SCOTUS, The Hobby Lobby Case, and The Three Amigos of TV Comedy News Programs

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro

I have been enjoying Last Week Tonight, John Oliver’s new comedy show, which airs on HBO on Sunday evenings. Last week, Oliver did a funny segment on the Hobby Lobby case prior to the Supreme Court’s issuing its ruling the following day. As Mike Spindell said of Oliver’s show “it occupies a niche of intelligence in the news that is sorely lacking in our country.” I also appreciate Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for humorously providing their perspectives on news and politics. For today’s post, I have the three above-mentioned comedians’ perspectives on the Hobby Lobby Case.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Hobby Lobby (HBO)

Back in March of this year, Jon Stewart did a segment on the Hobby Lobby case titled Jesus Christ Superstore in which he skewered the ignorance of the corporation regarding its incorrect belief that the four contraceptives it claims are abortifacients…aren’t actually abortifacients. After the Hobby Lobby ruling, Erika Eichelberger and Molly Redden of Mother Jones pointed out that the five justices who ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby weren’t just overruling an Obamacare regulation, they were also overruling science.

From Mother Jones:

Alito and the four other conservative justices on the court were essentially overruling not just an Obamacare regulation, but science. According to the Food and Drug Administration, all four of the contraceptive methods Hobby Lobby objects to—Plan B, Ella, and two intrauterine devices—do not prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterus, which the owners of Hobby Lobby consider abortion. Instead, these methods prevent fertilization.

John Stewart:

So let me get this straight.  Corporations aren’t just people, they’re ill-informed people.  Whose factually incorrect beliefs must be upheld because they sincerely believe them anyway.  

**********

The Daily Show: Jesus Christ Superstore

The Word—Inc. God We Trust (The Colbert Report, November 2013)

**********

SOURCES

In Hobby Lobby Case, the Supreme Court Chooses Religion Over Science: Five justices ignore science in their ruling that companies are not required to provide contraception under Obamacare. (Mother Jones)

Jon Stewart explains Hobby Lobby’s idiotic anti-Obamacare rationale (Daily Kos)

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46 Responses to SCOTUS, The Hobby Lobby Case, and The Three Amigos of TV Comedy News Programs

  1. Mike Spindell says:

    Elaine,
    Isn’t it interesting and more than a little bit sad that the best news commentary that exists today comes from three comedians.

  2. michaelbeaton says:

    The errors manifested by the case and the decision of the SC in the case are many. So many in fact that some of the essential, structural ones, have not been addressed. Maybe they cannot be in our current state of how we think about things.
    The quote above about corporations being people et al.. gets to one of these pillars. In prior decisions, Citizen United in particular, and also the rescission of the key elements of the Voting Rights Act are recent examples. This court is exposing a serious Point of View.
    It is not a POV derived so much from the constitution, but from the politics of the members. There are certain premises in the thinking of this majority that are then being applied to the precepts of the constitution in a way that is intrinsically foreign, but since whatever the Court says it means it means, it now takes on this cast of meaning being woven into our national mind. Soon, or perhaps already, the freedoms and liberties once enumerated and once considered ‘inalienable’ will be matters for the memory hole alone…

    So corporations are people. Simple enough. And now the conflation of the entity of corporation with the specific people who run/own it — so that they becomes, in legal terms, something of “super-people”, able , due to the advantage of being a person whose rights are protected, but also owners of an entity now infused with those same rights in its own right – religious freedom? But what does a corporation believe? (Or, is it that corporations are in fact the way God intended us to organize? I actually read an article arguing that proposition. And I think it is not too much a leap to think that is the logical deduction of many who hoot with happiness over this decision.)
    Well… it believes whatever the owners believe of course… and thus the power offered in the form of the corporation flows to the owners as a power over those who participate in the corporation as employees, and soon, if this court has any consistency – (which is not a given I know) – to those who trade and do business with corporation(company).
    Thus through the back door the long desired state where a business can refuse its services based upon, well, say race…not too much a stretch by way of example… can now do it simply by finding some way to say it in terms of religion.
    (btw, since corporations are people now… in what sense can they be ‘owned’, since the owning of people was abolished some time ago. A quibble of consistency I know… But I revealing some of the inherent absurdities of the proposition that corporations are indeed ‘people’…)

    A second foundational error surfaced is the functioning of the SC itself.
    The SCourt is designed to adjudicate and then establish principles. When it functions as a court of facts, as a trial court, as a lower court, it is creating serious muddles. I say it has done so in this case and many cases in recent years. Many of the problems we have today are due to essentially non-principled opinions being propounded on some local issue that by definition become the ruling construction of our jurisprudence at all levels of our society.
    Alito tries to limit the impact of his majority opinion by trying to block out its foundational implications. This cannot be done. J. Ginsberg knows this, and said as much in her dissent.

    As with all these cases where the court attempts to hold that their decisions are local and small in nature… they have proven to be large and full of impact, with intended as well as unintended consequences.

    Citizen United is a key example. Look at the transformation of the definition of corporation. Voting Rights is another : Immediately after declaring this law unnecessary it was demonstrated that it was indeed necessary by the actions of Texas and N.Carolina, among others, taking immediate action to consciously disenfranchise the very voters whom the act had till then protected.

    This court is first and last politically driven. Some might retort that it has always been so. I would reply that it has often been so, but not always. Not the same base political power wielding going on here. And sometimes when it has been there has been a tie to our deeper aspirations as expressed in the Preamble to the Constitution. Thinking of the Civil Rights, Jim Crow laws struck down, or womens rights, and etc. In that sense everything the Court does is political. The question then is what is the predicate politics in play.
    These days the underlying principles of the court are clearly predicated upon the Right Wing framework. The main problem with that is that that model is not a Citizen based politic. As such the rights of the Citizen are subsumed into the rights of a different sort of Citizen.
    The Corporate Citizen.

    A rose by any other name is a rose… And the powers and relationships being established in the name and model of Corporate Citizen is still Fascism.
    I think we have forgotten what that looks like, and what happens next.

    For a state to become ultimately corrupt from its moorings requires the complicity of the Judicial system. Intended to be the appeal of last resort of the Citizen to the overwhelming power of the State… those benefits are increasingly and systematically being apportioned to the new Citizen…

    ——-
    ps. re Fascism, a combustible charge I know. I am taking the root meaning of the term as that state that has an integral relationship of State and Corporation. In this model the Corporation becomes the central concern of the State, to the explicit detriment of the people sometimes and once known as citizens.

  3. michaelbeaton says:

    I don’t mind being filtered out of the conversation… Sometimes I do take the time to reply as it seems useful and interesting to do so… But strange that most, if not all, my posts get stopped without posting. I got the info about too many links…but no links? Anyway… I have no particular “need” to post… If there is a reason I am not aware of that this happens… just say so… I don’t know that it matters all that much one way or the other…. But if I am to be filtered out, I’d like to know, and I’ll continue to stop posting to the point of none.

  4. michael beaton,

    No, you are not being sent to moderation. Right now, nobody is being sent to moderation. You just seem to have bad luck with the spam filter. I know it looks at post lengths, formats and some key strings and it is set by default to allow only two links per post, but I cannot say for certain what precisely set it off on your last post. Right now, I don’t even have any user defined strings set up for it, it’s all default settings. The filter also seems to have “moods”. Some days I have to get a dozen comments out of it for no apparent reason (including my own at times), others it works like a charm.

    Please, post all you like and we’ll fish them out of the filter ASAP as needed. All we ask is a little patience since we do the filter checking on an ad hoc basis. Rest assured though that you are not in moderation of any sort. That step would never be taken without warning you first, telling you it had happened and telling you why. As far as we here at FFS are concerned, you a most certainly a poster in good standing. I personally can’t recall any post by you that even comes close to breaking the Eight Simple Rules.

    However, if it’s any consolation, the fickle capricious spam filter does seem to dislike Tony C. far worse than you. 😀 It gnaws on his leg all the time.

  5. Pingback: SCOTUS, The Hobby Lobby Case, and The Three Amigos of TV Comedy News Programs

  6. Tony C. says:

    By diet and exercise I have a tasty leg.

  7. Tony C. says:

    michaelbeaton: That isn’t far off the mark, I don’t think, about corporations. I would say the central power of a corporation is limited liability, which afford owners (persons and artificial persons) to control their risk, to invest some assets in a venture without being subject to legal proceedings, even in cases of negligence or intentional harm, that holds them responsible for damages that forfeit all of their assets.

    I can argue that without that corporate shield or firewall or separation from liability, it may would be far, far more difficult to accumulate vast wealth.

    And vast wealth is highly favored by Republicans, they worship it. They don’t want to treat the Corporation as a separate and artificial construct. They like the idea of wealthy Kings, they dream of being wealthy Kings, with power over all aspects of their subject’s lives. The “Authoritarians” dream of being subjects in a Kingdom, told what to do an enjoying the benefits of peace under a successful King. Benevolent Monarchy is obviously, still, an appealing organizational and political paradigm for many people, replete with a few legal strictures on speech and religion.

    Perhaps because the majority of us are brought up in families that provide such an environment when we are children: a powerful adult has the final word, we can be punished for speech, we are coerced to participate in a belief system, to do chores and follow parental orders, etc. The Monarchy is an extension of our childhood version of family, the term “sire” makes that obvious. Like a family, the Monarchy has a business model and the people in charge are rewarded more heavily, have more freedom, and make the moral decisions for all.

    So it is plausible we are hardwired to organize into such Monarchies, we just rename them “Corporations.” The restrictions we have placed on corporations in terms of their Monarchs controlling the lives of their Subjects are intellectually derived to preserve the freedom and autonomy of the Subjects, but some people don’t want that or feel that, particularly the Kings stripped of their “natural” power to run their Kingdom as they see fit.

    The same Monarchical paradigm clearly existed amongst the founders themselves, as much as they rejected Monarchy, they still organized the Government hierarchically and gave unilateral powers to individuals at the top of a pyramid. The President of the United States has the unique Monarchical power of unconditional Pardon, for example, as do Governors (I don’t know if there are exceptions). Like a Monarch, a House Representative decides his vote unilaterally for his constituents, by any means s/he chooses including flipping a coin, and such votes and decisions cannot be overturned or appealed by any means. Our social and political organizations are so rife with elements of Monarchy, this “parent + children” paradigm, and it has been extant throughout recorded history. It would be hard for me to believe affinity for that paradigm is not part of our evolved psychology.

    Right Wingers like this model, it calls strongly to them. Their attitude is that if you don’t like your King, leave and find a King you like. Or become a King. And if you cannot do either of those, tough, because clearly what you want isn’t viable, or you would be able to find a place or build one where it worked. In other words, they cannot think outside that model, and the closest thing to that Monarchical model in America is, indeed, the Corporation.

  8. HELP Tony C. says:

    Gene, my Comment of one minute ago seems to be snagged…

    Thanks for the help.

  9. Tony C. says:

    michaelbeaton: If your comment does not appear when you post, or within a minute, chances are it is caught in a filter. Ask for help (like I just did) with the moniker “HELP usual-name”, that gets some attention from the blog contributors able to access the filters.

  10. blouise says:

    Elaine,

    I, too, have been enjoying Oliver’s new show on HBO. He, thus far, appears to be even more cutting-edge than Stewart. A couple weeks ago he went after one of my pets which really pissed me off. I had to chuckle about it because everything he said was true and I didn’t like it one bit.

  11. swarthmoremom says:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2014/07/wheaton_college_injunction_the_supreme_court_just_sneakily_reversed_itself.single.html “In the hours after the Hobby Lobby ruling came down, the court was already kicking a host of cases back to various lower courts for reconsideration in light of the new rule. Three courts of appeals were told to revisit decisions, including at least one that involved an employer with religious objections to all 20 contraception methods guaranteed under the ACA, and not just the four ruled out in Hobby Lobby. Another is the appeal from an employer whose claims about burdens on his religious liberty started out as religious, but became a libertarian screed. “I don’t care if the federal government is telling me to buy my employees Jack Daniel’s or birth control,” Michael Potter, the head of Eden Foods confessed to MSNBC’s Irin Carmon last fall. “What gives them the right to tell me that I have to do that? That’s my issue, that’s what I object to, and that’s the beginning and end of the story.” That “religious” objection will now be taken seriously in the courts, bearing in mind, as Justice Alito cautioned, that “[i]t is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial.” These nearly instantaneous acts by the court quickly made the narrow little Hobby Lobby ruling seem like much, much more. (Meanwhile, at Guantánamo Bay, real-live detainees are now petitioning the court for the same personhood status as Hobby Lobby so that they too may exercise religious freedom.)”

  12. michaelbeaton says:

    Thanks to Gene and TonyC re postings… ok… I’ll take a breath… Silly filter…

  13. michaelbeaton says:

    @TonyC :

    I would say the central power of a corporation is limited liability, which afford owners (persons and artificial persons) to control their risk, to invest some assets in a venture without being subject to legal proceedings, even in cases of negligence or intentional harm, that holds them responsible for damages that forfeit all of their assets.

    Yes. And another is their immortality… they do not die… So there is is never a recycling of those resources/wealth etc.
    This thesis is worked out in detail, in a different context, by the new book “Capitalism in the 21st C”, Piketty (http://www.amazon.com/Capital-Twenty-First-Century-Thomas-Piketty/dp/067443000X)

    What is compelling then as a question is why we have chosen to denominate corporations as people. It seems a fundamental logical error, but one with immense consequences.

    My moniker is “Ideas have Consequences”… And so it is… an idea like this shapes all that follows. What is confusing is how such an idea is allowed to actually stand.
    It is, definitionally, inhuman.

  14. michaelbeaton says:

    Asking those here: Re my last post … Does anyone know of a good, excellent?, primer on this question of why corporations have taken on this quality of person? I understand the notions of power, and the self serving aspect … But below that there must be some substantial philosophy that enables this idea to thrive.
    I have read the book “Power Inc” (http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-03-01/book-review-power-inc-dot-by-david-rothkopf) … Which is a v.good and expansive history of the corporation and its developing power. I learned from it that the development of the nation state was more or less coincident with the development of the notion of a corporation. (Apparently it all started in Sweden!)
    Anyway… even that book only tells the fact that corporations are indeed now considered people as a matter of law. What I have not yet found is the treatise that lays out the complexity of this notion.

  15. eniobob says:

    “Federal Judge Richard Kopf, who was appointed to a U.S. District Court in Nebraska by George H.W. Bush, slammed the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision in his personal blog, Hercules and the Umpire, and told the judges to “stfu.”

    He said that the court’s ruling looked bad, as the majority opinion was signed on to by five male, Catholic judges appointed by a Republican president.”

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/hobby-lobby-judge-supreme-court-stfu

  16. eniobob says:

    “Federal Judge Richard Kopf, who was appointed to a U.S. District Court in Nebraska by George H.W. Bush, slammed the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision in his personal blog,

    He said that the court’s ruling looked bad, as the majority opinion was signed on to by five male, Catholic judges appointed by a Republican president.”

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/hobby-lobby-judge-supreme-court

  17. michaelbeaton says:

    @eniobob …but it not only looks bad as to the optics … it is bad, and pernicious as to the principles propounded.
    The cumulative affect of these rulings by the SC will be to change the character of our national systems and structures.
    And… I think … for the worse.

    What is also interesting to me is the reporting I have read that Roberts has a goal in mind and he is incrementally implementing this vision of America into the essential fabric of our judicial system. One report had Roberts convincing Alito to join him in the incremental approach vs the All or Nothing of Scalia…

    I’d say he is no calling balls and strikes but working on changing what is a ball or a strike.

    And what it is is very different from the basic understanding of what the bill of rights had once meant to mean.

    ummm… a certain transformation of black and white. Not unlike the horror scene in 1984… “What is 2+2? 4. Wrong… Torture…. ” … with the end result of “it is what we tell you it is…”.

    This thing called a corporation? Now it is a person…. What? you persist in questioning us? Let us torture the logic even more… Now… do you see it? our way?….

    Hard to resist…

    • Mike Spindell says:

      “What is also interesting to me is the reporting I have read that Roberts has a goal in mind and he is incrementally implementing this vision of America into the essential fabric of our judicial system.”

      MichaelB,

      Roberts history is as a corporatist. He lied his way onto the court as far as his beliefs and the corporate media and beltway punditocracy anointed him a “centrist”, which he most certainly isn’t.

  18. michaelbeaton says:

    @TonyC

    So it is plausible we are hardwired to organize into such Monarchies, we just rename them “Corporations.”

    There is a model called Spiral Dynamics that speaks to this point you make. The model speaks to the structures and values of human organization and how they were/are developed.

    The essential point being that a society organized around tribal values vs more abstract values of a Church or a King, vs the more developed notions of human liberty etc … that each of these “levels” have a completely different purpose that meet the needs and life conditions of the time.

    It is called Spiral because it is not a linear progression, rather one that an individual or a society might move “up” or “down” upon depending upon the conditions in force.

    Your observation about the regression to a monarchy is relevant to this. We live in troubled times … we need/want someone/some institution to tell us what to do, to keep us safe…. If that is a regression from the deeper meaning and implication of the bill of rights… if we have to toss some of those over … well… then we do…. We need the “big bro” for jobs and security….
    We are living in the 9/11 era. In that era we want something more than free speech, liberty, and possibility. We’ll take the ‘rules’ of the rulers … regressing to what we once thought we had “escaped”.

    And etc…. Lots of qualifications, points and counter points of course… In the midst of all this there is a spring of emerging consciousnesses that seems to be developing that will not be beholding to these various ‘monarchies’, but will be its own thing. To me this is one of the central tensions of the day.

    Here is one of the original articles first proposing this theory….
    http://www.clarewgraves.com/articles_content/1974_Futurist/1974_Futurist.html

  19. Tony C. says:

    michaelbeaton: What is compelling then as a question is why we have chosen

    Legal scholars may answer better; but my education says that before there were corporations, there were contracts. But contracts were person-to-person, i.e. corporeal entities. Letting a business be “incorporated” means making it a “person” for the purpose of entering into a contract; that the contract is not tied to a human being, the company was obligated to honor the contract, regardless of who was in charge, or if the person signing it died, or stopped working for the company, etc.

    Corporeal existence was a way to solve a philosophical problem of how people viewed contracts at the time. It’s all about whether a company can enter a contract, as opposed to an individual that owns a company entering into a contract, and in particular if there is no individual that “owns” the company but instead thousands of shareholders that own the company in a fluid arrangement that can change by the minute.

    The exact ownership of Microsoft changes by the second, but employees and other companies expect Microsoft Inc. to honor its contracts. If I buy a share of Microsoft and become an owner, I cannot invalidate an existing contract because I would not personally have signed it.

    The answer to that new conundrum was to give formal permission for an artificial entity to enter into contracts and be bound by them. Likewise, the answer to who, exactly, is liable in cases of negligence or contract violation was to limit the liability to the artificial entity as well.

    At the time, this was considered a limited form of personhood, but we never should have called it that (obviously) or conflated the two. We should have invented a new name meaning “an ongoing concern with well-defined assets capable of entering into legally recognized binding contractual agreements.” Or something like that.

  20. michaelbeaton says:

    @MikeS… yes. he lied… And like so many institutional lies , and especially around that fateful time of BushCo and the various usurpations, some successful, thankfully not all, there were those who should have known better, probably even did, and chose to act as if they believed the lies anyway…
    Except I knew it at the time, and I am not a Roberts scholar or follower. Others did. So why didn’t those, not the republicans who have a duty to function this way… where were those who had the power to call bullshit… and did not.

    Not unlike the Iraq war lies…. and the now deafening (and meaningless) retort “Well…EVERYONE believed this…”… as a way to excuse themselves from culpability.

    If everyone believes the lie, then there is no lie. Right?
    IBID my 1984 point. Dept of MiniTruth?

    If we last long enough to have a history it must be that those Senators and leaders who participate in this charade of governance for the common weal of the Citizen, will become proverbs of venality and examples of what happens to a nation lost to its founding principles.

    Perhaps a new chapter in Toynbee’s Story of Civilization will be in order….

  21. michaelbeaton says:

    @TonyC : On yours re contracts et al.
    The purpose of the corporation in its early instantiation was to fulfill a function. Even now you have to declare the purpose of the corporation when filing. The state then certifies the corporation as an entity along the lines you noted.
    The early corporations were functions of the state to do certain things. That is when there was a notion of the Corporate Charter, and the requirement to have it renewed periodically, as well as the threat of having the charter nullified.

    Introducing another angle on this conversation : that is why , as I see it, the corporation is institutionally subordinate to the state. Why it must be so subordinated is worked out in detail in Jane Jacobs book Systems of Survival. This book also describes the mayhem that follows when the corporation/business function breaks free of these restraints and functions in both the governance as well as commerce roles.
    The book is , to my mind, essential reading as it bears on this issue.

    And, as so often is true these days, the consequences of not being wise enough to heed our wise men and women is brutal…and ultimately fatal…

    I wonder , to ponder another imponderable, if Roberts ever does or ever will rue the consequences of his decisions? He may be so insulated that he cannot see what , from my, (our?) vantage point is so obvious — like emperor’s new clothes — that he is instrumental in establishing not a nation founded on enlighted humanistic ideas and principles, as well as justice for the common man, but the dead cold regurgitated forms of “monarchy” and the power of plutocracy.

    I suppose in these heady days, not so much. And as an old man it will be too late. Something akin to Sanda Day O’Conner’s repents. Bootless, insipid and pathetic.

  22. michaelbeaton says:

    @swarthmoremom So much for a ‘limited and narrow’ interpretation…

    (another liar… Alito) Liars as Justices… not a good state of things…

  23. The basics of the corporate form are this:

    Formed in perpetuity for specific purpose, granted the limited personality required to do business (buy property, enter contracts) and limited liability to shield employees and investors in cases of tort or breach as well as encourage investment.

    The problem – as I’ve said many times before – is the modern expansion of corporate personality. It imbues a legal fiction with equal (and as is proving sometimes superior) rights to natural beings.

    Limited personality was a purposeful design function of the original idea of corporate charters to in part compensate for the perpetual existence and limited liability (neither of which natural beings have).

    To expand corporate personality basically flies in the face of the legal theory underpinning the creation of the corporate form in the first place.

    • michaelbeaton says:

      @Gene (sorry for the too quick replies… turns out I am on the computer today, and see these posts as they arrive.. that and a bit too much time taken out of other things..but this is more interesting!)

      So, per yours, which is as I understood it to be.. Why is it that this legal fiction actually has gotten the traction and become so unequivocal a foundational principle in our system? From what I can tell there has been no serious protest mounted against the notion. Ever. Other than a populace one perhaps..But that is definitionally ineffective as the Justices do not seem to be moved by such niggles as the will of the people. (Granted that is a two edged sword!)

      That to expand the “corporate personality” in this manner has these negative consequences, where are the Harvard Law Professors and others of stature and power dismantling the fiction?

      Or is the principle “it is hard for a person to see the truth of a thing when their livelihood depends upon them not seeing it” too much in force here?

  24. Go with that last thought, michael.

    While there are some in academia who realize and denounce the problem(s) created by expanding corporate personality, there are far more who have bought into the corporatist cargo cult way of thinking about both the legal and ethical propriety of restraining corporations.

  25. eniobob says:

    “Supreme Court’s civil war: Scary aftershocks of the Hobby Lobby earthquake
    The female justices’ dissent in another case shows the deep distrust the conservative SCOTUS majority has earned”

    http://www.salon.com/2014/07/07/supreme_courts_civil_war_scary_aftershocks_of_the_hobby_lobby_earthquake/

  26. Tony C. says:

    Gene, Michael: As I said, and still believe, the “personality” aspect was simply a metaphor that has been taken too far. Both Corporate and Corporeal derive from the Latin corpus, meaning body. The idea that a group could act as a “person” is ancient, even in the Bible the metaphor of the Church being a Person with a Head is employed.

    Cynic that I am, I think people are just stupid enough to take the metaphorical “personality” literally, and equate limiting the corporation’s rights to slavery or second class citizenship. We would have been better off using a metaphor that doesn’t equate to personal rights, like calling it an “association” or “affiliation” or “federation”, which is then granted the legal ability to buy, sell and own property and enter into contracts with persons or each other, without being a person or having any “personality”, so the two kinds of entities are not conflated or equated by literalist morons.

  27. It’s not a metaphor in the normal sense of that term, Tony. It’s quantified as a legal fiction as the term of art and it is so for a reason. We know corporations are not people as a matter of legal theory but as part of that legal fiction we (via state charter) imbue them with limited personality. They have no natural legal or civil rights other than what the state grants in contrast to natural beings who have inherent rights recognized by the state that do not derive their existence due to state charter but rather exist simply because the natural being exists. Technicians (i.e. legal scholars) know (or should know) the difference. It is prime facie poor legal scholarship to think corporations have inherent rights and ignores the very underpinnings of our legal system rooted in natural law tradition. It’s less abuse of metaphor than poor scholarship and a delusional understanding of the nature of rights.

    Granted, I can see how it looks like metaphor abuse to a layman, but from a professional standpoint it’s actually an error of greater scope and/or ignorance.

  28. Tony C. says:

    Gene: Well, laymen are all we’ve got, we cannot expect the laymen to be scholars, by definition, or to distinguish between a legal fiction and reality. We cannot expect them to see two things named identically as being fundamentally different. So employing this legal fiction of “personality” has been an error in terminology founded in metaphorical understanding, as I said, for at least a thousand years before it became any kind of legal fiction circa 500 AD.

    To judges and politicians trained in law, I am sure it is not a metaphor abuse, but it is abuse of the layman’s metaphorical understanding that is selling the current destruction of the legal fiction. Mitt Romney has no problem telling his crowd “Corporations are people, my friend,” and the Supreme Court that knows it is a fiction has no problem granting corporations religious rights and free speech rights on the grounds they are persons.

    They (judges and politicians) may know full well it is an abuse of the laymen’s metaphorical understanding, but they don’t care, turning the corporation into an avatar of themselves and becoming monarchs of their little kingdoms while protecting themselves from personal liability and personal prosecution is pretty much their goal, I think. Like BP and other mining operations, the corporation can literally kill people and the penalty is just a fine. The corporate shield protects one from prosecution, so the more personality rights it has, the better an avatar it becomes, and the more the owner(s) become privileged to act in violation of the law.

    • michaelbeaton says:

      @Gene & TonyC : So… the apparent conclusion to our conversation is that those who should know better do know better (re the corporations as people legal fiction); but find the construction useful in a way that serves some interests, while being obscure/confusing enough that the ‘layman’ cannot really know or figure out what is happening until it is a fiat accompli.

      The essential error, or consequence of the error is to fundamentally change the nature and structure of our governance and the basic relationships of Citizen to State.

      With all that, it seems hard to avoid the conclusion that our “leaders” and in particular our judicial leaders are culpable of a certain sort of violation of their purpose and oath. And in fact are toxic to the nation in fundamental ways. Due to where these people function in the body politic there is no way to fix the system without some major overhaul or revolution. (Seems one of the last times we came to such a pass was in the Dredd Scott era).

      I am trying to figure out how to derive a rational deduction from this exchange that does not slip into hyperbole…But it is hard not to conclude that there is a willing and egregious dismantling of the core notions of what it means to be a Citizen in the US and the notions of “Rights” and specifically the meaning of the “Bill of Rights”. The fiction of the Corporation as Person is fast flipping the reality where Corporation is supra-citizen to which we mere mortals are becoming subservient.

      Isnt that essentially an abdication/corruption of the oath of the office of Judge?
      None dare call it treason?

  29. “Well, laymen are all we’ve got, we cannot expect the laymen to be scholars, by definition, or to distinguish between a legal fiction and reality.”

    True, ergo the clarification.

    “To judges and politicians trained in law, I am sure it is not a metaphor abuse, but it is abuse of the layman’s metaphorical understanding that is selling the current destruction of the legal fiction.”

    Exactly.

  30. Bob, Esq. says:

    Gene: “It is prime facie poor legal scholarship to think corporations have inherent rights and ignores the very underpinnings of our legal system rooted in natural law tradition.”

    Amen

  31. swarthmoremom says:

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/religious-freedom-bills-post-hobby-lobby

    “Religious leaders in Kansas view the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision last week as an opportunity to revive legislation that would protect their “religious freedom” — measures that gay rights advocates warn would legitimize discrimination against LGBT people.

    The Associated Press reported this weekend that social conservatives believe they have an opening to bring the state’s religious freedom bill back in 2015. The legislation failed this spring; it passed the House, but stalled in the Senate after significant backlash from business groups. It would have prevented businesses from being sued if they refused to serve LGBT people for religious reasons.

    “We are not going to let it die. We are very committed,” Rev. Terry Fox, a leading Southern Baptist minister, told the AP. “The Body of Christ is a powerful movement when it comes together.” “

  32. blouise says:

    “The Body of Christ is a powerful movement when it comes together.”

    The body of Christ is pure fiction but using it as a powerful weapon is not.

    Gird your loins, my friends, the Supreme Court has opened wide the gates through which the crazies will stream.

  33. pete says:

    corporate wine and wafers.

  34. pete says:

    this is why we look to comedians for news

  35. corporate whine and waffles?

  36. pete says:

    i dated a girl a few years back who didn’t drink, was allergic to wheat, and was a fairly strict vegetarian and a lapsed catholic. she mentioned to me once that she could not take communion because the church would not let them use rice wafers and grape juice and she couldn’t understand why.
    i told her it was probably because that by allowing that they would be admitting that they were really just wafers and wine and not magically turning into the body and blood of the big guy, and that as a vegetarian she shouldn’t do that anyway.

    it wasn’t long after that we went our separate ways.

  37. Tony C. says:

    michaelbeaton says: culpable of a certain sort of violation of their purpose and oath.

    You’ve hit upon one of my pet observations, actually. Oaths are meaningless. For the Founding Fathers, an oath, honor, meant something, but it was culturally enforced. Men could be challenged to duels, to the death or first blood, and were expected to answer or be deemed cowards and ostracized, from office and society. They meant something when they said “upon their sacred honor.” John Adams wrote, and apparently truly thought, that what would keep politicians predominately honorable was the prospect of returning, after office, to their farms and communities and facing the electorate and having to live amongst them.

    That culture is gone. The modern economy means a corrupt elected official never need return to his village, if he ever had one. The average House member represents over 250,000 people, after office he is not going to have to answer for his decisions to them. Ever. Nor during office, except in the very abstract sense of election. Campaign promises are broken so regularly the duplicity of politicians is a running joke everybody gets: How do you know when a politician is lying? His lips are moving.

    The Founding Fathers truly believed in solemn oaths, they are used to take office, in court, in taking up military service, and on and on. But they are meaningless words, a magic formula to a sociopath, a straight up lie. Defend the Constitution? Please. Get serious. As Dick Cheney reportedly told a White House staffer a week after Bush was elected, when the subject of a campaign promise came up and Cheney was telling him to forget it: Certain things had to be said during the campaign to secure the office.

    In other words, fuck the truth, the best liar wins the election.

    Sure, they are “culpable.” But they won’t be impeached without some proof of breaking a law. And even if there is proof, as is the case with Obama violating the Constitution, nobody is going to really prosecute that with impeachment. Any bluster in that direction is just another sociopath trying to score a political point or extract a concession. Honor is pretty much meaningless in the courts and in the halls of governance. Our culture no longer awards any value to honor or considers the lack thereof. We are so polarized into sides (purposely by those that lack honor) that no amount of duplicity can overcome it. To side A, the least honorable of side A is still preferable to the most honorable of side B, in the voting booth. All that matters is giving the proper lip service to the talking points of your side. And an outright criminal charges scandal or pedophilia scandal or child porn scandal or intern scandal or hooker scandal might keep side A from voting for their candidate, but will almost never cause side A to vote for the side B candidate.

  38. Pingback: “No Nothing” Religion and the Fools Who are Trying to Enforce It | Flowers For Socrates

  39. Elaine M. says:

    Thanks for posting that “honest” political d, Chuck!

    🙂

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