Later this month, representatives of the world’s nations will meet in Doha, Qatar, for the annual negotiations on the UN climate change treaty. When you were first elected president, your words gave us hope that you would become an international leader on climate change. But you have not lived up to this promise. The framework that you put in place sets the planet on course to warm dangerously, and delays action until 2020 – this will be too late. This year’s meeting in Qatar may be our last chance to put forward a new vision and plan to reverse this course. Your legacy, and the future of our children and grandchildren depend on it.
Mr President, remind the world that the devastation of climate change is shared by all its citizens. Remember that this reality is changeable. Make changing it your legacy.
I miss George Carlin. I think he raises a good (possibly the best) point that it doesn’t really matter who you vote for. But I think there’s an important reason to vote, which has gone largely underreported: upcoming nominations of Supreme Court justices.
Currently there are 5 traditionally conservative (Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito) and 4 traditionally liberal (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan) Supreme Court judges, with Kennedy occasionally siding with the liberal opinion. The four judges in italic are likely to be replaced within the next years due to their age (over 73 years), with Ginsburg being the most likely candidate.
Why is this important? For starters, there’s the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade, and the endangerment of affirmative action (Fischer v. University of Texas on Affirmative Action in education is to be decided soon) as well as gay rights (DOMA & California’s Proposition 8). But there’s something even more fundamental: the current and former courts’ support of power of corporations over the protection of individual rights.
Conservative Supreme Court Activism
In a 2010 speech, Sen. Al Franken (D) makes the point that right-wing Supreme court activism has strategically strengthened the power of corporations in the last years (It’s a 40 minute speech, but I can highly recommend taking the time to watch).
What conservative legal activists are really interested in is this question: What individual rights are so basic and so important that they should be protected above a corporation’s right to profit?
And their preferred answer is: None of them. Zero.
He goes on to recount numerous cases in which ‘the Roberts Court has systematically dismantled the legal protections that help ordinary people find justice when wronged by the economically powerful’:
Stoneridge stripped shareholders of their ability to get their money back from the banks that helped defraud them, Conkright made it easier for employers to deny workers their pension, Leegin put the burden onto the small business owners to show that price fixing will hurt competition under the Sherman Act, and Exxon reduced the damages that Exxon had pay for Exxon Valdez oil spill from $2.5 billion to $500 million USD because it could have an ’unpredictable impact on its future profitability’.
He tells the story of Lilly Ledbetter who sued her employer after she found out shortly before her retirement that she had been receiving less pay than her male counterparts. The Supreme Court interpreted the legal requirement to sue within 180 days to refer to the first time she was discriminated against, not the most recent discriminatory check. Considering she simply did and could not know about it then, this is simply insane (Fortunately, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act loosening those requirements was the first bill Obama signed into law).
Citizens United: Super PACs and 501©(4)s
The most important ruling, however, was the Citizens United decision in 2010, which fundamentally changed campaign finance and essentially created the basis for ‘Super PACs’ – those theoretically independent organizations that can spend an unlimited amount of money on campaigning.
They are required to disclose their donors, but there’s a way around it: The ‘501©(4) Social Welfare Organization’ (which can spend money on campaigning) does not need to disclose its donors or even report to the IRS until after the election (i.e. after the campaign). What’s more, it even enjoys tax-exempt non-profit status, and – get this – it can even donate its money to the Super PAC, which then only needs to disclose a donation by the ‘501©(4)’.
Stephen Colbert has brilliantly dissected this insane change in campaign finance by setting one up himself in a mockery of the process. His lawyer’s answer to what ‘the difference between that and money laundering’ is ’It’s hard to say.’
Here’s an informative interview with lawyer Trevor Potter, a self-declared Republican:
This has led to an enormous rise in campaign spending, with the latest estimates reaching about $6 billion USD (compare that to the previous record of $700 million USD in 2008). Most of which, we’ll never know where it came from. And lot of that money has gone into negative attack ads, leading experts to call this “very likely to be the most negative race since the advent of television” (John Greer).
If I could, I surely would
So the Super PAC / 501©(4) combination seems like the perfect tool for those that according to Carlin ‘own this country’ to influence the election that will most likely determine who will decide upon the future of the Supreme Court. It might even be a major reason that they spend so much money on it. And check out the numbers USA Today posted:
That’s why I think this election matters. A more liberal court might revisit Citizens United, eliminating the need for a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision. Should Ginsburg and Kennedy be replaced with a more conservative judge however, it’s safe to assume that this outrageous campaign finance game will continue along with the hollowing out of individual rights at the benefit of a corporation’s right to profit.
Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to vote. And I know that Americans don’t particularly like advice from the rest of the world, but if I could, I surely would make use of that privilege.
dieses video über goldman sachs macht gerade die runde, würde das schon als akkurate doku einschätzen, auch wenn die sprache nicht immer ganz journalistisch-neutral klingt (remember this guy?). es wird zeit, dieses widerliche finanz- & geldsystem zu ändern!
[in german, hope english subtitles will be added soon!]
obama could sign the NDAA (allow american citizens to be arrested on U.S. soil by the military without charge and detained indefinitely) as early as wednesday? that should take care of any leftover glimmer of hope in obama. that’s definitely a change alright, just not quite the one most people were hoping for (of a nobel peace prize winner, ha!): guantanamo forever.
every day it gets increasingly difficult to dispute that the US is a civilization in (rapid) decline. jon stewart’s daily show will one day likely be a historic record of this former superpower’s farcical political landscape and its deconstruction in the name of ‘economic progress’ and ideological ‘wars on terror’. don’t enough US citizens realize that every day their country is getting less robust, less fit to meet the challenges of the future (admittedly, europe isn’t doing such a swell job either, but the US is just crass)?
today i read some shocking figures on business insider (better version, less clicking), even though they just confirm the economic picture publicized in the wake of occupy. 57% of children live in ‘low income’ or impoverished homes. that’s more than half of a future generation that has been denied an equal opportunity. one out of three americans would not be able to pay their rent/mortgage next month if they lost their job. with such little back-up, it’s understandable that ‘medical debt’ accounts for 60% of bankruptcies. 50 million uninsured americans (16.7% of the pop’n, 1 out of 6) needn’t even lose their jobs to go bankrupt, but just have an accident or a medical problem.
how can one expect a nation to solve even the slightest future challenge, when it’s busy with so many self-created problems? it’s like a terminal-stage cancer patient trying to run a marathon (and not realizing the competition is actually a triathlon). one such challenge is that the US will eventually become one of the world’s climate change hotspots. closely related is the fact that an addiction to a limited ressource (fossil fuels) is simply suicidal.
occupy needs to make a major impact very soon for the US to be part of the future. if NDAA passes, it will present an even larger challenge and even slimmer chances of success.
wow, what an inspiring story! good news!
remember this summer, when climate activists protested the keystone XL pipeline in front of the white house? they got themselves arrested in civil disobedience (for protesting in front of the white house?!?) to prevent the ‘game over for the climate.’
on nov 6, more than 10,000 protesters came back and circled the white house to demand an end to the pipeline. and this massive public pressure finally resulted in a victory!! last night i got an e-mail, that the decision was delayed, effectively killing the project!
this is a spectacular victory, because it seemed so unlikely: it was expected that this would pass easily, not a lot of people outside of the affected areas knew about this project, and the protest came amidst a news media dominated by the financial markets. this is a great victory, and should be a huge motivator to continue fighting the good fight!