Archive for January, 2010

Let corporations share in the American dream


By Steve Klinger

America’s politically orphaned corporations finally got a few table scraps last week when the Supreme Court declared the government has to treat them just like individual citizens and not restrict them from spending directly on election campaigns. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the 5-4 majority, basically said we need to take pity on “associations of citizens” and unleash their purse strings to validate their First Amendment rights to free speech. After all, he argued, it’s bad enough corporations can’t vote or run for office.

But couldn’t we do something about that? As Greg Palast wrote (http://readersupportednews.org/opinion/75-politics/807-greg-palast-manchurian-candidates), why stop with campaign spending – how about Walmart for president? Or for that matter, ARAMCO or the China National Offshore Oil Company, which under this SCOTUS ruling can now spend freely to influence elections as long as they are registered as U.S. corporations? Let’s see… would a corporation have to be native-born to run for president? But I digress…

I do think we need a new constitutional amendment to address this latest example of high-court timidity, this propensity to act in half-measures (which irritates Clarence Thomas so much he had to write a separate opinion putting us on notice that this is just the beginning). We could call it the Equal Rights Amendment for Corporations. While we’re at it, we should abolish the Security and Exchange Commission, which has for too long been an obstacle to corporate marriage.

Speaking of associations of citizens, we need a new division of the ACLU to look out for Exxon-Mobil and Citi – something like the Corporate Civil Liberties Union. Corporations shouldn’t have to bankrupt themselves paying high-priced attorneys to defend their interests; if common criminals have access to pro bono lawyers, so should the loyal companies that enrich our lives in so many ways.

They are after all America’s most neglected minority – far fewer in number than any prominent racial or ethnic group – and as the Fearless Five (Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Kennedy) finally acknowledged, it’s about time we began leveling the playing field.

In fact, this is not a time for artificial borders. I think we need a worldwide benefit drive to reach out to multinational corporations, something like the relief effort organized for Haiti or the tsunami–ravaged nations in 2004. Kind of like what Washington did on a small scale for Wall Street; you know, bailouts for bank bonuses. We could show our compassion to all corporate executives, a really afflicted group if ever there was one, who now live with daily stress and uncertainty, not knowing where their next yacht is coming from.

We could provide counseling and job retraining programs, a premium food stamp plan to include pâté de foie gras, and special WIC-like benefits for wholly owned subsidiaries. Each community could sponsor its own Adopt-A-Corporation drive. I’m sure hard-working Americans would sign up to sponsor their very own disadvantaged corporate entity and gladly donate a generous portion of their weekly unemployment check to help keep some struggling oil and gas company afloat. (Of course, this already happens with our income tax dollars, but you get my drift.)

The Obama administration and Congress need to stop showing favoritism, as in the current healthcare reform measure that only benefits insurance companies and big pharma. Let’s get back to work on the stalled energy bill to make sure there’s a piece of the pie for agribusiness, fossil fuel producers and all the other core industries that are entitled to make a killing on energy reform.

That said, I can’t wait to see the details of the coming financial overhaul, which to be fair needs to assist all banks, investment companies and other financial institutions. And of course I’m confident it will.

This is, after all, a democracy we live in. Since corporations are people, they too are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And what could make a corporation happier than being able to buy influence more directly so government will remember to validate its individuality.

So get with the program, Stevens, Ginsberg, Breyer and Sotomayor. And thank you, Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, Thomas and Scalia for recognizing that corporations too have their American Dream, and having heard the merciful promise, lay themselves at our feet for comfort:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

–Statue of Liberty inscription, from sonnet by Emma Lazarus

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Safe From Devils

By Thomas Wark

The ascendant characteristic of America’s unholy alliance of the religious right and the political right is fear.

Pat Robertson is an expert with this tool.  Never mind the compassion for which the Jesus he professes to follow was famous in history.  Fire-breathing Pat said the horrible disaster visited upon Haiti this week was God’s vengeance upon a people who made “a pact with the devil.”  What a humanitarian!

When Katrina devastated New Orleans, several followers of the TV evangelists assured me that the terrible damage was God’s vengeance on the city for Madeline Murray O’Hair’s atheism.  Huh?

The vengeful Old Testament God of Pat Robertson keeps the faithful in line.  Who wants to end up dying like a Haitian in an earthquake or a Louisianian in a hurricane?

The theologians of the political right — Karl Rove, Frank Luntz, Newt Gingrich, et al — invoke their own pantheon of vengeful gods.

Dare to question a war on an innocent people; dare to denounce the torture and detention without trial of anyone whose looks our government doesn’t like; have the temerity to note that the American people are no more “special” than the French, the Angolans or the Iranians; suggest for a minute that “free enterprise capitalism” isn’t free for working stiffs and rewards only the enterprise of oligarchs . . . Demons of color will invade your neighborhood, rape your women, enslave your children and leave you bloody and dying on the pavement while your house burns to the ground.

Improve the developed world’s worst health care system?  It’ll kill grandma, deprive you of treatment by a good doctor and force you to risk gangrene at the hands of ill-trained butchers; it’ll make you a pauper, turn you into a robot and give you acid reflux, erectile dysfunction or both.

Curb man-made climate change?  “They” would take away your SUVs, your air-conditioners, your lovely green golf courses,  your half-acre flat-screen TV screens, your jobs, your freedoms and your pride in being the richest, most powerful nation in the whole world.

As long as you’re very, very afraid — of something, anything — you’ll toe the line even as the fear-mongers destroy the economy, savage the Constitution, cancel the Bill of Rights and hold themselves exempt from the laws of decency and ethical behavior.

After all, it’s what keeps you safe.

And We Like Being Afraid!

This from Ring of Fire (Robert F. Kennedy and Mike Papantonio):  In America, sometimes fear is real entertainment.  Not only for those people whose brains are made up of something more than mush but also for the people who love to be afraid.

In 2009, the truly terrified hysterics rushed out to buy guns of every description.  There were many times you couldn’t buy 9mm or 40 caliber shells even for target practice because production couldn’t keep up with demand.  What was everyone afraid of?  Here is the short list:  America elected a “Negro president.”  Democrats were going to take everybody’s guns.  The liberals were planning a “take over.”  The immigrant hoards were going to rape and pillage.  And there was the threat that some ill-defined world catastrophe was always knocking at our door in 2009.  The world was surely ending and only a well-armed militia trained gun owner with a concealed weapon permit would be ready.  We made our love of being afraid into a widespread psychosis.  If you don’t believe me, go to one of those tea party rallies and ask the question:  Why are you here?  At the heart of every response, you will hear vague hysterical fear and loathing of something or someone.  It will usually begin and end with an “O.”

To read more, visit Thomas Wark’s blog: http://bordellopianist.blogspot.com

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Happy Danes Are Here Again

By Thomas Wark
Three different data-based studies that rank nations according to the “happiness” of their people all agree that the two happiest nations in the world are Denmark and Costa Rica.The studies take into account citizens’ responses to poll questions evaluating their own happiness, as well as life expectancy; one study adds a third factor, environmental impact.

Obviously, climate is not a common denominator for these two sets of happy people.

But there are two very clear common denominators.  One is universal government managed health care.  The other is little or no spending on the military.

Costa Rica, which most often ranks first in the happiness surveys, has no military.  Zero.  Zilch.  Its government made a decision to eliminate its standing army and divert the money it spent on the military to education.

Denmark maintains an army. navy, air force and Home Guard.  This entire operation costs Denmark 1.5% of its GDP.  The United States, in contrast, spends nearly four times as large a percentage of its vastly greater GDP on its war machine.

In the United States, where tea party loonies and birther crazies prattle about “socialized medicine” as if it were something bad, an allegedly “liberal” President didn’t even ask the Congress his party controls to consider a single-payer, universal health care system.  What he’s willing to settle for is a mish-mash of regulations and wishfulness that guarantees enormously greater profits for the insurance industry and skyrocketing bonuses for its fat-cat executives.  The actual quality of medical care will continue to decline, and the actual cost to sick people will continue to rise.

No data are available as to the precise number of Americans who go to Costa Rica each year to avail themselves of one of the best health care systems in the world today.  The system is open not just to Ticos, but to any foreign resident or visitor.  Doctors and pharmacists there all say they regularly serve a number of American patients.  In 1991, a survey by economists from the University of Costa Rica documented that 14.25% of all foreign visitors came for the express purpose of receiving medical care of some type.

You don’t need a prescriptions for most medications in Costa Rica, you can take up to a 90-day supply back to the U.S. with you and the cost of the medicine is about 20% of what you (and your for-profit insurer, if you have one) would pay in the United States. Foreigners can join the Costa Rican health care net (CCSS) by paying a small monthly 
fee, based on their income, or  they can buy health insurance from the state monopoly for roughly 1/100th of the cost of comparable coverage in the United States.

In Denmark,  anyone can go to a physician for no fee. Danish citizens may choose between two systems of primary health care: medical care provided free of charge by a doctor whom the individual chooses for a year and by those specialists to whom the doctor refers the patient; or complete freedom of choice of any physician or specialist at any time, with state reimbursement of about two-thirds of the cost for medical bills paid directly by the patient. Most Danes opt for the former. All patients receive subsidies on pharmaceuticals and vital drugs. Total health care expenditure is 8.4% of GDP.

Health care costs the United States just over 16% of GDP.  A 2009 Harvard study published in the American Journal of Public Health found more than 44,800 preventable deaths annually in the United States among Americans lacking health insurance.

Rush Limblow to the contrary notwithstanding, the only large industrialized nations that come close to matching the health care in Denmark and Costa Rica are Japan and France.  You know what the right wingnuts say about France!

Read more of Thomas Wark’s posts at A Bordello Pianist (http://bordellopianist.blogspot.com)

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