The Guns of Arizona
Great Barrington, Mass.
It is certainly important to understand the conditions—psychological, cultural and political—that enabled Jared Loughner’s rampage [“Tragedy in Arizona,” Jan. 31], but it is misleading to focus disproportionately on the intersection of gun rights and mental illness. Bear in mind: while a very small number of people with very specific types of delusions may be attracted to enacting dramatic, high-profile crimes—assassinations of politicians or celebrities, mass school shootings—the mentally ill as a group are not more violent than the population as a whole. Also, the vast majority of injuries and deaths from firearms occur in mundane circumstances such as barroom brawls, domestic disputes, accidents and gang turf battles; intensified screening for psychiatric illness would do nothing to diminish these. The number of instances in which civilians carrying weapons have prevented crime is vanishingly small. Data show incontrovertibly that the proliferation of firearms is a serious public health problem.
In your editorial and all other discussions of the Arizona shooting I’ve read, there is no mention of blame directed at the National Rifle Association. The gun lobby has defeated responsible gun laws in America; the NRA manages the lobby, and the Arizona shooting is only one of many examples of the folly of lax laws.
FRANK N. EGERTON
Corporations Are People!
Thanks to The Nation for Floyd Abrams and Burt Neuborne’s comprehensive “Debating Citizens United” [Jan. 31] on the Supreme Court’s ruling. They provided clarification and explanation of the ruling and its background, much appreciated by me and I’m sure by many others. I still believe our citizenry, wishing to preserve individual citizens’ rights and sustain our democratic republic, must work for a Constitutional amendment.
I particularly liked Neuborne’s final lines: “At the rate the Court is going, soon we will be able to be adopted by a corporation. Maybe even marry one. Until then, I’m afraid we’ll just have to settle for being fucked by them.” The dubious pleasure is a legal rape.
I have a bone to pick with Burt Neuborne. Now, I’m no prude, but he could have used “screwed” instead of that F-word. I’d still have agreed, and without the need to launder my coffee-stained new shirt!
It seems logical that if a corporation is to be considered a person, it should have a “corpus.” But who would that be? The CEO? The board of directors? The stockholders? All three as a unit? Who should go to jail if the corporation commits a crime? Corporations came about precisely to shelter each member from harm; if the whole entity is responsible, no particular individual is liable. Following that line of reasoning, the corporation can’t claim to be a person when it comes to rights but a nonperson with respect to liabilities.
Green Valley Lake, Calif.
Floyd Abrams agrees that corporations are people. However, unlike his individual Nazis, pornographers and video distributors, all speaking freely, corporations do not have individual opinions. Only their CEOs have individual opinions. When I purchase stock, political opinion is absent. The CEO may voice his political opinion all he likes, but if he uses my invested money to broadcast the corporation’s political opinion, my freedom of speech has been abridged— stolen! A legal structure permitting him to do this is illegal. Sorry, Supreme Court. Go read the First Amendment!
Neither Floyd Abrams nor Burt Neuborne—nor Justice Stevens in his excellent dissent—brought out what the public might consider most important: common sense and fairness. Something is common-sensical if it is intelligent, long practiced with success, not harmful, not overly complex, enjoys historical consensus, is practical and culturally acceptable. The Citizens United ruling does not meet any of these criteria. As for fairness, the question is, Does the decision provide excessive advantage to one party at the expense of another that cannot be justified by other considerations? Clearly, corporations stand to gain influence and profitability while the public will suffer weakened political power.
New York City
Citizens United was no surprise. The Supreme Court’s ultraconservative bloc—contrary to its members’ articulated philosophy of strict construction and deference to federal and state legislatures and courts—has been on a warpath to strip away hard-won rights: to stop the Florida Supreme Court from setting ground rules to determine who won the presidential election; prohibit boards of education from voluntarily desegregating their schools; create an impossibly high standard of proof before cities can use affirmative action to integrate their workforces and open up construction contracts to minority firms; allow employers to require job applicants to waive their rights to public trials in favor of private arbitrations in discrimination cases; drastically limit punitive damages awards in the face of horrendous corporate malfeasance; cut back the right of habeas corpus; and, now, deny Congress the right to control the flood of corporate money in federal elections. All are part of the same antidemocratic vision. In Citizens United the First Amendment was a mere pawn in the process, just as the Fourteenth Amendment was manipulated broadly, to assure George W. Bush’s election, and narrowly, to defeat the rights of minorities.
More than forty years ago in a New York Times Magazine article (“Nine Men in Black Who Think White”), I argued that only a severe readjustment in political power and a redistribution of wealth could stop the Court’s downward slide toward casting aside racial equality to preserve what was the subject of that essay—white prerogatives. Since then conservatives have maintained their hold on the political process as well as the Court, and income gaps have only increased, spearheaded by corporate money and influence. Not only do white prerogatives remain in place; corporate power has increased the wealth divide among whites as well as between whites and persons of color. Debating Citizens United adds little to the discussion we must now have about how to reduce corporate America’s grip on the political process and reorient the Supreme Court toward protecting those who struggle to be heard.
LEWIS M. STEEL
Those Pesky Zeroes (Again)
In Stephen Glain’s “Backward, Christian Soldiers” [Feb. 28] it was stated that Campus Crusade for Christ has an estimated annual budget of $500,000. According to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, that budget is $500 million.