Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dear Kim Davis: This Christian Says "You're 100% Wrong."

Dear Kim, I know you are presenting yourself as a victim of persecution: persecution of religious folk who simply want to excercse their faith, persecution by a totalitarian judiciary that is imposing law on average citizens, persecution by a vocal and strident gay minority who are insisting on violating your sincerely-held beliefs, conscience, and deepest religious convictions. Think Again.

First, let me introduce myself to you. I am a Christian. I am a Gay man. I am an attorney who fully embraces the civil liberties enshrined on our Constitution.

Throughout your protestations, you have made fools of the majority of Christians in this country, you have made fools of the people of Kentucky, and you have employed a tortured and innovative interpretation of Constitutional Rights.

You, Madam Clerk, insist that you are being denied your right to live out your faith. I call Balderdash.

No one is telling you to marry a woman. No one is telling that you must engage in homosexuality. In fact, no one is even telling you that you should change your mind, your beliefs, or your most sincerely held religious convictions.

But when you are acting as County Clerk, you are not acting as Kim Davis - you are acting as an agent of the Government.

The First Amendment has a long, time-honored and cherished history in this country. It reads, in part (in case you haven't actually read it) as follows:

Amendent I: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

Amendment XIV: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."

Taken together, this is very simple: Under Amendment I, the federal government may not impose a religion upon the nation, nor may it prevent private citizens from exercising their religion. Under Amendment 14, the prohibitions imposed on the federal government are extended to State governments.

A lesson in civics, dear: Counties are administrative units of States. When you act as County Clerk, you are acting under the authority of the State - not as a private citizen. You are therefore bound by a Constitution which mandates that States must abide by the same rules as the federal government when it comes to citizen's rights. And what are our rights? To not have a particular religion and it's doctrine 'established' as official policy.

As a private citizen, you may believe as you wish, protest as you wish, worship as you wish, and even campaign for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Marriage Equality.

As an agent of the State, you may not impose or establish a religious test on the citizens. It's very, very simple.

But I'll take it even further: As a Christian, you need to stop speaking for the Church, speaking for God, and making grand pronouncements about what you believe the Bible requires as if your position is Infallible In fact, dear, your statements are erroneous at best, and blasphemous at worst: you have presumed to speak for God on the issue.

Millions of Christians in this nation support same-sex marriage. Numerous denominations have endorsed same-sex marriage, ordination of gays and lesbians, and full GLBT equality. For you to presume to 'declare' what is or is not biblical, or Christian, or "God's Position" on the issue is the worst form of arrogance: you presume to speak on God's behalf. Shame on you.

Your approach is not supported legally, Constitutionally, or theologically.

It's time to retire from public life, consider the damage you have done to other Christians and Kentuckians by association, and reconsider your self-righteous, self-aggrandizing motivations.It's bad enough you have made a fool of yourself and a circus of Rowan County - but in addition, you have betrayed your faith, your God, your public trust, and your Constitution.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Gay Marriage: The Court's Four Choices

We are counting down the days to the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. I am not going to use this post to argue the cause for GLBT equality; rather, I am laying out the possible outcomes based on the multiple legal issues in the case at hand. Since news reporters will be tripping all over themselves to be the first to report, it is likely they will report the majority decision without going too deep into the nuances – and the nuances are important.

Although the case is called Obergefell v Hodges (an Ohio case), there are actually four cases involved: Obergefell v Hodges (Ohio), Tanco v Haslam (Tennessee), Bourke v. Beshear (Kentucky) and DeBoer v Snyder (Michigan). These four cases are from the four states that comprise the 6th Circuit, the only federal circuit court that has ruled against finding a right to same-sex marriage.

Contrary to popular understanding, Obergefell, Tanco, and Bourke do not directly address the question of whether states must permit same-sex marriage; all three are cases where a valid same-sex marriage was performed in another state, and the plaintiffs are suing to have their marriages recognized in their new home states. Only DeBoer raises the issue of same-sex marriage within their home state Michigan, and even that case is a little tortured because the original suit was brought against a Michigan law forbidding adoption by same-sex couples, not the actual marriage statute; the complaint was later amended to address the issue of same-sex marriage in Michigan.

With that as background, the Justices have a wide variety of choices open to them. I present them from the narrowest to the broadest possible rulings:

1) Full Faith & Credit
: SCOTUS could address the very narrow issue as to whether or not a state that prohibits same-sex marriage must recognize valid same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. The precedents are somewhat divided here: interracial marriages must be recognized across state boundaries, but other marriages – such as that between cousins (which are permitted in some states, but not others) or between young people (state marriage laws vary, some permitting 16 year olds to marry, while one requires an age of 19) have been decidedly inconsistent. In a narrow ruling, the suits would be decided under the Full Faith & Credit Clause of the Constitution. Even if the couples win, it would not require the states in the 6th Circuit to legalize same-sex marriage: it would only require them to recognize valid marriages performed elsewhere. This is the least likely scenario (but it is possible) and would happen only if Justice Kennedy felt it necessary to ‘slow down” the march toward GLBT equality. A win, but a disappointment, and the battle continues.

2) Gender Bias. Raised as a possibility by Justice Roberts, this approach would apply the existing law that outlaws discrimination based on gender without a compelling state interest. In oral arguments, Roberts asked, “If Sue can marry Tom but John can not marry Tom, isn’t this a simple case of gender bias?" This has several advantages: it would effectively legalize same-sex marriage throughout the US, while creating no new law or precedent; it is also a way for the conservatives to further the issue of same-sex marriage without specifying specific “gay” rights. This approach would probably have a decisive majority of 6-3, or even 7-2, with Roberts (and possibly Alito) joining in the majority. Since this is basic existing law, gender discrimination, no new law, no new rights or ‘protected’ status for gays would be granted. This could be 6-3 or even 7-2, which would add a sense of legitimacy to the court’s ruling, and would be the 'compromise' approach in an effort to gain the widest acceptance of the decision. To me, this is a very possible outcome.

3) Equal Protection Clause.
This would immediately result in legal same-sex marriage across the country, and, by applying it to gays and lesbians, would create a new application of this clause. This approach has the advantage of a clear statement concerning GLBT marriage rights, but would be more controversial than choice #2 above; it would likely be a 5-4 (possibly 6-3) decision. This is the outcome most LGBT groups are looking for.

4) Heightened Scrutiny/Protected Class. This would be the most far-reaching approach, and would affect not only marriage, but every law in every state that discriminates against gays and lesbians (such as employment and job termination, adoption, etc). Under current US law, it IS legal to discriminate between groups if the government has a rational basis. So, for instance, a state may pass a law requiring 7 years of school for doctor licensing, 5 for dentists, and 8 for anesthesiologists if they so choose. This is the standard the 6th Circuit applied to the state laws in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky. However, if a group of people is found to have been the subject of ‘animus’ (hatred) resulting in discriminatory laws, then the government must go beyond a mere rational basis; they must prove a “compelling state interest” in order to discriminate. This is a very high standard, and laws almost never meet it. If the Court decides that gays and lesbians are to be considered a protected class, there are several ramifications: first, nothing might happen initially: the Court could send all four cases back to the 6th Circuit for a re-hearing under the new standard. Justice delayed. However, in the long-term, this would affect single every law in the nation that discriminates against gays and lesbians. It is the most sweeping choice; gays would win the most rights for the long term, and the decision (like Roe v Wade) would also generate the most controversy. It is highly doubtful that this could be anything better than a 5-4 vote…and in fact, somewhat unlikely, Justice Kennedy would need to go further out on a limb than he ever has to make this happen. the dissenting opinion would likely be vicious, and conservative political groups would have the most ammunition against the court.

Of course, the Supreme Court often surprises…and often the majority vote is fractured into majority and concurring and dissenting opinions, so elements of all of the above may actually be part of a very complicated decision.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Dear Chronically Late Student:

Dear Student,

I want to address your criticism and disdain over my “poor attitude” concerning your attendance habits. It is clear that you think I’m some sort of ogre for being annoyed at your constant lateness and cavalier attitude towards actually attending class, submitting work by the assigned deadline, or taking an exam at the appointed time.

Let me explain something to you.

This is a class called “Introduction to Business.” It is designed to expose you to the work habits, issues, and dynamics of today’s business world.

Now, I realize that I may be a little bit old-fashioned. In my day (yes, I hear your groans and see your eyes roll), if the train left the Long Island Railroad Station at 7:15am, I did not wander up to the platform at 7:17 and expect it to be waiting for me. And I knew that the excuse, “Sorry, I missed my train” was not an excuse at all. It was a cause for termination. You see, if I am expected to start work at 9:00 am – and if I expect to get paid beginning at 9:00 am – that does not mean I am combing my hair in the bathroom at 9:15 and then wandering over to the coffee machine and getting around to turn on my computer at 9:30. It means I am working at 9:00 am, so when a customer calls with a problem, I am prepared to efficiently and courteously assist them.

So you are correct, I am annoyed when you seem to think that it’s perfectly fine to wander into a 9:00 am class at 9:05, 9:15, or even later, because I should somehow be honored that you chose to show up at all. I don’t care that your gas tank was low, that you burned your toast, or that you didn't anticipate that the snow might cause slower travel times. You are interrupting the class and the flow of learning, and worse, depriving your fellow students of all the wisdom you have to impart on the subject we just discussed (The very subject for which you will demand personal tutoring and explanation just before the exam, at your convenience, of course.)

And that report that was due at the beginning of class on Thursday? No, it’s not “OK if I print it off after class,” or “give it to you tomorrow,” or “just email it over the weekend because my thumb drive wasn’t working right.”

Let me explain: When I worked in an office competing for government grants, we were given strict deadlines – to the minute – to submit our proposals. When a dozen competing proposals came in, had I sauntered in 5 minutes late with our proposal, it wasn’t “OK;” it meant I just blew a chance of securing a 5 million dollar contract for my office. And it also meant that I was incredibly disrespectful to my co-workers, because all of their work on the proposal was for nothing.

And yes, when the UPS man is rushing to pick up your line of next season’s designer clothing for the Fashion Show, and you aren’t ready because “tomorrow is good enough,” you just blew your chance to sell a line of clothing to every department store in the country – and 30 months of pre-planning just went down the drain.

How do you think your co-workers and employer will feel about that?

I suggest you learn this lesson NOW.

Yes, sometimes cats run out the door and get hit by cars. Yes, your child suddenly falls ill. Yes, flat tires happen.

That doesn't mean you get a “freebie.” What it means is that you learn that these are the things that happen in the normal course of life, and if you have a deadline, you plan to meet your deadline ahead of time – you don’t start the night before and then expect a free ride when nothing is ready in the morning. Rushing in at the last minute because it's "on time" is little more than "adequate;" it is the minimum to be expected. It's nothing special.

Perhaps you’re seeking an employer who is a little more lenient than I am.

Good Luck.

Better to learn this now than when your mortgage, auto loan, and kid’s soccer tuition depends upon your steady paycheck.

Planning on being self-employed so you don't have to put up with being told what to do? I got news for you: you will need to be even more diligent in your work, because your customers won't stand for the quality of delivery that you have exhibited.

So, call me mean, rigid, and old-fashioned. If I have presented you with a standard that requires you to grow and change – I have done my job. If you're not into that sort of thing, consider dropping the course while you can still get your tuition back.

I’ll bet that's one thing you will do on time…

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fascism and American Sports,,,

Let me say at the start that I truly enjoy sporting events, and teach a college course in sports economics. I have raised funds and brought many students to their first professional games: basketball, baseball, soccer. Growing up on Long Island, NY, I was a child of the NY Islanders Dynasty.

I also have reason to support military veterans, whether it be at the college at which I teach, or from a more personal perspective: My son is a Marine, my uncle was a Navyman, and I’m in the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

But I am also a student of history, and what I see occurring at sports stadiums today is frightening at best.

In his 2003 seminal essay, “The 14 Characteristics of Fascism” in Free Inquiry Magazine, political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt summarized the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia), and Pinochet (Chile). Dr. Britt found they all had 14 elements in common. Some of these include:

Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – [the] constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, [and] songs….in public displays

Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals...

Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding... Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

Obsession with Crime and Punishment - The police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism.

Enter the Sport Stadium: the largest on-going collection of citizens in "public displays."

Now, I expect the National Anthem at the start of a sporting event. I look forward to it, to be honest. And I even appreciate the playing of other nation’s anthems when the match is international. But the trend is now towards something very unsettling – so unsettling that it’s reminiscent of the elements of Fascist Propaganda cited above.

The last time I went to a Mets game Citifield, I have to admit that I was a little uncomfortable when I was exposed to a “new tradition” in the 6th inning: the announcer required that we all stand, sing God Bless America, and participate in honoring ‘the veteran of the day.’ The fact that a stadium full of thousands dutifully rose as soon as they were told to, in order to honor the military, should cause some pause. In fact, it’s downright chilling.
I thought this was a one-time special event; I have since observed this ceremony multiple times, at multiple baseball stadiums. It’s now the norm.
This past week, the Washington Post revealed a ‘formal,’ paid relationship between the government and the NFL for much the same type of intertwining of the military state and sport.

As articulately expressed by www.FreeThoughtProject.com,

“The national anthem is a long, drawn-out, pregame event. There’ll be a flyover by the Blue Angels at the perfect, climactic moment. During a break in the action, some soldier returning from Afghanistan or any other foreign war-zone will be reunited with his family while the stadium erupts in deafening applause and heart wrenching sobs.

Well, hold off on purchasing those tickets just yet, because the Washington Post found something interesting this week. All this patriotic propaganda- the troop-salutes, the banner ads, even the community service events where troops and NFL teams “build or re-build” a playground together, come with a price tag.
Fourteen NFL teams were paid a total of $5.4 million by the Department of Defense to cover the nationalistic propaganda filling downtime during the games.”

That’s right: not some organic, groundswell of thanks to our vets; but a paid program by the Pentagon to create a pro-military groupthink at a captured audience. Think about that.

So yesterday, perhaps my sensitivity was on high alert, but what I saw at a Major League Soccer game was equally scary. Soccer – often thought of as the international, or even “un-American” sport – took its required worship of the Police State to yet another level.

In the wake of the murder of NY Police Officer Brian Moore – thousands of police officers from around the nation lined the highways of Seaford, NY for his funeral. It was portrayed as a show of “support” for the officer and his family – but of course, the majority of those in attendance wouldn’t have known him if they had tripped over him when he was alive. Rather, at a time when police wrongdoing is revealed daily on websites such as CopBlock.org, this was not a show of respect as much as a show of force: the Blue Line that protects its own, showing its muscle and demanding respect and awe from the public.

The start of the inaugural match between the New York Red Bulls and the New York City Football Club in Harrison, NJ, was launched with a moment of silence for the slain officer (I could argue that while police officers get such treatment, hundreds of innocent Americans slain by police get no such honor…but I won’t belabor that point.) But then the players entered the field – with black armbands. They didn't read, “Moore” – they read “NYPD.”

Yes, I have a problem with that.

At a time when there is a public relations war between the cops and the citizens they are supposed to serve; when police defiantly turn their back on the Mayor of New York City when he dares to criticize their tactics; when courtrooms have revealed the systematic and routine planting of evidence on innocent citizens; when military equipment and armaments are being distributed to civilian forces – yes, I have a problem with two sports teams being required by their league to “take sides.” When I was insolent enough to suggest so on a Supporters Club website, the post was removed by administrators with no explanation.

When I was merely 2 years old, none other than General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned,

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist."

BBC’s documentary “Fascism and Football” is described thusly: “A documentary on how the Fascist regimes of Spain, Italy and Germany made football an important pillar of their propaganda and the lengths they went to in order to control the sport…”

Sports Fans, take note: The next time the masses at the stadium is told what to do, and how to do it, and when to do it, in an effort to honor the Police State – be aware of how you are being used – and the history behind it.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Corporate Personhood - a Historical and Necessary Legal Concept

If you support the right to advertise contraception, even if it ‘offends’ some people; if you believe that newspapers need to be able to report on corruption in government; and if you think that big banks need to be prosecuted when they conspire to manipulate currency and commodity prices – then thank the concept of Corporate Personhood.

In the wake of the Citizens United and Hobby Lobby decisions, many people are just coming to see that corporations are often treated as ‘persons’ under the law, and are upset about it;  many believe it’s an invention of a runaway, pro-corporate court.

But nothing could be further from the truth.  The concept of Corporate Personhood – and of corporate rights under the Constitution – is as old as our Republic itself.  Having grown weary of trying to argue this point over and over in limited space on Facebook, I decided to put my thoughts into one longer blog post, and stroll through some of the critically important background relating to corporate personhood.

1. Freedom of the Press – Surely the founding fathers understood, when they penned that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom..of the press” (First Amendment) that they meant newspapers and corporate media, and not just individual reporters. Indeed, two of the most important decisions in this century protecting a free press protected a corporate entity: The New York Times.

In 1964, the New York Times claimed that the arrest of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. for perjury in Montgomery, Ala., was part of a campaign to destroy King's efforts to integrate public facilities and encourage blacks to vote. In response, Montgomery city commissioner L.B. Sullivan filed a libel action against the newspaper as a corporation.  The Court ruled, in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, that even though some of the newspaper’s statements were in fact false, that the corporation was protected by the First Amendment.  

Seven years later, a second blockbuster case arose involving the NY Times: New York Times Co. vs. United States.

In 1971, as the nation heatedly debated its involvement in the Vietnam War, the Times obtained a copy of an internal Defense Department report detailing government discussions about the war. These confidential documents would become famously known as the Pentagon Papers. At the U.S. government's request, the district court issued a temporary injunction ordering the New York Times not to publish the documents, claiming that the publication of the documents would endanger national security. The Times appealed, arguing that prior restraint (preventing publication) violated the First Amendment. Once again, the Supreme Court ruled (6-3) in favor of the Times. 

Yes, the Corporation had rights under the Constitution, even as against government arguments of national security.

2. Freedom of Speech:  Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.”

In the 1970s, New York State enacted a law prohibiting anyone other than a licensed pharmacist from distributing nonprescription contraceptives to persons 16 years of age or over, prohibiting the distribution of nonprescription contraceptives by any adult to minors under 16 years of age, and prohibiting anyone, including licensed pharmacists, from advertising or displaying contraceptives.

Population Services International was a North Carolina corporation that distributed birth control knowledge and services. The corporation sold and advertised contraceptives to New Yorkers  primarily through mail-order retail sale of nonmedical contraceptive devices, which was a violation of the New York law. 

In Carey v. Population Services International, 431 U.S. 678 (1977), the Supreme Court held that the law was unconstitutional: 

“The prohibition of any advertisement or display of any contraceptives that seeks to suppress completely any information about the availability and price of contraceptives cannot be justified on the ground that advertisements of contraceptive products would offend and embarrass those exposed to them and that permitting them would legitimize sexual activity of young people. These are not justifications validating suppression of expression, which are protected by Amendment I. The advertisements in question simply state the availability of products that are not only entirely legal, but also constitutionally protected."

The case is critical because it ruled that a corporation, Population Services International, had free speech rights. Without corporate personhood, New York State could have legally squashed advertising for contraception.

3. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

For almost 100 years, this right of  “the people” has been extended to corporations.

In 1924, the US Federal Trade Commission – acting on its own - demanded internal documents and private communications from the American Tobacco Co., and denied that any warrant or cause was needed.  In FTC v. American Tobacco Co. - 264 U.S. 298 (1924), the Court held,

A governmental fishing expedition into the papers of a private corporation, on the possibility that they may disclose evidence of crime, is so contrary to first principles of justice, if not defiant of the Fourth Amendment, that an intention to grant [that] power to a[n]agency will not be attributed to Congress unless expressed in most explicit language…We cannot attribute to Congress an intent to defy the Fourth Amendment, or even to come so near to doing so as to raise a serious question of constitutional law.”

And so yes, your desk and office and items in your workplace are subject to the same protections that you have elsewhere…because 4th amendment rights have been bestowed on businesses as well.

5. Double Jeopardy – most of us growing up watching police dramas know that you can not be tried for the same crime twice once you are acquitted.  It is the 5th Amendment that offers us that protection:

[N]or shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb . . .

Note that the wording is very specific: no person.

And yet, this too has always been seen as applying to corporations. 

In 1977, the Martin Linen Supply Company was brought up on charges for collusion, and after a trial by jury, acquitted.  The US Government sought to bring the same charges again, and in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held that the right against double jeopardy clearly applied to the company, and the suit was tossed. (United States v. Martin Linen Supply Co, 430 U.S. 564 (1977).

6. Due Process and Equal Protection – Two places in the Constitution address these rights.

The 5th Amendment provides:
[N] or shall any person . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law . . . , and
Section One of the 14th Amendment provides:
[N]or shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law . . .

In general, these two clauses require that laws be transparent and equitably enforced by both the federal government and state governments. A law must be clear, fair, and have a presumption of innocence to comply with procedural due process; all have a right to a fair and public trial conducted in a competent manner, the right to be present at the trial, and the right to an impartial jury; Taxes may only be taken for public purposes, property may be taken by the government only for public purposes, and owners of taken property must be fairly compensated .

The 14th Amendment was adopted after the Civil War, and even though it clearly states ‘person,’ the same generation that adopted the amendment understood it to apply to  corporations. In  Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad – 118 U.S. 394 (1886), Chief Justice Morrison Waite began oral arguments on a case by stating, 

"The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does."  

7. The view that corporations are ‘persons’ within the meaning of the law is not just limited to Constitutional Law, but to statutory Law as well, for well over a century.  The Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890  - which is still alive and valid today – was the first federal law to go after monopolization and corporate collusion. And yet, read this critical section:
Section 2: 

"Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felon.”

“Person.”  And for 124 years, we have understood that “person” also refers to corporations. 

In fact, just two weeks ago, it was reported that JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and the London Metal Exchange Ltd. were hit with a class action in New York federal court alleging they schemed to manipulate zinc prices by hoarding it in LME warehouses in order to artificially spike its price.

The suit against the corporations was brought under section 2 of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which addresses “persons.”

8. Finally – and perhaps conclusively – is the Dictionary Act of 1947 (Ch 388, 61 Stat. 633; commonly referred to 1 US Code Section 1.

It defines terms for US laws this way:

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise—

words importing the singular include and apply to several persons, parties, or things;

words importing the plural include the singular;

words importing the masculine gender include the feminine as well;

words used in the present tense include the future as well as the present;

the words “person” and “whoever” include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals

The notion of Corporate Personhood has been supported by almost every provision of American Constitutional Law and legal jurisprudence, and has been since our founding.  You may not like some of the decisions that rely on that concept, but, over the course of American history, the concept has carried out what the Constitution was designed to do:  enhance the rights of private entities, of whatever make-up, and restrict the power of government.


Monday, June 16, 2014

100 Years of Western Meddling in the Middle East (Or, Is the Friend of the Enemy of my Enemy's Friends an Enemy - Always?)

 In the timeline below, I'm not even including Afghanistan, long a proxy war between the US and Russia ... nor am I including the usual focus on Israel and Palestine. This is just an overview - a brief timeline - of the chaos that has been caused in a large part by the US, Britain, and France in the nations of Iran, Iraq, and Syria over the last 100 years. Follow along....if you can.....

1911:  WWI: Russia and Britain occupy Iran.  Britain stays10 years.
1916:  Britain and France develop the Sykes-Picot Agreement, a secret Plan to divide the entire middle east outside of the Arabian peninsula.

1920: Britain receives Palestine, Jordan, and what is now Iraq, and installs Sunni elites into power. France occupies what is today Syria and Lebanon. France transfers some Lebanese territory to Syria, and continues occupation of both until 1946.

1921:  Britain withdraws from Iran, and Reza Khan becomes Shah of Iran.

1941: WWII begins. Iraqis overthrow puppet British government in Iraq. Britain and Russia occupy Iran and Iraq to guarantee oil supplies for the Allied effort. Shah Reza Khan is deposed by the superpowers; his son Reza Pahlavi is installed as new Shah of Iran in return for western access to oil. Britain stays in Iraq until 1948.

1943: Lebanon gains independence from France; Britain occupies both Lebanon and Syria to avoid alliances with Germany.

1948: State of Israel established. Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria declare war on Israel. Syria undergoes years of internal revolts following their defeat, many based on ethnic and religious rivalries.

1951: Iranians elect Mosaddegh as Prime Minister.

1953: Mosaddegh nationalizes oil fields, and is subsequently overthrown in US-UK led coup d’etat. The Shah assumes complete control and crushes opposition with torture and secret police with US-UK support.

1958: Iraqis revolt against British-installed Monarchy and Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist party assumes control.

1966: Ba’athist Party also takes control in Syria, but the group is divided between pro and anti Iraq factions.

1970:  The Anti-Iraq wing of the Ba’athist Party, supported by the military, overthrows the Syrian government and installs anti-Iraq Ba’athist Hafez el-Assad as leader.

1975: Civil War breaks out in Lebanon.

1976: Syria begins a 30 year occupation and effective control of Lebanon.

1978: Iranians revolt against the Shah; The Iranian Revolution installs Ayatollah Khomeini in a  theocratic state.

1979: US refuses to return the Shah to Iran to face trial; students take Americans Embassy hostage for 444 days.

1980: Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein invades Iran, receiving financial, military, and chemical weapons from the US.

1988: Hussein’s Iraq launches chemical genocide against Kurdish minority in northern Iraq.

1990: Iraq annexes Kuwait.  US, France, UK, and Syria enter the Gulf War against Hussein; Kurds rebel in the north.

1998: US President Clinton signs Iraq Liberation Act, calling for “regime change” in Iraq.

2000: Syria’s Hafez el-Assad dies; his son Bashar al-Azzad takes control.

2001: Al Qaeda attacks the United States.  US State Department meets with Iran secretly in Switzerland to obtain cooperation on the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan and al qaeda throughout the region.

2002: President Bush refers to Iran as being part of the “Axis of Evil” and US-Iran relations deteriorate quickly.

2003: US-led coalition enters Iraq and overthrows Hussein. Shi’ite led coalition government installed, with a semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north.

2005: A series of assassinations of Lebanese officials is blamed on Syria’s Assad; protests and pressure from the west result in Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon.

2008: Lebanon’s new Cabinet establishes Hezbollah, a Shi’ite paramilitary organization, with legal status. Hezbollah is committed to driving the Americans, French, and British out of the Levant, is funded by Iran, and allied with Syria’s Assad in the Syrian Civil War.

2011: US Troops leave Iraq, and Sunni-Shi’ite struggles accelerate. The “Arab Spring” spreads to Syria and full-scale civil war ensues, resulting in over 100,000 deaths and 2 million refugees.  Anti-Assad forces include Kurds and ISIS (“Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”) allies in the northeast of Syria.

2014: The Sunni-dominated ISIS military assume effective control over eastern Syria, and begin successful invasion of Western Iraq. 

News outlets and US Government Hawks reduce the march of ISIS to that of "al qaeda linked militants" - a simpleton's version.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Honeybees and a Tale of Two Companies: Mann Lake vs. Monsanto

 Honey bees, crucial in the pollination of many U.S. food crops, continue to die off at an alarming rate.  Total losses of managed honey bee colonies was 23.2 percent nationwide for the 2013-2014 winter, according to the annual report issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the "Bee Informed Partnership," a group of honeybee industry participants.

The death rate for the most recent winter, October 2013 through April 2014, follows a 30.5 percent loss reported for the winter of 2012-2013, and a 21.9 percent loss in 2011-2012.  At this rate, bee populations have been dying at a rate the U.S. government says is economically unsustainable. Honey bees pollinate plants that produce about a quarter of the food consumed by Americans, including apples, almonds, watermelons and beans, according to government reports.
Scientists, consumer groups and bee keepers say the devastating rate of bee deaths is due at least in part to the growing use of pesticides sold by agrichemical companies to boost yields of staple crops such as corn.  On May 9 the Harvard School of Public Health released a study that found that two widely used neonicotinoids — a class of insecticide — appear to have significantly harmed honey bee colonies over their winter dormant period. 

"With the damning evidence mounting, pesticide companies can no longer spin their way out of this crisis," said Michele Simon, a public health lawyer who specializes in food issues. 

The guilty parties? Monsanto Co (whose executives have close ties with both the Obama Administration and with Bill and Hillary Clinton) and DuPont,  both of whom are responsible for producing the majority of the defoliant Agent Orange which affected generations of Americans during the post-Vietnam war years.   

Last year, organic farmers were outraged to discover that the Illinois Department of Agriculture had actually seized and destroyed healthy bee colonies belonging to a scientist who spent 15 years developing a strain that was resistant to the toxic effect of Monsanto’s chemical Roundup.

Meanwhile, the entire European Union has enacted an outright ban on the use of neonicotinoids on crops, home lawns, and gardens

But in the small town of Hackensack, Minnesota, a small company named Mann Lake Limited   stands as David against Goliath.

The company was started by Betty and Jack Thomas, who were hobby beekeepers 30 years ago. But as bees and supplies grew scarce, they took matters into their own hands.  

“Let’s start a little bee keeping supply business as a cottage industry out at the lake,” Jack said.

It wasn’t long before business boomed. They now employ 350 people, making their business larger than the town in which they are located. Those 350 employees make everything from the hives to the food bees eat in the off season. They supply beekeepers large and small, from Minnesota to the Middle East, and have recently opened a new facility in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

“When you are a hobby beekeeper you start out with the equipment which we make,” Jack said. “Now you need bees to put in that equipment.”  And so, millions of bees arrive at Mann Lake Limited in early May, after a 30-hour nonstop run from California, where the new bees are bred. They come in 2,000 wooden crates, stacked onto pallets.  Each box holds a queen, and 15,000 worker bees.

Nationwide, the problems that both commercial and hobby beekeepers have is keeping their bees alive and away from the pesticides that appear to be annihilating them. 

“Always in the back of the mind is: What else can we do?” Jack said. “Where can we expand? What new products can we come up with?”

It’s all to give bees a fighting chance. 

Betty and Jack, like some other socially responsible businesses such as Juan Valdez Coffee and New Belgium Brewing,  have since turned their business over to their employees through an employee stock ownership plan.  In essence, their business’ “worker bees” are also now the owners “the colony,” and all share a vision to prevent a catastrophic collapse of the nation’s food supply.

One can only hope that as in the biblical story, David defeats the mighty Goliath.