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

Gregory Ulmer glue at ufl.edu
Mon Jan 25 05:06:12 EST 2010

Christina Spiesel wrote:
> Maybe the solution is to demand that corporations that engage in fraud 
> or other misbehavior have to cease operations for a period  equivalent  
> to sentencing imprisonment for persons and that if they kill, they are 
> subject to a "death penalty" of dismantlement?
> Christina

  A possible way to counter the likelihood of "swiftboating" as the norm 
for political propaganda, would be to remove the exemption from libel 
laws for political campaigns. 

> John Haber wrote:
>> 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 
>> broke. 
>> 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.
>> John
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*Gregory L. Ulmer*
 University of Florida

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