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America's Supremes: Court Over Constitution - America's Supremes: Court Over Constitution

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America's Supremes: Court Over Constitution
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  • in Bush v. Gore (2000), the Court overruled the majority vote to make George Bush president; it overrode Florida's Supreme Court, halting the state recount on the spurious grounds that it violated the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, an implausible argument but it held; it was the first time ever in US history that the Court reversed the popular will, installing its preferred candidate instead; months later, when it was too late to matter, a media-sponsored National Opinion Research Center tabulation of all uncounted votes showed Gore won Florida and was elected president; he knew it all along but didn't contest;
  • in Watters v. Twombly (2007), the Court prevented states from regulating national bank subsidiaries just as the subprime crisis erupted;
  • in Regents of the University of California v. Merrill Lynch (2008), the court denied restitution from Enron's collusion and defrauding investors; in Arthur Andersen v. United States (2005), it absolved Enron's partner in crime ruling jury instructions "failed to convey the requisite consciousness of wrongdoing" because jurors were told to convict Andersen if it had an "improper purpose," even if it thought it was acting legally; of course, Andersen knew the law, knew it acted illegally, but thought it could get away with it and did;
  • in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Court sided with the gun lobby saying even though they're "aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country....constitutional rights necessarily (take) policy choices off the table;"
  • in Exxon Shipping v. Baker (2008 - 19 years after the Exxon Valdez spill), the Court reduced the original $5 billion punitive damage award to $500 million; this and earlier cases lowered the bar for future malfeasance settlements, the Court nearly always siding with business, giving fraudulent and negligent companies wide latitude to endanger the public and get away with it;
  • in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), the Court ruled that the government can't put limits on corporate spending in political elections as doing so violates First Amendment freedoms, legal "political speech," according to Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the 5 - 4 majority.

The decision overruled Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990), restricting corporate political spending on the notion that (c)orporate wealth can unfairly influence elections," and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003), upholding part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (the McCain-Feingold Act) restricting corporate and union campaign spending.

In its January ruling, the Court set a precedent, but does it matter given the political power of big money, past failures to curb it, and Professor John Kozy saying:

"Expecting the Congress, most if not all of whose members reside deep in corporate pockets, to eliminate that influence can be likened to expected the rhinovirus to eliminate the common cold. Corporate money (in large or smaller amounts) is the diseased life-blood of American politics; it carries its cancerous spores to all extremities."

As for the Court, Kozy cited Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' Lochner dissent, saying "the Court has taken its task to be the constitutionalization of a totally immoral, rapacious, economic system instead of the promotion of justice, domestic tranquility, the general welfare, and the blessings of liberty."

However, as HL Mencken observed, Holmes was no "advocate of the rights of man (but rather) an advocate of the rights of lawmakers. (Under his judicial philosophy), there would be scarcely any brake at all upon lawmaking, and the Bill of Rights would have no more significance than the Code of Manu (referring to discrimination against women in Hindu literature)."

Of course, the same observation applies throughout Court history with past civil libertarians far outnumbered by supporters of the established order and big money that runs it. For every William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall there have been dozens of John Jays (the first chief justice), Roger Taneys, William Howard Tafts, Scalias, Burgers, Rehnquists, and Roberts.

Even liberal Republican Earl Warren, as California Attorney General, supported interning Japanese Americans during WW II, despite later writing the unanimous Brown v. Board of Education decision as Chief Justice as well as supporting other progressive rulings. Under Lyndon Johnson, however, he also chaired the Warren Commission cover-up of Jack Kennedy's assassination, saying:

"....there may be some things that would involve security. This would be preserved but not made public," even though the public has a right to know as a democratic state's final arbiter.

The Commission took testimony in secret, later publishing sanitized versions two months after the Warren Report. It prompted critics like Sylvia Meagher in her landmark book titled, "Accessories After the Fact" to rebut the Commission's findings, largely based on evidence it published. It excluded everything deemed sensitive and called Lee Harvey Oswald the lone assassin, a conclusion very much in dispute with growing evidence to prove it.

Michael Parenti calls the Supreme Court an "autocratic branch" of government. Its members are appointed, serve for life, and have great power for good or ill, nearly always supporting institutions of power, including corporate America. Even during the 1930s, "the Supreme Court was the activist bastion of laissez-faire capitalism" until public and White House pressure got it to accept New Deal legislation.

Post-1960s courts, however, reverted to form:

  • making it harder to prove discrimination;
  • weakening Miranda rights,
  • diluting Roe v. Wade;
  • giving child abusers more rights than victims;
  • weakening unreasonable searches and seizures;
  • turning a blind eye to illegal surveillance;
  • reinstating the death penalty in 1976;
  • supporting economic inequality by upholding laws reducing welfare and other rulings against the disadvantaged;
  • granting more executive power to the president;
  • siding with business against labor and victims of corporate fraud and harmful products;
  • ignoring the separation of church and state by granting religious organizations tax exemptions;
  • ruling in Buckley v. Valeo (1976) for a federal law limiting campaign contributions, but saying money influencing elections is constitutionally protected speech, and candidates may give unlimited amounts to their own campaigns; and
  • numerous other pro-business, pro-state power rulings.

As for unfettered political spending, Ralph Nader's comments were unsurprising, saying "The Supremes Bow(ed) to King Corporation," further weakening a fragile democracy and deeply corrupted electoral process. With Washington already corporate occupied territory, it's debatable what more they need do. But they:

"can now directly pour (unlimited) amounts of corporate money, through independent expenditures, into the electoral swamp already flooded with corporate campaign PAC contribution dollars. Without (shareholder) approval, (they) can reward or intimidate people running for office at the local, state, and national levels."

The Court saying "Government may not suppress political speech based on the speaker's corporate identity" means influence depends on the ability to buy it. The public is more than ever left out. The electoral process is further corrupted, and the notion of free, fair, and open elections is fanciful, absurd, and the reason many voters opt out.

Nader supports a grassroots effort for a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood and get big money out of politics. Also vital are:

  • publicly funded elections;
  • independent parties and candidates;
  • repeal of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), empowering corporations through easily manipulated touchscreen electronic voting machines, replacing them with hand-counted paper ballots, administered by independent civil servants; and
  • numerous other reforms to turn sham elections into real ones.

Most important is:

  • America's growing repressiveness;
  • its abandonment of the rule of law, due process, and judicial fairness for society's most disadvantaged;
  • its bogus democracy under a homeland police state apparatus;
  • permanent war agenda;
  • growing denial of civil liberties and constitutional freedoms;
  • letting social services erode when they're most needed during growing economic duress; and
  • the High Court's acquiesce propelling America toward tyranny unless an aroused public intervenes to stop it. So far, there's not a hint of it in sight.

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