1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown: BizarroDown January 17-23, 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dear Internet,

This is Issue 11 of the Weekly Tendown, my look at the best cultural happenings of the previous 7 days; Last Week, I talked about Late Night Wars 2.0, a four year old named Tater Tot kicked out of public school due to the length of his hair, a guy collecting Jerry Maguire VHS tapes, and Marvin Harrison, Colt-faced killa. 

This week....well, here's the thing.

I've had a crappy week.  And in truth, I'm a bit of a misanthrope.  I don't like people, places, or things.  Nouns, basically.  I'm not a fan of nouns.  I'm fat, old, and grumpy and these characteristics could have been applied to me since I was eight years old.  So that I went 10 weeks writing a Sunday blog centered around all the really superkeen things that happened over the week previous represents a burst of optimism that I would probably credit to pharmaceutic, if, in fact, I was taking anything (you holding?  who's holding?).

So this week, we flip the script ('cause like every 39 year old white guy I use hip hop lingo from 2002 in my attempt to stay culturally relevant) and offer for you the very worst things that happened over the past seven days.

It's Bizarro Tendown.  BizarroDown!

First:  The End of the Republic

So, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 this week to eliminate a huge chunk of the limits on the ability of corporations to make campaign contributions. Olbermann, a little hyperbolically, compared the decision to Dred Scott.  The music of Olbermann's comment is going to drown out the lyrics; in the way that you really can't compare a current action to the Holocaust, slavery is just a club modern day political commentators need to leave in their bags.  But the point shouldn't be lost - there's a good argument that Dred Scott was correctly decided, meaning that as strictly an academic matter of legal interpretation, one could construct a Constitutional reading without too much trouble that would support the Court's conclusion that slaves (current or former or future) were definitionally without legal standing; the tragedy was less the intellectual bankruptcy of that analysis and more that the United States couldn't exist as a political structure going forward with that analysis as the law of the land.  A reasonable argument to make to Chief Justice Taney would have been "you might be right as a matter of law - or at least, you're not demonstrably wrong, but if we decide that your analysis is correct, the country is going to break in two."

Which it did.

This week, the Court in Citizens United invalidated (and left open to further invalidation) a huge percentage of the legislative scheme which stems the flow of corporate money into elections as impermissible restrictions on free speech.  I would have been a dissenting vote in Dred Scott and would have been in the dissent this week as well - but there's a colorable reading of the Constitution that supports the decision.  In the pantheon of "you guys are just making this shit up" - Citizens United isn't Bush v. Gore.

What it leads to is a destructive result.  It makes the most powerful more powerful. 

Why do we go to war?  We go to war because war is profitable and corporations for whom war is profitable are able to generate ideologies to support those wars.  We moved from WWII seamlessly into the Cold War (beginning with the dropping of the Atomic Bombs in 1945) and shut up talk about a "peace dividend" (remember that?  remember the "what will we do with all the money we won't need to spend on the military now?") by invading Iraq 10 months after the Berlin Wall fell.  Two decades later - we're still there - permanently in the Middle East, with our Biblical verse stamped rifles trained on Muslim kids, wondering how it is they could possibly hate us. 

Why don't we have health care reform?  Because in 2009 the insurance and pharmaceutical industries spent 1.4 million dollars a day fighting health care reform.  When corporations control mainstream media - and a television "news" network promotes the most conservative elements of our society as "real America" and many Americans, trained for a quarter century to believe that social programs are their enemy believe that the America they've been taught to revere is under attack - what we're left with is a disinclination to vote our own best interests.  There is no sickness in our political thought so contaminating as the belief that what's best for corporate America is what's best for America.  The business of America is business Cal Coolidge once said.  We all sold our souls to the company store. 

And this decision hands the wealthiest corporations the most power.  It is a victory for Goliath.  And I believe that to be harmful.  Not Dred Scott harmful because corporations had virtually unchecked power a week ago so the qualitative difference between the world we're about to enter and the world we're leaving behind isn't as enormous as Olbermann posits.  But harmful.  And activist - oh, my god - please don't let the right make that "these liberal activist judges" argument again.  Citizens United was a decision which overturned precedent and made invalid decades of federal legislation - that doesn't make it a bad legal decision; activism, despite what you've been taught, is not inherently a bad thing - it means an unelected Court is substituting its judgment for the settled judgment of representatives accountable to the American people.  That's part of our Constitutional framework.  It shouldn't be taken lightly, but it's how the Court works and when Republicans pretend its not they are absolutely lying to you. 

It may not have been a "bad" decision on the merits.  And its harm may not reach that of Dred Scott.  But the power of "regular Americans" to impact government policy took a terrific beating this week, and the town hall outrage was nonexistent.

That was the worst thing that happened this week.  After the jump - the rest of BizarroDown.

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