This is the personal blog of Rick Staggenborg, MD. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Take Back America for the People, an educational 501.c3 nonprofit established by Dr Staggenborg.

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

I Want A War Tax

It used to mean something when the United States declared war. Take taxes, for instance: Teh Global War On Terrorizzms™ is the first time in recorded history that a nation went to war while cutting taxes.

...Actually, come to think of it there wasn't technically a "war." There wasn't a Declaration of War, after all, but a "resolution" allowing "operations." We started calling wars "operations" a long time ago because "police action" was unacceptable, and so was war. See, we had this big, long Cold War that conditioned us to pretend conflict wasn't warfare, and forgot to fix that after Operations Desert Storm/Shield.

We really ought to end that.

I'd like to see a day when statutory limits keep the number of deployed Americans low. Granted that we will always need brave men and women to guard us -- and sometimes rescue us. There are a thousand thousand thousand reasons why it is good to have soldiers, sailors, pilots, and specialists. No blog could hold all the reasons.

And yet it would be nice to have a limit, and the way to do that is create a disincentive for warfare.

We need a war tax.

How do you strike the balance? I think this is fair: set a mandatory limit on how many Americans can be deployed or employed abroad in support of military operations without a progressive surtax on the top 2% of income earners. I use "progressive" in the non-political sense here, as what I'm talking about would hit billionaires harder than millionaires.

Why? Because money talks, is why, and the sooner Lloyd Blankfein has a reason to use his company's new citizenship powers to encourage bipartisan support for an end to foreign adventures, the better.

And it's a point of pride. The president says he wants to get the hell out of Afghanistan starting in 2011, which means we have a limited time to do better than we've done. And as I said, it used to mean something when the United States went to war.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cal Thomas Recognizes Overreach

Conservative Cal Thomas says of the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v Federal Election Commission: "What makes the ruling and the march ironic is that the 1973 court...downgraded a human fetus to the level of nonperson, while the modern court has invested "personhood" in corporations. Does anyone else see a contradiction or at least a moral inconsistency in these two rulings?"

Thomas is a rare conservative to admit a problem; most say it's the greatest blow for freedom since Plessy v Ferguson. Thomas is also correct to suggest the decision is judicial overreach every bit as awful as he holds Roe v Wade to be.

The very name Citizens United is Orwellian doublespeak. The ruling culminates a decades-long campaign by conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation, corporate trade associations, and assorted right-wing think tanks. It is "grounded" in the 14th Amendment, which was specifically intended to establish the rights of former slaves.

And what of these corporate "persons?" For instance, when a person sells $40 billion of toxic waste that blows up the global economy, bets on who dies first, declares an emergency to accept government help, and amasses the world's largest fortune in the process, we generally hound them to the ends of the Earth and relieve them of their accounts. Yet this comic book supervillain has a name: Goldman-Sachs. The Supreme Court has announced this psychopathic "person" has the same rights accorded to me by the Constitution. Actually, it has more rights than we do: corporations quite literally get away with murder. Blackwater, too is now a "person."

This happy state of affairs comes courtesy of a movement Thomas has abetted his entire adult life. They said, 'be afraid of Big Brother!' while endowing little brothers with unelected and unaccountable power. To this end Thomas has said much of a "right to life;" but his movement has designed a world in which that right ends at birth, leaving us all on our own against the little brothers.

I find Cal Thomas to be a contradiction, or at least a moral inconsistency.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Somebody Chain This beast

It will be an interesting morning. Pardon me while I engage in a Santelli rant, but the Supreme Court has just gone too far.

"Citizens United v Federal Election Commission" is naked doublespeak of the first order, and a judicial overreach of epic proportions. Last time I checked, a "citizen" of the United States was defined as a single biological human being. Not a corporation or a union or a church or a community organization, but a person that has exactly one life and identity.

The decision is the end result of a long campaign by radical reconstructionists of the right. It rests on the ridiculous 19th Century legal fiction that corporations are persons. This abomination of legalese is "grounded" in the 14th Amendment, which clearly states:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. (Emphasis mine)

Get that? Corporations aren't born; they are legal inventions with state-sanctioned paperwork for DNA. How do these non-biological entities, existing through an obeisant contrivance of government, merit equal protection of the constitution?

More importantly, why don't actual people enjoy the kind of legal protections America provides to corporations?

For the better part of five generations, the Beltway consensus was that corporate persons should be free to invest in government, to enlarge themselves at taxpayer expense, and to influence the very language of legislation. The results are a health care system going broke and a banking system that lost trillions of dollars in value and produced this recession we're all enjoying.

The left needs to answer all this teabagging nonsense: I suggest we start a Fourteenther movement right away. This egregious, Orwellian decision comes at exactly the right time. Progressives, take note: a keystone issue is suddenly hot, so it's time to raise a ruckus.

And raise it we must. Freedom of the press belongs to the owner of the press, and practically all of mass media is corporate-owned. The supremes having long upheld the supremacy of editorial prerogatives, you can count on Glenn Beck to gloss over this "person" business; Rupert Murdoch is just about the last person on Earth to invite questions about corporate personhood, and Republicans are falling all over themselves to tell a compliant mass media why Citizens is the most important blow for freedom since Plessy v Ferguson.

Which is true as long as you, y'know, think Goldman-Sachs is a person.

Which demands another question: what happens to actual breathing/bleeding human beings who sell $40 billion of something they know to be toxic? What penalties would we extract from any person who then made bets about how long it would take for that toxic waste to kill other "citizens" of its kind?

Never mind the millions of actual, living, breathing human beings unemployed, their children born in debt to pay for the latest round of CEO bonuses. It sure has been a good year for Goldman-Sachs! But I digress.

The answer, of course, is that nowhere would be safe. That "person" would be pursued to the ends of the Earth. They would lose their freedom, their fortune, and quite possibly their life. They would be universally reviled and their trial would be discussed daily across the length and breadth of cable media. No one would want to own such a person or give them refuge. It would show up in late-night television sketches:

Now the Supreme Court, in the greatest case of judicial overreach since Roe vee Wade™, has determined that Goldman-Sachs is a citizen of good standing who may broadcast its apologias between psychic pets and laundry detergent advertisements. It may influence the political discourse freely and without reserve wearing an infinite number of guises on any number of channels.

There are currently millions of Americans, mostly men, unable to vote because of felony restrictions. Goldman-Sachs is a psychopath with a media megaphone at its disposal, courtesy of the very corporate media that will dominate the discussion of the president's tirade today. I say that Obama has a golden opportunity here to grab the political center with a key progressive issue by bringing it to the center.

Corporate personhood exists for the purpose of divorcing men like Lloyd Blankfein from the consequences of their actions. Well, I say enough: the man's metaphorical head must roll and the crime for which he bears executive responsibility must be punished. I don't even care if Goldman-Sachs experiences a corporate makeover in the process, but America cannot afford to reward this kind of behavior with taxpayer dollars.

If politicos want to obstruct reform in the name of fictitious persons set free by an amendment clearly intended solely for recently freed members of homo sapiens, there isn't much we can do. But who will have the guts to talk about corporate personhood this morning in the wake of Obama's speech? And how quickly will the issue meet an apologia for the role of corporations in American life today?

Corporate personhood has to end. They aren't people, and if they were people we would lock them up more often than any ethnic or national group. Goldperson-Sachsium is a species only known to legal science. It is definitely not a human, but a kind of useful animal.

Some animals are no use to the American people and should be treated like any vicious predator would be: captured, chained, and disposed: be rehabilitated and released, or die.