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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Blog posts worth a revisit

Deconstructing and giving our Democracy to the 1% and Foreign Investors

The Court’s Blow to Democracy

With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century. Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment, the court’s conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding.

Congress must act immediately to limit the damage of this radical decision, which strikes at the heart of democracy.

As a result of Thursday’s ruling, corporations have been unleashed from the longstanding ban against their spending directly on political campaigns and will be free to spend as much money as they want to elect and defeat candidates. If a member of Congress tries to stand up to a wealthy special interest, its lobbyists can credibly threaten: We’ll spend whatever it takes to defeat you.

The ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission radically reverses well-established law and erodes a wall that has stood for a century between corporations and electoral politics. (The ruling also frees up labor unions to spend, though they have far less money at their disposal.)

The founders of this nation warned about the dangers of corporate influence. The Constitution they wrote mentions many things and assigns them rights and protections — the people, militias, the press, religions. But it does not mention corporations.

In 1907, as corporations reached new heights of wealth and power, Congress made its views of the relationship between corporations and campaigning clear: It banned them from contributing to candidates. At midcentury, it enacted the broader ban on spending that was repeatedly reaffirmed over the decades until it was struck down on Thursday.

This issue should never have been before the court. The justices overreached and seized on a case involving a narrower, technical question involving the broadcast of a movie that attacked Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 2008 campaign. The court elevated that case to a forum for striking down the entire ban on corporate spending and then rushed the process of hearing the case at breakneck speed. It gave lawyers a month to prepare briefs on an issue of enormous complexity, and it scheduled arguments during its vacation.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., no doubt aware of how sharply these actions clash with his confirmation-time vow to be judicially modest and simply “call balls and strikes,” wrote a separate opinion trying to excuse the shameless judicial overreaching.

The majority is deeply wrong on the law. Most wrongheaded of all is its insistence that corporations are just like people and entitled to the same First Amendment rights. It is an odd claim since companies are creations of the state that exist to make money. They are given special privileges, including different tax rates, to do just that. It was a fundamental misreading of the Constitution to say that these artificial legal constructs have the same right to spend money on politics as ordinary Americans have to speak out in support of a candidate.

The majority also makes the nonsensical claim that, unlike campaign contributions, which are still prohibited, independent expenditures by corporations “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” If Wall Street bankers told members of Congress that they would spend millions of dollars to defeat anyone who opposed their bailout, and then did so, it would certainly look corrupt.
After the court heard the case, Senator John McCain told reporters that he was troubled by the “extreme naïveté” some of the justices showed about the role of special-interest money in Congressional lawmaking.

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens warned that the ruling not only threatens democracy but “will, I fear, do damage to this institution.” History is, indeed, likely to look harshly not only on the decision but the court that delivered it. The Citizens United ruling is likely to be viewed as a shameful bookend to Bush v. Gore. With one 5-to-4 decision, the court’s conservative majority stopped valid votes from being counted to ensure the election of a conservative president. Now a similar conservative majority has distorted the political system to ensure that Republican candidates will be at an enormous advantage in future elections.

Congress and members of the public who care about fair elections and clean government need to mobilize right away, a cause President Obama has said he would join. Congress should repair the presidential public finance system and create another one for Congressional elections to help ordinary Americans contribute to campaigns. It should also enact a law requiring publicly traded corporations to get the approval of their shareholders before spending on political campaigns.

These would be important steps, but they would not be enough. The real solution lies in getting the court’s ruling overturned. The four dissenters made an eloquent case for why the decision was wrong on the law and dangerous. With one more vote, they could rescue democracy.

The above is copywrite New York Times, and is a New York Times Editorial in its entirety.

first published 1-22-2010

For previous blog coverage of the Supreme Court Decision discussed above, along with links to NPR, Wall Street Journal and other souces, click here.

2012 Oscar Nominations Announced

  • Best Picture

    • The Artist Thomas Langmann, Producer
    • The Descendants Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers
    • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close Scott Rudin, Producer
    • The Help Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, Producers
    • Hugo Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers
    • Midnight in Paris Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers
    • Moneyball
      Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers
    • The Tree of Life Nominees to be determined
    • War Horse Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers

      Oscar Nominations 2012: Academy Award Nominees List

      Oscar Nominations 2012

      The nominees for the 2012 Academy Awards were announced on Tuesday morning, and as expected, films about films led the way.

      "The Artist," the silent, black and white tribute to old Hollywood, earned a nod for Best Picture, and, after a series of recent critics and guild award wins, is considered the favorite. Writer/director Michel Hazanavicius received nominations for both Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

      Jean Dujardin was handed a bid for Best Actor for his turn as George Valentin, a silent film star who refuses to move into the era of the talkies; he earned the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy earlier this month. Bérénice Bejo, for her role as starlet Peppy Miller, earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

      "Hugo," Martin Scorsese's 3D family homage to film preservation, earned 11 nominations.

      "The Descendants," the Alexander Payne-directed dramedy considered the other top awards contender, was also nominated for Best Picture; Payne earned a nod for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, the latter of which he shares with writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. George Clooney, who stars as a beleaguered father, soon-to-be-widower and trustee of sacred family land in Hawaii, earned a nomination for Best Actor; he was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama earlier in January.

      "The Help," the tale of domestic workers in segregated Mississippi at the beginning of the Civil Rights era, also earned a Best Picture nod, as well as a nomination for Viola Davis for Best Actress and nods for Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer for Best Supporting Actress.

      "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," the polarizing film about a boy in search of a secret from the father he lost on 9/11, earned a surprise nod for Best Picture, while Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" also slipped in. "Bridesmaids" earned a nomination for Best Original Screenplay for Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, while Melissa McCarthy got a nod for Best Supporting Actress.

      Relative newcomer Rooney Mara got a nomination for Best Actress for her chilling turn in "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," though director David Fincher was left out.
      Terrence Malick's artistic and polarizing "The Tree of Life," which starred Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain -- who earned nominations for other films -- got a nomination for Best Picture; Malick earned a nod for Best Director.

      Here's the entire list of nominees; check out snubs and surprises analysis by clicking here.

      Best Picture
      "The Artist"
      "The Descendants"
      "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
      "Midnight in Paris"
      "The Help"
      "War Horse"
      "The Tree of Life"

      Best Actor
      Demian Bichir, "A Better Life"
      George Clooney, "The Descendants"
      Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
      Gary Oldman, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
      Brad Pitt, "Moneyball"

      Best Actress
      Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs"
      Viola Davis, "The Help"
      Rooney Mara, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
      Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady"
      Michelle Williams, "My Week With Marilyn"

      Best Supporting Actor
      Kenneth Branagh, "My Week With Marilyn"
      Jonah Hill, "Moneyball"
      Nick Nolte, "Warrior"
      Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
      Max Von Sydow, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

      Best Supporting Actress
      Berenice Bejo, "The Artist"
      Jessica Chastain, "The Help"
      Melissa McCarthy, "Bridesmaids"
      Janet McTeer, "Albert Nobbs"
      Octavia Spencer, "The Help"

      Best Director
      Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"
      Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
      Terrence Malick, "The Tree of Life"
      Alexander Payne, "The Descendants"
      Martin Scorsese, "Hugo"

      Best Original Screenplay
      Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"
      JC Chandor, "Margin Call"
      Asghar Farhadi, "A Separation"
      Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
      Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, "Bridesmaids"

      Best Adapted Screenplay
      Alexander Payne, Nat Faxton, Jim Rash, "The Descendants"
      John Logan, "Hugo"
      George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, "The Ides of March"
      Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, "Moneyball"
      Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughn, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"

      Best Animated Feature
      "A Cat In Paris"
      "Chico & Rita"
      "Kung Fu Panda 2"
      "Puss in Boots"

      Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
      Bullhead (Belgium)
      Footnote (Israel)
      In Darkness (Poland)
      Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
      A Separation (Iran)

      Original Score
      "The Adventures of Tintin," John Williams
      "The Artist," Ludovic Bource
      "Hugo," Howard Shore
      "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," Alberto Iglesias
      "War Horse," John Williams

      Best Original Song
      "Man or Muppet," The Muppets; Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
      "Real in Rio," Rio; Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, Lyric by Siedah Garrett

      Best Achievement in Art Direction
      "The Artist"
      "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"
      "Midnight in Paris"
      "War Horse"

      Best Achievement in Cinematography
      "The Artist"
      "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
      "The Tree of Life"
      "War Horse"

      Best Achievement in Costume Design
      "The Artist"
      "Jane Eyre"

      Best Documentary Feature
      "Hell and Back Again"
      "If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front"
      "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory"

      Best Documentary Short Subject
      "The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement?"
      "God Is the Bigger Elvis"
      "Incident in New Baghdad"
      "Saving Face"
      "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom"

      Best Achievement in Film Editing
      "The Artist"
      "The Descendants"
      "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"

      Best Achievement in Makeup
      "Albert Nobbs"
      "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"
      "The Iron Lady"

      Best Animated Short Film
      The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
      La Luna
      A Morning Stroll
      Wild Life

      Best Live Action Short Film
      "The Shore"
      "Time Freak"
      "Tuba Atlantic"

      Best Achievement in Sound Editing
      "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
      "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"
      "War Horse"

      Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
      "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
      "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"
      "War Horse"

      Best Achievement in Visual Effects
      "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"
      "Real Steel"
      "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"
      "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"
  • View By Film /
  • Printable List /

Oscar nominations 2012: 'Artist,' Scorsese's 'Hugo' shine brightest

"The Artist," "The Descendants," "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," "The Help," "Hugo," "Midnight in Paris," "Moneyball," "The Tree of Life" and "War Horse" received best picture Oscar nominations Tuesday morning for the 84th Academy Awards.

Oscars nominations 2012
OSCAR NOMINEES: Clockwise, "Hugo," "The Descendants," "The Artist," "The Help" and "Moneyball" are among the nine films nominated for a best picture Oscar in 2012. (Paramount Pictures / Fox Searchlight / The Weinstein Co. / DreamWorks / Columbia TriStar)