The case for Obama wanting to lose the Mass. Senate seat

Politics is like an iceberg; the greater part is unseen.  Obama, Axelrod, and Emanuel are shrewd politicians.  A strong case can be made that they preferred, and even orchestrated, the Brown victory.  Here are a few reasons.

 1) Having 59 rather than 60 Senate seats is a better position from which to blame Republicans for their upcoming obstructionism, which as Lawrence O’Donnell, writing for Huffington Post, explains, does not require filibusters; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lawrence-odonnell/will-scott-brown-ruin-rep_b_426604.html

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The NYT on the Rights of Corporations

With the Roberts Court set to overturn the Tillman Act of 1907 and expand the political rights of corporations, the editorial board of the New York Times has sounded the alarm warning that "there is a real danger that the case will expand corporations' rights in ways that would undermine the election system."

The legal doctrine underlying this debate is known as "corporate personhood."

The courts have long treated corporations as persons in limited ways for some legal purposes. They may own property and have limited rights to free speech. They can sue and be sued. They have the right to enter into contracts and advertise their products. But corporations cannot and should not be allowed to vote, run for office or bear arms. Since 1907, Congress has banned them from contributing to federal political campaigns -- a ban the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld.

In an exchange this month with Chief Justice Roberts, the solicitor general, Elena Kagan, argued against expanding that narrowly defined personhood. "Few of us are only our economic interests," she said. "We have beliefs. We have convictions." Corporations, "engage the political process in an entirely different way, and this is what makes them so much more damaging," she said.

Chief Justice Roberts disagreed: "A large corporation, just like an individual, has many diverse interests." Justice Antonin Scalia said most corporations are "indistinguishable from the individual who owns them."

The Constitution mentions the rights of the people frequently but does not cite corporations. Indeed, many of the founders were skeptical of corporate influence.

John Marshall, the nation's greatest chief justice, saw a corporation as "an artificial being, invisible, intangible," he wrote in 1819. "Being the mere creature of law, it possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it, either expressly, or as incidental to its very existence."

That does not mean that corporations should have no rights. It is in society's interest that they are allowed to speak about their products and policies and that they are able to go to court when another company steals their patents. It makes sense that they can be sued, as a person would be, when they pollute or violate labor laws.

The law also gives corporations special legal status: limited liability, special rules for the accumulation of assets and the ability to live forever. These rules put corporations in a privileged position in producing profits and aggregating wealth. Their influence would be overwhelming with the full array of rights that people have.

One of the main areas where corporations' rights have long been limited is politics. Polls suggest that Americans are worried about the influence that corporations already have with elected officials. The drive to give corporations more rights is coming from the court's conservative bloc -- a curious position given their often-proclaimed devotion to the text of the Constitution.

The founders of this nation knew just what they were doing when they drew a line between legally created economic entities and living, breathing human beings. The court should stick to that line.

This is really a battle for the soul of this nation. Corporate power grew in the late 19th century and was only checked with great effort during the Progressive and New Deal eras. The Reagan-Bush years undid many of the constraints placed on corporations ushering in a second Gilded Age that saw a widening social inequality as a result.  If you are interested in the history of corporate personhood, I recommend this 15 page essay from the Women's International League for Peace Freedom.

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Judges and Constitution Day

Today, for those who didn't know, is Constitution Day, which marks the anniversary of the ratification of the United States Constitution (this year is its 222nd, to be exact). On this day, during which we recognize the importance of the document in our lives, I thought it worth passing on a couple of highly disappointing statistics dug up by Jeffrey Toobin in an article in this weeks New Yorker:

Seven appeals and ten district judges have been named so far [by Barack Obama]. George W. Bush, in the first eight months of his Presidency, nominated fifty-two.

[...]

Republicans in the Senate have not allowed a vote on any of the [non-Supreme Court] nominees, either. So far, the only Obama nominee who has been confirmed to a lifetime federal judgeship is Sotomayor.

The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court no doubt sucked a great deal of time and energy from the Judiciary Committee, making it more difficult to move on other judges. Still, this White House has nominated less than a third of the number of federal judges as its predecessor, and only one of Barack Obama's nominees has been thus far confirmed. This is a major problem that needs to be addressed -- and soon.

As an aside, a question for MyDDers on this Constitution Day: Where in the Constitution is the minority in the Senate vested with the seemingly unending dilatory tactics now being used by the Republicans to obstruct the majority on everything from judicial nominations to healthcare reform?

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Colbert Takes on Corporate Campaign Finance Case

With the Supreme Court appearing poised to throw out more than a century of restrictions on corporate spending in federal elections, Stephen Colbert had a few things to say last night:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Let Freedom Ka-Ching
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Protests

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Justice Stevens to Retire?

Marc Ambinder tweets:

RT @davecatanese: Howard Fineman scoop?: Justice Stevens will retire by next spring. Meaning confirmation hearings right b4 2010 midterms.

It wouldn't come as much of a surprise that Justice John Paul Stevens would consider retirement; at age 89, he is one of the oldest jurists in the history of the Court, and considering the great likelihood that he would prefer being replaced with someone whose outlook towards the constitution is similar to his the timing is not likely to get better. What's more, Stevens' scant hiring for clerks for the next term already has the Court-watchers wondering. Still, if this story does pan out, it will be huge and will, as Ambinder alludes to, suck up a lot of oxygen leading into the 2010 midterms.

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Diaries

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