Friday, January 13, 2012

Moyers & Colbert

First, for some background for any younger readers (if there be any). Bill Moyers has been a staple of thoughtful, insightful television journalism since the 1960's. He seems to bring a thoughtful, learned, yet modest and inquiring attitude to each interview, whether it be a woman on the street or someone of the highest learning or office. His initial program will feature two political scientists (Jacob Hacker of Yale and someone from Berkeley), and then he'll do someone on the street, and with each interview he seems to speak to the palace where the individuals are at and draw the most from them. Having him back on the air is good news, indeed.

His interview with Colbert shows he's lost nothing much with his advancing age (good news to those of us not far behind him!). He goes toe-to-toe with Stephen, and in the end, leaves Stephen a bit speechless. Fun viewing.

One side note: Are corporations "people"? Moyers got it right when he said "persons", not "people" (that's Mitt Romney). Colbert got it right when he cited the nineteenth century Santa Clara case decided by SCOTUS. Both sides have to be correct in some sense. Of course, on one hand, corporations are not individuals; on the other hand, corporations are organizations of individuals (human individuals, no androids allowed as of yet) that must have some legal standing and, yes, rights. If group entities, corporations (profit and non-profit), partnerships, married couples, churches, etc. don't have some legal rights as "persons", we're in deep trouble.

The Citizens United case (and I admit to not having read it) does trouble me, but it has to do more with the equation of money with speech than with the characterization of a corporation as a "person". I define "person" as a entity with legal rights under our Constitution--I don't equate person in this context as an individual. (To go further, distinguish a "soul" (religious), a "self" (philosophical/psychological) and an "individual" (biological)--it all depends on what you're asking and why. In any event, the equation of money with speech is a brutalization of our political discourse, and a sad chapter in this history of SCOTUS. (Perhaps more on this later.)