Thursday, January 21, 2010

Free Speech Has Been Destroyed

Keith Olbermann's Special Comment for 1.21.10

Full text:

Finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment on the Supreme Court's ruling today in the case titled "Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission."

On the cold morning of Friday, March 6th, 1857, a very old man who was born just eight months and thirteen days after the Declaration of Independence was adopted; a man who was married to the sister of the man who wrote "The Star Spangled Banner;" a man who was enlightened enough to have freed his own slaves and given pensions to the ones who had become too old to work read aloud, in a reed-thin voice, a very long document.

In it, he ruled on a legal case involving a slave, brought by his owner to live in a free state; yet to remain a slave.

The slave sought his freedom, and sued. And looking back over legal precedent, and the Constitution, and the America in which it was created, this judge ruled that no black man could ever be considered an actual citizen of the United States.

"They had for more than a century before been, regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far unfit, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."

The case, of course, was Dred Scott. The old man was the fifth Chief Justice of the United States of America, Roger Brooke Tawney. And the outcome, he believed, would be to remove the burning question of the abolition of slavery from the political arena for once and for all.

The outcome, in fact, was the Civil War. No American ever made a single bigger misjudgment. No American ever carried the responsibility for the deaths and suffering of more Americans. No American ever was more quickly vilified. Within four years Chief Justice Tawney's rulings were being ignored in the South and the North.

Within five, President Lincoln at minimum contemplated arresting him. Within seven, he died, in poverty, while still Chief Justice. Within eight, Congress had voted to not place a bust of him alongside those of the other former Chief Justices.

But good news tonight, Roger B. Tawney is off the hook.

Today, the Supreme Court, of Chief Justice John Roberts, in a decision that might actually have more dire implications than "Dred Scott v Sandford," declared that because of the alchemy of its 19th Century predecessors in deciding that corporations had all the rights of people, any restrictions on how these corporate-beings spend their money on political advertising, are unconstitutional.

In short, the first amendment — free speech for persons — which went into affect in 1791, applies to corporations, which were not recognized as the equivalents of persons until 1886. In short, there are now no checks on the ability of corporations or unions or other giant aggregations of power to decide our elections.

None. They can spend all the money they want. And if they can spend all the money they want — sooner, rather than later — they will implant the legislators of their choice in every office from President to head of the Visiting Nurse Service.

And if senators and congressmen and governors and mayors and councilmen and everyone in between are entirely beholden to the corporations for election and re-election to office soon they will erase whatever checks there might still exist to just slow down the ability of corporations to decide the laws.

It is almost literally true that any political science fiction nightmare you can now dream up, no matter whether you are conservative or liberal, it is now legal. Because the people who can make it legal, can now be entirely bought and sold, no actual citizens required in the campaign-fund-raising process.

And the entirely bought and sold politicians, can change any laws. And any legal defense you can structure now, can be undone by the politicians who will be bought and sold into office this November, or two years from now.

And any legal defense which honest politicians can somehow wedge up against them this November, or two years from now, can be undone by the next even larger set of politicians who will be bought and sold into office in 2014, or 2016, or 2018.

Mentioning Lincoln's supposed ruminations about arresting Roger B. Tawney, he didn't say the original of this, but what the hell:

Right now, you can prostitute all of the politicians some of the time, and prostitute some of the politicians all the time, but you cannot prostitute all the politicians all the time. Thanks to Chief Justice Roberts this will change. Unless this mortal blow is somehow undone, within ten years, every politician in this country will be a prostitute.

And now let's contemplate what that perfectly symmetrical, money-driven world might look like. Be prepared, first, for laws criminalizing or at least neutering unions. In today's Court Decision, they are the weaker of the non-human sisters unfettered by the Court. So, like in ancient Rome or medieval England, they will necessarily be strangled by the stronger sibling, the corporations, so they pose no further threat to the Corporations' total control of our political system.

Be prepared, then, for the reduction of taxes for the wealth, and for the corporations, and the elimination of the social safety nets for everybody else, because money spent on the poor means less money left for the corporations.

Be prepared, then, for wars sold as the "new products" which Andy Card once described them as, year-after-year, as if they were new Fox Reality Shows, because Military Industrial Complex Corporations are still corporations. Be prepared, then, for the ban on same-sex marriage, on abortion, on evolution, on separation of church and state. The most politically agitated group of citizens left are the evangelicals, throw them some red meat to feed their holier-than-thou rationalizations, and they won't care what else you do to this corporate nation.

Be prepared, then, for racial and religious profiling, because you've got to blame somebody for all the reductions in domestic spending and civil liberties, just to make sure the agitators against the United Corporate States of America are kept unheard.

Be prepared for those poor dumb manipulated bastards, the Tea Partiers, to have a glorious few years as the front men as the corporations that bankroll them slowly unroll their total control of our political system. And then be prepared to watch them be banished, maybe outlawed, when a few of the brighter ones suddenly realize that the corporations have made them the Judas Goats of American Freedom.

And be prepared, then, for the bank reforms that President Obama has just this day vowed to enable, to be rolled back by his successor purchased by the banks, with the money President Bush gave them his successor, presumably President Palin, because if you need a friendly face of fascism, you might as well get one that can wink, and if you need a tool of whichever large industries buy her first, you might as well get somebody who lives up to that word "tool."

Be prepared for the little changes, too. If there are any small towns left to take-over, Wal-Mart can now soften them up with carpet advertising for their Wal-Mart town council candidates, brought to you by Wal-Mart.

Be prepared for the Richard Mellon Scaifes to drop such inefficiencies as vanity newspapers and simply buy and install their own city governments in the Pittsburghs. Be prepared for the personally wealthy men like John Kerry to become the paupers of the Senate, or the ones like Mike Bloomberg not even surviving the primary against Halliburton's choice for Mayor of New York City.

Be prepared for the end of what you're watching now. I don't just mean me, or this program, or this network. I mean all the independent news organizations, and the propagandists like Fox for that matter, because Fox inflames people against the state, and after today's ruling, the corporations will only need a few more years of inflaming people, before the message suddenly shifts to "everything's great."

Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh don't even realize it: today, John Roberts just cut their throats too. So, with critics silenced or bought off, and even the town assessor who lives next door to you elected to office with campaign funds 99.9 percent drawn from corporate coffers — what are you going to do about it? The Internet!

The Internet? Ask them about the Internet in China. Kiss net neutrality goodbye. Kiss whatever right to privacy you think you currently have, goodbye. And anyway, what are you going to complain about, if you don't even know it happened? In the new world unveiled this morning by John Roberts, who stops Rupert Murdoch from buying the Associated Press?

This decision, which in mythology would rank somewhere between "The Bottomless Pit" and "The Opening Of Pandora's Box," got next to no coverage in the right-wing media today, almost nothing in the middle, and a lot less than necessary on the left.

The right wing won't even tell their constituents that they are being sold into bondage alongside the rest of us. And why should they? For them, the start of this will be wonderful.

The Republicans, Conservatives, Joe Liebermans, and Tea Partiers are in the front aisle at the political prostitution store. They are specially discounted old favorites for their Corporate Masters. Like the first years of irreversible climate change, for the conservatives the previously cold winter will grow delightfully warm. Only later will it be hot. Then unbearable. Then flames.

And the conservatives will burn with the rest of us. And they'll never know it happened. So, what are you going to do about it? Turn to free speech advocates? These were the free speech advocates! The lawyer for that Humunculous who filed this suit, Dave Bossie, is Floyd Abrams.

Floyd Abrams, who has spent his life defending American freedoms, especially freedom of speech. Apparently this life was spent this way in order to guarantee that when it really counted, he could help the corporations destroy free speech.

His argument, translated from self-satisfied legal jargon, is that as a function of the First Amendment, you must allow for the raping and pillaging of the First Amendment, by people who can buy the First Amendment.

He will go down in the history books as the Quisling of freedom of speech in this country. That is if the corporations who now buy the school boards which decide which history books get printed, approve. If there are still history books. So, what are you going to do about it?

Russ Feingold told me today there might yet be ways to work around this, to restrict corporate governance, and how corporations make and spend their money. I pointed out that any such legislation, even if it somehow sneaked past the last U.S. Senate not funded by a generous gift from the Chubb Group would eventually wind up in front of a Supreme Court, and whether or not John Roberts is still at its head would be irrelevant.

The next nine men and women on the Supreme Court will get there not because of their judgement nor even their politics. They will get there because they were appointed by purchased presidents and confirmed by purchased Senators.

This is what John Roberts did today. This is a Supreme Court-sanctioned murder of what little actual Democracy is left in this Democracy. It is government of the people by the corporations for the corporations. It is the Dark Ages. It is our Dred Scott. I would suggest a revolution but a revolution against the corporations? The corporations that make all the guns and the bullets?

Maybe it won't be this bad. Maybe the corporations legally defined as human beings, but without the pesky occasional human attributes of conscience and compassion maybe when handed the only keys to the electoral machine, they will simply not re-design America in their own corporate image.

But let me leave you with this final question: After today who's going to stop them?

The Cosmos Is Also Within Us

If you haven't yet seen/heard the Symphony of Science videos, you should really check them out. They consist of some of the best, if not only, auto-tuned Carl Sagan clips set to synth music you will ever see.

I particular recommend this one and this one, though they are all outstanding. I find myself continuously surprised at how much completely missed what a fox Carl Sagan was, though I probably hadn't seen many of these clips from Cosmos since I was about five.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Oh shit Rach, I know we just talked about the senate minority issue, but I have to take some exception to your claim that Jon Stewart just completely discredited Betsy McCaughey (someone who in my mind was already discredited). By using the same tactics as the town hall crashers (talking over her, cracking wise, allowing a studio full of Jeep Wrangler-driving stoners who just got back from seeing Dave Matthews at the Gorge to jeer her at every turn) in his interview, Stewart not only looked pretty unclassy, but managed to persuade me that, right or wrong, McCaughey's interpretation of the bill might well gain considerable traction once put into law.

I actually went into this believing she was talking shit (still do, I guess), but now I am slightly less sure about the wording of this bill not totally being twisted to meet certain bottom-line ends. Far from making me feel better, Stewart kind of makes me want to take a long shower, and your gross exaggeration of his effectiveness in explaining how full of shit McCaughey is, well, it's starting to make me doubt the validity of many of your own claims.

You've always come a distant second to Olbermann in terms of a (excuse the term) "gentlemanly fair use" of the facts at hand, but at least you are usually right about the heart of whatever you are saying, if not the specific rhetoric. But that's twice in one show now (and I've got the bastard paused with 19:07 left to go!) that I've felt you've come off as excessively partisan with a tendency to distort the nature of the debate.

We're still on the same side, and we will remain so, but the world of politics is not yet big enough to have two figures who make integrity the mainstay of their arsenal while compromising it with regularity and still winning by it (the other being born in Hawaii in 1961).

Entirety of the Daily Show episode:
(though not the entirety of the interview)

Dear Rachel Maddow,

Calling the Republican Minority in the Senate (40) a "tiny, tiny minority" is neither accurate nor helpful. A majority of 60 senators is totally enough to get stuff done, this is both factually true and something I agree should be strenuously and constantly pointed out; but in the fickle arena of American politics, 40% is not such a "tiny, tiny" minority.

r. patrick

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Chickpea to my Atticus

"Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patience nostra? Quam diu etiam furor iste tuus nos eludet? Quem ad finem sese effrenata iactabit audacia? Nihilne te nocturnum praesidium Palati, nihil urbis vigiliae, nihil timor populi, nihil concursus bonorum omnium, nihil hic munitissimus habendi senatus locus, nihil horum ora voltusque moverunt?"

Though dramatic, I think the comparison bears scrutiny. When I was a student-lad, I had chills the first time I translated Cicero's attacks on Catiline. Similar chills to what I feel everytime Olbermann delivers a Special Comment. This one more than most. Who can doubt mere words, when heard them spoke thus?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Keith's Back

Vacation's over, and Olbermann has brought us a stunner. Tonight, his Special Comment on Health Care Reform and "Blue Dog Democrats."

Saturday, June 20, 2009


This video is outstanding. I never liked this guy, but now, perhaps, my mind is changed. Really amazing speech for its synthesis of all things geek.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

New blog launched

I've started a dream blog. Part of me wants to admit that my dreams aren't any more interesting than those of anyone else, but the other part of me knows that they totally are way better than yours. You should check it out.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Habease whatnow?

My facebook friends made me so happy a few years ago when they were sending me invitations to join all sorts of groups about bringing back Habeas Corpus from the slavering jaws of the Bush administration. Then we elected Obama and everyone I know decided they didn't give a damn about torture, as long as the people were probably radical Islamists (nevermind that we tortured *children* at Gitmo), and as long as we had a smoothtalking guy trying to steer us out of an economic downturn (we can call it a depression, and I do, but make no mistake: any president, great or small, would have done most of what Obama is now doing in regards to the financial crisis. Herbert Hoover was a one-off, and we have too big and too advanced of a country to let our financial system just collapse without doing anything. I repeat, by hook or by crook, any new president would have eventually got us out of this crisis, so put away the pink sunglasses).

Do you guys still care about Habeas Corpus?

Because Obama does not. In a speech couched in all the trappings of glorifying the Rule Of Law, Obama announced his intentions to go Bush one more with regard to the, perhaps permanent, illegal detention of prisoners without trial.

Is it hip to hate our rights now? Is going to come out with a sweeping youtube hit about how little we need to have rights when our president is so cool and suave?

I tread a fine line here. I was as much for Obama as anyone, and perhaps the loudest advocate in my circle of friends. With a motto like 'no better friend, no worse enemy,' perhaps I should have been a marine, but there's no shame in waking up now. Obama isn't who we thought he was. We gave him a mandate which he is now using to beat us.

In a political system based so much on opinion polls, we still have some power long after the final vote has been cast. Obama certainly seems as impeachable as Bush, perhaps more so because he has added new crimes to the ones he is now retroactively pardoning his previous administration for, but that's not even what I'm calling for. If some Republicans get their hackles up enough to attempt such a thing, I'd be the first one to switch my political allegiance. But that is still not what I am saying.

I'm saying: don't like the guy. Show it if you take an opinion poll. Talk to other people about what you think he is doing. Mobilize the grand army of opinion against his actions and prove that we don't deserve exactly what is happening to us. Yes we can. Show Obama that, naive we may be, but we aren't equal parts forgiving. Yes we can. Assure him that if he wants his second term, he's got to make a change. Yes we can. For all his moral and ethical faults, Obama cares about what you think of him. Make him afraid that you've turned against him. Yes we can.

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been
anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible
odds; when we've been told that we're not ready, or that we shouldn't
try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a
simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people.

Yes we can.

He made us believe it once. Let us prove him right beyond his wildest expectations and deepest, darkest nightmares. Yes we can. Remember that on November 4th we were all patriots with a goal in mind, and that we are still a long way from realizing it. Yes we can.

Let's make him regret ever showing us the power of those three simple words: Yes we can.