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Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court’

Perhaps it was inevitable. After all, even the greatest of empires such as the Roman Empire or the British Empire – upon whose lands the sun never set – eventually collapsed. Their laws, values, and customs disintegrated as the people of the empire no longer cared enough to fight for them – as their ancestors had. Now the United States of America, an unacknowledged empire, but one nonetheless, is beginning to crumble, bit by bit. The barbarians are at the gates, held back only by a mostly mercenary army, lured into military service by steady wages, health and education benefits, college education benefits, and the promise of a secure, paid retirement. Meanwhile, the common people lead their lives as consumers of industrial agriculture, imported energy, and the goods of foreign lands. It is not the America envisioned by its founders; indeed, it is far from it. Gone are the citizen soldiers, the Minutemen. Gone are the self-sufficient family farms. Gone is the town meeting form of government where the citizens of a town met and agreed upon the town’s budget (except for a few anachronisms in New England). Now, an insidious erosion of American justice is underway, and as in the corruption of our economic system, the transformation of our military into a paid professional force, and export of American jobs to overseas sources of cheap labor and materials, the American people once again simply turn over on their sofas and click their remotes to see what is on the other channels.

However, this time it is different. This time, changes are happening that can undermine the very foundation of America and its ideals. The nation is threatened, not from external enemies, but from within. It didn’t begin today or yesterday. It started in earnest perhaps with the administration of George W Bush, although its roots go back at least to Ronald Reagan and the insidious replacement of pension plans with 401k accounts. It was the attacks on 9/11 that opened the doors of opportunity for Bush and Cheney, certainly the most despicable people to ever lead our government. Using the excuse of the necessities of war Bush and Cheney obliterated the rights of citizens to have private conversations without the government eavesdropping on their every word without a court order. Using the excuse that the country was in dire danger – more so that the threats that had come in a previous era  from Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan – Bush and Cheney developed a consistent policy of torturing prisoners, and in doing so became neo-Nazis themselves. These two individuals, entirely bereft of America’s sacred ideals, established a policy of indefinite confinement without trial for suspected terrorists, i.e. people who the U.S. government thought might be guilty – but for whom they had no proof of guilt. It was not a reasonable or sane policy. It is a senseless, literally insane policy, worthy only of a scene from Alice in Wonderland, “Sentence first – verdict afterwards!”

When President Obama campaigned for the Presidency of the United States he promised to end the indefinite detection of suspected terrorists in Cuba and have civilian trails for these people in the United States. They would be found guilty or innocent based upon American justice. However, it seems that it became apparent that virtually none of these people would be found guilty in an American court because their was insufficient evidence to prove their guilt. Under the rules of American justice they would have to be set free. So, like George Bush, Obama agreed to indefinite imprisonment and military trials for these people in Cuba. So much for the promises of Barack Obama.

Now, President Obama has signed into law a new act of a seditious Congress that will eliminate more rights of American citizens. This law will allow the detention, by the military, of American citizens who are suspected of being terrorists. No proof required. No rights of the citizen to a fair trial by his peers. No resort to the system of American justice. Instead, we citizens of the United States of America can be imprisoned without trial indefinitely by our own military. It will happen simply by having some official say, “I think he’s a terrorist.” We are witnessing the fall of the American Empire, we are seeing the rotting from within – a cancer on the Presidency, a corruption of the Congress, and a Supreme Court that has become nothing more than the begging servant of industry. And what do we do? We turn aside, grab a can of beer, and see what else is on TV.

We are no different from the empires of Rome and Greece and Egypt and Great Britain and so many more. These all had one thing in common. The people stopped believing in their ideals, the empires collapsed from within, and the barbarians tore down the gates of the cities while a complacent people drank wine and watched the circus.

It is a sad day for America.

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I expect that everyone would agree that in order for a country, state, or city to function it needs money.  For millenia these entities have obtained money, and still do, via a variety of charges imposed on the people in these locales. We usually call these charges “taxes”.  Over the centuries many types of taxes have been created: income taxes, excise taxes, property taxes, estate taxes, road use taxes, automobile taxes, boat taxes, sales taxes, poll taxes, Social Security taxes, value added taxes, financial transaction taxes, capital gains taxes, and so forth. There seems to be a semi-infinite list of the different types of taxes.  Why?

Indeed. Why do we need so many types of taxes? The fact is we don’t. The reason we have all these different types of taxes is that governments generally become corrupt and one special interest group or another gains an upper hand and uses their power to shift the tax burden to another, less powerful group of people. After a few centuries of this process we are left we a rat’s nest of taxes that manages to tax the some dollars over and over again, while other dollars never get taxed at all. There has never been a better demonstration of the power of special interests and oligarchs.

The solution is a single tax that is fair for all people and raises sufficient money so that the country, state, or city can perform its functions appropriately. The answer is not the so-called “Fair Tax” – a deliberate and viciously deceptive misnomer if there ever was one. That miserable concept is in fact one of the most unfair tax concepts ever created. It is simply another example of how the wealthy oligarchs of this country try to impose their merciless will upon the average person. The “Fair Tax” is nothing more than a national sales tax. The problem with this is that it taxes everything you buy: bread, milk, clothing, newspapers, gasoline, medical care, school supplies – everything you need to live – at the same rate as it taxes the playthings of the extraordinarily wealthy –  things like 10 carat diamonds, 100 foot yachts, thirty room mansions, and so forth. So what’s wrong with that? The problem is that even the fabulously wealthy don’t buy a lot of those items so these things don’t produce a lot of tax revenue.  Most of the budgetary needs of the cities and states have to be made up from the sales of bread and milk and so forth. In this way the poor and indigent, the vast numbers of people living paycheck to pay check, and the families struggling to just get by pay pretty much the same tax as the wealthiest billionaires on most days. It is, in fact, “The Unfair Tax”.

The fairest tax of all is the graduated income tax: it is a tax that taxes small incomes very lightly and massive incomes heavily. Those who can pay the most do so and those who cannot afford to pay anything don’t pay anything. Beyond being extraordinarily fair, the graduated income tax has another potential: it can, by itself, pay all the expenses of the budget of a state, city, or country. And that is a very good thing.

Consider our present situation. You have a job and maybe you make $1,000 a month. You pay $100 income tax per month. Then you take your money and you go out and by gas for you car. Suppose you buy $10 worth of gas. You only really get $9 worth of gas because the other dollar is for the gasoline tax – and really, it’s just a tax upon the money you have already paid an income tax upon! Then you go to the grocery store and buy food. Same thing. Then you buy clothes.  Same thing – you pay taxes on money that has already been taxed. Then you get your property tax bill in the mail. You’ve already paid for your house (with money that was taxed) and now you have to pay a tax again based upon how much you paid for the house. Your money that was already taxed is being taxed again – and it will be taxed again next year, and the year after, and the year after. Indefinitely.

Our entire system of commerce contains taxes upon money that has already been taxed at least once. It is the poor and middle class who suffer the most from this system because, proportionally, they have a much larger tax burden than the wealthy who have written all sorts of income tax, and other tax exemptions, for themselves into law and then pay only a small percentage of their income for the necessities of life – after all, they don’t worry about a sales tax on food because you can only eat so many hamburgers, even if you are a billionaire.

If the leadership of this country really wanted to give a boost to the economy they would scrap our present complex system of national, state, and local taxes and create a single, sole, nationally controlled graduated income tax – and then outlaw all other forms of taxation. The government would then distribute these tax dollars to various states and cities in a manner proportional to their population so they can perform their functions of government. Such a tax would be fair and useful for the common good.

But we will never do that because, despite the fact that we vote for senators and representatives, we live in an oligarchy. Even our now corrupt Supreme Court rules that wealthy, and inanimate, corporations have the same free speech rights as living people – a ruling that defies sanity but allows the wealthy owners of these corporations to drown out the voice of the individual citizen. We live in a society where lobbyists carry bags of money to our elected officials, and they, in turn, create legislation on demand – for a fee. We live in a society where the financial burden of paying for the expenses of the country is placed squarely upon the poor and the middle class while many of the most wealthy pay nothing – yes, nothing – in taxes. And our Congress likes it that way.

A single, fair, graduated income tax is all this nation needs to function. Furthermore, the lifting of all sales, excise, transaction, property and other taxes upon commerce would produce a gigantic stimulus for our economy. There is, however, only one problem with my dream of having only one truly fair tax for all.

It will never happen.

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OK.  I admit it.  I was wrong.  In my defense, all I can say is that it made so much sense to me at the time.  I suppose I shouldn’t have spoken so rashly – I should have carefully considered my words and considered all sides of the argument.  I have done so now.  Indeed, not only have I given much more careful consideration to the issue; I have had an epiphany.  Not an epiphany of the type for sale on this page in the right margin. (This book is on sale at Amazon.com for a mere pittance and might provide many hours of enjoyable reading – if you have a Kindle. It is also soon to be available on Amazon as a paperback.) But an epiphany nonetheless.

My realization is this: CORPORATIONS ARE MADE OF PEOPLE!  Don’t you see?  They have inalienable rights too! Yes, yes.  I know. You might think that these people, who own the corporation, have all been granted their own right of free speech individually already, as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.  And they have, but the insight that the supreme pontificus maximus of the U.S. Supreme Court shows us is that corporations are like super-people.  They also get to have super-rights.  They get to speak twice.  I didn’t realize that at first, but then I saw the movie Avatar, and it was then that I realized that corporations are in fact avatars themselves. They are full of little people!  That is the deep insight of our pontificus maximus of our Supreme Court and of my own individual epiphany.  All I can say is mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Let me try to make amends by perhaps pointing out a couple of things that their supreme highnesses of the Court might not have considered.  Given that the super-people we call corporations are in fact avatars and given that these avatars now have the right of freedom of speech, shouldn’t we further extend to these super-people some of the other rights that we mere, and mostly worthless, little people also enjoy?  For example, why not give corporations the right to bear arms too? Doesn’t this make sense? After all if Northrop Grumman can build nuclear powered aircraft carriers for the government, shouldn’t they be allowed to have their own nuclear-powered aircraft carriers too? And what about Boeing and Lockheed Martin, those builders of our magnificent war machines of the air? Shouldn’t they also be allowed to have their own private fleets of fighter planes, bombers, drones, and Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, just in case?

Then, of course, there is the right to assemble peacefully. Why can’t they do that? Shouldn’t we allow these corporate avatars to come together at times? Maybe in a really big field? I know it might be hard to move all the buildings for a meeting like this, but surely with the know-how of American corporations it could be done, couldn’t it? It would be like Tolkien’s ents coming from all corners of Middle Earth in times of great danger to have a meeting about what to do about the Dark Lord.  When you start to think about it, you begin to feel sorry for the long-suffering corporations (the very word corporation coming from the Latin word corpus, meaning “body”.) How long have we allowed them to suffer, devoid of their long unrecognized avatarial rights?

Then, of course, there are the issues that the Constitution does not address, but which are burning issues all the same. Take, for example, the marriage rights of corporations. We all know that they have been practicing some sort of “merging” for some time – but are these “mergers” really true and blessed marriages? And, I don’t want to go here, but I feel I must, what about the appropriateness of the partners? I mean, look.  Don’t we often see “mergers” of like or of very similar corporations? Here we must look at a long neglected issue: the sexuality of corporations. First, how do we determine whether a corporation is male or female? Or to put it a little more exactly, but crassly, what do we look under?

Clearly, there is a host of issues concerning the human rights of corporations that has been long neglected. I can only admire the deep insight of the pontificus maximus of the Supreme Court and his minions. They clearly have courage, foresight, and true patriotism.  My guess is that they probably watched Avatar as I did, and received the same glorious epiphany that I have, only recently but thankfully, received.

I am, indeed, enlightened at last. Gaudeamus igitur.

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I’m glad that the U.S. Supreme Court has come out so strongly in favor of the freedom of speech, because it is through this freedom of speech that I am able to question the motives and the integrity of the justices who recently ruled that Corporations are allowed to freely express their views in political contests. It is already well known that our Congress sold its soul long ago to these corporations, and that money, offered via lobbyists, fills the pockets of out elected representatives and senators. This money is used to buy laws that favor certain corporations. It’s the way our capitalist system works. One can only wonder whether corporate money is now finding its way to the Supreme Court.  Perhaps it is time for an investigation – but not a Congressional investigation, of course.  That would be like asking thieves to judge whether other people who were accused of thievery were guilty or not. You could never trust the result.

So what’s wrong with corporations expressing their views?  Well, for one thing, they don’t have a brain or a mouth. Corporations are business entities. They have no physical existence.  They are a business concept, an artifact of language that is used inexactly.  Now, there are people who are involved with corporations, people who own corporations, people who invest in corporations, people who make profit from corporations.  OK.  So maybe the Supreme Court is saying that these people have freedom of speech – but we already know that. They do have freedom of speech and they are welcome to use it. So what is wrong with giving freedom of speech to corporations?  It’s because of the money.

A lot of these rich capitalists who own or direct corporations are also very stingy people. They are not about to use millions of dollars of their own money to make a commercial or a film about some politician they don’t like or about some issue they favor.  However, if they can use the corporation’s money, i.e. the money that has been invested by the stockholders – well, that’s a different story.  This money, which does not come out of the pockets of the individual directors of the corporation, can be used to magnify the voice and opinions of these rich captains of capitalism while they don’t spend a cent of their own cash. And of course the message they promulgate will be intended to help, in some way or another, to maximize the profits of the corporation – which, of course, goes into their pockets.

So, why isn’t this fair? It’s because it’s like you went to a baseball game and you are cheering for your team and this guy next to you brings in a five megawatt amplifier and starts cheering for the other team. Who is going to hear your voice? Now suppose the guy with the big amp decides to drown you out for the entire game so no one ever hears your voice.  Is that fair?  Wouldn’t it be fairer if the other guy just had to yell out at the top of his lungs like you? Sure. That’s why I think the Supreme Court can’t be trusted any more.  They are deliberately creating a system that, instead of facilitating free speech for individuals, will destroy the free speech of individuals. The single voice of the American citizen will be drowned out by the voice of the rich capitalists who own the corporations.

We might be tempted to say that Congress should look into impeaching the Supreme Court justices who have violated the letter and spirit of the Constitution, but since most of these people are also in thrall to the corporations that is not likely to happen.  We are only left with a President who is not beholden to the corporations, and by himself he has little power.

It’s up to the American citizens now. All we can do is refuse to listen to the guys with the megaphones.  All we can do is fight back and boycott the products of corporations that seek to drown out true American individual freedom of speech.  The simple truth is that our Congress and now our Supreme Court no longer represent the best interests of the people of America, they represent the best interests of the corporations and the rich capitalists who own them.

It is a very sad day for the American people.

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There is a certain air of lunacy about the whole thing.  It’s almost like watching something out of Alice in Wonderland: Republican senators, gunning for Sotomayor, hoping to trip her up, make her melt down, something, anything just to derail her nomination.  Hour after hour they grill her trying to get her to admit that her decision making process is somehow tainted because she is a woman or a Latino or something else they can latch onto.  Meanwhile, we all know the Republicans just want to keep a liberal off the bench.  It’s as if the esteemed gentlemen of the Senate are beyond reproach, it’s as if their own personal beliefs and prejudices are never involved when they write the laws of the land – when of course it is the personal beliefs and prejudices of both the Republicans and Democrats that account for most of the laws they create.

They sit there in the hearing room talking about wise Latina women, trying to get her to say that she really meant in an old speech while Sotomayor dances around the issue, refusing to take the bait. Both sides know it’s a sham.  It’s already a done deal – unless the Republicans can rattle her and she makes a monstrous verbal slip – something they could pounce on – anything to keep a liberal off the bench.  And so they keep baiting her.  The reason of course is simple: the Republicans have nothing against interpreting the law, in fact, they want nothing more than to have the Supreme Court judges interpret the law in a right wing, old-fashioned, conservative way.

On the other hand the Democrats want nothing more than to have a judge who will interpret the law in a liberal, modern way. Everyone knows that the Supreme Court Justices always interpret the law based upon their own beliefs and life experiences. Everyone knows that we have liberal justices and conservative justices.  We just like to pretend that we don’t. We like to pretend that the justices just follow the law.

The only problem with literally following the law is that, if we did, no one would be happy.  If we really wanted to follow the law exactly, we could get a computer to make the decisions – and there would never be a need for appeals to higher courts. Black is black and white is white, a zero is a zero and a one is a one.  In the world of computers everything is binary – it’s either yes or its no.  The thing is, we don’t like that.  The last thing we want is to have a computer judge us.  That’s why we have people who are judges and lawyers, so we can bend the rules, interpret the circumstances, make exceptions, and see a new way forward.  The Supreme Court does that all the time.  So why all the fuss about Sotomayor being a rule bender?  Why should the Republicans be concerned about her playing the same game the rest of the justices play?

It’s because she’s a Latino and because she’s a woman.  The old boy, conservative Republican power structure has no place for women power, let alone Latino power.  The old Republican men of the Senate, the guardians of old wealth, old power, old land, old ways, old alliances, old prejudices, old connections, and old society want to keep it that way, and the last thing they want is a liberal, Latino woman on the Supreme Court.  They say they are concerned about people getting a fair trial from her, as if they are capable of giving her a fair trail themselves.  So, they’ll go through the Alice in Wonderland charade, and then they’ll all vote against her while the Democrats all vote for her and then she’ll get through.  Another triumph for the American system.

We could have saved a lot of time and money if they had just taken a vote at the beginning – but the Mad Hatters of the Senate do love their tea parties.  They love to expound upon their ideas to each other and to any one else who will listen.  But does any of this make any sense – at all?  I don’t know.

Go ask Alice.

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