Archive for September, 2009

Oklahoma City bombing tapes appear edited

September 28, 2009

OKLAHOMA CITY — Long-secret security tapes showing the chaos immediately after the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building are blank in the minutes before the blast and appear to have been edited, an attorney who obtained the recordings said yesterday.

“The real story is what’s missing,” said Jesse Trentadue, a Salt Lake City attorney who obtained the recordings through the federal Freedom of Information Act as part of an unofficial inquiry he is conducting into the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more.

Trentadue gave copies of the tapes to The Oklahoman newspaper, which posted them online and provided copies to the Associated Press.

The tapes turned over by the FBI came from security cameras various companies had mounted outside office buildings near the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. They are blank at points before 9:02 a.m., when a truck bomb carrying a 4,000 pound fertilizer-and-fuel-oil bomb detonated in front of the building, Trentadue said.

“Four cameras in four different locations going blank at basically the same time on the morning of April 19, 1995; there ain’t no such thing as a coincidence,” Trentadue said.

He said government officials claim the security cameras did not record the minutes before the bombing because “they had run out of tape” or “the tape was being replaced.”

“The interesting thing is they spring back on after 9:02,” he said. “The absence of footage from these crucial time intervals is evidence that there is something there that the FBI doesn’t want anybody to see.”

A spokesman for the FBI in Oklahoma City, Gary Johnson, declined to comment and referred inquiries about the tapes to FBI officials in Washington, who were not available for comment for this story.

The soundless recordings show people rushing from nearby buildings after the bomb went off. Some show people fleeing through corridors cluttered with debris. None show the actual explosion that ripped through the federal building.

FBI agents did not report finding any security tapes from the federal building itself.

The FBI in the past refused to release the security-camera recordings, leading Trentadue and others to contend the government was hiding evidence that others were involved in the attack.

“It’s taken a lawsuit and years to get the tapes,” Trentadue said.

He received the latest batch of tapes over the summer in response to an April request for video from security cameras in 11 different locations. Nothing on the tapes was unexpected.

“The more important thing they show is what they don’t show,” Trentadue said. “These cameras would have shown the various roads and approaches to the Murrah Building.”

Trentadue began looking into the bombing after his brother, Kenneth Trentadue, died at the Oklahoma City Federal Transfer Center in August 1995. Kenneth Trentadue was a convicted bank robber who was held at the federal prison after being picked up as a parole violator at his home in San Diego in June 1995.

He was never a bombing suspect, but Jesse Trentadue alleges guards mistook his brother for one and beat him to death during an interrogation. The official cause of Kenneth Trentadue’s death is listed as suicide, but his body had 41 wounds and bruises that Jesse Trentadue believes could have come only from a beating.

A judge in 2001 awarded Kenneth Trentadue’s family $1.1 million for extreme emotional distress in the government’s handling of his death.

Jesse Trentadue says he has received about 30 security tapes, including some images that were used as evidence at bomber Timothy McVeigh’s trial. McVeigh was convicted on federal murder and conspiracy charges and executed in 2001. Co-conspirator Terry Nichols is serving life in prison on federal and state bombing convictions.

Trentadue says he is seeking more tapes along with a variety of bombing-related documents from the FBI and the CIA. An FOIA request by Trentadue for 26 CIA documents was rejected in June. A letter from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which reviewed the documents, said their release “could cause grave damage to our national security.”

Trentadue said he gave the latest set of tapes to The Oklahoman because of their historical value. The newspaper has agreed to provide copies to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.

http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/news.aspx?id=22125&printer-friendly=y

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The Militarization of Pittsburgh

September 28, 2009

by Bill Quigley

The G20 in Pittsburgh showed us how pitifully fearful our leaders have become.

What no terrorist could do to us, our own leaders did.

Out of fear of the possibility of a terrorist attack, authorities militarize our towns, scare our people away, stop daily life and quash our constitutional rights.

For days, downtown Pittsburgh, home to the G20, was a turned into a militarized people-free ghost town. Sirens screamed day and night. Helicopters crisscrossed the skies. Gunboats sat in the rivers. The skies were defended by Air Force jets. Streets were barricaded by huge cement blocks and fencing. Bridges were closed with National Guard across the entrances. Public transportation was stopped downtown. Amtrak train service was suspended for days.

In many areas, there were armed police every 100 feet. Businesses closed. Schools closed. Tens of thousands were unable to work.

Four thousand police were on duty plus 2500 National Guard plus Coast Guard and Air Force and dozens of other security agencies. A thousand volunteers from other police forces were sworn in to help out.

Police were dressed in battle gear, bulky black ninja turtle outfits – helmets with clear visors, strapped on body armor, shin guards, big boots, batons, and long guns.

In addition to helicopters, the police had hundreds of cars and motorcycles , armored vehicles, monster trucks, small electric go-karts. There were even passenger vans screaming through town so stuffed with heavily armed ninja turtles that the side and rear doors remained open.

No terrorists showed up at the G20.

Since no terrorists showed up, those in charge of the heavily armed security forces chose to deploy their forces around those who were protesting.

Not everyone is delighted that 20 countries control 80% of the world’s resources. Several thousand of them chose to express their displeasure by protesting.

Unfortunately, the officials in charge thought that it was more important to create a militarized people-free zone around the G20 people than to allow freedom of speech, freedom of assembly or the freedom to protest.

It took a lawsuit by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU to get any major protest permitted anywhere near downtown Pittsburgh. Even then, the police “forgot” what was permitted and turned people away from areas of town. Hundreds of police also harassed a bus of people who were giving away free food – repeatedly detaining the bus and searching it and its passengers without warrants.

Then a group of young people decided that they did not need a permit to express their human and constitutional rights to freedom. They announced they were going to hold their own gathering at a city park and go down the deserted city streets to protest the G20. Maybe 200 of these young people were self-described anarchists, dressed in black, many with bandanas across their faces. The police warned everyone these people were very scary. My cab driver said the anarchist spokesperson looked like Harry Potter in a black hoodie. The anarchists were joined in the park by hundreds of other activists of all ages, ultimately one thousand strong, all insisting on exercising their right to protest.

This drove the authorities crazy.

Battle dressed ninja turtles showed up at the park and formed a line across one entrance. Helicopters buzzed overhead. Armored vehicles gathered.

The crowd surged out of the park and up a side street yelling, chanting, drumming, and holding signs. As they exited the park, everyone passed an ice cream truck that was playing “It’s a small world after all.” Indeed.

Any remaining doubts about the militarization of the police were dispelled shortly after the crowd left the park. A few blocks away the police unveiled their latest high tech anti-protestor toy. It was mounted on the back of a huge black truck. The Pittsburgh-Gazette described it as Long Range Acoustic Device designed to break up crowds with piercing noise. Similar devices have been used in Fallujah, Mosul and Basra Iraq. The police backed the truck up, told people not to go any further down the street and then blasted them with piercing noise.

The crowd then moved to other streets. Now they were being tracked by helicopters. The police repeatedly tried to block them from re-grouping ultimately firing tear gas into the crowd injuring hundreds including people in the residential neighborhood where the police decided to confront the marchers. I was treated to some of the tear gas myself and I found the Pittsburgh brand to be spiced with a hint of kelbasa. Fortunately I was handed some paper towels soaked in apple cider vinegar which helped fight the tears and cough a bit. Who would have thought?

After the large group broke and ran from the tear gas, smaller groups went into commercial neighborhoods and broke glass at a bank and a couple of other businesses. The police chased and the glass breakers ran. And the police chased and the people ran. For a few hours.

By day the police were menacing, but at night they lost their cool. Around a park by the University of Pittsburgh the ninja turtles pushed and shoved and beat and arrested not just protestors but people passing by. One young woman reported she and her friend watched Grey’s Anatomy and were on their way back to their dorm when they were cornered by police. One was bruised by police baton and her friend was arrested. Police shot tear gas, pepper spray, smoke canisters, and rubber bullets. They pushed with big plastic shields and struck with batons.

The biggest march was Friday. Thousands of people from Pittsburgh and other places protested the G20. Since the court had ruled on this march, the police did not confront the marchers. Ninja turtled police showed up in formation sometimes and the helicopters hovered but no confrontations occurred.

Again Friday night, riot clad police fought with students outside of the University of Pittsburgh. To what end was just as unclear as the night before.

Ultimately about 200 were arrested, mostly in clashes with the police around the University.

The G20 leaders left by helicopter and limousine.

Pittsburgh now belongs again to the people of Pittsburgh. The cement barricades were removed, the fences were taken down, the bridges and roads were opened. The gunboats packed up and left. The police packed away their ninja turtle outfits and tear gas and rubber bullets. They don’t look like military commandos anymore. No more gunboats on the river. No more sirens all the time. No more armored vehicles and ear splitting machines used in Iraq. On Monday the businesses will open and kids will have to go back to school. Civil society has returned.

It is now probably even safe to exercise constitutional rights in Pittsburgh once again.

The USA really showed those terrorists didn’t we?

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights. He can be reached at: Quigley77@yahoo.com

http://www.counterpunch.com/quigley09282009.html

Veterans for Peace?

September 27, 2009

It is beyond my comprehension how Veterans for Peace would join in any endeavor with the American Legion. Beyond all rhetoric, Veterans for Peace should be advocates for Peace, and even a cursory review of the history of the American Legion by our supposed leadership would reveal that first and foremost the American Legion is a tool and proponent of war as an instrument of American foreign policy.

Furthermore, any association with the American Legion with respect to Veterans Day would result in our being placed in a subordinate position — ergo, locally a dying entity would be regenerated as a forgiving parent. It is about time that Veterans for Peace be seen clearly and not ambiguously. Association withe the American Legion would be odious, and our capitulation to such leadership would confirm the suspicion of many in a leaderless society that we are neither fish nor fowl and will pay any cost for acceptance and what purports to be a loving, and of course “peaceful,” posture. Permission to do anything from the American Legion would be conrfirmation that indeed we are naught but a “nuisance.”

Tony Flaherty

Your electronic vote in the 2010 election has just been bought by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman

September 25, 2009

Unless US Attorney General Eric Holder intervenes, your electronic vote in 2010 will probably be owned by the Republican-connected ES&S Corporation. With 80% ownership of America’s electronic voting machines, ES&S could have the power to shape America’s future with a few proprietary keystrokes.

ES&S has just purchased the voting machine division of the Ohio-based Diebold, whose role in fixing the 2004 presidential election for George W. Bush is infamous. (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2004/03/diebolds-political-machine)

Critics of the merger hope Holder will rescind the purchase on anti-trust grounds.

But only a transparent system totally based on hand-counted paper ballots, with universal automatic voter registration, can get us even remotely close to a reliable vote count in the future.

For even if Holder does void this purchase, ES&S and Diebold will still control four of every five votes cast on touchscreen machines. As the US Supreme Court seems poised to open the floodgates on corporate campaign spending, the only difference could be that those who would buy our elections will have to write two checks instead of one.

And in fact, it’s even worse than that. ES&S, Diebold and a tiny handful of sibling Republican voting equipment and computing companies control not only the touchscreen machines, but also the electronic tabulators that count millions of scantron ballots, AND the electronic polling books that decide who gets to vote and who doesn’t.

Let’s do a quick review:

1) ES&S, Diebold and other companies tied to election hardware and software are owned and operated by a handful of very wealthy conservatives, or right-to-life ideologues, with long-standing direct ties to the Republican Party (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2004/03/diebolds-political-machine);

2) As votes will be increasingly cast on optiscans, touchscreens or computer voting machines in the United States in 2010, what scant few so-called paper trail mechanisms that are in place will offer little security against electronic vote theft;

3) The source code on all US touchscreen machines now used for the casting and counting of ballots is proprietary, meaning the companies that own and operate the machines—including ES&S—are not required to share with the public the details of how those machines actually work;

4) Although there are official mechanisms for monitoring and recounts, none carry any real weight in the face of the public’s inability to gain control or even access to this electronic source code, whose proprietary standing has been upheld by the courts;

5) With the newly merged ES&S/Diebold now apparently controlling 80% of the national vote through hardware and software, this GOP-connected corporation will have the power to alter virtually every election in the US with a few keystrokes. Unless there is a massive, successful grassroots campaign between now and 2012, the same will hold true for the next US presidential election;

6) Aside from its control of touchscreen machines, the merged Diebold/ES&S also controls a significant percent of the electronic optiscan tabulators used in this country with which voters use pencils to fill in circles indicating their vote. Accounts of fraud, rigging, theft and abuse of these optiscan systems are well-documented and innumerable. Any corporation that prints these ballots and runs the machines designated to count them can control yet another major piece of the US vote count (http://freepress.org/departments/display/19/2006/2209);

7) The merged ES&S/Diebold now also controls the electronic voter registration systems in many counties and states. With that control comes the ability to remove registered voters without significant public accountability. In the 2004 election, nearly 25% of all the registered voters in the Democratic-rich city of Cleveland were purged, including 10,000 voters erased “accidentally” by a Diebold electronic pollbook system. So in addition to controlling the vote counts on touchscreen and optiscan voting machines, the merged Diebold/ES&S and sympathetic hardware and software companies that service computerized voting equipment will control who actually gets to cast a vote in the first place.

Lest we forget: in 2000, long before this ES&S/Diebold purchase was proposed, Choicepoint, a GOP-controlled data management firm, hired by Florida’s Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris, removed up to 150,000 Florida citizens from voter rolls on the pretense that they were ex-felons. The vast majority of them were not. Computer software “disappeared” 16,000 votes from Al Gore’s column at a critical moment on election night, allowing George W. Bush’s first cousin John Ellis, a Fox News analyst, to proclaim him the winner. The election was officially decided by less than 700 votes and a 5-4 Supreme Court vote preventing a full recount. An independent audit later showed Gore was the rightful winner.

In 2004, more than 300,000 Ohio citizens were removed from voter rolls by GOP-controlled county election boards (more than one million have been removed since).

Various dirty tricks prevented still tens of thousands more Ohioans from voting. The vote count was marred by a wide range of official manipulations coordinated by then-Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell. Diebold was a major player in the 2004 Ohio elections, but was joined by numerous other computer voting firms and their technicians in “recounting the vote” which confirmed the Bush “victory,” despite exit poll results and other evidence to the contrary. In defiance of a federal court order, 56 of 88 Ohio counties destroyed some or all of their ballots or election records. No one has been prosecuted.

In short, the ES&S purchase of Diebold’s voting machine operation is merely the tip of a toxic iceberg. Voiding the merger will do nothing to solve the REAL problem, which is an electronic-based system of voter registration and ballot counting that is potentially controlled by private corporations and contractors whose agenda is to make large profits and protect the system that guarantees them.

Although elections based on universal automatic registration and hand-counted paper ballots are not foolproof, they constitute a start. Stealing an election by stuffing paper ballot boxes at the “retail” level is far more difficult than stealing votes at the “wholesale” level with an electronic flip of a switch.

As it’s done in in numerous other countries throughout the world, the only realistic means by which the US can establish a democratic system of ballot casting and counting is to do it the old-fashioned way. With human-scale checks and balances we might even be secure in the knowledge that our elections and vote counts will truly reflect the will of the people. What a concept!

http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2009/3543

Obama Kisses Netanyahu’s Ass

September 24, 2009

The Waldorf-Astoria Summit
By URI AVNERY

NO POINT denying it: in the first round of the match between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu, Obama was beaten.

Obama had demanded a freeze of all settlement activity, including East Jerusalem, as a condition for convening a tripartite summit meeting, in the wake of which accelerated peace negotiations were to start, leading to peace between two states – Israel and Palestine.

In the words of the ancient proverb, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Netanyahu has tripped Obama on his first step. The President of the United States has stumbled. . . .

http://www.counterpunch.com/avnery09232009.html

The Democrats, Pfizer and Acorn Who’s the Pimp? By Russell Mokhiber

September 22, 2009

Acorn is a poor people’s grassroots organization.

Earlier this month, some of it’s employees were caught on tape giving advice to two young right-wing activists posing as pimp and prostitute.

Pfizer is a wealthy and powerful multinational corporation.

Earlier this month, a Pfizer unit pled guilty to a felony in connection with a major health care fraud and paid $2.3 billion in fines.

So, if the Democratically controlled Congress were to vote to either:

a) strip federal funding from the grassroots group Acorn, or

b) ban corporate felon Pfizer from future government business

Which would it be?

Let me guess.

Last week, the Democratic controlled Congress voted to strip Acorn of its federal funding.

Why?

The vote came a day after the release of the latest video by the two activists who crisscrossed the country trying to get Acorn employees to help them in setting up a child-prostitution business.

In some Acorn offices, workers reported the two to the police.

In others, they sought to help the fake pimp and prostitute.

Fox and Limbaugh and Hannity and Beck and O’Reilly made it seem as if Acorn was a corporate felon.

And reacting to the right-wing echo chamber, the House and Senate voted to end Acorn’s federal funding.

Unclear whether such a move is Constitutional.

The Constitution prohibits bills of attainder.

That means Congress can’t punish individual organizations.

But putting that minor detail aside for a moment, let’s say Congress can punish.

Why bully the weak?

After all, a society rots from the head down.

Let’s chop at the top.

Let’s find a list of major corporate criminals who rip off the federal government.

And bar them from ever doing business with the federal government again.

Lo and behold, we have such a list right here.

A quick and dirty list from the annals of Taxpayers Against Fraud and the Corporate Crime Reporter:

Pfizer, Serono, Takeda-Abbott Pharmaceutical, Shering-Plough, Lilly, Abbott Labs, Cephalon, National Medical Enterprises, HCA, Gambro Health Care, Schering-Plough, Astra-Zeneca, Bayer, Purdue.

Major corporate criminals?

Check.

Convicted in a court of law?

Check.

Ripped off the federal government?

Check.

Paid fines that would keep Acorn in business until hell freezes over?

Check.

Which raises an obvious question for the members of Congress who voted overwhelmingly to strip Acorn of its federal funding:

Who’s the pimp?

Russell Mokhiber is editor of Corporate Crime Reporter and founder of singlepayeraction.org

http://www.counterpunch.com/mokhiber09222009.html

Distracting, Dissembling, Disappointing; Barack is Back!

September 18, 2009

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Like Dick Nixon after his vacations, Obama returns to the White House “tanned, rested and ready.” Good for him. But nine months into the Obama presidency, many are asking, what about health care? What about the war? What about torture and warrantless wiretapping? What about the stranglehold of Wall Street on the real economy, and the unpayable debts of tens of millions of families? Why does the White House seem to value Glenn Beck’s opinions more than those of its own Democratic base? What happened to the candidate whose presidency was supposed to be the fulfillment of Dr. King’s Dream?. . . .

http://blackagendareport.com/?q=content/distracting-dissembling-disappointing-barack-back

When Are WE Going to Get Over It?

September 15, 2009

This editorial appeared in the Macon Telegraph and was written by Andrew M. Manis, an associate professor of history at Macon State College in Georgia.

For much of the last forty years, ever since America “fixed” its race problem in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, we white people have been impatient with African Americans who continued to blame race for their difficulties. Often we have heard whites ask, “When are African Americans finally going to get over it? Now I want to ask: “When are we White Americans going to get over our ridiculous obsession with skin color?

Recent reports that “Election Spurs Hundreds’ of Race Threats, Crimes” should frighten and infuriate every one of us. Having grown up in “Bombingham,” Alabama in the 1960s, I remember overhearing an avalanche of comments about what many white classmates and their parents wanted to do to John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Eventually, as you may recall, in all three cases, someone decided to do more than “talk the talk.”

Since our recent presidential election, to our eternal shame we are once again hearing the same reprehensible talk I remember from my boyhood.

We white people have controlled political life in the disunited colonies and United States for some 400 years on this continent. Conservative whites have been in power 28 of the last 40 years. Even during the eight Clinton years, conservatives in Congress blocked most of his agenda and pulled him to the right. Yet never in that period did I read any headlines suggesting that anyone was calling for the assassinations of presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, or either of the Bushes. Criticize them, yes. Call for their impeachment, perhaps. But there were no bounties on their heads. And even when someone did try to kill Ronald Reagan, the perpetrator was non-political mental case who wanted merely to impress Jody Foster.

But elect a liberal who happens to be Black and we’re back in the sixties again. At this point in our history, we should be proud that we’ve proven what conservatives are always saying — that in America anything is possible, EVEN electing a black man as president. But instead we now hear that school children from Maine to California are talking about wanting to “assassinate Obama.”

Fighting the urge to throw up, I can only ask, “How long?” How long before we white people realize we can’t make our nation, much less the whole world, look like us? How long until we white people can – once and for all – get over this hell-conceived preoccupation with skin color? How long until we white people get over the demonic conviction that white skin makes us superior? How long before we white people get over our bitter resentments about being demoted to the status of equality with non-whites?

How long before we get over our expectations that we should be at the head of the line merely because of our white skin? How long until we white people end our silence and call out our peers when they share the latest racist jokes in the privacy of our white-only conversations?

I believe in free speech, but how long until we white people start making racist loudmouths as socially uncomfortable as we do flag burners? How long until we white people will stop insisting that blacks exercise personal responsibility, build strong families, educate themselves enough to edit the Harvard Law Review, and work hard enough to become President of the United States, only to threaten to assassinate them when they do?

How long before we starting “living out the true meaning” of our creeds, both civil and religious, that all men and women are created equal and that “red and yellow, black and white” all are precious in God’s sight?

Until this past November 4, I didn’t believe this country would ever elect an African American to the presidency. I still don’t believe I’ll live long enough to see us white people get over our racism problem. But here’s my three-point plan: First, everyday that Barack Obama lives in the White House that Black Slaves Built, I’m going to pray that God (and the Secret Service) will protect him and his family from us white people.

Second, I’m going to report to the FBI any white person I overhear saying, in seriousness or in jest, anything of a threatening nature about President Obama. Third, I’m going to pray to live long enough to see America surprise the world once again, when white people can “in spirit and in truth” sing of our damnable color prejudice, “We HAVE overcome.”

http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2009/01/when-are-we-going-to-get-over-it.html

Paul Roberts: The Health Care Deceit

September 15, 2009

The current health care “debate” shows how far gone representative government is in the United States. Members of Congress represent the powerful interest groups that fill their campaign coffers, not the people who vote for them.

The health care bill is not about health care. It is about protecting and increasing the profits of the insurance companies. The main feature of the health care bill is the “individual mandate,” which requires everyone in America to buy health insurance. Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont), a recipient of millions in contributions over his career from the insurance industry, proposes to impose up to a $3,800 fine on Americans who fail to purchase health insurance.

The determination of “our” elected representatives to serve the insurance industry is so compelling that Congress is incapable of recognizing the absurdity of these proposals.

The reason there is a health care crisis in the US is that the cumulative loss of jobs and benefits has swollen the uninsured to approximately 50 million Americans. They cannot afford health insurance any more than employers can afford to provide it. . . .

http://www.counterpunch.com/

Harvey Wasserman: Will the Corporate Supremes now dance on democracy’s corpse?

September 14, 2009

The Four Courtsmen of the Apocalypse are poised to finally bury American democracy in corporate money. The most powerful institution in human history—the global corporation—may soon take definitive possession of our electoral process.

It could happen very soon.

While America agonizes over health care, energy and war, Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Sam Alito and Clarence Thomas could make it all moot. They may now have the fifth Supreme Court vote they need to open the final floodgates on corporate spending in political campaigns.

In short, the Court may be poised to shred a century of judicial and legislative attempts to preserve even a semblance of restraint on how Big Money buys laws and legal decisions. The ensuing tsunami of corporate cash could turn every election hence into a series of virtual slave auctions, with victory guaranteed only to those candidates who most effectively grovel at the feet of the best-heeled lobbyists.

Not that this is so different from what we have now. The barriers against cash dominating our elections have already proven amazingly ineffective.

But a century ago, corporations were barred from directly contributing to political campaigns. The courts have upheld many of the key requirements.

Meanwhile the barons of Big Money have metastasized into all-powerful electoral juggernauts. The sum total of all these laws, right up to the recently riddled McCain-Feingold mandates, has been to force the corporations to hire a few extra lawyers, accountants and talk show bloviators to run interference for them.

Even that may be too much for the Court’s corporate core. John Roberts’s Supremes may now be fast-tracking a decision on CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, centered on a corporate-financed campaign film attacking Hillary Clinton. According to the Washington Post’s account of oral arguments, “a majority of the court seemed impatient with an increasingly complicated federal scheme intended to curb the role of corporations, unions and special interest groups in elections.”

Former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson, who in 2000 “persuaded” the Court to stop a recount of votes in Florida and put George W. Bush in the White House, said such laws “smothered” the First Amendment and “criminalized” free speech.

The conservative Gang of Four has already been joined by Anthony Kennedy, the Court’s swing voter, in signaling the likely overturn of two previous decisions upholding laws that ban direct corporate spending in elections.

When he was confirmed as the Court’s Chief, Roberts promised Congress he would be loathe to overturn major legal precedents. But the signals of betrayal now seem so clear that Senators John McCain and Russell Feingold have issued personal statements warning Roberts that a radical assault on campaign finance laws would be considered a breach of faith with the Congress that confirmed him.

Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did assert during oral arguments that “a corporation, after all, is not endowed by its creator with inalienable rights.”

But since the 1880s the courts have generally granted corporations human rights with no human responsibilities. Thom Hartmann (UNEQUAL PROTECTION) and Ted Nace (GANGS OF AMERICA) have shown with infuriating detail how corporate lawyers twisted the 14th Amendment, designed to protect the rights of freed slaves, into a legal weapon used to bludgeon the democratic process into submission.

Civil libertarians like Floyd Abrams and the American Civil Liberties Union have somehow argued that depriving these mega-conglomerations of cash and greed their “right” to buy elections might somehow impinge on the First Amendment.

But the contradiction between human rights and corporate power is at the core of the cancer now killing our democracy. As early as 1815 Thomas Jefferson joined Tom Paine in warning against the power of “the moneyed aristocracy.” In 1863 sometime railroad lawyer Abraham Lincoln compared the evils of corporate power with those of slavery. By the late 1870s Rutherford B. Hayes, himself the beneficiary of a stolen election, mourned a government “of, by and for the corporations.”

The original US corporations—there were six at the time of the Revolution—were chartered by the states, and restricted as to what kinds of business they might do and where. After the Civil War, those restrictions were erased. As Richard Grossman and the Project on Corporate Law & Democracy have shown, the elastic nature of the corporate charter has birthed a mutant institution whose unrestrained money and power has transformed the planet.

Simply put, globalized corporations, operating solely for profit, have become the most dominant institutions in human history, transcending ancient emperors, feudal lords, monarchs, dictators and even the church in their wealth, reach and ability to dominate all avenues of economic and cultural life.

The Roberts Court now seems intent on disposing of the feeble, flimsy McCain-Feingold campaign finance law as well as the 1990 AUSTIN decision that upheld a state law barring corporations from spending to defeat a specific candidate.

Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas all voted to overturn McCain-Feingold in 2003, and nobody doubts Roberts and Alito will join them now. The only question seems centered on how broad the erasure will be. This, after all, is a “conservative” wing whose intellectual leader, Antonin Scalia, recently argued that wrongly convicted citizens can be put to death even if new evidence confirms their innocence.

Should our worst fears be realized, the torrent of cash into the electoral process could sweep all else before it. With five corporations controlling the major media and all members of the courts, Congress and the Executive at the mercy of corporate largess, who will heed the people?

“We don’t put our First Amendment rights in the hands of Federal Election Commission bureaucrats,” said Roberts said in the oral arguments.

Instead he may put ALL our rights in the hands of a board room barony whose global reach and financial dominance are without precedent.

At this point, only an irreversible ban on ALL private campaign money—corporate or otherwise—might save the ability of our common citizenry to be heard. Those small pockets where public financing and enforceable restrictions have been tried DO work.

A rewrite of all corporate charters must ban political activity and demand strict accountability for what they do to their workers, the natural environment and the common good.

It was the property of the world’s first global corporation—the East India Tea Company—that our revolutionary ancestors pitched into Boston Harbor. Without a revolution to now obliterate corporate personhood and the “right” to buy elections, we might just as well throw in the illusion of a free government.

This imminent, much-feared Court decision on campaign finance is likely to make the issue of corporate money versus real democracy as clear as it’s ever been.

Likewise the consequences.