Archive for Politics

The Democratic Experiment in the United States is Over – The Landmark Supreme Court Decision

By Michael Haughey, Updated:  January 21, 2010

We no longer have a fight to save our democracy.  We now have a long struggle to restore it.  In the interest of accuracy, we might acknowledge that we never really had a democracy.  Thom Hartmann likes to describe it as (and this is my recollection, not a direct quote) a constitutionally protected, democratically elected, representative republic.  Whatever we call it, it is near the end.


Thom Hartmann is the author of “Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights”, in which he says that the 1886 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company (118 U.S. 394) did not actually grant corporate personhood, and that the supposed granting of corporate personhood derives from a mistaken interpretation of a Supreme Court clerk’s notes.


It now seems certain that conditions in the United States, for most people, will get far worse long before we see any improvement.  The landmark case of “Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission”, in a 5-4 decision on January 21, 2010 split between the Reactionary Right-Wing judges and the Conservative Judges, overturned long-standing precedents in deciding that corporations have the same right to use their own money to fund campaign ads as individuals.  It also overturned portions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.  As laws are challenged and overturned based on this mis-interpretation of the U. S. Constitution, corporations will be able to spend unlimited general funds on elections.  That includes multi-national mega-corporations and foreign corporations that have a “presence” in the United States.  In essence, corporations, including foreign corporations, will be able to buy elections in the United States.  The power this represents is immense and it seems unlikely that what remains of democracy in the United States will be able to withstand the assault that is coming.  Corporations have been buying elections and politicians for quite some time to a large but limited degree.  They have also succeeded in having much of our commons privatized.  All of that will now accelerate.  While we will be saying that we can fight this and win, in reality our chances are bleak.  This merging of corporate power and the government is the underlying force of Fascism.  Now we are essentially there.  To learn what lies in our future, we can look at lessons from the past.  The Roman Empire, Nazi Germany, and Mussolini’s Italy all come to mind.  


This path has been paved over a long time.  Two important landmarks along that journey were the judicial errors that corporations are persons and the more recent decision that money equals free speech.  That set the stage for this declaration that money cannot be limited in elections because it is free speech, and that corporations can exercise that kind of free speech without financial limitations.


Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that “the Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether.”  Therein lies the miniscule opportunity to do something about this.  The disclaimers can be like the warnings in the advertisements for your favorite pharmaceutical on TV.  Those seem to be mostly ignored.  The disclosures may end up requiring identification of those responsible for the ad; however over time their immense power will get those rules eliminated as well.


In all likelihood, the democratic experiment in the United States is all but over.  The final descent has begun.  What will likely follow is collapse of the United States itself.  After that who knows.  Given the immense military power of the United States, the end could be brutal.  What, indeed, will survive?  What power will rise to the top of that primordial soup? 


Sugested additional reading

“Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights” by Thom Hartmann


Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became “”People”” — and How You Can Fight Back

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Yet Another Political Sex Scandal

By Michael Haughey, June 18, 2009

You probably know the one. It was on the radio today and the last few days as well. It was probably on TV, but who watches that anymore? Another politician involved in a sex scandal. There are calls for resignation, and the usual refusal. What makes this one special? Nothing really. What makes it amazing? That “we” even care. Why is this a big deal? What does it say about us as an electorate? How can we change?

This yet-another-sex-scandal says more about us than the individuals involved. That there are calls for resignation says even more. If this is so important, does that mean it is a primary reason for choosing any particular candidate? Since no-one is perfect, does that end up forcing candidates to have to lie, at least those who want to get elected? We are, after all, voting for political candidates, not priests or popes or any other spiritual leaders. It is as if voters select politicians for spiritual and/or moral inspiration. What folly that is! For inspiration, I would suggest looking to a good book, someone like Ghandi, or your favorite spiritual or religious leader. But certainly not a politician.

There are better ways to select and judge politicians. I would suggest their understanding and position on actual issues. Do they merely throw out platitudes to get elected, or do they really seem to understand. We can show up at their town hall meetings and ask some hard questions. If the question is avoided or answered with a sleight of hand, that should tell you a lot. Do they say one thing and then do another? Their actions, how they vote, how well they bring differing constituents and viewpoints to the table – those are important to me. What is important to you?

It is hard not to notice that the media, maybe us too, seem to hold politicians to a higher standard than candidates for the local priest (talk about scandals) and even the pope. I think I’d rather have someone who is flawed, because it is from our mistakes that we learn the most. Someone who is perfect probably hasn’t learned much. Someone who appears perfect has probably learned how to create an illusion.

Finally, but not least, I suggest taking a close look at issues that are being pushed aside in the media in order to cover the scandal. There is a good chance, maybe even a high probability that it is no coincidence that someone leaked the damaging information at just the right time to take the public attention off something much more important. It need not be a scandal – any sensational news story will do. Pay attention and take notice. These things make the news right at the time we as a nation are debating something important. Not long ago it was the torture memos, and that news story almost completely disappeared. Now it is taking coverage away from the debates on health care and perhaps more telling, the possibility of a wage cap on corporate CEOs.

In summary, when a sensational news story breaks, take a hard look at what is suddenly not being discussed. Then act. Demand coverage of the important issues. Make your own coverage.


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Greens v. Democrats

By Michael Haughey, April 23, 2009

Yes, the Greens are weak – and that is an understatement, but not necessarily an insult. They’ll get stronger, and when they are as strong as the Dems they will also fall to the money and it will be time for another party to step up. It is the system that must be fixed – get money out of politics, enforce the Sherman Anti-trust act, return to the successful progressive tax, and let corporations serve the community again, not the other way around. The Dems don’t have a bad platform, however they continue to ignore it in favor of the money interests. The Dems showed their true colors when they refused to fight for open debates in the 2008 election. Not only would they not allow Greens and others (they were complicent if not worse), but even Kucinich and eventually Edwards were booted. No question Obama is light years better than the previous White House occupant, but that is no standard – Bush’s was the worst administration ever perhaps in the history of the world (when measured by the cumulative world-wide damage). And that is simply not good enough. Unless the “system” is fixed and the weeds pulled, it will revert to where it was when the next nut takes office. Pandering to the folks who made the messes and gamed the system rather than the people who elected him makes it clear the money is still in charge.

I could go on, but I thought I’d just stir the hornets nest a little.


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No Bailout

By: Michael D. Haughey, September 29, 2008

Thank-you to those in Congress who voted against the bailout. I hope you had the people of America in mind when casting that vote. Now the hard work of fixing the system must begin. A bailout without fixing the system, to allow more loans to be made using the existing system, to allow derivatives and hedge funds to drag the economy further into a hole, will accomplish nothing for the average American. The regulations that worked 30 years ago must be re-instated, and new regulations are needed to accommodate new technologies. It took 30 years of implementing a flawed philosophy to create the current financial mess and no simple solution will solve it. Pretending that a bailout will solve this mess is only pandering for votes. It is way past time for that to stop. Unregulated capitalism doesn’t work in the long run, and there is no invisible hand.


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CIA vs. Pelosi

By Michael D. Haughey, May 15, 2009

CIA Director Leon Panetta said, according to an Earthlink article, “We are an agency of high integrity, professionalism and dedication. Our task is to tell it like it is – even if that’s not what people always want to hear.”

If that is true, then it is high time for the CIA to come clean, starting with their activities in South America for the last 40 years and more.


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