A Traitorous Assault on Our Democracy

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In opposing Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination, Republican senators loudly denounced judicial activists who would use the bench to rewrite the founders’ intent and invent new laws to advance a political agenda.

However, it is unlikely that these same champions of strict constructionism will be on their high horses again in September, when Chief Justice John Roberts and others on the corporate wing of the court will try to pervert the founders’ intent, nullify the will of the people, and radically rewrite a century of legal precedent, all to advance the political agenda of corporate power. At issue are longstanding laws that ban corporations from spending their bottomless financial resources directly on election campaigns.

Roberts, a lifelong corporate shill, hopes to get a five-member majority of the court to rule that corporations have a First Amendment right to pour unlimited sums of cash into our elections. Never mind that the founders feared and abhorred raw corporate power and deliberately wrote the Constitution as a document guaranteeing power to “We the People,” not to legal constructs that all too often promote interests directly at odds with the public’s.

In a quiet move just before the justices’ summer vacation, Roberts got the court to schedule an extraordinary September reconsideration of two major campaign finance laws that the court previously okayed as constitutional. By reversing those rulings and declaring that corporate speech is equal to human speech, corporations would be unleashed to spend billions of dollars to control all of our elections.

What the Roberts Court is up to goes way beyond judicial activism; it’s a traitorous assault on America’s democracy by corporate autocrats intent on imposing their political will through five old men in black robes.

Starbucks Disowns Itself

At last, a powerhouse competitor has challenged the market dominance of the corporate coffee colossus, Starbucks. The name of the upstart competitor? Starbucks.

Well, actually, you won’t find the corporate name on the challenger, and that’s the point. With its own sales declining as more and more caffeine consumers reject the cookie-cutter corporate climate that the coffee chain epitomizes, Starbucks is launching a new line of stores that jettisons its own brand: no Starbucks sign outside, no logos inside, and none of that generic blandness that makes each Starbucks store just like the 16,000 others in the chain.

The new shops strive to be the anti-Starbucks, with funky stylings and localized names that disguise the corporate presence behind them. The idea, says Starbucks’ senior vice president of global design, is to give the stores “a community personality.”

This is, of course, a deliberate consumer fraud, but it’s also so clumsy and transparent that it’s doomed to be an embarrassing failure. Start with the fact that genuine coffee shops already have “a community personality” and one thing none of them have is a senior vice president of global design.

Corporate chains can’t do “community,” can’t do “funky,” can’t do “cool.” One clue into Starbucks’ inherent lack of cool came last year when it surreptitiously deployed a gaggle of market researchers into local Seattle coffee shops to gather intelligence on what constitutes “community personality.” The spies didn’t exactly fit in on each of their forays; they arrived as a group, poked around and jotted notes in folders labeled, “Observation.” Then they’d leave without even buying a single cup of coffee!

Starbucks can hide its name, but its corporate nature can’t be shed quite as easily.

For more information on Jim Hightower’s work—and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown—visit www.jimhightower.com.