Monday, February 15, 2010

Corporations and Terrorists, They Both Have Rights

I've been kicking around a post on corporate rights for about a week now as a follow up to all the Citizens United reactions, but a thought occurred to me the other day as I read through some of blogger Glenn Greenwald's coverage of civil liberties in the war on terror: Symbolically speaking, corporations serve the same villainous role on the left that terrorists do on the right. And that's not to say that anyone on the left is making an argument of moral equivalency, it's merely an observation from my vantage point about the focus of political energies.

What's fascinating is how the proposed solutions to these problems tend to be equally unconcerned with Constitutional rights. This is, in part, a statement on the relative importance of these issues for the concerned parties, but it's also very telling as to the understanding and respect each side has for the rule of law.

The important thing to understand about Constitutional rights is that they are very specifically not granted by government; they are our naturally occurring rights by our very existence as human beings and government may only act to restrict those rights in the most narrow of circumstances. And this isn't some wacky, limited government libertarian philosophy, this is, or should be the point of view of all folks who don't beleive government has the ultimate authority over individuals.

Terrorists have rights, not because some goofy liberal judge said so, but because all individuals have rights. You can debate the merits of the criminal justice system versus military tribunals all day long, but that debate doesn't change the simple truth that 1- terrorists have a right to challenge their detention in some fashion and 2- each and everyone of us has the right to know the procedures and guidelines for determining just who is a terrorist, something we didn't know under George Bush and still don't know under Barack Obama.

And similarly speaking, the rights of corporations can't be stripped away simply because they are organizations or because their form of organization is derived from statutory law. As I've blogged about before, either corporations have rights, or they don't. That a corporation can't be thrown in jail is irrelevant. Individuals commit crimes, therefore individuals can be thrown in jail. When organizations commit crimes, the burden of proof is on the government to prove the complicity of each and every individual involved in that crime. It's difficult to put corporate CEO's and financial officers in jail for crimes in the same way it's difficult to put mob bosses away. The problem is that the criminal justice protections in the Constitution are designed to protect individuals.

And what does that criminal discussion have to do with speech? The point of that was that the criminal protections of the Constitution are simply irrelevant to organizations because of the requirements of individual protection. But outside the realm of criminal law, corporations, along with every single other form of organization you can think of, are treated in the same manner as individuals. Corporations couldn't do business if they couldn't write checks, sign contracts, or be sued in court. Non-profits couldn't raise money or speak out on important issues if they couldn't be legally treated as individuals. And no organization could exist if they weren't protected by due process rights and the Fourth Amendment protections againast illegal searches and seizures. The biggest myth on the left is that corporate personhood is some sort of plot to grant corporations unnatural powers, when in reality, it's just a legal fiction that make corporations functional in the civil side of our justice system.

Either the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in particular, is a meanigful document that limits the government's ability to restrict our freedom or it's just a piece of paper that doesn't limit the majority from doing whatever it wants to baddies it doesn't like.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New TV Power Rankings

Just a brief set, but I've got to get something up on this blog. Perhaps over the next few weeks, with any number of these shows being off for the Olympics, I'll be more inclined to return to a better blogging schedule. For now, enjoy, and as always, comments and complaints are welcome.

1. Lost (A tremendous opener followed up by a solid effort with this week's "What Kate Does." There's never been another show this popular that's managed to consistently defy and redefine viewer expectations. Some fans don't like the flash sideways and some are apprehensive about the new characters, but I'm just along for the ride and I'm loving it.)

2. Caprica (The reviews I had read were mixed, particularly in regards to the first few episodes following the two hour pilot. So I'm pleasantly surprised to say I'm really enjoying what I've seen so far. The thematic elements of the show are simplistically laid out, but the characters are layered enough to make the rather slowly unfolding plot acceptable. And it has to be a first for a sci-fi show to so prominently feature teenage girls in very non-stereotypical roles. )

3. Fringe (Fringe just keeps humming along and it's a shame to have had so few episodes before the show takes another hiatus. Olivia's discovery of Peter's true identity was a long time in coming and provides the promise of future drama between the characters.)

4. Big Love (I'm still undecided on this new season, which is nowhere near as good as last year's incredible run. Obviously, from the opening onward, it's a very different show. But while I like the symbolic falling and drifting of our characters, there's almost too much going on at this point- an odd complaint for a show that had relatively little happening for it's first two seasons.

5. Parks and Rec (It's made the jump over 30 Rock, mostly because there are more characters I'm really getting a kick out off, none of whom are ever really given the short stick. Please, please, please, give me more Ron Swanson.

6. 30 Rock (Still great, and probably should be higher. One question, where the hell has Tracey been in recent weeks?)

7. Community (One of the best things about about Community is it's self-awareness of it's use of cliched plot elements. It sort of matches Joel McHale's layered sense of humor, where it's possible to laugh at something and appreciate what it is at the same time.)

8. Archer (I started recording this one based on a few good words and a brief preview that snuck it's way into a Sunny recording this past fall. It's lousy animation, but there's plenty of good voice talent and lots of laugh out loud moments for the latest and greatest bumbling spy.)

9. House (Loved the Cuddy episode, the exact sort of thing House should do more of. Yes it's nice to see more characters, but it's even better to see the show get away from the medical plots that every viewer already knows by heart.)

Not Ranked: 24 (Ugh. Nearly every moment without Jack is wasted air time and it seems to be getting worse as this season goes on.)

The Office (Plenty of great moments with the Sabre merger, but I'm still getting that feeling that nearly everything on the Office has simply been played out. The one-note nature of the characters inevitably leads to Ryan and Dwight plotting against Jim, the exact sort of plot we've seen numerous times before.)