're not going to get us to publish it, and that would be that.

but if timewarner publishes it, it is NOT THEIR 'FREE SPEECH RIGHTS' that would be under attack, but merely those who actually did the creating of the offensive strip themselves.

see, you really don't need to give corporations such powers. in fact, to do so is to place at extreme risk the rights of the individual citizens. that's because, by gaining such 'rights', they are placed on equal footing with all of us schlubbs out here, and they have NO RIGHT to be here!!

if you track the history of power mongering by corporations, you will see just how it parallels the decline of individual rights in this country, not to mention quality of life, reasoning power, the status of the democracy, etc. and, if you read a little (i need to read more, but so far, it's pretty compelling) about the status of corporations at the time of the drafting of the constitution, there was a big issue about how much power they had; TOO MUCH, way too much.

never forget that our revolution was against the east india company as much as it was against the crown. true, they were in bed with each other, but it was that almostfascist relationship between business and goverment that so profoundly incensed our founders.

corporations are an abstract concept. they are an artifact. they are not tangible or real persons by any stretch of the notion. and they exist for purposes completely orthogonal to the text and intent of our constitution. businesses in and of themselves do not, not inherently. but businesses exist typically (and certainly then) for individuals to make a living; corporations tend to exist to make a killing. that's why all those protections and caveats are built into their definition, abstract as it is.

i have these same feelings about wall street, which is the sanctioned gambling life (and killing!) support system for corporations.

enough for now; working on a piece on all this that i hope i'll eventually finish. but you folks really need to consider just how accustomed we've become to having this beast dwell among us as a given. it was not always so, and that prohibition was a very very principled decision made by our founders.

and i for one happen to think they knew what they were doing.
ps. aitchD, i suppose i could give the most cursory (not meaning to be rude) comment to you about the 'greed' thing: am i allowed to utilize anthropomorphic metaphors?

having a special affinity for metaphors, i do hope these pages so dedicated to 'facts' will permit use of such. (do i need to flag them to avoid confusion? just kidding; your point was not a bad one.)
I'm still playing devil's advocate, doc.

So let's say I write and draw an issue of Batman, and I have Bats announcing these words: "Mac Biggles of 1344 McNugget Avenue, McDonaldville, Wisconsin, is a pedophile!" And let's say Biggles is a real person. And let's say that he gets really angry and wants to sue someone.

Does he sue me? I haven't enough money to be worth the suing.

He'll much prefer to sue Time Warner. Which mean that the court must treat Time Warner like a person.

So, Time Warner is a person when it comes to being sued for libel. But libel is a First Amendment-related issue. If Biggles really IS a pedo -- maybe he has a record -- then the company has a perfect First Amendment write to say so in print.

Except the company HAS no such rights, according to you.

Do we say that Time Warner is a person when it comes to being sued, but not when it comes to speaking freely?
I'm rather surprised you had to make the argument against corporate personhood here. I would have thought your readers were reasonably aware of how they were being screwed, but thanks for taking the trouble to explain it to them.

The problem here is we have privatized our deliberative process with the full cooperation of our political parties. I am old enough to recall when Presidential debates were run by the League of Women Voters and were totally non-partisan. Not only did they have fair rules about who would be included, they insured that the moderators of the debates were not idiots like Chris Matthews and Wolf Blitzer who have zero credibility and no evident understanding of the issues.

In 1988 the League withdrew as sponsor of the debates, issuing a press release that said:

"The League of Women Voters is withdrawing sponsorship of the presidential debates ... because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. It has become clear to us that the candidates' organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public."

Consider yourselves hoodwinked.
dr. elsewhere, the Founders aren't my Idols, but I revere Them, and there's a Special Place for Them as corporate Authors in the Hall of Fame in the same Circle with Washington, Lincoln, and FDR -- They let Us amend Them. Anyway, I think "greed" is strategically weak because it names a sin, and belongs in that puritanical and moralistic realm of argument, not in an enlightened political argument. It may also betray an Xtian bias against usurious practices. It's hard to tell if we are reading a critique of capitalism or only capitalist corporations. If Max Weber is to be believed, our capitalist and corporate economies are secular versions of Calvin's Protestantism, producing 'goods'. Is it a paradox, an irony, an oxymoron to speak of 'corporate greed'? 'Corporation' itself is ironic, a parodox, an oxymoron, and an absurdity, being a disembodied body. 'Business' always seemed like a metaphor, certainly as a euphemism for 'whatever you can get away with'.

Naomi Klein did a wonderful thing when she combined the two kinds of shock that happen to individuals and applied them (now turned metaphoric) to populations. Maybe you can find a way to sear into our consciousness the cancerous and viral consequences of corporate excess. It has to get done soon.
wow, what a great little debate we have going here. sure wish i had more time to attend to it; maybe tomorrow.

for now, thanks demlover for that reference to the LWV; i'd actually forgotten about that. do you by any chance have to demands they note there?

and joe, you still did not get my point. you as the author and creator of offending publication - whether it be a slur bush doesn't like or one the accused pedophile doesn't like - are the free speech person. YOU would be the one sued. if timewarner was stupid enough to publish your assertion without vetting it thru legal, they would be sued, too. but they could not defend themselves on free speech claims; that would be your defense. in such a situation, the company doesn't really have much of a defense, and i frankly find it offensive that any corporation might try to use that as an excuse for sloppy incompetence.

should the accusation of pedophilia actually be true, and the company is a member of the press, then freedom of the press applies, not free speech, despite the fact that they're protected by the same amendment.

and if the accusation is true and the company is NOT a member of the press, then what would be the problem? there would be no lawsuit, i'm assuming. and if there were, it would have to be filed against the offending PERSON and against the company, but the company could not resort to a free speech defense; it would simply prove it printed the truth as authored by its employee.

again, i urge you to consider what it means to have corporations enjoy the same rights as persons, and review just what has happened to this country since the swung that fateful coup. there it is; this is precisely why we're in such a phenomenal mess right now, in just about every dimension.
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