Some persons are more equal than others

Some persons are more equal than others February 5, 2010

The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are persons and that money is speech and that, therefore, corporations have a greater right to free speech than other, mortal persons with actual mouths but not as much money. These poorer, merely human persons also don't get to enjoy the apparently divine right of limited liability.

00000Supreme Among the more intriguing repercussions of this astonishing and absurd ruling is that foreign corporations are also now free to buy up all the airtime they can afford to run attack ads against American elected officials. The xenophobic right wing seems only dimly aware of this so far, but I can't help but wonder how they will respond when, say, America Movil — the Latin American mobile phone company owned by Carlos Slim Helu, the world's third-richest man — decides to run campaign ads attacking U.S. politicians opposed to illegal immigration.

The Associated Press' Liz Sidoti cheerfully argues that voters are "winners" in the Supreme Court's decision to gut campaign-finance precedent, because: 

Not sure where a candidate stands on an issue? Not sure how to vote?
Need more information to make a wise decision? Never fear. Corporations
and unions are likely to tell you their version of things now that
they're freed from restrictions. But buyer beware: It's still up to
voters to separate fact from fiction.

So celebrate voters! You'll be getting lots more information about candidates — and some small fraction of it might even be true! Isn't that great? Opening the floodgates to corporate political money/speech doesn't mean that any of that money/speech has to say anything at all true or accurate, because elected officials are public figures and cannot claim libel no matter what lies corporations monopolize the airways to spread about them.

So OK then. Sauce for the gander. Corporations are public figures too. As are Supreme Court justices.

And I'm not saying I can prove that Justices Scalia, Roberts and Alito ruled the way they did solely because Exxon/Mobil will now be able to provide even more political support for NAMBLA, but given their clear enthusiasm for that organization and its corporate benefactors, you can draw your own conclusion.

– – – – – – – – –

Delaware's unemployment rate just hit 9 percent. This is Very, Very Bad. Worse than that, according to what we just reported in the paper, it's The Worst It's Ever Been — a new "record high."

Huh? During the Great Depression, the national unemployment rate was more than 28 percent. So if the jobless rate in Delaware in the 1930s never got above 9 percent, then why wasn't there a mass migration into the state? Why didn't the Joads head east to look for work?

It seems this claim of "record" unemployment comes from an authoritative source: the Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site, which publishes "Current Unemployment Rates for States and Historical Highs/Lows." And if you consult that site, you'll see that Delaware's rate of 9.0 percent in December 2009 is, indeed, its historical high.

But if you scroll down, you'll find this rather important note at the bottom of the page: "Data series begin in January 1976."

So it was accurate to report that unemployment in Delaware is now the Worst It's Ever Been in precisely the same way it would have been accurate to report that the Miami Dolphins have never won a Super Bowl. (They've won two — but none since January 1976.)

So I was wondering if other news outlets also failed to note the note from the BLS. South Carolina's Dec. 2009 jobless rate is listed by the BLS as the Historical High. Did news outlets there provide any sort of accurate context — "the highest rate since Dorothy Hamill won gold in Innsbruck" — or did they, like our paper, breathlessly report that South Carolina's Very, Very Bad rate of 12.6 percent was a "record" and The Worst It's Ever Been In All Time?

The second one.

This is depressing. In more than one sense. There's a big difference between Very, Very Bad and The Worst It's Ever Been. ("Your friend here is only mostly dead …") Misleading readers about that difference is bad for a whole host of reasons, including that it encourages them to ignore history. In particular, it encourages readers to ignore the one part of our history we desperately need to be learning from now that our unemployment rates have climbed to Very, Very Bad levels — levels not seen since the theatrical release of Mother, Jugs & Speed.


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  • Rebecca

    Whenever I hear/read a comment disparaging “Pop” music, I like to point out that Gilbert and Sullivan were “Pop”.
    When I was a lad, I served a term
    As office boy to a attorney’s firm…

    *glee!*
    It’s more difficult to talk about that, though, because genre boundaries were just so different at the time, especially before the advent of recorded music. Opera (as a genre – it breaks down differently depending on the period, but opera as a whole here, because that’s how it’s categorized now) became “elite” only very recently. Recorded music shakes up a lot of these distinctions because it means that music tastes aren’t as class-dependent – while G&S weren’t aristocratic, they certainly weren’t for the lower classes.

  • Karen

    Pop music: A lot of the reason I love the Beatles so much is that a huge percentage of their stuff is directly within the English music hall tradition. (“Honey Pie,” “When I’m 64,” and “You’re Mother Should Know” are clearly obvious, but also all of the love ballads could have been sung by Jacques Brel or Frank Sinatra and no one would have noticed the difference.) Music hall ballads are not appreciated enough now, in my opinion.

  • Rebecca

    Agreed.

  • The Right Hon’ Mouse

    Lori: Wouldn’t mind seeing it, but myself and the overwhelming majority of my group of friends don’t actually watch TV, and even if it were on non-cable we’d probably spend more time than is necessary working out how to get our videogame-dedicated boxes to pick up a signal. Think it’ll be on YouTube or somewhere?
    Of course, like any talk show, it’s going to be hugely sensationalised and only showcase the absolute worst of the worst; it’s kind of like holding an interview with gay serial rapists and expecting they’ll tell us much about the gay experience. But I’m morbidly curious, I admit.

  • Hawker Hurricane

    G&S were popular with all the British classes (and most American). Within days of the opening of any of thier “operettas” imitations of thier songs were being played throughout English music halls. (much to G&S irratation, as none of these imitators were paying the fees). They were derided by the “elite”* as mere fluff. Which they would then mock…
    “Then I can hum a fugue of which I’ve heard the music’s din afore,
    And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore.”
    * “Elite” in this sense being idle wealthy, a true elite.

  • Rebecca

    G&S were popular with all the British classes (and most American). Within days of the opening of any of thier “operettas” imitations of thier songs were being played throughout English music halls.
    Yes – I’m referring to the operettas specifically as being mostly bourgeois. (Much as “opera” under the ancien régime made it into vaudevilles, street music, etc., but one would never call it a lower-class or class-bridging entertainment.)

  • Rebecca

    To clarify my last statement – that’s because to talk about “opera” at the time is almost as bad as to say “people of X class like music” nowadays. There were different genres, media, and locations which were class-dependent, but opera, as a genre, was not…..

  • Lori

    Wouldn’t mind seeing it, but myself and the overwhelming majority of my group of friends don’t actually watch TV, and even if it were on non-cable we’d probably spend more time than is necessary working out how to get our videogame-dedicated boxes to pick up a signal. Think it’ll be on YouTube or somewhere?

    IIRC Oprah’s shows are all available on her website at least for a while. I’m guessing Oprah’s company polices videos off of You Tube (copyright issues), but one of the services like Hulu may carry them.

  • Rebecca

    Also, I realize my last comment contradicts itself. Sorry.