[-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 62, Issue 22

Gerry Coulter gcoulter at ubishops.ca
Sun Jan 24 09:36:57 EST 2010

I guess the art stuff was too hard? We got bored??

What is all this today -- the art of talking about anything but art?

This is becoming a huge bore -- it was better when we all just did other things (as per most of past week)

Life in America stinks -- its not news.


From: empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of John Haber [jhaber at haberarts.com]
Sent: January 23, 2010 5:24 PM
To: empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 62, Issue 22

I must say I'm a little appalled at the idea that the problem is the
14th amendment itself and, in particular, that it must be challenged
because it's inherently unfair to single out former slaves, whereas a
better legal framework would guarantee protection for all.  There's a
lot wrong here.

First, the 14th amendment already does say plain and simply that all
persons deserve equal rights under the law.  Its only mention of slavery
is in the last clause, to state that we didn't have to reimburse former
slave owners.  It's the 13th amendment, freeing the slaves, and the
15th, giving them the vote, that mention "race, color, or previous
condition of servitude," and I trust we don't wish to rescind those.

Second, what if it had specifically addressed the rights of African
Americans?  It's disgusting to think that there's anything wrong with
that.  It sounds like the right wingers complaining that whites are
suffering from civil rights.  In fact, it sounds like the position of
the faction of the court that reached this awful decision.

Third, one could, I suppose, argue that the amendment could have been
phrased differently to make clear that persons were, well, people.  The
trouble is that the current interpretation is so ludicrous that no one
would ever have thought of that before.

Now, it's not easy to explain how the idea of corporations as persons
under the 14th amendment came to be, along with the second plank, of
money as speech.  It would not have occurred to a nation after the Civil
War, when corporations were relatively rare, less powerful, and often
nonprofit.  It would seem to be denied by the text of the amendment
itself, which starts with the phrase "born or naturalized," thus, at
least to me, implying that "persons" are going to be life forms.

It's a long history, and I'm not really qualified to tell it, so I'll
let you look it up.  It started with a mere aside or note in a decision
largely unrelated to the point from a conservative court.  Even then, it
only slowly attained much value as precedent.  It certainly didn't imply
all this till this week.  I recommend Stevens's dissent, in fact, where
he starts right in by pointing out that, whatever value we agree to give
to corporate rights as persons, they're not the same as human rights
since, for example, corporations can't vote or hold office (his
examples).  Then he notes the 100 years of precedent that this decision

Anyhow, we could blame the American legal system, but I suggest we start
blaming the Republicans.  I know it's hard for us liberals to organize
rather than mourn (or backbite).  I sure felt that this week, with the
reaction to the Massachusetts election and the readiness to blame those
who actually supported a more liberal health-care bill rather than scum
like Nelson, Landrieu, Snowe and the fiercer rest of her party, and the
media network putting out their lies.  But consider it.  Had Bush not
got a second term, with Alito and Roberts appointed to the court, this
decision would not have happened, and indeed no one would ever have
dreamed it would happen.

To put it another way, perhaps more relevant to Empyre, this isn't about
legal or critical theory.  It's about politics and power, and the bad
guys won.

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