Which side are you on

15 07 2014

A few more short thoughts on recent Supreme Court decisions, and some connections between them:

1. That mashupCorporations are people, my friends, and some people are more equal than others—is a distressingly apt line:

Two recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings—AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion and American Express v. Italian Colors—have deeply undercut these centuries-old public rights, by empowering businesses to avoid any threat of private lawsuits or class actions. The decisions culminate a thirty-year trend during which the judiciary, including initially some prominent liberal jurists, has moved to eliminate courts as a means for ordinary Americans to uphold their rights against companies. The result is a world where corporations can evade accountability and effectively skirt swaths of law, pushing their growing power over their consumers and employees past a tipping point.

2. Is the Court’s contempt for labor leading or following a more general social contempt for labor?

3. Remember, reproductive labor is the first form of labor, the basis of all other labor.

.

And one non-Court related note:

I will never be an orthodox Marxist—I lack the optimism required of the orthodox—but if you want to understand the political culture in the US today, you’d do worse than to start with the domination of capital over our entire political-economy.

This doesn’t mean that all is determined by capitalist relations, that there is no autonomous space for politics and culture, or that there is no resistance to capital.

But it does mean that you can understand a lot if you understand that if capital is up against any other interest—labor, community, environmental, educational, safety, public—capital almost always wins.

If capital has no interest, then the politics is up for grabs.

We are left fighting over scraps.

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I am everyday people

6 07 2014

“Corporations are people, my friends, and some people are more equal than others.”

BruceJ, with an apt mash-up.





Hey baby, it’s the fourth of July

4 07 2014

Oh, it just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?

Well, hell, on this fine day of independence (in declaration, if not fact), why not some X to remind us of what a long, strange trip we’re on?

Okay, so Exene may have gone off her rocker, but haven’t/won’t we all?

Here’s to weird old America. . . .





Are we not men

2 07 2014

I freaked out about Hobby Lobby a few months ago, so while I was pissed at the ruling, by the time it arrived I was all freaked-out.

There’s a shit-ton of good (and lousy) commentary out there about the ruling—which means I’ma gonna pass on Fisking Alito’s decision (which, by the way, Supreme Bad-Ass Ruth Bader-Ginsburg does just fine in her opinion, beg. on p. 60) and tick off a few hits:

1. This decision is terrible for equal protection of the law, offering an out from laws of general applicability, based on the sincerely? insincerely? held beliefs of those seeking the out.

Yes, Alito & Kennedy say, No, no, that’s not what we really mean, but whether or not they are sincere in their meanings, that will be the practical effect.

2. It is difficult to see how the courts and the Court can avoid favoritism in choosing to exempt contraception-banners but not transfusion- or psychiatry-banners. [see point 3, pp. 5-6]

Which means they either engage in favoritism, allow Congress to engage in favoritism, or allow the exemptions.

3. It is not at all difficult to see why contraception was singled out as exempt-worthy but transfusions and psychiatry might not be.

Guess! Guess!

4. Given how weird and not-wonderful our politics has become, this ruling may actually work against religious conservatives, and will be used (likely to some effect) in campaigns against Republicans.

Religious conservatives have done a pretty good job of complaining how wee and woebegone they all are, under assault from the gay agenda and atheist meanies and a hostile Obama administration—which complaints, however ginned up, did form out of a juniper seed of fact: a majority of the country now accepts gay marriage, some atheists are mean, and Obama has pushed hard on protections for LGBT folk.

So, religious folks on sexual matters: on the defensive.

Now, however, those same religious folks may lose their “underdog” status and may—may—be seen less as bullied than bullies, or at least as above the law.

Which, y’know, they are.

5. This decision really is bad for women, not just because it makes it easier for employers to deny contraceptive coverage to them, but because it further segregates “sexual health” from “health”.

And no, I’m not even going to begin to link to all of the idiots who think sex is dirty or nasty or not somehow an integral part of human being.

6. This decision, combined with the Harris v. Quinn decision chipping away at public sector unions, is bad for everyone.

As Sarah Jaffe noted,

Attacks on all workers’ rights often come first through attacks on those deemed less important workers. When we decide that birth control isn’t a pivotal issue because it only affects some workers, or that homecare workers’ loss is not a loss for us all, we leave the door open for the next attack.

7. From another angle, it is difficult to see how an expansion of the rights of the corporate person is good for corporeal persons.

This last point deserves more thought, thought which I don’t have right now. Let’s just say that it seems that as the rights of one expands, the other contracts.

~~~

h/t Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns & Money for the Jaffe link





Wait a minute honey, I’m gonna add it up

30 06 2014

Jesus fucking christ.

FireShot Screen Capture #001

Unions screwed, women screwed out of protected screwing.





Hear me roar

25 03 2014

I cannot fucking believe that the Supreme Court might rule in favor of Hobby Lobby.

It just. . . it’s. . . it makes no fucking sense what.so.ever.

One law. One fucking law for all. Is that so hard to understand?

You’d think Scalia would get this, he of the Smith decision who wrote that

We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs [494 U.S. 872, 879]   excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition. As described succinctly by Justice Frankfurter in Minersville School Dist. Bd. of Ed. v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586, 594 -595 (1940): “Conscientious scruples have not, in the course of the long struggle for religious toleration, relieved the individual from obedience to a general law not aimed at the promotion or restriction of religious beliefs. The mere possession of religious convictions which contradict the relevant concerns of a political society does not relieve the citizen from the discharge of political responsibilities (footnote omitted).” We first had occasion to assert that principle in Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879), where we rejected the claim that criminal laws against polygamy could not be constitutionally applied to those whose religion commanded the practice. “Laws,” we said, “are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. . . . Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.” Id., at 166-167.

[. . .]

[re US v. Lee] . . . There would be no way, we observed, to distinguish the Amish believer’s objection to Social Security taxes from the religious objections that others might have to the collection or use of other taxes. “If, for example, a religious adherent believes war is a sin, and if a certain percentage of the federal budget can be identified as devoted to war-related activities, such individuals would have a similarly valid claim to be exempt from paying that percentage of the income tax. The tax system could not function if denominations were allowed to challenge the tax system because tax payments were spent in a manner that violates their religious belief.”

[ . . .]

Precisely because “we are a cosmopolitan nation made up of people of almost every conceivable religious preference,” Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S., at 606 , and precisely because we value and protect that religious divergence, we cannot afford the luxury of deeming presumptively invalid, as applied to the religious objector, every regulation of conduct that does not protect an interest of the highest order. The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind. . .

[. . .]

It may fairly be said that leaving accommodation to the political process will place at a relative disadvantage those religious practices that are not widely engaged in; but that unavoidable consequence of democratic government must be preferred to a system in which each conscience is a law unto itself or in which judges weigh the social importance of all laws against the centrality of all religious beliefs. [emph added]

Now, yes, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed to counter the Smith decision, but when individuals tried to use RFRA to argue against paying taxes, the Court say, in effect, “nuh-uh”, that the requirement of tax payment met the “compelling government interest” test.

Ensuring that women have access to a full range of medical care, including that of counseling and advice regarding our birth control options, may not, however, be sufficiently “compelling”.

Taxes: yes! Control over one’s body and health? Nah.

As Dahlia Lithwick observes,

The rights of millions of women to preventive health care and workplace equality elicit almost no sign of sympathy or solicitude from the right wing of the bench today. Nor does the possibility that religious conscience objections may soon swallow up the civil rights laws protecting gay workers, women, and other minorities. Religious freedom trumps because we’re “only” talking about birth control.





Whisper to a scream

6 06 2013

Why aren’t I screaming?

After all, one guy points his camera at the windows of a nearby building and I rant about privacy and presumption; Google wants to equip people with awkward glass and I grouch about techno-coercion; and surveillance drones? Oy, don’t get me started.

So you’d think the revelations of NSA scooping up basic phone information on everyone as well as everything that’s posted online, would cause my ears to blow clean off of my head.

Except, nope.

Not because I don’t think it’s a big deal—I think it’s a very big deal—but because this is all completely unfuckingsurprising.

This isn’t about Obama or Bush, but about a dynamic of presidential politics wherein the executive will grab as much power as he can, especially when the Congress orders him to do so. Some constitutional scholars have speculated that the Obama administration’s actions are unconstitutional, but it’s not at all clear that a Supreme Court which thinks swiping some DNA from every arrested person is okey-dokey by the Fourth Amendment is going to push back against both the president and Congress on NATIONALSECURITY!!!! matters.

Will Congress do anything? Ha. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) might now be ‘extremely troubled’ by revelations over the extent of data-hoovering, but just what the fuck did an author of the execrable PATRIOT Act think would happen when said Act howled ‘AAAARRGGHH! SAAAAVE US!’ to the president.

And We the People? We want to be safe and secure, so if we have to take off our shoes at airports or belts before entering federal buildings or open our bags before getting on trains, then that’s what we’ll do. Oh, sure, we might grumble, but will we press our representatives and our senators to chop back the national security apparatus or reign in the president? We will not.

In fact, if, say, two young men happen to set off two bombs at a city celebration we’ll wonder where was the FBI and the CIA and the Dept of Homeland Security and what more can be done to keep this from ever happening again.

This is overstatement, of course: many of us will say, Hey, this couldn’t have been prevented, there are limits as to what can or should be done. But this shrug (or stoicism, if you prefer) won’t go much further than our living rooms, and those motivated to take their security-skepticism to the halls of Congress might meet a few sympathetic legislators, but not enough to change anything.

Maybe the courts will manage to rouse themselves from the stupor induced by NATIONALSECURITY!!! hypnosis and remember that the Constitution also has something to say about liberty and due process and, oh yes, ‘the right of the people to be secure in their own person‘—but I ain’t counting on it.

This, then, is why I’m not screaming: It would be a waste of perfectly good breath.

~~~

h/t for Joshua Foust link: James Fallows