Corporations are people too, my friend

Of course, they’re psychotic people with a death count in the millions and if there was any justice or accountability Senators like our little Mittens would have to wear jackets that showed the logos of the various corporations that sponsor them with a running death count.

The anger come from the realization that the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are people, and corporations can buy control of the political process. And now, not only are they people but now they are the government too. If you didn’t believe it before, believe it now that human rights lawyer Steven Donziger has effectively been sentenced to six months in prison by Chevron itself.

On Friday Chevron puppet–U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska– sentenced human rights lawyer Steven Donziger to six months in prison—following more than two years of house arrest related to a lawsuit he filed decades ago against oil giant Chevron.

Donziger found that Texaco, since bought by Chevron, had poisoned a huge swath of the Ecuadorian Amazon during oil drilling in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s. What they saw were the results of a massive and man-made environmental disaster that poisoned the water, earth and food of tens of thousands of people. Worst of all, the evidence indicated it was done deliberately as part of an engineering plan to save $3 per barrel  in what came to be called the “Amazon Chernobyl” by locals and experts.

Ultimately, Steven led a team of lawyers in procuring a $9.5B judgement against Chevron that was affirmed by the Ecuadorian Supreme Court.

Chevron refused to pay. During the trial, it threatened the affected communities with a “lifetime of litigation.” Afterwards, Chevron engaged a team of 2,000 corporate lawyers from at least 60 firms to retaliate against Donziger and the lead plaintiffs in the case, filing a barrage of SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) and RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) suits, legal tools used—and abused—by large companies to punish people who take them to court.

In Donziger’s words, “The company’s goal is to silence my advocacy, bankrupt my family, and intimidate activists and environmental allies.”

The evidence for this persecution is all there: the denial of a jury trial, the unconstitutional order that Donziger turn over his cellular telephone and computer to Chevron during discovery, the assignment of a corrupt judge, the corrupt judge’s assignment of Chevron’s lawyers to prosecute the defendant in a case Chevron brought.

Chevron’s vile and cynical legal strategy–designed to avoid paying compensation to the Indigenous people whose lives it deliberately destroyed to earn an extra $5 billion over 20 years–could not succeed without a federal judiciary populated by corporate-friendly judges willing to bend the law to protect corporate profits. There is no precedent in US law allowing a private firm to assume the role of public prosecutor, yet thanks to that corporate coup I mentioned, Chevron has been able to make Donsiger’s life a living hell. This state of affairs is so egregious that the UN’s high commissioner for human rights condemned Donziger’s treatment shortly before he was sentenced.

The assault on Donziger has been a tag-team affair. In 2019, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the Southern District of New York—a former corporate lawyer with investments in Chevron—held Donziger in contempt of court after he refused to disclose privileged information about his clients to the fossil fuel industry. Kaplan placed Donziger under house arrest, where he has remained under strict court monitoring for 787 days. In addition to Kaplan’s own connections to Chevron, the judge appointed private attorneys to prosecute the case, including one who had worked for a firm that represented the oil giant. Judge Preska, who found Donziger guilty of the contempt charges in July, is a leader of the right-wing Federalist Society, which counts Chevron among its financial backers.

Most Americans would not believe that here in the United States, a corporation could literally use an American court to criminally prosecute its critics. And yet that is exactly what has happened: a show trial that leaves an American environmental lawyer punished harshly and at risk of imprisonment, for the not-to-be-tolerated crime of standing up to Chevron.

So yes, my friend, corporations are people. Unfortunately, they are people like John Wayne Gacy, or Ted Bundy.

The reason Chevron can get away with such egregious behavior is the decades-long assault on workers and the public good by corporations, like Chevron. What we in the U.S. experience now is a consequence of this reality: a country ruled by corporate elites who have captured the machinery of government to enrich themselves at the expense on non-elites. The 50 year effort to transform the branches of our government into a bastion of right-wing ideology have paid amazing dividends. Especially for the judiciary where the Federalist Society has come to colonize legal minds through the economics and law movement. To whit, the individuals and think-tanks have transformed law and economics into an ultra ideological field dominated almost exclusively by passionate opponents of government “interference” in “free enterprise.” The targeting of the courts was one of the key goals of Lewis Powell, a corporate lawyer later elevated to the Supreme Court by President Nixon. In Powell’s 1971 memo to the Chamber of Commerce, a blueprint for the slow-motion corporate coup that has taken place, he called on business interests to pack the judiciary with corporate-friendly judges.

Ralph Nader, who graduated from Harvard Law School, has long decried the capture of the courts and law schools by corporate power, calling the nation’s attorneys and judges “lucrative cogs in the corporate wheel.” He notes that law school curriculums are “built around corporate law, and corporate power, and corporate perpetration, and corporate defense.”

This would be a problem with an obvious political resolution but for the fact that both the Republicans and the Democrats are cool with this state of affairs. Thanks to the tsunami of money that has thoroughly corrupted Congress both parties depend on corporate cash to get elected and stay elected. Meanwhile, both parties deploy cultural issues–abortion, guns and identity politics–to distract the American public from the corporate takeover. The end result of this corporate takeover is fascism.

Sorry, I mean “free enterprise.”

Fortunately, Americans are starting to recognize the dangers of concentrated corporate power and there seems to be an insurgency brewing in the workplace. Taken together with mass resignations, such worker strikes reveal a deep dissatisfaction with the nature of American work that has been decades in the making. Unsurprisingly, now that workers are rebelling corporate America is worried.

This is only the start.

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