Radical SCOTUS Eviscerates Our Rights

The radical right control of the Supreme Court turned the nation sharply right again today with its two final decisions of the term.  Both 5-4 votes they eviscerated more of our rights.  In the Hobby Lobby case they determined that closely held companies have the right to impose their extreme religious beliefs on their employees health care coverage.  The small, family owned stores decided they didn’t want to comply with the ACA mandate that their health care cover their employees birth control.  99% of all American women use birth control at some point in their lives.  Many use it because they could die if they get pregnant.  Women have been dying during birth since the dawn of man.  It isn’t a matter of choice for these women, it means life or death.

The Supreme Court decided today that their right to life is trumped by their employer’s radical religious agenda.  This opens all sorts of slippery slope consequences as Justice Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent.  If your employer in such a company doesn’t believe in immunizations, blood transfusions or other common medical practices they now have the right to impose those beliefs on you, their employee.  Be very careful if your employer is a Christian Scientist:  they don’t believe in medical care for anything.  These folks actually allow their children to die of common viruses rather than seek treatment.

Now, when you interview for a job you’d better ask hard questions about your potential employer’s religious beliefs before accepting employment offers.  I imagine this decision will make it very hard for such companies to attract and keep good employees.  I certainly hope so.  The rest of us need to be sure never to transact business with them.

In the second case home health care workers represented by SEIU in Illinois sued because they want to freeload on the system by accepting the negotiated benefits the union gets for them without paying union dues in return.  SCOTUS said they don’t.  This decision is a significant loss for unions.  These workers, who are earning higher wages because SEIU negotiated them now don’t have to pay dues to SEIU in return for this largesse.  This makes them freeloaders.

Elections have consequences and who we elect President has a direct effect on our everyday lives due to such radical right wing decisions by five Supreme Court Justices.  Chief Justice John Roberts (GW Bush appointee), Samuel Alito (likewise GW Bush), Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Anthony Thomas have shoved the nation far rights with sweeping decisions the past few years.  Worse, the two GW Bush Justices are quite young and could serve for decades.  Scalia and Thomas are getting long in the tooth and we have to hope they either die soon or decide to retire.  That isn’t likely until, if ever, a Republican gains the Oval Office again.  It is imperative to restore balance to the Court before these five drive America into third world status.  Or before a populist revolution takes their heads.  I’d be very fearful of that latter possibility if I were them or the Koch brothers.

Sestak: “Specter Unfit to Serve”

Republicans are insisting that President Obama choose a moderate and are threatening a filibuster if he chooses a liberal for Justice Stevens’ seat.  Of course why not choose another liberal for a liberal seat?  My bet is Obama, an avowed centrist whose previous pick was a centrist, moves the Court towards a center/right split from a left/right split with another centrist.  Why is it though that Republicans can nominate extreme right wing agents such as Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito but Democrats must nominate centrists?  Here’s the real question:  why do Democrats keep allowing it?  Not only do spineless Democrats fail to block GOP extremists to the Court they refuse to appoint even mildly liberal ones themselves.

Sen. Arlen Specter’s re-election prospects got caught in the crosshairs of the SCOTUS arguments over the weekend when former Sen. Rick Santorum disclosed his endorsement for Specter six years ago was bought with a promise Specter, as Chair of the Judiciary Committee, would shepherd whomever George W. Bush nominated.  We can thank Specter for both Alito and Roberts.  How much easier was it for Bush to nominate two extremists knowing Specter was in his camp?

Joe Sestak lambasted Specter over this in a scathing press release this morning:

Specter’s Supreme Court Influence-Peddling Casts Doubt on Fitness to Serve

We always had reason to suspect Arlen Specter would do anything for political survival. Now we have the smoking gun.

Click below for the rest of the statement.

Specter sold out to the radical right in a quid pro quo for Rick Santorum’s endorsement and help winning an election. He pledged to exploit his influence as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee to give anyone picked by George W. Bush a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court — no matter how partisan, no matter how unqualified.

Why should we believe Santorum’s assertion? At the time, after the far-right threatened to block Specter from the chairmanship, it was reported that he met with Santorum and emerged with this statement: “I have no reason to believe that I’ll be unable to support any individual President Bush finds worthy of nomination.”  Santorum is now clarifying that he extracted a firm pledge that Arlen Specter would do as he was told.

This goes far beyond politics. This strikes at the foundation of our democracy. Specter didn’t just sell out his own integrity this time. As your Senator, he sold you out. He sold us all out. This is about trust.

Arlen Specter says confirming Justices is one of the most important functions of the Senate. He’s right. There are few people who have a greater influence on our country than the Supreme Court Justices charged with interpreting our Constitution. Their rulings determine the character of our country and profoundly affect the lives of every American.

The Justices that Arlen Specter installed as part of this bribe will remain long after he is gone, and their decisions will permanently alter our justice system. America will have to live with the results, like the Citizens United ruling that now permits unlimited corporate money to distort our elections.

For Arlen Specter to undermine the integrity of the Supreme Court just to feed his own ambition is unconscionable. He so coveted the chairmanship — he so wanted to satisfy his own pride by holding up that gavel — that he was willing to be a political puppet. He betrayed the people he was elected to represent; he betrayed his office; he betrayed the rule of law that underpins our nation.

This revelation should permanently shatter the myth of Arlen Specter:

   * He claims he’s independent. But he was really just carrying water for the Bush Administration.

   * He claims he’s a moderate. But here he was doing the bidding of the far-right.

   * He claims he’s pro-choice. But the point of this scheme was to appoint Justices who will overturn Roe v Wade.

   * He claims he fights for Pennsylvania. But he is really just out for himself, with no concern for the impact his actions will have on Pennsylvanians.

Simply put, Arlen Specter has been in it for himself.

He then even switched parties as part of another deal to regain the chairmanship — as he says he struck with the Majority Leader — just underscores the fact that Arlen Specter lacks the integrity to faithfully represent the people of Pennsylvania.

There are many crucial issues at stake in this election, but this incident calls into question the Senator’s fitness to serve, where he believes it’s about ensuring his “entitlement” to his job rather than working for Pennsylvania. Our nation depends on our being able to place our faith in our public servants to act in our best interest, not their own.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Sestak raises serious issues around this disclosure by Santorum.  While we’ve known Arlen is willing to sell out anyone, any Party or any issue for his personal gain getting concrete examples other than his switching Parties and getting that information to the voters and drilling it into their mindset before May 18th is critical.

Supreme Court Keeping Citizens United in the News

The Citizens United v FEC Supreme Court case continues in the news headlines because Chief Justice Roberts came out this week criticizing the President’s criticism of it in the SOTU.  The President mentioned the decision ion his address because he called for legislation to overturn this most heinous act of judicial activism seen in generations.  The Supreme Court decided that corporations can have no limits on contributions to political campaigns.  In essence they used a 19th century landmark decision saying companies are persons under the constitution to justify them having full rights to completely corrupt our government.

The nation is outraged by such activist Justices, all of whom got on the court by deriding activist Justices.  Their hypocrisy knows no more bounds than their right wing ideology which says the Executive Branch is all powerful and the Judicial, their own, and Legislative branches must submit to a “unitary executive.”

Under Citizens United democracy dies.  Well, what’s left of it will die.  Corporations and Big Business already have a hugely disproportionate influence on Washington.  We need to reduce their influence through public financing of campaigns not by greatly expanding corporate privilege.

The irony of the criticism being levied by these Justices is that they are keeping their mischievous conduct before the public.  Chief Justice Roberts is reminding us of his negligence.  Such is the hubris brought to the Court by the George W. Bush nominees.  I hope he continues because the people need to be reminded every day that Congress must do as the President requested and redress this injury to democracy.

In that regard Congressman Paul Kanjorski today addressed this issue:

Good morning.  Today we meet to examine the likely effects of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.  In response to this groundbreaking ruling, Members of Congress have introduced no less than 30 bills.  While other panels in the House have jurisdiction over many of these measures, the Financial Services Committee has the responsibility to examine those bills related to shareholder rights and corporate governance.

Like many, I was disappointed in the Supreme Court’s ruling.  In our system of capitalism, corporations enjoy many benefits designed to promote the efficient allocation of resources in a vibrant economy.  Unduly influencing elections should not be one of those privileges.  Moreover, shareholders have financial interests in companies, not political interests.  Finally, I should note that in our political system people vote; corporations lack such rights.

To limit the influence of the Citizens United decision, the Capital Markets Subcommittee now has under consideration several proposals.  These thoughtful bills generally aim to increase shareholder participation in the electioneering decisions of public companies, enhance public transparency on corporate campaign spending, and contain corporate political activities.

At the very least, we ought to act to empower shareholders to determine whether and how corporations can spend their money for political purposes.  Shareholders should not expect that a company will use their money to invest in candidates that the shareholders themselves do not support.  In this regard, corporate management should obtain some form of approval from their shareholders regarding corporate campaign expenditures.

We also ought to enhance public disclosures of corporate political expenditures.  Many have said that transparency is the best disinfectant.  Better information about how corporations spend money on political activities will help to hold corporations accountable for their actions.

Today, we will examine pending legislative proposals introduced by Mr. Ackerman, Mr. Capuano, Mr. Peters, Mr. Grayson, and Ms. Kilroy that achieve these desired ends.  We will also explore ways to refine these bills.  I look forward to a vigorous debate at this hearing so that we can determine the best way to move ahead on these important policy matters.  Moreover, because we have many ideas concurrently in motion, I am also hopeful that we can work today to achieve consensus, improve coordination, and ensure a comprehensive legislative reaction.

In sum, while courts have long granted corporations the status of personhood, they are not actually people.  We need a legislative response to the Citizens United case in order to restore balance in our democratic system, and corporate governance reforms represent an important facet of an effective solution.  Such reforms can give American citizens – the living, breathing, voting people we are here to represent – faith that our system of representative democracy will long endure and thrive.

Kudos to Kanjorski for leading the way on this most important issue.  Now let us hope Justices Roberts and Alito continue reminding voters what they did and the President’s call to action to change this precedent.

Prejudices and Perspectives

President Barack Obama appointed a new super computer to the Supreme Court this spring.  The announcement came as an old IBM model neared obsolescence and their is much hue and cry throughout the land about the legal software the new machine will bring to future cases.

What if that had been the announcement recently instead of the one which appointed Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the high court?  Machines, after all, are run by the software, not human emotions, life experiences or personal perspectives.  Conservatives are having a field day over something Sotomayor said and have called her a racist.  She had the temerity to say she could make better decisions that white men who have dominated the Court for our entire history.

Looking st many of the dreadful decisions of the Supreme Court since 1783 one can easily agree with the Judge.  From Dred Scott to Bush v Gore white men have used their life’s perspectives to control the country in ways which have not always been just.  Th elaw is not something which a computer software program can determine.  It is a living thing which evolves, a concept which changes with time, experience and perspective.  Each new Justice brings their own unique histoy an dlife’s experiences to the bench.  Judge Sotomayor is no different from Samuel Alito (Catholic), Antonin Scalia (Catholic), John Roberts ( privileged white man), Ruth Bader Ginsberg (Jewish woman) or Clarence Thomas (African American angry at affirmative action) have brought.

We see every individual Justice’s perspectives in their writings, questions and decisions.  No Justice has ever sat on the Court and decided cases like a computer might.  This is why we do not appoint computers.  We appoint people with all their prejudices and perspectives.  The right wing does not like the perspectives Sonia Sotomayor brings so they have relentlessly attacked her perspectives.  This has now extended to personal attacks by calling her racist for daring to speak truth to power.  The Supreme Court has been dominated by male WASPs for over two hundred years.  The current make up of the Court has ONE woman, ONE African American who is a traitor to his race, and NO Hispanics.

Clarence Thomas is an excellent example of how an individual’s life’s history shapes his legal thinking.  Replacing the revered Thurgood Marshall as the token Black he does not believe in standing up for his race.  He opposes affirmative action which seeks to reverse 300 years of oppression and racism.  If any Justice ever exemplified how a personal life experience shapes one’s perspectives it is Justice Thomas.

Why then is it that Judge Sotomayor is receiving such exterme treatment?  Because she will be a Justice who has said publicly she would stand up for her gender and race.  That is scary to white men who feel their privilege is threatened.  I’m sorry but after having all but five Supreme Court Justices represent your perspective it is time for new blood not a machine to spit out pre programmed legal opinions based on a software program.  If there ever was an example of the term  garbage in, garbage out, it is the history of the white male dominated Supreme Court.  It is time for a new program, fresh perspectives and diversity.