Very fine corporate persons

Corporations are people too, the U.S. Supreme Court says so, over and over. They have a right to speak on political matters, an unlimited one, beyond the First Amendment rights of the individuals who make up the corporation. They have a right to infinite wealth, if they can get it. They have a right to lock customers they injure out of the courts with clever, binding arbitration clauses, developed by legal geniuses like our current Chief Justice John Roberts. They have a right to use negotiated loopholes in the tax code to pay zero tax, no matter how many billions in profits they make. Some of the wealthiest, like the fossil fuel industry, get generous cash subsidies from taxpayers, . It’s easy to condemn some of their practices, heck, most of them, but try being a corporate person– not so easy.

From the New York Times, almost a year ago:

When Bayer, the giant German chemical and pharmaceutical maker, acquired Monsanto two years ago, the company knew it was also buying the world’s best-known weedkiller. What it didn’t anticipate was a legal firestorm over claims that the herbicide, Roundup, caused cancer.

Now Bayer is moving to put those troubles behind it, agreeing to pay more than $10 billion to settle tens of thousands of claims while continuing to sell the product without adding warning labels about its safety.

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Ten billion is a mountain of money, unless you do the math and view at it as a tiny percentage of Bayer’s profits (which I am too lazy at the moment to look up and calculate). Maybe the article sheds some light on this further down… no. But this will give a sense of scale:

Bayer, which inherited the litigation when it bought Monsanto for $63 billion, has repeatedly maintained that Roundup is safe.

I had a friend who spent years in federal court, on behalf of organic farmers Monsanto somehow countersued in connection with alleged unauthorized use of Monsanto products (which the organic famers hated, were suing to stop the use of and certainly had no motive to use themselves). Monsanto sent an army of brilliant lawyers, including one of Antonin Scalia’s spawn, to fight these cases brought by environmental groups trying to get the EPA [1] to enforce its laws against Monsanto. They fought most of the environmental suits to a draw. Monsanto has always been evil. Now they are owned by Bayer, which has also nakedly embraced evil whenever it had the chance.

When the massive work/death camp Auschwitz was constructed in occupied Poland after Mr. Hitler’s conquest of Poland, Bayer’s parent company, I.G. Farben (Bayer joined the giant chemical conglomerate in 1925), built a factory there, serviced by disposable prisoner workers they rented from the SS for $1 a day. The deal worked out great for pharmaceutical giant Bayer and also for the Nazis. Arbeit Macht Frei, indeed.

Of course, powerful corporate persons taking advantage of puny human persons is not limited to those who love the Nazi way of looking at things. The ostentatiously philanthropic billionaire Sackler family, certainly no Nazis, in the strict sense, (they’re Jewish) have done a lot of killing too, many tens of thousands of Americans have died at their own hands using Sackler products the Sacklers knew the dangers of — and lied about– as they aggressively distributed these powerful, highly addictive products — marketed as safe– under the corporate veil of Purdue Pharma. You can sue the hell out of Purdue, if you want, and they will declare bankruptcy (as they have) — but there seems to be no way to hold the Sacklers themselves responsible for decades of deliberate lying and tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of American deaths. The corporation did it, you see, not them! Only a small proportion of the $35,000,000,000 in Oxycontin profits the Sacklers made are reachable by prosecutors.

The great Bill Moyers once said “I’ll believe corporations are people when the state of Texas puts one of them to death.”

You don’t think a corporatist 6-3 Supreme Court majority, the last three selected directly from the corporatist Federalist Society list, plus a billion dollar army of professional lobbyists in Washington, makes all the difference in the world? Think again.

Headline news recently about corporate giant Facebook, the brainchild of the arguably psychopathic Mark Zuckerberg, one of our most stable and successful American geniuses, dithering about possibly banning Trump for life from the popular platform. After Facebook gleefully collected dump trucks of ad money in 2016, from bad actors, including big buys from Putin in support of Trump, and played a huge role in the political rise of Trump, and QAnon and other pernicious fever dreams of sick minds, they decided that in urging his most rabid fans to storm the Capitol and take care of the weak, disloyal Mike Pence, the former president had gone too far.

After arguing in Congress, during the lead up to the 2020 election, that Facebook wouldn’t stop false political ads because Americans are smart enough to separate truth from a torrent of targeted, self-reinforcing lies constantly beamed to their computers and phones, Zuckerberg vowed to do more to control the wild (and hugely profitable) flow of dangerous lies on Facebook.

Zuck, we should note, is the same cuck who seethed, during an in-house address to his executives that one recorded and released, that if the US government tried to regulate Facebook, if it threatened something as “existential” as his right to make as many additional unlimited billions as fast as possible, “YOU GO TO THE MAT” and call out your armies of litigators. You don’t want to sue the US government, God forbid, but every corporate person has its limits.

If corporate persons had faces, this would be what they’d look like

So “Facebook” decided yesterday to revisit the question of Trump’s lifetime ban from Facebook in six months, presumably once MAGA-man learns the lesson Senator Susan Collins earnestly promised us all he’d learned after his first impeachment trial, a trial that exonerated him of all wrongdoing as strongly as Bill Barr had, as Barr promised to do when auditioning, by legal memo dismissing the Mueller Investigation as a partisan stunt, for the job of enthusiastic Trump gunsel [2]. Six months to clean up his scandalous act, and, of course, Mr. Trump has given us all every indication that he can learn another trick besides the reflexive doubling down on self-serving lies he learned as an abandoned, enraged, born-entitled two year-old.

[1]

The EPA:

The Environmental Protection Agency ruled last year that it was a “false claim” to say on product labels that glyphosate caused cancer. The federal government offered further support by filing a legal brief on the chemical manufacturer’s behalf in its appeal of the Hardeman verdict. It said the cancer risk “does not exist” according to the E.P.A.’s assessment.

Then in January, the agency issued another interim report, which “concluded that there are no risks of concern to human health when glyphosate is used according to the label and that it is not a carcinogen.”

This week, a federal judge in California referred to the agency’s pronouncement when it ruled that the state could not require a cancer warning on Roundup, writing that “that every government regulator of which the court is aware, with the exception of the I.A.R.C., has found that there was no or insufficient evidence that glyphosate causes cancer.”

Critics have countered that regulators based their conclusions on flawed and incomplete research provided by Monsanto. Several cities and districts around the world have banned or restricted glyphosate use, and some stores have pulled the product off its shelf.

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[2] Dashiell Hammett (whose life would later be destroyed by the House Un-American Activities Committee*) snuck this one by the censors when he had Sam Shpade tell the heavy, in 1941’s The Maltese Falcon, to tell his gun-toting “gunsel” to back off. Hammett was referring to this definition:

Noun. gunsel (plural gunsels) (slang, dated) Synonym of catamite: a young man kept by an elder as a (usually passive) homosexual partner. (slang, dated) Synonym of bottom: a passive partner in a male homosexual relationship.

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The word today, of course, is defined: a criminal carrying a gun.

*The HUAC was created in 1938 to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having fascist or communist ties.

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Harkening back to that quaint, Hitlerian era, when patriotic Americans still opposed fascism, rather than opponents of fascism. From Wikipedia:

In 1939, the committee investigated people involved with pro-Nazi organizations such as Oscar C. Pfaus and George Van Horn Moseley.[15][16] Moseley testified before the committee for five hours about a “Jewish Communist conspiracy” to take control of the US government. Moseley was supported by Donald Shea of the American Gentile League, whose statement was deleted from the public record as the committee found it so objectionable.[17]

Two cool clips (15 seconds total) from Sekhnet the perfectionist

With thanks to my girl, holding the camera phone rock steady in one hand while flipping the cookies perfectly with her other hand to her partner, the talented three year-old feral Little Girl, check this out (that’s Little Girl’s sister, Whiteback, working on a pile of her own cat cookies, in the foreground):

And here’s another take, even better, by the intrepid Sekhnet:

Here is my version, from a few days back:

Little Girl, the cat who was closest to her mother Mama Kitten (the two of them hung out in the driveway, shaking us down for treats whenever we appeared there, hence “the driveway bitches”), appeared for a few weeks to be succumbing to the same thing that killed her mother a few months ago. She was increasingly withdrawn, weak, unsteady on her legs, didn’t have much of an appetite and very little energy. I wrote about the poor devil’s struggle to survive on March 10.

Since then, starting a couple of weeks ago, she seems to have had a complete recovery. Here she is in the back of the garden, up to one of her old tricks:

The NY Times giveth, and the NY Times taketh away

The New York Times ran a very detailed and pretty decent article the other day entitled The Senate’s “Talking Filibuster” Might Rise Again. It contained this telling graph showing how many times the filibuster (raising number of Senate votes needed from 51 to 60) has been used to block Executive Branch appointments. Remember, Trump’s party is the party of the Unitary Executive, viewing the president as a powerful CEO who gets wide discretion in his appointments and blanket protection for every refusal to comply with norms, even laws. Unless, of course, they hate the current president and are determined to use every tactic to make him a failed one-term loser. In that case, all bets are off.

The man who finally broke the Senate, proud “Grim Reaper” Mitch McConnell, finding himself in the thinnest of minorities, threatened “scorched earth” if the Democrats “break the Senate” by attempting to curtail the minority’s right to obstruct every bit of legislation, if not every executive branch appointment.

“I want my colleagues to imagine a world where every single task requires a physical quorum — for which the Vice President does not count, by the way.

“Everything that Democratic Senates did to Presidents Bush and Trump… everything the Republican Senate did to President Obama… would be child’s play compared to the disaster that Democrats would create for their own priorities if they break the Senate.

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Go back to the chart above and read the numbers for how many Bush/Cheney appointments were blocked by Democrats compared to Republican denials of debate on Obama’s, a rather lopsided tally — an eye popping escalation of the use of the filibuster under the power-driven, ends-justify-the-means McConnell. As for Trump, the rules didn’t really apply. Trump boasted that he preferred to appoint acting loyalists to high government positions, an ever more unqualified and compliant species of loyalist, since that meant increased obedience, no vetting, no pesky advice or consent, no need to listen to any kind of debate, the ability to instantly fire or transfer acting appointees without oversight from anybody. McConnell wants credit for his principled stand in not caving to Trump’s demand that he abolish the filibuster, which would have made the unhinged Trump’s power virtually absolute.

The New York Times, always bending over backwards to be fair, includes this factually accurate but context-free analysis:

In the first months of Mr. Biden’s administration, Republicans have yet to use the rules to block any of his legislation, but battles are on the horizon. Some Democrats argue that filibuster reform is the only way to overcome united Republican opposition to pass a voting-rights bill or laws to bolster labor rights or to reform immigration policy.

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The Republicans have not actually used the filibuster yet, of course, only because the only law presented so far — voted against by every Republican in the House and Senate– was done by reconciliation, a budget process requiring only a simple majority (used by the GOP under McConnell/Trump to almost abolish the ACA — missed by a single vote– McCain’s famous thumbs down [1]– and to open the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve to oil drilling — both clearly more revenue-related than increasing the federal minimum wage to a living wage). The GOP’s united opposition to voting rights, for Democrats, is on display in 43 states where over 250 restrictive new voting laws have been proposed since Biden’s election.

MAGA, it turns out, is a determined return to the days when openly racist segregationists could use the filibuster, and the “states’ rights” ruse, to block the right to vote of any but their own — the Civil Rights Acts be damned (filibuster all of ’em!) and same for your goddamned Voting Rights Act (filibuster that unholy abortion too!) and stuff your “anti-lynching” laws too, n-word lovers, (we got a tall pine and a long rope for you in Georgia, boy).

But, the truth, of course, as the NY Times intrepidly points out, is that, in the first sixty days of Biden’s term, Republicans have yet to use a filibuster against any Democratic bill so far.

But here’s my favorite classic New York Times fairness tic: “Some Democrats argue…”

“Some Democrats” argue that a party that will not even hold its leader responsible for a inciting a violent riot to prevent the certification of an election signed off on by officials of both parties, a leader who allowed a lynch mob to roam the Capitol looking for his vice president (to hang!) for over three hours, a party that will cast not a single vote for a COVID-related rescue plan that does not immunize corporations for all harm and death resulting from corporate negligence or malfeasance during a deadly pandemic, who will not censure, or even contradict, colleagues who openly supported the Capitol rioters, continue to defend them and to insist the last election was stolen from Trump… Some Democrats, apparently, believe the GOP position on bipartisanship, even among Republican “moderates” and “centrists”, is not as reasonable as it might be.

What the devil is wrong with you, Grey Lady? I mean, seriously, lady, what the fuck?

Brings to mind the classic history headline from The Onion (America’s finest news source), perhaps the greatest deadpan imitation of the Grey Lady I’ve ever seen:

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[1]

Fine, I oversimplified to make a point, slightly. Nothing even slightly broken about any of this shit:

On January 12, 2017, the Senate voted 51 to 48 to pass an FY2017 budget resolutionS.Con.Res. 3, that contained language allowing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act through the budget reconciliation process, which disallows a filibuster in the Senate.[33][34][35][36][1] In spite of efforts during the vote-a-rama (a proceeding in which each amendment was considered and voted upon for about 10 minutes each until all 160 were completed) that continued into the early hours of the morning, Democrats could not prevent “the GOP from following through on its repeal plans.”[35][37]

On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States. Trump and many Republicans have vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare.[38] President Trump signed an executive order on January 20, 2017, his first day in office, that according to then White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer would “ease the burden of Obamacare as we transition from repeal and replace”. Spicer would not elaborate further when asked for more details.[39][40][41]

On March 6, 2017, House Republicans announced their replacement for the ACA, the American Health Care Act.[42] The bill was withdrawn on March 24, 2017 after it was certain that the House would fail to garner enough votes to pass it.[43] The result was in-fighting within the Republican Party.[44]

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