Saturday, January 23, 2010

Arguably a Move to the Right on Rights

The Supreme Court Right-wing of the United States (SCROTUS) has ruled that corporations cannot be prevented from paying for advertising supporting political candidates.

The case before them started when a federal court ruled that “Hillary, the Movie” was actually a campaign ad against Mrs. Clinton and therefore subject to campaign financing limits. The makers of the film petitioned the SCROTUS with a brief that said, “Look, it has the word ‘movie’ right in the title; that makes it a movie." Opposing attorneys argued that, if that was sufficient grounds, then “Hannah Montana: the Movie” would be a movie and not a 102 minute commercial for Hannah Montana merchandise.

The conservative majority of SCROTUS was predisposed to rule in favor of the film makers but had to make it appear to be a fair trial, so they watched the entire Hillary and Hannah Montana films with their hands manacled to their chairs so that they could not plug their bleeding ears or try to scratch their own eyes out. After being forced to endure that ordeal they were doubly mad and decided they needed to go further than just ruling in favor of the Hillary filmmakers.

So the SCROTUS, unable to find a way to bring Roe v. Wade into this, found some old campaign finance limitation laws they didn’t like, overturned them and set them on fire. Videos of the incident taken by onlookers show that Scalia and Roberts seemed especially gleeful at obliterating the McCain-Feingold law; analysts believe the opportunity to further humiliate that moderate loser, John McCain, gave the justices raging woodies.

The basis of the SCROTUS ruling is that corporations are individuals for purposes of applying 1st amendment rights to free speech. There are precedents for this view in previous decisions so it is nothing new. The reasoning behind it is that the first amendment gives individuals the right to associate and not have their free speech hindered by the government. Corporations are a form of association and therefore protected. The SCROTUS should have made a distinction between not-for-profit corporations: associations of like-minded people serving some shared, specific agenda and for-profit corporations, an association of unrelated investors providing goods and services for a profit who might seek to influence elections for their own monetary gain. (The corporation which made the Hillary film is not-for-profit, so the opportunity was there, but the conservatives associated for the specific intention of overturning laws they didn’t like, and therefore slipped that distinction right on by.)

As sort of an aside, I think the majority erred in including this reasoning: “(3) because speech itself is of primary importance to the integrity of the election process, any speech arguably within the reach of rules created for regulating political speech is chilled.” The SCROTUS should avoid defending anything simply because it is “arguable”. Every case they review is arguable or else it wouldn’t come before them. Listening to the arguments of the two sides more or less defines what the SCROTUS does.

Well now that the SCROTUS has reinforced the notion that huge, profitable corporations are individuals, the Court has a couple more controversial cases coming before it. In the State of Connecticut v. Mr. And Mrs. Behemoth Insurance, two insurance companies, denied the right to merge by anti-trust laws, seek the right to marry and form a family.

The case of the State of New York v. Slick Oil, Inc., stems from a ruling that Slick Oil, Inc. is an individual who acted in self-defense when he shot and killed a rival oil company attempting a hostile takeover. Slick Oil was nevertheless convicted and jailed for illegal possession of guns. The case before the SCROTUS argues whether that Slick Oil had 2nd amendment rights to keep and bear arms.

Expect to see similar cases as long as the current makeup of the SCROTUS continues.

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