Corporations are not people. Money is not speech.

This article originally appeared on AlterNet / written by David Morris Add to DiggAdd to FaceBookAdd to NewsvineAdd to RedditAdd to Twitter

A rogue Supreme Court seems hellbent on establishing a corporate oligarchy. Congress can’t stop it. Every time Congress or state legislatures tries to curb the power of billionaires or mega corporations the Court slaps them down.

Citizens United v. FEC, the recent Supreme Court decision that allowed corporations to spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections is only the most recent step in this process. There will be more. But the shocking decision may be sufficient to galvanize a political movement that can change the rules and ensure our democracy.

We can save our country by adding eight words to the fundamental law of the land, the US Constitution. “Corporations are not persons.” “Money is not speech.”

Such a development is not without precedent. Once before a political movement has changed the Constitution to nurture democracy. The populist uprising of the late 20th century led to the passage, in rapid succession of the 16th Amendment in 1913 that allowed for an income tax, the 17th Amendment, ratified the same year that required the direct election of Senators and in 1920 the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote.

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Bishop: Priests think child abuse ‘doesn’t break celibacy’

This article originally appeared on True/Slant. Written by Allison Kilkenny. You can follow Allison on facebook.

A few days ago, I revisited the definition of the word “terrorism” after Dr. Tiller’s killer, Scott Roeder, threw a public fit and accused prosecutors of besmirching his good name when they described his crimes as terrorism. Well, it looks like it’s time for another dictionary perusal.

Some pedophile priests believe molesting children does not breach their vow of celibacy, a retired Australian Catholic bishop said in a magazine interview.

Geoffrey Robinson, former auxiliary bishop of Sydney, told The Australian Women’s Weekly he had made the observation during years of work with victims of child abuse within the church.

“We’ve met it often enough to see it as a factor. That’s what the vow of celibacy refers to, being married. If it’s not an adult woman, then somehow they’re not breaking their vow,” the 72-year-old said.

Celibacy:

1. Abstinence from sexual intercourse, especially by reason of religious vows.

2. The condition of being unmarried.

I don’t see any mention of “adult” or “woman” in this definition.

The idea that the church needs to force priests to attend mandatory seminars that explain screwing kiddies breaks their celibacy — oh, and also, is completely disgusting, immoral, and illegal — seems absurd. Yet, it is now undeniable that the church is — and has been for quite some time – experiencing a child rape pandemic. Either the clergy attracts a vicious type of predatory monster, or forced celibacy mentally cripples men, and they begin to act out sexually unto the nearest targets, who are generally, but not always, young boys.
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Chomsky: Obama’s No Human Rights Crusader — Just Look at How He Aids Israel’s Atrocities

This article originally appeared on Tom Dispatch. Written by Noam Chomsky.

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Chomsky exposes how the U.S. and Israel have been acting in tandem to extend and deepen the occupation of Palestine.

A Palestinian family after an Israeli missile strike in the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, Dec. 2008

The fact that the Israel-Palestine conflict grinds on without resolution might appear to be rather strange.  For many of the world’s conflicts, it is difficult even to conjure up a feasible settlement.  In this case, it is not only possible, but there is near universal agreement on its basic contours: a two-state settlement along the internationally recognized (pre-June 1967) borders — with “minor and mutual modifications,” to adopt official U.S. terminology before Washington departed from the international community in the mid-1970s.

The basic principles have been accepted by virtually the entire world, including the Arab states (who go on to call for full normalization of relations), the Organization of Islamic States (including Iran), and relevant non-state actors (including Hamas).  A settlement along these lines was first proposed at the U.N. Security Council in January 1976 by the major Arab states.  Israel refused to attend the session.  The U.S. vetoed the resolution, and did so again in 1980.  The record at the General Assembly since is similar.

There was one important and revealing break in U.S.-Israeli rejectionism.  After the failed Camp David agreements in 2000, President Clinton recognized that the terms he and Israel had proposed were unacceptable to any Palestinians.  That December, he proposed his “parameters”: imprecise, but more forthcoming.  He then stated that both sides had accepted the parameters, while expressing reservations.

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Arizona’s new immigration law is unconstitutional

Originally published at Salon. Written by James Doty

The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (known mainly as SB 1070) requires that police officers determine the immigration status of a person "where reasonable suspicion exists" that the person is in the country illegally

Minutes after signing the nation’s toughest illegal immigration law, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was asked about her confidence in its ability to withstand a legal challenge. Even the most complex legal wars begin with public relations battles, and the question provided the governor a good opportunity for a first strike — a full-throated defense of the law’s legality. She passed.

“Well, you know,” Brewer said, “it’s probably going to survive, I think, i-i-in most areas.”

The governor’s hesitation was warranted. Although Brewer might be right that much of the law is legally unobjectionable, there is a high probability that its most controversial provision will be struck down before the law goes into effect.

The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (known mainly as SB 1070) requires that police officers determine the immigration status of a person “where reasonable suspicion exists” that the person is in the country illegally. The officer must then verify the suspect’s immigration status with the federal government.

As many have noted, the most obvious (and provocative) question raised by this provision is, “What do illegal immigrants look like?” They’re probably Hispanic, but so are 30 percent of Arizona’s residents. So unless the law authorizes the stopping and questioning of any person who looks darker than the average Caucasian, there needs to be some other criteria that set apart illegal aliens from lawful residents.
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Taibbi: The Lunatics Who Made a Religion Out of Greed and Wrecked the Economy

This article was originally published in The Guardian ♦ Written by Matt Taibbi

So Goldman Sachs, the world’s greatest and smuggest investment bank, has been sued for fraud by the American Securities and Exchange Commission. Legally, the case hangs on a technicality.

Morally, however, the Goldman Sachs case may turn into a final referendum on the greed-is-good ethos that conquered America sometime in the 80s – and in the years since has aped other horrifying American trends such as boybands and reality shows in spreading across the western world like a venereal disease.

When Britain and other countries were engulfed in the flood of defaults and derivative losses that emerged from the collapse of the American housing bubble two years ago, few people understood that the crash had its roots in the lunatic greed-centered objectivist religion, fostered back in the 50s and 60s by ponderous emigre novelist Ayn Rand.

While, outside of America, Russian-born Rand is probably best known for being the unfunniest person western civilisation has seen since maybe Goebbels or Jack the Ripper (63 out of 100 colobus monkeys recently forced to read Atlas Shrugged in a laboratory setting died of boredom-induced aneurysms), in America Rand is upheld as an intellectual giant of limitless wisdom. Here in the States, her ideas are roundly worshipped even by people who’ve never read her books or even heard of her. The rightwing “Tea Party” movement is just one example of an entire demographic that has been inspired to mass protest by Rand without even knowing it.

Last summer I wrote a brutally negative article about Goldman Sachs for Rolling Stone magazine (I called the bank a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity”) that unexpectedly sparked a heated national debate. On one side of the debate were people like me, who believed that Goldman is little better than a criminal enterprise that earns its billions by bilking the market, the government, and even its own clients in a bewildering variety of complex financial scams.

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The Multiple Scams of Goldman Sachs ♦ Yes, it can get even worse.

This article appeared previously on CounterPunch. Written by Dean Baker

Last year, Rolling Stone columnist Matt Taibbi described Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” It turns out that Mr. Taibbi was far too generous in his assessment of the huge investment bank.

Since that time we have learned that Goldman played a central role in helping Greece to hide its government budget deficit from the European Union, the financial markets, and the public at large. Goldman sold complex swaps to Greece in which it paid the Greek government for future revenue streams on items like airport landing fees. This was in effect a loan, but the swap allowed the Greek government to avoid entering the borrowed money on its books as a loan, which would have raised its budget deficit above the euro zone limits. Today of course Greece’s financial meltdown is threatening the stability of the euro.

Just last month Goldman was sued for sex discrimination by a former vice-president who claims that she was put on the “mommy track” after taking a maternity leave. She was fired as she was about to start a second leave. (In fairness to Goldman, Wall Street is still for the most part an all-boys club.)

But the big news is Goldman’s indictment for putting together a collaterized debt obligation (CDO) from mortgage-backed securities that were expected to fail and then marketing it to its clients as a good investment. The central allegation is that in early 2007, hedge fund manager John Paulson recognized that the housing bubble was starting to collapse

This meant that many mortgages would go bad. The subprime mortgages, in which homeowners had little or no real collateral, and were facing resets to higher interest rates, were especially vulnerable. Paulson worked out a deal with Goldman in which he would pick the mortgage-backed securities that were put into the CDO. Paulson would then bet that the CDO would go bad, by taking out credit default swaps (CDS) on the CDO. A credit default swap is effectively an insurance policy where the issuer makes up a loss if an asset goes bad.

Goldman was left with the other side of Paulson’s deal, finding suckers to buy this huge piece of junk. It would have been hard to find buyers for this CDO if investors knew that Paulson had deliberately constructed it as a piece of junk to short. Therefore, according to the SEC charges, Goldman concealed Paulson’s role in constructing the CDO. Goldman allegedly told investors that the CDO was constructed by neutral parties, rather than letting them know that the assets were picked by a hedge fund manager who was taking a short position.

Of course Paulson won his bet, the CDO he put together really was trash. He made nearly a billion dollars on this particular bet, which involved buying CDS from AIG. AIG was unable to pay off its bet, so Paulson got his money courtesy of the taxpayers when the government stepped in to bailout AIG. Goldman was also buying CDS to bet against the CDOs it was putting together, although it is not clear that it had bet against this particular CDO. In any case, it clearly profited from the issue since Paulson paid Goldman $15 million for its services. Continue reading