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The conservative ideology underlying the decisions of the Roberts court can be summed up in the title of Prof. Adam Winkler's post on Huffpo: Corporations are People and They Have More Rights Than You.  

In my first day of property law, the professor gave us a hypothetical that ran something like this:  "Jane works at a widget factory.  After a day's work she tenders to her employer the fair value of raw materials and the rent for the use of the space and tools.  Then she collects all the widgets that she made that day and takes them with her.  Does anyone see a problem with that?"  Of course, hands shot up saying that she was stealing, but the professor pointed out that she paid for everything that she used.  It's only when you start out with the assumption that the owners of capital deserve all of the return that they can get that you have a problem.  And that is the basic assumption of the majority of the Roberts court and the Republican Party.

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We just got back from watching the pride march from the front steps of a Lutheran church on Christopher Street which now has a gay pastor.  We were taken aback to see floats and contingents of marchers not just from the usual suspects like Chase and Bank of America, but also from Marriott and Walmart.  I had seen how the march had become more commercial every year since I move to NYC in 1980.  Back then it started in the Village and ended up in Central Park with a political rally.  Now it starts uptown and ends in the Village with a big party and the most raucous floats are sponsored by bars and travel agencies.  But the fact that more and more Republicans and big businesses are giving lip service to queer rights doesn't feel like a victory.  It feels like co-optation of a movement.

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When I read about an app that increases inequality on the street by letting people auction off public parking spaces to the highest bidder, I was reminded of a way that several countries have actually equalized the burden of traffic tickets and other civil penalties by charging "day fines."  

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On the day before Thanksgiving, the New York Times ran an editorial called "A Broken Election System."  The last section had proposals for diluting the power of money in the political campaigns, but made the common assumption that only a constitutional amendment could overcome the effects of the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United.  The Times may be right with respect to putting limits on contributions from wealthy individuals, but corporations and other business entities are creatures of state law and their behavior may be regulated other ways.  It is time for us to consider some more creative responses, outlined below.

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Tue Jun 14, 2011 at 06:36 PM PDT

My RSVP to a fundraiser invitation

by keestone

A few days ago, I received an invitation from Kevin Jennings to an Obama fundraiser. It was apparently aimed at well-off members of New York's GLBTQ community.  As much as I want to see marriage equality and other advances for our community, this invitation and other news about Obama's campaign have reinforced my impression that Democrats are completely blind to economic reality.  By slicing off little pieces of the progressive agenda without tackling unemployment and inequality, they just reinforce the old image of elitism that the faux populist plutocrats in the Republican party have used against them ever since the 1970s.

The invitation and response are below the fold.

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Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 06:36 AM PDT

Poll-watching with a cop

by keestone

Last Tuesday, I was poll-watching in the Democratic primary race in the NY state senate district of Pedro Espada.  He’s the one who staged the coup in the state senate by switching to the Republican party earlier this year.  The voters threw him out by a decisive margin, which is great news.  But what made this instance of poll-watching most interesting for me was the long conversations I had with a police officer who was stationed there from 5:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

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I have thought for some time that the focus on banning corporate and union money in politics was missing the central problem.  This issue isn't that some juridical entity is acting politically, it is that organizations whose management is elected on a one-dollar-one-vote basis are making the funding decision in the political sphere, where democracy demands one-person-one-vote.  Even Glenn Greenwald pointed out the danger inherent in the traditional approach to campaign finance reform in his partial defense of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United.  Rather than spending time on unattainable constitutional amendments, I suggest that we refocus on the importance of upholding the principle of one-person-one-vote.  

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Robert Reich has a piece up on TPM about the rise of angry populism in the face of the coming bailout.  The public knows all too well that it is being fleeced by the financiers of Wall Street.  At this point it may not be possible to craft a more progressive alternative to the Paulsen plan that embraces a bottom-up bailout, but the Democrats must make it clear that, even if taxpayers are forced to pay a ransom to save the economy right now, they will take steps to recapture the loot from the people who profited from the Ponzi schemes of the last eight years.  In addition to effective restrictions on executive pay, a small transaction tax on stock trades, and bankruptcy reform, how about opening that Overton Window a bit to include the idea of a luxury tax and income-based fines for misbehavior?

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Robert Reich has a piece up on TPM about the rise of angry populism in the face of the coming bailout.  The public knows all too well that it is being fleeced by the financiers of Wall Street.  At this point it may not be possible to craft a more progressive alternative to the Paulsen plan that embraces a bottom-up bailout, but the Democrats must make it clear that, even if taxpayers are forced to pay a ransom to save the economy right now, they will take steps to recapture the loot from the people who profited from the Ponzi schemes of the last eight years.  In addition to effective restrictions on executive pay, a small transaction tax on stock trades, and bankruptcy reform, how about opening that Overton Window a bit to include the idea of a luxury tax and income-based fines for misbehavior?

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Sun Sep 24, 2006 at 04:05 PM PDT

Medicaid as a right wing tool?

by keestone

My partner Michael and I have assumed the primary responsibility for Mary, the 96 year old mother of his late partner Louis, who died in 1989. Michael and Louis were together for 14 years and, after Louis died, Michael continued to visit her and take her shopping nearly every weekend.  After I came on the scene in 1992, I learned immediately that I would be gaining two de facto mothers-in-law, one off in Texas and one right here in New York City.  Mary was quite self-sufficient until last November, but then she effectively lost the use of her right arm. In our efforts to make sure that she has the help she needs, we have discovered how the administration of Medicaid seems intended to foster resentment against the poor and immigrants.
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On Huffpost I saw a story about an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/...] in which he said gay people had to change their sexual ethics and should be welcomed but not included in the church.  I'm not Anglican, or even Episcopal, but Williams' earlier writings had made me hope that he understood something about homosexuality. I sent a response to the website of the Anglican Communion but I expect that there were many other emails and they will probably be discarded without being read. So I thought I would use my diary privilege to report what is said.
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There is a fundamental problem with both lobbying and campaign finance that none of the existing laws or proposed reforms can fix, one that stems from the decision of the Supreme Court 30 years ago in the case of Buckley v Valeo. In that case the Court declared that the right of free speech, including political speech, must be afforded not only to natural persons but also to juridical persons like corporations. It would be wonderful if this precedent could be overturned, but the appointment of the corporation-friendly Alito to the Court is likely only to strengthen the power of corporations over our government.  So we need to get more creative.
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