US Supreme Court: Eating US Democracy Through Activism?

The US Declaration of Independence, signed in Philadelphia on July 4th, 1776, began with the sentence, “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Note please that no where in this first paragraph is there mention of companies, corporations, political action committees, filthy rich gazillionaires, or secret campaign contributors that can possibly buy elections out from under the democratic process of “one citizen, one vote”.

Everyone in the USA and many observant folks around the world  know that in the US Supreme court case in 2010 known as “Citizens United“,  the “Supremes” voted 5-4 to uphold the “right” of corporations to make massive and undocumented campaign contributions.  In doing so, they opened the door to campaign funding abuse by the very rich and wealthy.  After all, there is no way that the average middle class citizen could possibly donate several thousand (or several hundreds of thousands) dollars to a political campaign.

The majority opinion claimed it was a first amendment right to freedom of speech which protected these activities on the part of wealthy corporations, such as, but not exclusively, the Koch brothers and their political activism (read:  organizing and sending massive amounts of cash to Tea Party campaigns).

The minority opinion stated in so many words, “bullshit!”

In this country, majority rule is an important concept and thus the “Supremes” conservative majority led the day.

The results, especially in this mid-term election year, have been nothing short of astounding.  Wealthy conservatives donated millions of dollars to the conservative super-pacs such American for Prosperity and FreedomWorks,  in which the infamous conservative billionaire Koch brothers are involved.  These two brothers have literally contributed tens of millions of dollars of their own money to Tea Party candidates for federal office.  And while one might think that they should be free to do so, there is no way that the average US citizen who votes could possibly make even a small dent in the Koch’s campaign contributions. The facts are that only the very rich, who tend to be conservative pro-corporation republicans, will be able to take advantage of this Supreme Court decision

The “Supremes”, unfortunately, were no where near done.  Last July, in Shelby County v. Holder, they stuck down a long-standing provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which had been passed during the Civil Rights activism of the 1960’s to ensure that no state,and specifically most southern and some mid-west states, could enact discriminatory laws without the approval of the Federal Elections Commission.  The “Supremes” basically said that none of these states was discriminatory and therefore that provision of the law was unconstitutional and unnecessary.

Immediately, several states, including Texas, voted to reduce voting sites and voting hours as well as early voting capabilities and increased need for identity checks for voters, which causes considerable hardship for poor, low-income voters who tend to vote democratic.

Finally, in their crowning achievement (so far) of putting America’s democratic elections up for sale to the highest bidder, the “Supremes” ruled just a couple of days ago in Schuette vs. Bamn that Michigan’ recent state constitutional amendment banning affirmative action as a factor in college admission is in fact NOT unconstitutional, per their view of the US Constitution.

This decision was a little tighter than the previous two, in that the “Supremes” voted 6-2.  Interestingly, however, the two women justices in the decision, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (a third, Elena Kagan, had reclused herself), disagreed with the majority, citing the statistical fact that in states that do not practice affirmative action as a policy, college enrollment of minorities is down dramatically over states that do practice affirmative action.

In making this decision, the “Supremes” essentially reversed decades of policy that ensured that the racial discrimination of the previous 100 years would not be allowed to continue when it came to college admission.

And when all three decisions are taken together, it bodes ominously for the common middle class citizen, minorities, and the “little guy”, while empowering the wealthy and powerful to exercise an inordinate amount of influence over the US government and its democratic process, particularly regarding elections and education.  Of course, conservatives love it because they see it as less government, more personal freedom (to abuse anyone else not powerful enough to stand up and stop it).  So much for equal protection under law…

And this summer the “Supremes” will be ruling on whether private companies owned by religious zealots can dictate their religious dogma to their employees in the form of not allowing health insurance companies to provide their employees free birth control.

Depending upon their decision. this one just might get the “Supremes” branded as “activist judges..”.

Republican Darrel Issa: Congressional Terrorist

The 5th amendment in the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution states, in pertinent part:

“…nor shall any person be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…

Furthermore, the US Supreme Court asserted in 1924 that this constitutional right applies whether a hearing is criminal or civil (such as a congressional hearing).  No one can forcibly take away this right from anyone in the USA, nor can they somehow invent some excuse to remove the right.

Joseph McCarthy was a republican senator from Wisconsin during the late 1940’s through early 1950’s.  He chaired the House Un-American Activities Committee.  During his so-called investigations and hearings, he accused countless Americans of being communists, and in fact had his committee vote to hold witnesses invoking their 5th amendment rights in Contempt of Congress.  Known for his intimidation tactics, McCarthy attempted to prove that the US government was being overrun by communists, but he never found a single communist in government.  And very Contempt of Congress resolution by McCarthy’s committee was overturned in court.

In 1954 the full US senate voted to censure McCarthy for his behavior on the committee;  one of the very few senators in history to be censured.

As an interesting and perhaps eerie aside, republican senator Ted Cruz from Texas, who also has a predilection for using intimidation (terrorist?) tactics in the senate to achieve his Tea Party goals, looks (and acts) a lot like McCarthy:

Ted Cruz, official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg    …..                             Ted Cruz                                   Joe McCarthy

Darrel Issa is a republican congressman from California.  He is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has investigated the 2012 terrorists attack against the US embassy in Benghazi, as well as the alleged IRS harassment of Tea Party organizations seeking tax-exempt status.

It’s important to note that the IRS also questioned a number of far-left organizations with the same zeal during the same time frame, but Issa has never been interested in this inconvenient fact.

Instead, Issa’s focus, besides protecting his status as a very wealthy businessman reported worth US$ 450 million, is solely to embarrass the Obama administration and democrats.

Issa was not able to find any criminal or otherwise nefarious conduct in his Benghazi hearings, so he’s shifted his focus on the IRS issue.

During the IRS hearings, Issa subpoenaed and questioned former IRS official Lois Lerner She first asserted her innocence and then invoked her 5th amendment rights to specific questions on the advice of her lawyer.

Issa is very upset that he could not compel her to claim responsibility for anything.  He’s also very upset that he has never proved a single allegation of wrong-doing on the part of all the democrats he has tried for so long to implicate in various “scandals”.

With the mid-term elections a scant 7 months away in November, and with Obamacare looking less and less like the defining issue for voters that the republicans had hoped it would be, Issa and his cronies decided to implement what they probably consider to be a “nuclear option”, and have the House Ways & Means Committee draft a resolution recommending that the full House of Representatives find Lerner in contempt of Congress for invoking her 5th amendment rights during the congressional hearings.

Considering that the House is controlled by the GOP, and the GOP’s number 1 priority is obviously not governing wisely but strictly about winning elections, there is every reason to believe that this resolution can and will pass the full House.

In anticipation of this, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland has accused Issa of engaging in McCarthyism, or creating a scandal where none exists. Cumming wrote a letter to Issa that was signed by every democrat on the committee.  It says, among other things, that almost all of the incidents in recent history of finding witnesses in contempt of congress occurred during the McCarthy era, and they were all overturned in court.

The committee vote on this issue is Thursday, April 10th.  It will probably pass along party lines even though it is without basis or foundation.  Then, it will most likely be overturned in court.

But in the meantime it certainly appears to be an act of election year desperation.  And today, April 9th, 2014, another act of republican political desperation occurred in a vote along party lines taken in a closed session of the House Ways and Means committee, demanding that US attorney general Eric Holder prosecute Lois Lerner for all kinds of crimes against the Universe.

Meanwhile, the republicans in the US senate today filibustered and thus stopped a bill that provides women protections against being paid less than men for equal work.

This is how the republicans plan to win over independent and undecided voters, through these insane acts of political terrorism.

Good luck with that.