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In a unanimous decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a lower court ruling that would have invalidated massive taxpayer giveaways to Corporate America. The Supreme Court has long been the victim of a hostile takeover by Big Money interests - it is a court now headed by a corporate lawyer that has repeatedly gone out of its way to protect Corporate America's ability to bleed the middle class dry. Today's ruling, though, is particularly egregious. Not only did the court strike down an important ruling, but it essentially emasculated taxpayers' ability to bring any such lawsuits against their own government in the future.

The details are as shocking as they are disgusting. See the extended entry for just how profound this ruling really is.

As the Associated Press reports, "Two years ago, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Ohio's tax credit on new equipment, saying the practice hinders interstate commerce because the incentives are available only to businesses that invest in Ohio." In other words, the credits are creating a race to the bottom that taxpayers argue violates interstate commerce laws, whereby states and cities are competing with each other to give away more and more taxpayer cash to Big Business. In the Ohio case, the tax credit was used to give DaimlerChrysler roughly $300 million in taxpayer cash - cash that Toledo's county auditor says was siphoned away from local schools, forcing the city to close up to nine schools or fire 380 school workers.

In striking down the lower court ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court not only ruled against Ohio taxpayers, but against all taxpayers. Chief Justice John Roberts, formerly a corporate lawyer, said in the official opinion that "State taxpayers have no standing ... to challenge state tax or spending decisions simply by virtue of their status as taxpayers." In other words, not only will the Ohio law remain, but state taxpayers throughout the country now have no legal right to challenge the decisions of their bought-and-paid-for elected officials who are selling off our government to the highest bidder.

To get a sense of just how far reaching an affront to taxpayers' rights this ruling is, consider that USA Today earlier reported that taxpayers in other states were moving forward with similar cases. As just one example, in North Carolina, taxpayers have challenged the state's $242 million giveaway to Dell Computer. Now, the Supreme Court has essentially said they aren't even allowed to bring such a case.

Remember - these taxpayer giveaways are accelerating and come at a huge cost in terms of higher taxes for individuals. As USA Today noted, "In 1977, nine states gave tax credits to corporations [but] by 1998, that number had grown to 36." At the same time, "individual income taxes are growing at a faster rate than corporate income taxes" because state/local governments are recovering the tax giveaways from ordinary citizens. According to the Census Bureau, "corporate income taxes collected rose 6.5% from 1994 to 2004, while individual income taxes collected went up 49.7%."

Also remember that, as Greg LeRoy notes in his book The Great American Jobs Scam, these taxpayer giveaways often do not result in the benefits Big Business promises.  In fact, many of the corporations that receive these taxpayer giveaways never even follow through on the economic development or job creation they promise.

But then, that's what this is really all about: bought-off politicians giving away our hard-earned taxpayer dollars to already wealthy corporations without demanding anything in return. We see this with the Medicare bill and how it gives away more than $1 trillion to the health care/pharmaceutical industries without demanding these industries lower their prices (in fact, the bill prohibits the government from negotiating lower prices for medicines). We see it with the energy bill and how it gives away billions in new tax breaks to oil companies without asking them to lower their prices. And we see it with corporate welfare.

As I note in my new book Hostile Takeover, this is the best we can hope for from our corrupt government: policies that shower Big Business with taxpayer cash in order to bribe companies to do things. This throw-money-at-the-problem corruption substitutes for a  government that should be asserting itself as a protector of ordinary citizens by forcing powerful economic institutions to play by a set of rules. Now, thanks to the Supreme Court, taxpayers have even less of a legal right to try to force their own government to assert itself and fight back against this hostile takeover.

Originally posted to davidsirota on Mon May 15, 2006 at 12:54 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Nice Work (19+ / 0-)

    The moment we gave corporations all the benefits of being an individual without any of the social liabilities, we were screwed......

    Is there any methodology you (David S)see that might turnback the jauggernaut that is big coporations and make them more accountable to the US socially and not beholden to the bottom line?

    •  Here's the metholdology (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SarahLee, wader, greenearth, NearlyNormal

      Is there any methodology you (David S)see that might turnback the jauggernaut that is big coporations and make them more accountable to the US socially and not beholden to the bottom line?

      I do not presume to speak for David, who I have had the pleasure to meet and whose blog I read daily. But although there might not be an immediate judicial solution after this decision, there is a legislative solution.

      That is the long, hard slog rather than the quick fix. But the answer is in the state capitals and in the state legislatures and not necessarily in Washington DC.

      Again, I do not speak for David. But he is, after all, one of the founders of the Progressive Legislative Action  Network (PLAN), which focuses on formulation of and passage of sound public policy at the state level that would help combat such tax giveaways.

      "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

      by Ivan on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:28:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So the methodology would be (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        murrayewv, greenearth

        to throw the crooks out of the state legislatures?

        Don't call him the leader of the free world. If Bush is the leader, it can't be free.

        by sagra on Mon May 15, 2006 at 02:00:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Standing (4+ / 0-)

          In this case the critical problem was standing - i.e. the right to seek a remedy.  Note that the court did not rule on whether these are constitutional vis a vis the commerce clause just that a taxpayer could not sue.

          However another company could possibly suit - like an Ohio competitor.

          Or, and this would be a bit tougher - congress or state legislators could write a statute conferring standing on taxpayers for grants to corporations - but I'm not gonna hold my breath waiting for that one.

          •  Like, Say, an Individual Wedding Musician? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Sole proprietor who pays business taxes, no matter how little?

            We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

            by Gooserock on Mon May 15, 2006 at 02:11:36 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Probably not (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              it would have to show that the benefit given to DaimlerChrysler harms their business interest by not having similar breaks for their factories in the state - perhaps ford or GM could sue - but since they get these same breaks in other states they are not about the kill to goose that lays the golden eggs.

        •  I, too, read Sirota all the time. (0+ / 0-)

          He says our two number one priorities are to "get local" and pass "publicly funded elections" at the state and federal levels.  I agree.  Until we take the wheeler dealer money out of politics, we won't get anything but wheelder dealer bought and paid for laws.  With honest politicians doing the bidding of the people, lots of things will change.

          When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' - Theodore Roosevelt

          by dkmich on Tue May 16, 2006 at 01:50:53 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Methodology (16+ / 0-)

      I don't necessarily subscribe to the idea of a "socially responsible" corporation. Corporations exist to do one thing and one thing only: to make as much money as possible. And I don't begrudge them for that - that's their role.

      The problem is that we have a government that no longer stands between the corporate profit motive and society's interests. Our government almost exclusively aids and abets corporations, allowing the profit motive to run roughshod over society.

      So the answer to your question from my perspective is to take back our government. That's what my book Hostile Takeover is all about - and I have a number of concrete, specific reccomendations on how to do just that in the book.

      •  Not Socially Responsible, but, social costs (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        have to be better accounted for.

        GM or the local coffee shop can mazimize profits by compeletly screwing & ripping off & cheating everyone for the next week - and they will be out of business the week after.

        They aren't constrained by altruism, they figure they can get more in the long haul than in just a great week.

        Corporations get to dump all kinds of costs into community for a lot of reasons:

        1. they make the rules on how costs are recognized, so they sure as hell don't recognize costs tehy are dumping on us,
        1. TOO few people can use a bit of math and a spreadsheet to do any kind of quick and dirty modelling to figure out how much of their time is killed by others dumping costs into their laps, lives and time,
        1. Our reward structures rarely rarely rarely reward the better mousetrap, so how many of us really have any incentive to figure out how to do anything better?
        1. and a better mousetrap ain't gonna dump costs into my lap !!

        IMHO greed could be used for good, and, like lust and getting drunk, it ain't going away

        so why not figure out how to make good pay better than evil?

        come up with an idea to eliminate 100 education bureaucrats?  You get 25 years of pay !!


        by seabos84 on Mon May 15, 2006 at 04:18:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Agree on all but the 3rd point (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The better mousetrap can and does win many competitions, especially in the tech world.  The real trick is that the process is a "natural selection" type process, so the odds of one side winning over the other is what is proportional to fitness.  Success is never guaranteed to the best, but does tend to happen.

          The problem is with all the cost externalizations.  And I will agree that in many cases, being more clever in hiding true costs can overwhelm the genuine advantages of a competing solution.  Or, even worst "true costs" shift as we become aware of what really does affect us.

          •  but not enough in the process world (0+ / 0-)

            the way you phrase your point -

            there are 2 kinds of better mousetraps?

            email was a better mousetrap - period.

            then you got 4000 improvements in email to make email #1000 better than email #999.

            some of those 4000 improvements are big technological leaps in the technology itself, or by leveraging other technologies, lots of them are just incremental little better ideas when someone figures out how to make some little thing better.

            some of the people who did the big things and some who did the little things profited from their insight (which is A.O.K. with me )

            now - lets look at Bethleham Steel or General Motors or our f$$$ing health care system mess or our education system mess.

            how often are those little process better mousetraps rewarded? rarely, IMHO.

            IMHO, the managements in those various businesses and services are skilled at ducking accountability, blaming the underlings, staying in charge while the ship is sinking, and getting paid well while the ship sinks.

            IMHO the ideas and the talents exist in the steel or auto or health care or education businesses and services, HOWEVER, the systems are so hell bent on NOT rewarding anyone with any kind of better idea, cuz the managements are so focused on staying in charge, that the systems rot.



            by seabos84 on Mon May 15, 2006 at 07:42:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  True (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              The problem in the mega-corp situations you mention is that you have two options to implement your better mousetrap:

              1. Recreate the whole thing from scratch, with your incremental improvement.  Likely not to happen, since your improvement is way too slight to be worth the investment and attendant risk of taking on the big boys.
              1. Try and convince someone within the company.  At this point, you are no longer dealing with evolution, but rather with political processes and human judgement.  I think better ideas can still survive here in healthy companies - but you are right, in unhealthy environments there are definitely problems.  Status quo is too important in many situations to be worth trying this new mousetrap, and you can't prove it really is better, because no one will try it.  Catch-22.

              This is generally why I have problems with single-payer anything.  When you make selection criteria political, you deal with a lot of the worst problems with human nature.

        •  now a coffeshop (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          with monopoly power...THAT scares the fuck out of me.

      •  Government balancing interests (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SarahLee, greenearth

        I finally reached the same conclusion over the last 4-5 years.  I am glad to see someone writing from that perspective.  I am going to have to get your book.

      •  Corporations don't have to exist just for profit (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        See the Hawai`i legislation for the Responsible Business Corporation Act:

        According to a committee report, this legislation would:

        Establish the Responsible Corporation Task Force within the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA), responsible for:

        (A) Determining how to authorize the establishment of corporations structured to recognize, as corporate interests, the interests of employees, the public, environment, and consumer protection;

        (B) Identifying incentives for incorporation as responsible corporations;

        (C) Conforming provisions for the establishment and operation of responsible corporations to existing Hawaii law on corporations; and

        (D) Determining a timetable for DCCA to implement the registration of responsible business corporations.

        The bill (HB 3118) was passed by the Hawai`i legislature and is currently awaiting action by Gov. Linda Lingle.

        A liberal is a conservative who's been hugged.

        by raatz on Mon May 15, 2006 at 06:22:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks David (4+ / 0-)

    We need an army of Davids now... folks like you.  
    I just revisited the 14 points.
    Gads.  Time to brew some strong coffee, and add three shots of espresso.
    Action plan?  Sign me up.
    Thank you for all that you do...


  •  Ugh (5+ / 0-)

    This is nauseating.

    Sometimes it feels like we're just leaves, caught in white water, swirling and tumbling downstream, captive and helpless.

    Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change. - Tennyson

    by bumblebums on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:01:26 PM PDT

  •  Hey David (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OLinda, javelina, greenearth, NearlyNormal

    Been planning on buying your book for awhile now.  Hope you can sign it at Yearlykos.

    Register for Yearly Kos. See all your friends whom you know only via pixels and pseudonyms.

    by pontificator on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:02:06 PM PDT

  •  a whole new level of taxation (6+ / 0-)

    without representation. Thanks for shedding more light on the subject and presenting it in such an accessible way.

    -4.63 -4.21 If Bush was moral or honest he'd turn himself in.

    by musicsleuth on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:07:35 PM PDT

  •  corporate welfare continues (20+ / 0-)

    The party of personal responsibility feels no need to force corporations, seen as people in the eyes of the law, to have any sort of personal responsibility for the success of their business, instead showering gifts and cash payouts upon them.

    This is such a troubling story.  The only way we're going to stop this is by starting at the roots and making this the huge issue it deserves to be.  This is nothing more than earmarking (you know, what's got the libertarian faction of the GOP up in arms) on a massive scale, where politicians earmark funds to go directly into the pockets of their corporate funders rather than towards projects which the public at least might have a chance to enjoy.  

    And to think, these huge cash outlays are called "business-friendly" policies.  How about "taxpayer-unfriendly" policies?

    D-Day, the newest blog on the internet (at the moment of its launch)

    by dday on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:08:39 PM PDT

  •  I noted during both the Roberts and Alito (49+ / 0-)

    ... hearings that these two nominations had much less to do with cultural issues like abortion and everything to do with money and corporate sycophancy.

    The Bush crew pays lip service to religious conservatives, but everything they do is predicated on doing favors for their corporate cronies.

    It's all about the Benjamins.  Always is with these guys.

    Visit Satiric Mutt -- my contribution to the written cholesterol now clogging the arteries of the Internet.

    by Bob Johnson on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:09:26 PM PDT

    •  The ruling was unanimous (17+ / 0-)

      Ginsburg, Breyer, Stevens, Scalia, Thomas, Souter, Kennedy all voted the same as Alito and Roberts.

      The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

      by deathsinger on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:19:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm speaking generally and not about this (11+ / 0-)

        ... particular ruling.

        I think the Rovian goal in both nominations was, first, appointing pro-corporatists to the bench. They may both be anti-abortion (yet to be tested), but they are both, definitely, pro-corporatist.

        Visit Satiric Mutt -- my contribution to the written cholesterol now clogging the arteries of the Internet.

        by Bob Johnson on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:26:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I'd like to see the opinion (10+ / 0-)

        With a 9-0 decision (which includes all the liberal justices) my guess is that its based solely on past legal precedents regarding taxpayer standing to challenge legislative decisions.

        I think your rhetoric may be pitched too high on this one, David.

        "I just had the basic view of the American public -- it can't be that bad out there." Marine Travis Williams after 11 members of his squad were killed.

        by Steven D on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:29:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hmm (5+ / 0-)

          My first thought was that this must have been a pretty close decision, so seeing it wasn't made me think.  My first thought was that it's pretty ridiculous to say that taxpayers have no right to sue over the use of their tax dollars, but I can see their point.  After all, if the majority of constituents oppose this action, well, this is a ballot-box issue and nothing else.  If you feel you're not being represented appropriately, don't sue, just vote the bastards out.   And as the SC will say again and again, they don't get involved in political issues (yeah, that last bit was snarky). There's probably a lot more than that, but that's all I managed to guess at.

          If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. - George Orwell (-9.75, -9.03)

          by nilocjin on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:37:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  If I recall right... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            greenearth, nilocjin

            .. in federal courts, for a person to have taxpayer standing v. the US they have to be alleging a violation of a specific Constitutional provision.  States have their own rules and federal courts have to take those into account when determining standing to sue a State in a federal court.

            I agree that the ruling sucks but it's probably consistent with a long line of sucky cases.

            "I intend to live forever. So far, so good." Steven Wright

            by gsbadj on Mon May 15, 2006 at 02:05:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  right (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              greenearth, nilocjin, NJwlss

              you are right that for a person to have taxpayer standing it has to be alleging a violation of a specific Constitutional provision. For example, a taxpayer would have standing to sue their local public school system for spending money on religious books. I haven't read much about this case so take this as just speculation, but the commerce clause is part of the constitution just like the 1st amendment. I have to read the case to understand why standing was rejected, but if the decision was unanimous, then I'm going to have a hard time disagreeing with the court.

              And I don't think the ruling sucks - if every taxpayer could challenge every law simply because they don't like it, then the federal judiciary would grind to a screeching halt. You don't get to challenge a law just because you pay taxes and don't like it, you're supposed to change the law through the political process - electing representatives that will pass what you want.

              •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                ... but IMHO the ruling still sucks ... just not on legal grounds.

                I think that the granting of tax credits is little short of bribery of corporations by states.  It's awful policy that contributes to the race to the bottom that has been ruining our economy.

                "I intend to live forever. So far, so good." Steven Wright

                by gsbadj on Mon May 15, 2006 at 02:41:21 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

                  there must be someone with standing. I still haven't read the case, but I usually prefer to see cases decided on their merits rather than on a threshold issue like standing, even when I agree with the way the court decides the threshold issue. If someone with standing brings the suit the court might hear it, and it would be an interesting decision.

            •  Taxpayer standing exists only for narrow range (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              wader, electionlawyer, gsbadj

              A taxpayer qua taxpayer has standing only in a suit alleging a violation of the Establishment Clause.  Don't ask me why;  that's just the current state of the law.

              "This machine kills fascists"--words on Woody Guthrie's guitar

              by Old Left Good Left on Mon May 15, 2006 at 04:33:08 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  I guess we'll see it tomorrow (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SarahLee, maggiemae, Steven D, gsbadj

          I did see this quote

          Peter Enrich, an attorney for the taxpayers, said the decision "simply sends us back to the Ohio state courts, where we began six years ago."

          The one excerpt from the decision was

          Chief Justice John Roberts said in the 9-0 decision that the alleged injury to the taxpayers was mere conjecture and that they had no standing to challenge tax or spending decisions "simply by virtue of their status as taxpayers."

          I think your guess is correct.

          The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

          by deathsinger on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:43:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Here ya go (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SarahLee, gsbadj

          A liberal is a conservative who's been hugged.

          by raatz on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:58:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks David (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and welcome to DailyKos.  Love reading your blog, though it can be all too depressing.  Keep up the good work.

    •  I second that, although (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I hope you will find time to occasionally comment, if not now, then in the future.  

      Been getting your email blogs a long time.  Thanks for all you do for democracy, David.

      "Never separate the words you speak from the life you live" - Paul Wellstone

      by vome minnesota on Mon May 15, 2006 at 02:09:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  hey david (4+ / 0-)

    I was at your session at the LA Times Festival of Books, and will be buying your book.

    I was very impressed, and look forward to it--though I do have questions for you about your recommended specific policies, which sound very much of the DLC variety to me.

    But again, good work.

  •  I call it the marketocracy (4+ / 0-)

    Marketocracy = replacement of rule of law by consent of the governed with rule of corporations with no representation of the governed.

    Paper delivered on this subject last year at Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences symposium - three additional academic papers written on the subject.

    Copy available of you ever want it.

    This is us governing. Live so that 100 years from now, someone might be proud of us.

    by marthature on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:13:54 PM PDT

  •  Taxpayer $ to corporations on immigration, too. (7+ / 0-)

    Why should we pay the National Guard to "protect our borders" when the corporations profiting from cheap labor do not do their part? First Bush said it was about making the corporations "do detective work" before hiring a non-US citizen. This morning, another rich, white man in a suit said it's because there's too much document forgery. What a crock!

    When I worked at a private urban university, ending about 10 years ago, we obeyed the law, gathering documents for every non-citizen, and had an immigration officer. The only excuse given for corporations is that they don't want to do the paperwork. They want the profits, but not the accountability.

    Corporations should obey the law just like each of us does. I don't want to pay for their illegal activities. Period.

  •  The ruling doesn't prevent (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    states from barring such practices, though, does it? (As unlikely as that might be.)

    Mother Nature bats last.

    by pigpaste on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:15:14 PM PDT

    •  No, it doesn't. (7+ / 0-)

      The requirement that the plaintiff in a federal court lawsuit demonstrate "standing" to complain about the subject of the litigation is a direct result of Article III of the U.S. Constitution, which limits the judicial power of the United States to "cases or controversies."  If the plaintiff lacks standing, there is no "case or controversy" and federal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over the case.

      States are not required to limit the jurisdiction of their courts to cases and controversies and may (and many do) give their courts power to render decisions that federal courts could not.  Many states do grant standing to taxpayers to challenge tax breaks and spending decisions and some even allow courts to issue "advisory opinions" to their legislatures, governors, or other state officials.

      The U.S. Supreme Court's decision today is hardly a departure from existing precedent; in fact, it is completely consistent with the way it has handled nearly all taxpayer lawsuits for more than 80 years.  I'm not at all a fan of local tax incentives for "industrial development" -- I agree that they amount to corporate welfare that encourages a "race to the bottom" by state and local governments -- but it's unfair to criticize the Supreme Court for applying long-standing, standard limitations on federal judicial power to lawsuits challenging such programs.  I'd much rather see such challenges brought in state courts or in federal courts by litigants who have standing on some ground other than simply being taxpayers.

  •  I'm not an advocate for corporate tax breaks, but (30+ / 0-)

    this case was decided on standing, and it was unanimous.

    It really is in line with past Supreme Court decisions.  

    This is not a case of Roberts and Alito changing the balance of the Court; this is a case of the Court, including Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer, following its own precedent.

    •  I hope David will reply to this comment. n/t (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vome minnesota, Buddha Hat
    •  And had the decision gone the other way ... (8+ / 0-)

      ... right-wing taxpayers would have had standing to challenge every good social and environmental program, right? Wouldn't that tie up the courts with inherently legislative matters? I think the message here is that we need to challenge these giveways in our state and local legislatures, not in the courts.

      A liberal is a conservative who's been hugged.

      by raatz on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:28:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  question, from below (0+ / 0-)

      ....wouldn't it be logical to assume that a commercial interest be affected by OH's tax incentives in order to sue in federal court?  Isn't that what Roberts meant by noting that taxpayers had no standing just because they were tax payers?

      "Give me a f'ing banana"

      by linc on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:32:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  To have standing (0+ / 0-)

        the plaintiff would need to be affected much more directly than the "typical" taxpayer.

        Here, off the top of my head, I can't conjure who that plaintiff could be.

        •  Any competitor denied a similar tax break (0+ / 0-)

          The trick would be to find a competitor (and it could be any manufacturer, really--would not have to be another auto mfr) who was denied a similar tax break.  The problem with that is comparability.  The Jeep plant was a large investment in the area;  a potential plaintiff would have to be similarly large.  Chances are that a similar size enterprise would also receive a Jeep-sized tax break.

          But I can envision a scenario in which an existing manufacturer, happily paying its taxes, has a new business move into town and receive the big break.  If the existing plant was denied a similar break (which is very probable--governments might forgo future tax revenue from a move-in but are unlikely to give up a current source) then I think the existing plant would have standing.  An even more piquant possibility is an existing out-of-state manufacturer who pays taxes in Ohio could sue for relief.

          "This machine kills fascists"--words on Woody Guthrie's guitar

          by Old Left Good Left on Mon May 15, 2006 at 04:41:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  think state court (0+ / 0-)

          The test for standing is probably different in state court. The taxpayers might have standing there. In fact, they wanted this case to be in state court not in federal court, but the District court thought they had standing so kept it there. It was the District court that erred. This is in the first paragraph of the decision.

      •  A competitor? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        A business in competition with the recipient of such a tax break might have standing to challenge the tax subsidy.  Commerce Clause challenges to special financial or regulatory breaks for "home town" businesses have in the past been brought by competitors based out-of-state.

  •  Now go bookmark David Sirota's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    blog and website!

    Notice how the honest politicians go into academia at the end of their government tenure. The Republicans go to Boeing or Halliburton.

  •  I think about how stunning that statement is: (6+ / 0-)

    "State taxpayers have no standing ... to challenge state tax or spending decisions simply by virtue of their status as taxpayers."

    ...and its clear that the right's war on having any kind of social safety net for the poor and the most vulnerable was to refocus the aim of big government (revealing the big rightwing lie of 'promising small unintrusive government' once and for all) to fully establishing the "constitutionality" of the permanent corporate welfare state. By the Megacorp, for the Megacorp, of the Megacorp.

    Maybe we need a vicious counter-propaganda war on 'Conservative Judicial Activism' that will put Rove to shame to help shift the balance of the American electorate back to the old, and far more honest representation, of what passes for 'the middle' on our political spectrum. Because this rightwing shill is saying 'shut up, this decision was bought and paid for with three long decades of conservative rigging of the system, and you are going to sit down and take it while we enjoy being the ruling elite'.

    Conservatives are always whining about judicial activism and the intrusiveness of the government into people's lives, about repressive taxation and the power of the individual to blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

    In my book, bought and paid for corporatists masquerading as servants of the people fits right under the flag of 'no representation' in the old 'no taxation without representation'. Maybe the old saw should be changed to: "no corporatist-skewed taxation decisions without honest and unpaid-for representation."

    I believe the middle and the left can beat the right to a bloody pulp on the issue of 'corporate welfare' like a rented mule or a railroad spike, and its time to see that pushback in action.

    "Email is the drive-by shooting of the common man." -Richard "Civility" Cohen

    by LeftHandedMan on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:20:37 PM PDT

  •  This totally sucks but (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    it holds with precedent and wouldn't it be logical to assume that a commercial interest be affected by OH's tax incentives in order to sue in federal court?  Isn't that what Roberts meant by noting that taxpayers had no standing just because they were tax payers?

    "Give me a f'ing banana"

    by linc on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:27:11 PM PDT

  •  a drawback of the federal system, 'states rights' (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Harper, greenearth, NJwlss

    Any time a discussion occurs on the topic of States' rights or the federal system, I try to highlight this internal race to the bottom. IMO it is a very serious problem that most people are unaware of. It also extends to items like environmental and worker's rights regulations. Thank you for highlighting this issue.

  •  Standing (9+ / 0-)

    I agree that this case is deeply troubling on the merits, but it should be noted that the procedural question actually decided by the Supremes here was pretty much a no-brainer. The issue is what's called "standing" (i.e., who is entitled to bring suit under the Article III "case or controversy" requirement), and this decision was absolutely consistent with well-established precedent. Although taxpayer standing was briefly in vogue during the Warren Court years (see Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83 (1968)), it was essentially eliminated early in the Burger term (see, e.g., United States v. Richardson, 418 U.S. 166 (1974)). Later, the doctrine became even more rigid, as what was previously seen as a "prudential" bar to standing was held to be, in fact, constitutional in scope. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 112 S.Ct. 2130 (1992).

    The theory is basically this: Article III limits federal court jurisdiction to actual cases or controversies; among other things, that means that the plaintiff or plaintiffs must be individuals who assert particularized harm as a result of the defendant's alleged acts or omissions. Simply being a taxpayer is not enough, because that's essentially conceding that the problem at bar is at root a political one. If all taxpayers are harmed, then the taxpayers have a ready solution at the polls.

    Again, this doesn't mean that I, personally, like the way this particular case is turning out, but it was pretty predictable.

    •  but.. (0+ / 0-)

      If all taxpayers are harmed, then the taxpayers have a ready solution at the polls.

      The problem with this thinking is that nothing can be to stop whatever caused the outrage. Depending on the timelines, it could be years before the 'poll solution' can be enacted.

      •  but... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        it's as good a solution as we've got. Can you imagine the mayhem if every time the government made a spending decision, any aggrieved taxpayer could sue over it? Imagine the mess if a state gave a break to low income residents and then all the high income residents had standing to sue to block it! I think the Supreme Court is doing the best they can with this one - political fights need to be fought by political processes, not court cases. If the politicial processes are weak, then letting the courts solve political problems just takes pressure off the political branches for reform and moves policy-making to unelected officials.

      •  State Reps are elected every two years (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The big problem is getting more than 20% of people to the polls. Most people don't have the slightest idea who represents them in the state legislature, let alone what those reps are doing. On the other hand, the business lobbyists know each and every state Rep and Senator by name and probably their kids' birthdays as well.

        "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

        by Alice in Florida on Mon May 15, 2006 at 03:09:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  not true (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Someone has standing, just not the taxpayers. Someone with standing can sue. Or the case could be brought in state court where the taxpayers might have standing. The political process is not the only solution here.

        Consider this scenario - Congress passes a law that you don't like but I do. You sue as a taxpayer to have the law blocked, I countersue as a taxpayer to stop you from having the law blocked. If both of us have standing, how is the court supposed to pick? The court could end up judging each and every law passed by every legislature. That's not their job. The courts were not designed to sit in judgement of every law that legislatures pass.

      •  Of course (0+ / 0-)

        "State taxpayers have no standing ... to challenge state tax or spending decisions simply by virtue of their status as taxpayers."

        Yes, who are the mere taxpayers to have any say whatsoever in the way their hard-earned money is spent!  Reading this quote is mind-boggling. Obviously if you are a wealthy corporatist you have a competely different idea of what America is all about.

    •  The disturbing procedural history of this case (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peace voter

      Buck, I agree with you that the procedural ruling in this case is amply supported by precedent.  (Frankly, I was not terribly convinced of the merits either, in that the writing a state tax code in such a way that favoring a company's new capital investment where it exceeds its historical level of investment is not the kind of tinkering that seems to violate the anti-protectionist norms of the Court's dormant commerce clause jurisdiction -- but I digress).

      What I found disturbing here is how the case got to federal court -- through removal.  A person sued in federal court for an alleged violation of the federal constitution or laws is allowed to 'remove' the case, i.e., file papers to have the case decided by the federal instead of the state court.  

      Cuno was commenced in state court, and then removed.  It's very troubling to me that the District court denied a request for 'remand,' i.e. to send the case back to state court, knowing all along there was a chance that the federal courts did not have jurisdiction over the claim.  Effectively, the court accepted the statutory removal jurisdiction over this case without considering the possibility that it lacked jurisdiction to decide it on the merits.  That seems to be an abuse of the district court's removal jurisdiction, and the Court's decision to remand for a dismissal, rather than remand for a subsequent remand to the state court is very troubling from a structural standpoint, even though it may be consistent with Article III and the Judicial Code.

      -6.38 -5.33 "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." - Emiliano Zapata

      by electionlawyer on Mon May 15, 2006 at 08:43:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Here's a link to the opinion (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    A liberal is a conservative who's been hugged.

    by raatz on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:31:22 PM PDT

  •  Overblown (14+ / 0-)
    1.  This was a unanimous decision based on long-standing US Supreme Court precedent.  Even Justice Ginsberg says so.
    1.  This ruling applies to federal courts only.  The practical effect of the decision is that these cases will have to be brought in state court - where taxpayer standing is usually recognized.  In fact, the opinion notes that this case was originally brought in state court, removed to federal court, and that the plaintiffs then sought a remand to state court because they, themselves, believed they lacked federal standing to sue!  The district court disagree (concluding that standing existed), but SCOTUS disagreed.

    ...with liberty and justice for al[most everybody.

    by PeteyP on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:35:16 PM PDT

    •  That's good info, thanks. (0+ / 0-)

      Do you know why it was removed from state court? What was the argument for federal standing in the first place?

      •  Commerce clause? (0+ / 0-)

        I'm totally guessing here - no time to read up - but it very well could be that the Commerce Clause issue was present on the face of the plaintiff's "well-plead complaint," therefore creating federal court subject-matter jurisdiction.

        As noted above, this just sends them back to the OH state courts.

        •  I think you're right (0+ / 0-)

          The opinion isn't explicit on the basis of removal, but it is clear that the plaintiffs had alleged that the tax breaks violated the Commerce Clause.  I'm guessing the federal question there was the basis of removal.

          ...with liberty and justice for al[most everybody.

          by PeteyP on Tue May 16, 2006 at 08:50:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  The opinion doesn't say (0+ / 0-)

        But I think it was based on federal question jurisdiction - plaintiffs had alleged that the tax breaks violated the Commerce Clause.

        ...with liberty and justice for al[most everybody.

        by PeteyP on Tue May 16, 2006 at 08:48:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Taxpayer Standing (7+ / 0-)

    This case hinged on taxpayer standing, the notion that a taxpayer suffers injury sufficient to confer Article III standing simply by virtue of having the government waste his or her tax dollars.  This has long been held not to confer standing except in cases that challenge money spent in violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.  No wonder it was unanimous.

    This aggression will not stand, man.

    by kaleidescope on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:43:07 PM PDT

  •  That's what happens when you vote for Rethugs (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    you vote to save money cause you're strapped, even if it means selling out your kids...

    and they just end up appointing people who's mission is to give it all to the fat cats anyway.

    Then people vote for Democrats and get pissed off when we don't go Terri Schiavo on the country.

    Americans need to get a clue.

  •  Remember (7+ / 0-)

    It's not that the taxpayers have no recourse - the recourse is to vote out the legislatures that pass these laws.


    Democrats *do* have a plan for Social Security - it's called Social Security. -- Ed Schultz
    -3.13 -6.05

    by FredFred on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:54:31 PM PDT

  •  Make them pay at the ballot box for giveaways (7+ / 0-)

    If your local politicians are giving away your tax dollars to businesses that give nothing in return (except for fat campaign contributions to the cooperating pols), then THROW THE BUMS OUT.

    If we don't hold them accountable at the ballot box, they will never be held accountable.  It's up to us.

    •  Ballot Evidence, Plan B: Parallel Elections (0+ / 0-)

      Will the built-in secrecy and delay in scanning machines' counts of paper ballot evidence, yet bear fruit, which E-voting machines could never bear?

      Before Hurricane season, please ...

      Gore's Votes Count; Count Kerry's Votes.

      Unless for now, everyone is waiting....

      If Fitzgerald follows Abramoff's schemes to the end then it will lead to:

      Abramoff's Diebold + Ney's HAVA = Non-Evidentiary Voting

      Then the machines get tossed out. And, then we win...and assume office.

      Or, if all of that takes time, then Plan B. If you are facing non-evidentiary voting machines in Nov. 2006, see Lynn Landes plan B for Parallel Elections and Signed Ballots as Affidavits to be able to put real evidence back into elections.

      Lynn Landes argues that much better evidence to challenge elections than exit polling is parallel voting and signed ballots:

      Stand up and be counted!

      Plan B:  Parallel Elections & Signed Ballots

      By Lynn Landes  1/18/05

      Something's got to give.  Another election is just around the corner.  What's it going to be?  Another opportunity to document election "irregularities" and computer "glitches"?  Another chance to analyze mysterious exit polls?  Another exercise in frustration?  Another charade.  

      Democrats will need a mighty good reason to go back to the polls.  Many believe that our elections are rigged.  And they have good reason.  Republicans own the voting machine companies that count 80% of the votes.  Congress and the courts are unlikely to change that.  And the Democratic leadership has hardly made it an issue.

      So, let's do something different.  We'll go to Plan B.  We'll organize our own "Parallel Elections".  

      A Parallel Election would be held in tandem with the official election.  It could be organized on a precinct, county, or statewide basis.  And anyone could do it.  It's simple.  On Election Day, "parallel election pollworkers" (PEPs) would position themselves outside the polls.  They would provide voters with "parallel ballots" to mark and a ballot box in which to cast them.  At the end of the day, PEPs would compare their tallies with the official election returns.  If the tallies don't match, the election can be challenged.

      But, the really big deal is this... voters would be asked to print their names and addresses and sign their ballots.  What's the point?   To provide proof.  Candidates need hard evidence in order to challenge election results.  A signed ballot would act as a voter's affidavit - as direct evidence of the voter's intent.  

      Exit polls and audits provide circumstantial evidence, at best.  We need much more.
      During the 2004 election, tens of thousands of voting rights activists worked the polls.  They documented tens of thousands of election irregularities.  But, all that documentation didn't provide any direct evidence of how people actually voted.  Even when recounts were conducted, as in Ohio, election officials managed to sabotage the process.

      The original goal of the secret ballot was to minimize vote selling and voter intimidation. It seemed like a good idea at the time.  But, that time has passed.  The secret ballot has become the refuge of scoundrels and unscrupulous election officials.  It provides perfect cover for vote fraud and system failure.  

      A signed ballot is not such a farfetched idea.  In the 1700's and 1800's, "There was no right to a secret ballot; having sworn in as a voter, the voter may have simply called out his choices to the election clerks who sit... behind the judge tallying the vote," writes University of Iowa professor Douglas W. Jones.  

      In some parts of Switzerland, citizens still follow the ancient custom of electing their government by an open show of hands on the last Sunday morning of every April.

      Think about it.  The U.S. Congress, state assemblies, and even town councils, all vote in public.  Why should our votes be kept secret?  What are we afraid of?  Are we afraid we'd lose our jobs if our employers knew how we voted?  That ship has sailed - quite literally.  Millions of jobs in America have already been outsourced to foreign countries.  It's only going to get worse if we can't boot these lunatics out of office.  Are we afraid that some voters will sell their votes?  Oh, you mean like our legislators already do?  Listen. I wouldn't make vote selling legal, but I wouldn't get my shorts in a twist over it, either.  Or, are we afraid to disappoint our friends and family?  It's more important not to disappoint yourself.

      A Parallel Election serves three purposes.  First, it introduces authentic voting to American citizens.  Second, it asserts local control over the voting process.  And third, it provides a platform from which to seriously challenge election results.

      So, what do you think?  Does a Parallel Election make sense?  Does it stand a chance?  Will people respond?  I certainly hope so, because otherwise we're left with some pretty dismal choices, all framed in a negative context.  I think this is a positive project that's worth a try.  I'm game.  If you're interested, send me an e-mail at

      Let's show our machine-made politicians that we will stand up and be counted.

      Lynn Landes is one of the nation's leading journalists on voting technology and democracy issues. Readers can find her articles at Lynn is a former news reporter for DUTV and commentator for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

      Contact info: / (215) 629-3553

        * Funding and structure:  This is a grassroots effort, so there is no real funding or official structure for this project. Most precincts have between 500-1000 voters.  That means that you would need to copy that many ballots and an equal number of pamphlets.  Plus you need a ballot box, which can be a cardboard box.  It all should run under $200.
        * A secret ballot: Voter information on the ballot could remain concealed unless a challenge is made. The ballots could be on legal size paper.  The bottom of the page would have the voter's information and could be folded over itself and "glue sticked" in order to keep the voter's identity secret.  


      THE DRILL -- 'PE' Pollworkers are to hand
      informational PE pamphlets to voters as they go into the polls, and then offer a PE ballot as the voters exit the polls.  At the end of the day, count the votes and compare it to the official count.  If the count is off, report it to the Board of Elections and issue a press release.

        * Pick a precinct - it could be your own or a precinct that has experienced voting "irregularities" in past elections
        * Determine the precinct boundaries if you're going to do a pre-Election Day pamphlet drop.
        * Determine the number of registered voters (so you know how many copies of the ballot you need to make). Call your Board of Elections for this information. It may also be online.
        * Design the ballot.  Please label the ballot "PARALLEL ELECTION BALLOT".  Do not copy the official ballot.  Leave a place for people to print their name, address, signature, and date.  To provide the voter some secrecy, fold the ballot over that info and use a glue stick to seal it shut.  It would only be unsealed in the event of a challenge.  Allow the voter to participate without signing the ballot, if that is their desire.
        * Create or buy a tally sheet
        * Make ballot box - a cardboard office storage box could work.
        * After the election, retain ballots and tally sheet until next election.


        * Call a meeting to organize public support - see SAMPLE PRESS RELEASE, below  Keep the press and public informed.  Do regular press releases to local news media - print, radio, TV (announce the effort, meetings, etc.)  
        * Contact area civil rights groups and religious organizations for support, including local colleges, etc.
        * You can do pamphlet drops (SAMPLE PAMPHLET) or mail-outs before the election, but at the very least, be at your local poll on election day - that includes primaries.  It's a great time to introduce voters to the concept. Although one person could handle the job, two or more is definitely better.
        * Write letters to the editor / do talk radio & community TV / post info on internet (such as:
        * Order bumper stickers and decals (although I have some that say that you can use, I'm probably going to order others that announce this project. You can also order your own. The following webpage has my supplier's contact information -
        * Talk to people in your precinct as much as possible.  One-on-one encounters are the most effective.  Have voter registration forms available, as well.  But, don't fill it out registration cards for voters. Advise voters to fill it out and mail it themselves.



      The Parallel Election Project (PEP) is hosting an open meeting on (day), (date), (time) at the (place), (address).  Citizens concerned about security risks posed by voting on machines, early, or absentee are invited to attend. For more information, contact: (name - optional / phone / e-mail - optional / website - if available)


      If Non-evidentiary machines are still in our elections by November 2006 and if you are unsure whether someone has organized a Parallel Election, Signed Paper Ballot evidence, or independent exit polling, then the following is an option for you:


      Latest Consumer Reports from Black Box Voting

      Your chance to get evidence

      Bev Harris

      Telling stories about problems you saw is no longer good enough. It doesn't produce much change. Real election reform requires real citizen oversight, and oversight means taking easy steps so you can capture real evidence if an election problem occurs.
      Real evidence = audio or video recording, public records, photos


        * Voter disenfranchisement (obstruction of voting)
        * Voting machine problems (malfunctioning machines and security problems)

      Much more detail on the kinds of problems you might see is below. This article concerns the VOTING -- a later article will describe how to oversee the COUNTING. Feel free to distribute this information to your circle of influence.

      What to bring with you when you vote:

       1. Small audio recorder. Available for about $40 at Radio Shack. Smaller than a cell phone.

        * As soon as you get out of your car to go vote, hit "record."
        * Make sure it is recording.
        * Then just ignore it, go to the polls, vote.
        * At all times, you should be discreet -- you don't need to hide the recorder, but waving it around is asking someone to object.
        * The objective is to get OTHER people on the recording, not your own voice. Ask simple questions -- it's the answers that count. Don't make speeches and don't be confrontational. Make sure that what is recorded depicts you as a reasonable and polite person.
        * See state rules on freedom to tape without consent, at bottom

      *Oregon is all mail-in and votes are counted at a central location by optical scan machines. Follow tips in the small section for absentee votes below and for observing the end of day vote counting, which will be in a later article.
      Most likely everything will go smoothly, but see this article: for a list of things that happened this week in Tennessee, North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana -- we think you'll agree that audio recording is of great value when something goes wrong.

       2. Take your cell phone or a small camera. Use it to take pictures if something goes wrong, and to call the media.

       3. Small pocket notebook so you can record location, names, machine serial numbers if needed.

      See this article: for an easy guide to gadgets like audio recorders and videocams.

      Now let's get into more detail:

      Voter eligibility problems

       1. Suppose you try to vote but they say you're not registered?

      Start with prevention -- Rules have been changing. Check on the status of your voter registration well before the election.
      If it's election day and you are told you're not registered: Request a provisional ballot. They must give you a provisional ballot, but it won't count if the records show you are not registered. Voting by provisional ballot is significantly inferior to same-day or absentee voting, since these ballots may not be counted if it "won't make a difference" and sometimes are not accounted for very well.

       2. Suppose you try to vote but they ask for ID?

      Best thing to do: Bring a valid photo ID just in case. Some states have changed the law and do now require it.

      Access to the polls

       1. What if your polling place is closed when you get there?

      First, prevention - many polling places have changed due to new disability requirements; some have been eliminated due to the cost of buying new voting machines. Check with the elections office (don't depend on friends or news publications). Make sure you go to the right place in the first place, and allow extra time.

       2. What if you know it is the right location, but can't find where to vote?

      Sometimes the voting location is in another part of the building. Look for signs and ask, and use your audio recorder to capture any obstructiveness by any public officials.

       3. What if you can see the polling place, but it isn't open for business?

      Document this with your audio recorder and ask lots of questions. Take photos of the lines. Record conversation if people have to leave and are unable to vote. Get their name if possible. Note the poll locaton and the time.

      If poll opening is significantly delayed, call the media. If it is delayed more than an hour, report it to someone who has access to lawyers (such as a candidate or legislative representative). Briefing papers may need to reach a judge by 11 a.m. or noon in order to extend the hours for that polling place.
      If poll opening is delayed due to voting machine problems, when you get inside ask questions of the poll workers and record their answers to document the problem.

       4. What if polls are open but lack the equipment or supplies to vote? For example, some of the voting machines are not working, there aren't enough ballots, or some other item (like a card encoder or check-in computer) is not working?

      Ask questions and make sure your audio recorder is running to capture the answers. Don't get confrontational -- this isn't about hearing your own voice on audio, it's about documenting the explanations and answers you get.

      You generally cannot take photos or video inside a polling place -- but some places will allow this. If you can get a photo that shows the problem, do so.
      Here are things to jot down in your notebook if you witness a problem:

        * Precinct location
        * Names of poll workers
        * Name of your county/township elections chief
        * Names and contact info for any other citizens who witnessed the disenfranchisement

      Voter intimidation or discrimination

       1. What if you witness discriminatory or hostile procedures? Examples include inappropriate challenges of voters, ethnically inappropriate remarks, or police checkpoints or surveillance of polling places.

      Make sure your audio recorder is running before you get there, and keep it running. These things happen by surprise.

      Get photos of any obstruction, and note the location, names of witnesses, names of perpetrators.
      Voting machine problems

      Most states have a mixture of optical scan machines (which use paper ballots) and DRE machines (touch-screen or roll-a-dial computers).

      The DRE machines have significantly more issues.

      If you have a choice between a DRE and a paper ballot optical scan, always choose the paper ballot.
      Here's what to look for with DRE machines:

        * Your vote shows up on the wrong choice
        * You can't see the paper record of your vote (some states don't have one, but in states with a DRE voter verified paper trail, it may be hidden under a brown door or other obstruction)
        * Confusing machine: Hard to figure out how to use it
        * A candidate or question is missing from the screen
        * The screen automatically fills in votes you don't want
        * The screen fails to report to you that your vote has been accepted. Usually it will say something like "vote cast" -- or the message can be more confusing, like "choices printed."
        * Voting machines aren't running
        * You see an error messages on the screen
        * You see an administrative or technician screen instead of the ballot choices
        * The voting machine crashes or freezes
        * The voting machine screen is dim, has lines through it, colors are distorted or is otherwise hard to read.
        * Your card won't work
        * (For accessible machines) The accessibility function aren't working (headphones, large text, keypads, sip n puff)
        * Repairman is working on one of the voting machines

      ,b>What to do: Write down (or photograph with your cell phone) anything that looks "weird".
      Have your audio recorder on and ask questions, record the answers. Even if you are technically savvy, keep your questions simple and innocent and you'll elicit more information. For example:

        * "What's that?"
        * "Who's that guy?"
        * "How come he's..."
        * "What's he doing?"
        * "What did he just put in the machine?"
        * "Where's he taking that?"
        * "Where do those cables go?"
        * "Where are the [Diebold/ES&S] guys?"

      If possible, stand around and watch if someone comes to fix your machine. Ask a couple simple questions and audio-record the answers.

      Optical scan machines


        * Kicks out your ballot or won't take it
        * There is a little window or message screen on the optical scan machine. Look at it before you run your ballot through. Watch what it says before, during and after. Record or photograph any weird messages on the screen (such as "ballot not read.")
        * Make sure to notice and document if voted ballots are being kept on a counter, basket, or a locaton that is not sealed. Correctly designed optical scan systems make your ballot disappear into a sealed box. With the Diebold AccuVote scanners, for example, it is a large black box upon which the scanner sits.

      Absentee and mail-in ballots

        * What if you don't receive your ballot?

      Contact your elections division -- better yet, visit, and straighten it out. There are several reasons why you may not get your ballot. Allow enough time before the election to resolve these issues, because they crop up frequently for a variety of innocent reasons.

        * What if you receive the wrong ballot? Photograph your blank ballot and retain evidence, then visit your elections office to resolve the issue. Bring an audio recorder with you to the elections office to record the answers.

      Viewing the central tabulator will be a separate article.

      Guidelines for audio recording

      Some states allow audio recording only in public places, but all voting environments are public settings, so you can record. In most states, you can hide your audio recorder. In the 10 states at very bottom, you'll probably want to have your recorder visible, though it can be discreet. For example, clip it on your purse or your belt.
      Most states allow "single party consent" recording, which means that if one party knows there is recording, it's fine. You are one person, so you can record legally in the single party consent states without showing anyone your recorder.
      Here are the single party consent states, which generally mean that you can record with a hidden recorder:



      many green, yellow, blue and now purple dogs are a majority.

      by Prove Our Democracy with Paper Ballots on Tue May 16, 2006 at 11:23:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Suit by citizens of other states or other states? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This would not seem to bar suits by citizens of other states or by states against other states.

    After all, I don't live in Ohio but Ohio's decision to violate the interstate commerce clause by such rebates hurts me because businesses do not locate in my state.

    Even better, all you need is another state to sue, for example one next to Ohio, claiming that this is hurting the second state.  The problem here is finding a state that wants to set this sort of precedent -- though you only need one.

    Such standing was allowed already allowed in a famous Virginia trash discrimination case whose name escapes me at the moment.  There, Virginia charged higher rates for out of state trash, and other states sued and won.


    "Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings." Heinrich Heine, from his play Almansor (1821)

    by egrass on Mon May 15, 2006 at 02:03:37 PM PDT

  •  And how old are these justices? (0+ / 0-)
    Where's the hope.

    What are the checks and balances for a corrupted judiciary?

    Separation of Church and State AND Corporation

    by Einsteinia on Mon May 15, 2006 at 02:05:11 PM PDT

  •  A unanimous decision (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    indicates to me that the taxpayers had no proper standing.

    In this one case, in their one lawsuit, with this one particular wording of their standing.

    Eventually, a stronger case will make its way through the court systems and hopefully will be heard by the courts.

    This is definitely a shitty thing, and we should all be righteously pissed, but it's by no means eternal.

    Take hope and keep the eyes open, another case could come along with better standing. Oftentimes, I've read of cases that the SC refused to hear, and then they heard a different case about the exact same issue; they refuse and hear based on which cases would have the greatest impact on creating legal precedent for future cases.

    Unfortunately, such judiciary discretion is in the hands of people, a notoriously susceptible species towards greed, vengeance and bias.

    "If more parents home disciplined [their kids] there would be fewer people I have to smack in public." --Wilzerd Balefire.

    by TheBlaz on Mon May 15, 2006 at 02:07:22 PM PDT

  •  The good news is... (0+ / 0-)

    ...that the beast they're feeding will eventually eat them too.  Of course, that's after an appetitizer of 5 billion working class people world wide.  ONE WORLD READY OR NOT!

    -9.50;-6.62. But it don't mean nuttin if you don't put your money where your mouth is

    by ultrageek on Mon May 15, 2006 at 02:11:37 PM PDT

  •  Democracy vs. Capitalism (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coral, SarahLee, javelina, MamasGun, greenearth

    Just wondering what our "founding fathers," who believed that a government should serve the citizens who support it, would make of a government that privileges corporations over people.  What went wrong here?

  •  Taxpayer standing - nothing new today (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Drgrishka1, greenearth, Buddha Hat

    "State taxpayers have no standing ... to challenge state tax or spending decisions simply by virtue of their status as taxpayers." In other words, not only will the Ohio law remain, but state taxpayers throughout the country now have no legal right to challenge the decisions of their bought-and-paid-for elected officials who are selling off our government to the highest bidder.

    That's nothing new.  The Court ruled back in the 1960s that taxpayers did not have standing to sue based solely on being taxpayers.  If that were the case, the government literally could not function...anyone who "lost" an appropriations vote would bring a lawsuit which would tie up the whole works.

  •  This diary imples that the race to the bottom is (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenearth, Buddha Hat

    driven by corporate interests, bribery, and lobbying.

    But isn't a big part of it also jobs? Politicians figure that giving tax breaks will lure good jobs into their state, and will provide the state with the taxes that workers pay. Better some taxes, than no taxes at all. Natually, this will result in a lower tax yield throughout the country as a whole. This effect could fall under the rubric of tragedy of the commons, whereby everyone maximizing their own interests damages the community as a whole.

    How do we solve this? I would advocate (hold on to your hats) eliminating corporate taxes completely. And raising income taxes on the rich, eliminating capital gains breaks and dividend income breaks. Then employers would have little incentive to seek out the lowest bidder, because every place would be a tax free zone. And this approach would address the real problem in American society - the disparity in personal income and wealth.  Corporations are just a red herring - they are just a shell surrounding the core issue of personal inequality.

    •  Problem with this (0+ / 0-)

      "I would advocate (hold on to your hats) eliminating corporate taxes completely."

      Couldn't wealthy individuals find creative ways to hold their money in corporations, then? Maybe make shell corporations, for example?

      Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Well, come on, doesn't anybody know!?!?

      by Erik the Red on Mon May 15, 2006 at 09:10:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There are already some laws to deal with this (0+ / 0-)

        For example, the IRS has rules for detecting when a corporation is legit and when it is a shell.

        Also, for money to be spent, it has to be transferred to an individual, directly or through taxable benefits. The moment you buy that Porsche, you get taxed.

        But you do raise an interesting point - can corporations be used to defer taxation, by holding on to cash rather than distributing it to its owners? I haven't thought it through. I'm sure others here are more knowledgable about this.

        But I have to point out that this problem of tax deferment exists even today, with taxable corporations, so it is not new. If a corporation earns $1.00, and pays any amount (whether $0.50, or $0.00) in tax, then it can defer the personal income taxes on the remainder by delaying payment of dividends and holding the cash.

        This Wikipedia article suggests that European countries deal with the 'problem' of double taxation by exempting some dividends from personal tax, which I think is is the opposite of what we want, if our goal is leveling the personal income distribution.

  •  David-- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thank you for this otherwise exceptionally disregarded story.

  •  That the administration is in bed with business (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is a given.
    The argument in this case is that it may not cost the citizens tax money as the new jobs created and the future revenue will more then pay for tax break.
    Sometimes it is better to pick easy arguments that is calling Bush/Snow and those that claim they are going to cut deficit in half when in fact they are not going to cut the deficit one cent but are going to try and CREATE NEW DEFICITS aat Half the rate they have  been.
    Now that is easy to call them liars on.
    It is easy to call them  all liars especially Frist for saying tax cuts pay for themselves when such people as the new Fed Head said not Always, likedwise the real right stink tank Cato Institute and even one of Bush's former economic advisors said that tax cuts fully pay for 50% of their cost- meaning deficits are created by  other 50%
    The problem is the party picks on the wrong shit when there is plenty of easy stuff that they can even get the average person not a religious fundie to understand.

  •  a hearty welcome to David Sirota (0+ / 0-)

    I've been on your mailing list for quite some time. You and Thom Hartmann are two of my favorite political commentators.
    It's my hope you will continue to post here...

    "...the definition of a gaffe in Washington is somebody who tells the truth but shouldn't have." Howard Dean

    by colleen on Mon May 15, 2006 at 02:45:32 PM PDT

  •  Tax payer standing cases have a long history (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of being rejected (except maybe in the area of establishment clause jurisprudence), especially because of substantive due process cases against the type of worker protections that you're advocating for David. That's exactly why the liberal wing of the court went along in this decision, because for every corporate giveaway there's a piece of legislation that broad taxpayer standing would open up suit by conservative groups against.

    I hate these kind of diaries. If you think it's wrong on the law, you need to argue why the law of taxpayer standing should change, what the reprecussions are, and how it might be used against legislation you support. But you give no context . . . at all. You can't just argue corporate corruption.

  •  what i wanna know is ... (0+ / 0-)

    ... did the Supremes just throw the Ohio Dem Party into the brier patch?

    and are they competent enough to recognize the opportunity? ... somebody really ought to register this domain name ...

    by wystler on Mon May 15, 2006 at 02:49:44 PM PDT

  •  This has been the law for over a 100 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SarahLee, HarlanNY

    years now.  It is nothing new.  Taxpayers do not have standing to challenege laws simply because they are taxpayers.  In order to have standing in ANY case, the plaintiff must prove that he suffers a particular and discrete injury, different from what the rest of the populace has to endure.  Thus, for example, I, a resident of New York, cannot challenge say Georgia's display of 10 Commandments because I don't live or work or travel through Georgia.  The mere fact that I am perosnally offended by reading a story about the 10 Commandments is insufficient.  On the other hand, had I been a Georgia resident, and someone who could allege specific injury (e.g., I am an atheist and by having to view the commandments upon entering the courthouse my faith in the justice system is injured) I would have standing.  

    This is neither new nor controversial.

  •  Lawyers (0+ / 0-)

    The postings on this diary have been most educational. This site must have kazillions of lawyers on it!

  •  'Emasculate'??? (0+ / 0-)


      1. To castrate.

    Hey, no problem for me! Bush is free to emasculate you all he wants. Could you have chosen a word that was just a tad less alienating to half the population?

    -9.0, -8.3. The less a man knows about how sausages and laws are made, the easier it is to steal his vote and give him botulism.

    by SensibleShoes on Mon May 15, 2006 at 03:00:30 PM PDT

  •  Um, good? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HarlanNY, thomaswilliam

    If a taxpayer had a right to sue the government over any policy the taxpayer didn't like, then tax payment would effectively become voluntary - pay for what you like, not what you don't.

    This is one problem that does not require a judicial solution; it's one that should be solved by the state legislature, the governor, or the people, through the initiative process.  Don't like giveaways to big business?  Don't vote for state legislators who support them.

    If a majority doesn't agree with you, well, that's democracy.  Sometimes, you don't get your way.

  •  So glad you came by to say Hi! (0+ / 0-)

    I am a huge fan of yours. Your politics are my politics.  I am also glad you will be at YearlyKos.  Sam Sedar, Air America, is going to be there, too.  Air America is going to make the place wireless for the event.  Best of all, you will have politicians there; and I really wish all of you luck in getting their ears.  I am sorry I can't come, but I eagerly anticipate all the diaries.   Hope you come by more often.

    When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' - Theodore Roosevelt

    by dkmich on Mon May 15, 2006 at 03:01:23 PM PDT

  •  Opinion good news for progressives (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raatz, mdsiamese

    By affirming the limitations on taxpayer standing the court has protected government appropriations from limitless challenges in court.  Since liberals generally favor the expenditure of public money the general absence of taxpayer standing cuts in their favor most of the time.  

    •  Oversimplification (0+ / 0-)

      "Since liberals generally favor the expenditure of public money..."

      That's a ridiculous oversimplification. I don't know many liberals who support unregulated and out of control expenditures on corporate welfare.

      •  but (0+ / 0-)

        every conservative opposes social security, welfare, etc. When was the last time you met a conservative who thought it was okay to be taxed to spend money on entitlement programs, or to spend money on anything other than wars and corporate tax breaks? If all you had to do to have standing to sue the government over how they spend money was claim standing as a taxpayer, I guarantee you the first in line would be every conservative suing over every entitlement program.

      •  I agree with rollo tomassi . . . (0+ / 0-)

        Hey, Dave -

        I love your work, particularly on the Franken show. And I look forward to picking up your book, which I'm sure will be great.

        But I think you're wrong to characterize rollo tomassi's post as "ridiculous." He or she made a good point and didn't say that liberals support "unregulated" and "out of control expenditures." Liberals do (or at least should) generally support the expenditure of public money to a greater degree than conservatives do. Of course, liberals support doing it in a more responsible fashion and for better things. But I don't think rollo tomassi's basic point is ridiculous (and I think you'll find most legal commentators agree).

        I think we all should be directing our anger toward the Ohio legislature and the Toledo City Council, not toward the Court (at least not in this case) and certainly not toward each other.

        Ohio legislature:

        Toledo City Council:

        Good luck with your book tour, and welcome to the site.

        A liberal is a conservative who's been hugged.

        by raatz on Mon May 15, 2006 at 08:46:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  this is a government... (0+ / 0-)

    That forces seniors to apply for a very bad prescription bill and fines them if they want to join later.  Next they will be frog marching all the seniors to the gulf and drop them in the drink  with their or else policies.  There is no excuse to vote Republican!!!!

    The shrub needs to be pulled he is terrifying

    by libbie on Mon May 15, 2006 at 05:07:00 PM PDT

  •  Let me ask you this: (0+ / 0-)

    If a school could prove injury; e.g. they lost funding under this law and had to close schools and fire workers, would they still have legal standing to file suit under this ruling?

  •  with respect, David, you're off base (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    a)  unanimous decision.  If all nine of them agree on something (Ginsburg, for example, isn't your typical corporate sell-out) there must be a pretty strong reason.  it might be because

    b)  it's been a pretty long-standing precedent that taxpayers can't sue the government because they don't like the way taxes are being spent.  some of the lawyers on the list might have other examples, but the one that sticks out most is the suit during the Vietnam War by a guy who didn't like his tax money being spent on napalm being dropped on villages and other forms of entertainment going on over there.  he lost.

    think about it for a sec - if taxpayers can sue the government because they don't like how tax money is being spent, governments will be paralyzed because every single decision they make will result in a lawsuit.

    answer's the same as in a lot of issues - we need to win more elections . . .

    It's not a sacrifice to pay more in taxes so our brave boys have what they need, it's a privilege. FDR

    by mississippi scott on Mon May 15, 2006 at 05:33:01 PM PDT

  •  These Judges Need To Be Impeached! (0+ / 0-)

    Since 2000, I have had no respect for SOTUS. If I could, I would not only turn my back on them,  I would lift my kilt and moon them!  I think they are elitist pigs and when they rule it is fine to install a man who is an idiot as our president while giving away our country to a bunch of greedy, corporate welfare queens, they deserve the torche and pitchfork treatment.

    God I hate these people!

    Cat In Seattle

  •  Unfortunatly there is lots of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Sup Ct. precedent to back Roberts up.

    The Supreme Court in Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83 (1968) approved challenges to “exercises of congressional power under the taxing & spending clauses” provided that

    1. The expenditure complained of is not just “an incidental expenditure of tax funds in the administration of an essentially regulatory statute”
    1. The challenged enactment exceeds specific constitutional limitations imposed upon the exercise of the congressional taxing & spending power & not simply that the enactment is generally beyond the power delegated to Congress by Article I.

    While this test would seem to apply in this case, I believe the Court has only recognized taxpayer standing in a challenge to the use of “the taxing and spending power to favor one religion over another or to support religion in general” i.e. with regard to the Establishment Clause.  

    This is according to my constitutional law professor and my own research with regard to the constitutionality of the Faith Based Initiative.

    It's not easy being a Floridian.

    by lawstudent922 on Mon May 15, 2006 at 05:57:21 PM PDT

    •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Why do you say "unfortunately"? When there is a lot of precedent and a unanimous decision, I think that is rather fortunate. It shows the court isn't totally off the wall.

      •  I guess I meant (0+ / 0-)

        it is unfortunate that taxpayers can't turn to the courts when they don't like how their taxes are being spent.

        It's not easy being a Floridian.

        by lawstudent922 on Tue May 16, 2006 at 08:56:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  still (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          How is that unfortunate? Our system of government is representation. The phrase is "no taxation without representation" not "no taxation without the courts". If taxpayers don't like how their representatives are spending their money, they are supposed to vote for different representatives. Taxpayers shouldn't be able to turn to the courts because that's not how our constitution was designed. I think it is very fortunate that the Supreme Court recognizes that design.

  •  Vote the bums out? (0+ / 0-)

    taxpayers throughout the country now have no legal right to challenge the decisions of their bought-and-paid-for elected officials

    So, make it an issue, raise awareness of the badness of tax giveaways (already starting to happen, just keep pushing it), and vote the bums out! I think that's a good solution to bad government. Good old democracy.

  •  If the present bunch can't or won't... (0+ / 0-)

    balance business-friendly expenditures with citizen-friendly expenditures, it's our job to vote them out.

    This gang of republicans has shown they are willing to let our middle class dwindle away, they're pulling the American dream out from under us.

    They've shown us they're incapable of balancing the needs of America, they are rash and reckless. Lets do our part and replace them with people who are a little more honest and maybe a little more thoughtful. Vote when the time comes.

    -- What really makes America, America?

    by mike101 on Mon May 15, 2006 at 06:32:43 PM PDT

  •  What decision did you read, if any? (0+ / 0-)

    Today's ruling, though, is particularly egregious. Not only did the court strike down an important ruling, but it essentially emasculated taxpayers' ability to bring any such lawsuits against their own government in the future.

    The details are as shocking as they are disgusting.

    I have to disagree completely. After reading just the first paragraph of the decision, found here, I have to ask if you have read the same decision at all?

    Here's the first paragraph:

    The city of Toledo and State of Ohio sought to encourage DaimlerChrysler Corp. to expand its Toledo operations by offering it local property tax exemptions and a state franchise tax credit. A group of plaintiffs including Toledo residents who pay state and local taxes sued in state court, alleging that the tax breaks violated the Commerce Clause. The taxpayer plaintiffs claimed injury because the tax breaks depleted the state and local treasuries to which they contributed. Defendants removed the action to District Court. Plaintiffs moved to remand to state court because, inter alia, they doubted whether they satisfied either the constitutional or prudential limitations on standing in federal court. The District Court declined to remand the case, concluding that plaintiffs had standing under the "municipal taxpayer standing" rule articulated in Massachusetts v. Mellon, 262 U. S. 447. On the merits, the court found that neither tax benefit violated the Commerce Clause. Without addressing standing, the Sixth Circuit agreed as to the municipal tax exemption, but held that the state franchise tax credit violated the Commerce Clause. Defendants sought certiorari to review the invalidation of the franchise tax credit, and plaintiffs sought certiorari to review the upholding of the property tax exemption. This Court granted review to consider whether the franchise tax credit violates the Commerce Clause, and directed the parties to address the issue of standing.

    Here's the important quote that you totally missed:

    Defendants removed the action to District Court. Plaintiffs moved to remand to state court because, inter alia, they doubted whether they satisfied either the constitutional or prudential limitations on standing in federal court. The District Court declined to remand the case, concluding that plaintiffs had standing under the "municipal taxpayer standing" rule articulated in Massachusetts v. Mellon, 262 U. S. 447.

    The taxpayers themselves didn't want this case in federal court because they knew they didn't have standing there!!!!! It was the District Court that erred, not the Supreme Court. What is "shocking" and "disgusting" to me is that you totally perverted a unanimous Supreme Court decision that the party you support actually KNEW was going to happen. Your diary is the very definition of spin!

  •  I don't have a problem with this S. Ct. decision. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FleetAdmiralJ, mdsiamese, annefrank

    The Supreme Court's job is not to right every wrong or decide the wisdom of legislation.  Their job is to interpret the Constitution and Statutes duly enacted by Congress.  In this case the state of Ohio enacted a stupid law, but the law didn't violate any of the provisions in the Bill of Rights or the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  The citizens of Ohio need to demand that their legislature stop giving out corporate tax giveaways or vote them out of office.  

    The argument was that it violated a little known Constitutional Doctrine called the dormant commerce clause by unduly hindering Congress's ability to regulate interstate commerce.  The problem was that the people bringing the lawsuit didn't have standing.  Taxpayer standing isn't enough, and there is isn't anything new about this concept.  It is well settled law.  The only exception is where some fundamental Constitutional Rights are implicated, and even this exception is very limited and rarely recognized.  See Flast v. Cohen.  Generally, you have to have suffered some type of individualized harm in order to bring a lawsuit.  If this requirement was not in effect, the government couldn't function because there would be countless lawsuits seeking to enjoin every federal program from doing its job.

  •  This is the correct decisions (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    just like Kelo, this is an unpopular, yet correct, decisions in my opinion.  The Supreme Court is there to decide the law, not what is best for "the people" despite the law (which is judicial activism).

    We elect people to make these decisions for us.  The US system is set up so that, essentially, we all have a say in matters, but via a proxy - our elected representatives.

    By agreeing to be a part of this system, we essentially agree that we consent to abide by whatever our elected officials do - as long as it isn't against the law.

    And note, the Supreme Court didn't rule on the constitutionality of the matter - they said that just the fact that the people who brought the lawsuit were taxpayers meant they could sue, and my explanation of the US system explains why this is the case.  

    In fact, it would be much more damaging had the court ruled in the plantiff's favor because that means anyone could sue over any governmental program, regardless of damages to them directly, by merely being taxpayers.  That would destroy the entire concept of standing, at least as it applied to suits against a government.

    Webpage; # Members: 87,163 (as of 3:30pm 5/9). Projected Date of 100,000th member registration: September 7, 2006

    by FleetAdmiralJ on Mon May 15, 2006 at 09:10:56 PM PDT

    •  Why bother to pay taxes if you don't get to say.. (0+ / 0-) they are used? You may as well abolish the legislatures and establish a monarchy, then.

      "Have no standing by virtue of their position as taxpayers"...and WE pay this man's salary. What a weasel.

      •  you do (0+ / 0-)

        You do get to say how they are used. You have representatives that you elect, they are the ones that spend your taxes. You tell them what you want when you elect them, "you" in this case being the majority. Majority rules. If the minority didn't elect who they wanted that would spend their tax money the way they wanted, they don't get to challenge in court. Do you think every taxpayer should be allowed to challenge spending programs they don't like? Then watch the line form with all the Republicans up front challenging social security and every entitlement program that they hate.

  •  After 'shock' at the corruption, What? (0+ / 0-)

    Now what are you going to do about it?

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