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Walgreens decides to stay and play…for now.

August 8, 2014 Leave a comment

A few weeks ago I wrote about Walgreens’ potential move overseas for the express purpose of avoiding taxes.

Well, now it appears that they have abandoned this idea after fierce criticism from both Washington politicians and the public (their customers).  This is a good thing.  But.  Going forward, American Corporations will not use this as an object lesson in the same way you or I would use it to teach our children about good citizenship: if what you are about to do is a bad thing, don’t do it.  Instead, I can assure you, Corporate America will use this as a lesson in stealth and secrecy: don’t talk about it until it’s a done deal.

Walgreens and the exporting of the American Dream

July 17, 2014 1 comment

Walgreen’s is contemplating moving its headquarters overseas to avoid paying federal taxes. Unfortunately, this has become more and more common. For an American corporation, born in the United States, to pack up and leave simply to avoid paying taxes is traitorous.

These corporations have been built on the backs of American workers. They enjoy the benefits afforded by the American system of government and monetary policy. The Coast Guard and Navy provide transportation channels free of piracy to ship their products to and from overseas. They take advantage of a domestic system of paved roads and bridges to ship their products to market. An energy grid built with government subsidies provides them with continuous, reliable power for their stores and warehouses. A national intelligence and law enforcement network keeps them and their businesses safe. An Internet built by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) using public money allows them to open their doors to the entire nation. They rely on a national weather service to warn them of potential disasters that could harm their assets and employees, and; should they need it, they take advantage of government subsidized flood and natural disaster insurance. They hire employees educated in public schools to perform the labor necessary to generate profits. Walgreen’s, in particular, profits from the massive government subsidies given to pharmaceutical companies for research, and billions in Medicare funding and healthcare plans for public employees and retirees. They’re protected by the largest, strongest military every built in the history of humanity to secure lines of communication and logistics and access to natural resources. The taxpayer underwrites almost all of the food products they sell – especially if they are sweetened with corn syrup. And most importantly, they enjoy the benefits of a stable currency provided by all of the above and more. Without all of these things, they would have nothing. Every morning, they would have to chase off thugs and thieves from their front doors just to open for business. But they don’t want to pay for any of that.

They want the privilege of profits without the responsibilities of citizenship.

Hobby Lobby update

July 5, 2014 8 comments

Well, this was faster than I thought.  I wrote yesterday that the line at the Supreme Court’s door would wrap around the block.  It’s already forming.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2014/07/04/the-supreme-court-opens-the-floodgates/?tid=recommended_strip_1

Hobby Lobby: Corporate Personhood with a Prophet as CEO

July 5, 2014 3 comments

For-Profit Corporations that believe in god.

Humans are the only organisms capable of pure imagination – pure invention – the ability to create a separate reality from whole cloth and then act upon it. Elephants do not pray and whales do not dream of an afterlife. Only humans do this. Only humans create religious beliefs. Until now. The Hobby Lobby decision bestows upon corporations the human characteristic of supernatural belief.

By claiming that certain elements of the ACA’s contraception coverage mandate violated their company’s deeply held religious beliefs, Hobby Lobby convinced the US Supreme Court that corporations are capable of having religious beliefs. Their argument was that in regard to these religious beliefs, there is no difference between The Corporation and The Human Owners. And the acceptance of this argument by the Supreme Court represents an astounding shift in legal thinking. Corporations, effectively, now have more rights and privileges than do actual flesh-and-blood human beings because unlike corporations, humans cannot insulate themselves from liability for their actions, which is the essential reason for the existence of the legal status of incorporation.

By incorporating, a person or group of persons insulate themselves from personal liability regarding claims that may arise as a result of their business enterprises. The corporation may be sued, but the founders and stockholders are not held personally liable. The corporation is a wholly synthetic construct, like a marionette, providing a legal separation between it and its human operators. This is rather insidious when you think about it. It is the illusion of the ventriloquist made real. “I’m sorry your husband died in one of our cars, Mrs. Henderson, but it’s not my fault. The dummy did it.”

Yet this is the essential privilege of incorporation: personal immunity from litigation. Corporations are not encumbered by the vicissitudes of ordinary existence: they do not have a limited lifespan, they cannot go to prison for their actions, and they never get called for jury duty. And therein lies the danger of the concept of corporate personhood. It allows corporations to have it both ways. They get to hide behind their artificial facade of existence when they want to shield their human operators from recrimination but don the garb of humanity when it will advance their interests. No other organism on earth, natural or synthetic, gets to do this.

David Green, the CEO of Hobby Lobby successfully convinced the court that there is no difference between himself and his company – that they are both one and the same. The court granted him this concession. But rest assured, should the day come when a shelving unit falls over on a customer and kills them, he will not stand behind this claim. He will say, “I’m sorry about your husband, Mrs. Henderson, but you can’t blame me. The dummy did it.”

 

Religious Offence as Legal Standing.

The ridiculousness of the Hobby Lobby decision is breathtaking. In one ruling, the Supreme Court extended the already ludicrous concept of corporate personhood by granting it the human capacity of religious belief and, at the same time, elevated the intellectually bankrupt notion of religious offence to the level of legal standing.

The concept of legal standing is the requirement that you have skin in the game. A litigant must show that a ruling by the court will either create an injury or redress an existing one. This is a tangible and demonstrative requirement. Lack of legal standing is precisely why the proponents of California’s Proposition 8 lost their case in the Supreme Court. They could not show legal standing. But they did not dare make the argument of religious offence even though, clearly, that was their primary complaint – that gay marriage violated their personal religious beliefs. Perhaps, in hindsight, they’re wishing they had. Hobby Lobby’s argument was religious offence and, it worked.

Proving legal standing, as with all arguments made in a secular court of law, demands exhaustively researched case law, statistics, hard-won data – in short, demonstrative evidence. But this is not the case with religious offence. With religious offence, no evidence is required. One only need to claim belief and it is accepted with the same weight and gravitas as any other empirical data ordinarily demanded by a court of law. Anyone else attempting to present a case before the US Supreme Court would be required to dump mountains of painstakingly acquired research on the bench. But with religious offence, one only need stand and claim belief. The argument from religious offence is nothing more than a semantically elaborate version of “I don’t like it.”

Let’s be clear: religious offence is precisely the same logic used by Muslims to justify going bat shit crazy over a cartoon.

Hobby Lobby’s owners didn’t have to prove that the legal, vetted, tested, FDA approved, and widely used contraception methods that they objected to were an affront to humanity. They only needed to stand before the Supreme Court and, state for the record that, they think they are. By stating that he “considers” these particular forms of contraceptives to be abortion, and that he “considers abortion to be murder,” David Green is playing prophet. Only by claiming to speak for god can anyone stand in open court and make such baseless claims and still be taken seriously. This is the poverty of the argument from religious offence. In no other arena of human discourse or endeavor are the standards of evidence so blatantly ignored. Religious offence becomes, then, the perfect defense – no evidence, logic, research, or comparative analysis is required. The statements made by the believer are accepted without question and, more importantly, assigned the same value of evidence demanded of others.

Religious beliefs are man made and exist outside objective reality. Religions that reject broad sectors of modern medicine (Scientology: Psychotherapy) or medical practice entirely (Christian Scientist) already abound. This decision sets a dangerous precedent. Anyone can now claim standing for whatever unsubstantiated fantasy they can cook up provided they can successfully couch them in the guise of religious belief. So, next up: the anti-vaccine crowd.

 

Corporations and the ownership society.

David Green’s argument was that he shouldn’t have to pay for medical processes he believed were sinful (and yes, sinful is exactly the right word). But is that really true? Corporations have a host of people who come to work everyday and labor in order to generate revenue for the company, which includes the workers themselves. Workers work for themselves. David Green’s workers don’t labor everyday to ensure that he is able to buy a new Mercedes Benz. They do it to pay their rent. The revenue they generate on a daily basis goes into a general fund from which all company overhead is paid. This overhead includes the pay and benefits that the workers receive. Workers work to generate their own pay and benefits. None of that money belongs to any particular person until it’s portioned out, including Green himself, who presumably receives a salary. Until then, it belongs to the collective for the benefit of the collective: the workers who earned it, the individual stores for the light bill, the company for future growth and finally, Green himself. This is his reward for founding the company. The ACA never called for Green to come out of his own, personal pocket to pay for worker benefits. It only called for his company to set aside a certain portion of the gross revenues the workers generate on a daily basis for the security of their future employment. Green’s contention that his pocket was being picked is specious and a modern leftover from the Antebellum South.

In the days of slavery, slave owners claimed that the fruits of the worker’s labor were theirs from the moment of creation and forever. When workers themselves were considered property, this argument might have made sense, but no longer. After slavery, this attitude persisted throughout the gilded age and the rise of the robber barons and it was precisely this attitude and its accompanying behavior on the part of the ownership class that resulted in the establishment of worker’s unions. Today, worker’s unions are on the decline and this idea that whatever the worker creates is automatically and instantaneously the property of the owner still persists.

This proprietary attitude that workers are beholden to the company for their every breath ignores the reality that the owners would have nothing without them. Certainly, Green never consulted his workers on this issue because he never considered their contribution to the general fund from which these monies would be distributed for their benefit. He only thought of himself.

Thus, Green becomes a prophet to his employees. This is the hubris of religious mentality – a mentality that declares, “I know what is best and it’s my responsibility to protect you from yourself.” Green successfully argued before the Supreme Court that the dollars generated by his thousands of workers was his, and his alone, from the very moment it was collected from the customer and that only he knows best how to spend it. Forget about allowing each worker to decide, along with their doctor, which procedures are best for them according to their medical needs and, if they feel, their religious views. No, David Green has made that decision for them without regard to their input, even though they’re raising the money to pay for it.

Going into the future I foresee more and more corporations, each one larger than the previous, lining up at the door to the Supreme Court to demand their own exemptions. For-profit corporations have a well-documented history of looking for ways to socialize their overhead and weasel out of government mandates. Now they have a whole, new tactic.

Time for a New Conversation

December 15, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s time we had a rational, sensible, adult conversation about gun violence in America, just like it was time we had a rational, sensible, adult conversation about drunk driving.  I like guns.  I own guns.  I use guns.  Hell, I sell guns (and other sporting goods) for a living.  But I don’t walk into a crowded classroom and gun down innocent children just like I don’t drive drunk or punch another person in the face (as much as I would like to sometimes) just because I disagree with them.

We glorify guns in our culture.   We shouldn’t.  We glorify violence in our culture.  We shouldn’t.  We preach the virtues of gunpoint diplomacy and the evils of sex.  We tolerate hundreds of images of violence against others (particularly women) on television but become apoplectic over images of physical pleasure between consenting adults.  Don’t think that doesn’t have an impact on the developing brain.  Neural pathways are formed by observation of the familiar and routine and are designed to produce consistent outcomes according to those established rules of order and algorithms.  We are what we experience and observe on a regular basis – what is acceptable and what is not, what works and what does not, which thoughts and actions produce results and which ones do not.  It’s time to start changing that development model.

Brave, rational thinking is the only way out of chaos.  Keeping a gun in your closet and Jesus in your heart will not save you from the madman.  Faith and hope are nothing more than excuses for inaction and cowardice.

We need to make an honest and productive assessment of our cultural priorities.  It’s time to start allocating resources toward illegal gun trafficking and the untreated mentally ill and less time on busting pot smokers who built the pizza delivery industry.

We need a national healthcare system that makes it easy and inexpensive for people with mental illness to get the treatment they need before they go off the deep end.  Arming kindergarten teachers with 9mm automatics won’t change the equation.  The madman will still come – and he will be fearless and ready for death.  Only a team of SEALs are prepared for that kind of enemy.

We have a problem that goes far deeper than guns.  We need to examine our relationship with confrontation and violence.

Beware: Mormons Masquerading as Christians

September 4, 2012 1 comment

My family now has pictures of Jesus on their walls.  Every few years he changes, though, moving from a scarlet-robed Charleton Heston type to a cuddlier man clothed in fluffy homespun, his kind face turned toward his sheep.

When I look at their Jesus, I remember my childhood in this same house where a portrait of Christ on the wall was considered bizarre.  Only converts to the Mormon faith would tolerate Jesus icons, or people who were not tightly wound.  My family was fifth-generation Mormon and we knew how to behave.

At Seminary school, I remember a lecture on why it was against our religion to wear a crucifix.  My handsome instructor, Brother Dolan, pointed out that a Mormon girl wouldn’t sport a cross anymore than she would string a tiny guillotine around her neck.  He called it “execution jewelry” and, being 15, I agreed.

The prophet-saint Joseph Smith was everywhere in homes and churches then along with prints depicting the pioneers’ struggle to reach the Salt Lake Valley.  Joseph, reconstructed to mirror the current strong-jawed movie star image,  appeared with a glow around his head.

For many of us ex-Mormons, this Presidential Election time of spotlight on our church of origin is uniquely uncomfortable.  The Mormon face-lift rankles even more than usual.

When I was a little girl, my grandmother told me about her “other mother.”  Her name was Fanny and she was a convert from England.  Fanny came to help out in my great-grandmother’s house and stayed on as my great-grandfather’s second wife.  This would have been standard procedure in the community, but unfortunately, great-grandpa Edwin favored Fanny and built her a beautiful new house of her own where he spent more of his time.  When the federal government began arresting polygamists, he took Fanny and their offspring to hide in Mexico, abandoning my great-grandmother to fend for herself in a harsh desert land with 11 children.  That’s a face of Mormonism that isn’t depicted in missionary literature.

I can accept the Mormons’ colorful history, but not the pretending that it never existed.

African-Americans are now admitted to the church with full privilege.  I have clear recall of being taught that black people were genetically inferior and not suitable hosts for the restored Gospel.  Gays, by the way, did not exist.

The civil rights movement cured the church of their misconception regarding blacks, but women have not fared so well.  Still clearly inferior, women in the church are taught that since they have been “given the privilege of bearing children” they forfeit the priesthood authority.  I probably believed this was a good trade until, on a sweltering August afternoon, I experienced the privilege of birthing twins.  I’ll take the Priesthood.

The schools of my girlhood in Idaho were so influenced by Mormons that pants were forbidden to females.  The church still teaches that a woman of any age must always wear a skirt to enter into the door of the chapel.

By the way, Bibles were not very evident in the Mormon homes of my childhood, either.  After all, the Holy Bible is only true until it contradicts the Book of Mormon, a higher wisdom.

The Mormon church has changed so subtly and with such skillful art that my family, who still believe, seem unaware of it.  When I comment on the new Jesus focus they look at me with bewilderment.   However, any Christian or other faith beliefs I have acquired since my liberation from Mormonism are regarded with suspicion or outright disdain.  If I am not Mormon, no matter how devout or solid in my faith, I am deluded, deceived, or otherwise influenced by Satan.   Certainly, I am not accepted or respected.

Neither, my  friends, are you.

Fear Itself

August 7, 2012 Leave a comment

“Fear can do many strange things. Even though water run low, their mouths caked and their bellies burnt dry, not one soul put a foot outside. No one had that much courage. For they feared the peasants and their world outside. So they played it safe and didn’t move. And one by one, they perished and died.” From “The Black Plague.”

    It was a warm spring evening in the sleepy little town of Eureka, California. As fortune would have it, the sky was cloudless; a not too common occurrence for this coastal town at any time of year. Family, friends and neighbors were gathered in the grassy field near our homes. We were there to observe the passing through the night skies of something called Sputnik.

    It was the year 1958, and I, being all of eight years old, had no notion of what this Sputnik was. The significance of the event was foreign to me. My young mind was preoccupied with notions of playing baseball for the New York Yankees, and of course, my budding crush on Diane Smith. Tonight, however, all took a backseat to the much ballyhooed transit through the heavens of something called Sputnik. This was front page news in the local rag, the Humboldt Standard. To be precise, this was actually Sputnik II, or “Muttnik”, so named because of its canine passenger named Laika.

    Time seemed to come to a halt and the minutes dragged interminably along. As the last vestiges of daylight faded into darkness, the conversation of those around me became dark and ominous. I heard about “Russians” for the first time and learned that they were responsible for this Sputnik thing. This was all their doing, and somehow it portended great evil for we who were gathered that night. I was truly afraid because around me were afraid. These were the very ones I looked to for protection from things that go bump in the night. If they were fearful, I knew I should be fearful too.

“There it is” came the cry. I didn’t want to look, choosing to hide my eyes from this terrible manifestation in the firmament. “If I don’t look, it can’t hurt me.” I was terrified. And yet, the irresistible urge to have a peek at this evil Sputnik overcame my dread. I looked in the direction my father was pointing. At first I didn’t see what the others were gazing at. All I could discern was stars, a bazillion stars.

“Where is it”? “What am I looking for”? I looked to Dad for directions. He pointed at the sky in the general direction of west. Then I saw it. A tiny pinprick of light was the only thing moving among the stars. This was Sputnik the terrible, Sputnik the harbinger of the apocalypse that was certain to follow.

Despite the prognostications of the adults gathered there, the world did not come to its cataclysmic demise that evening. The new dawn broke, and with it the realization that I would have to endure another day of the drudgery known as school. I can’t recall that I ever cared much for school. Point of fact is, I can’t remember ever not hating every minute of it. But all things considered, I guess it was preferable to whatever doom Sputnik was to have unleashed. And Diane was still my girlfriend. I knew this to be so because she told me of her affection for me when we kissed for the first (and last) time. Diane’s parents soon moved to another city far away. The love of my life was gone forever.

The years went by, slowly and inexorably, as they always do in the eyes of a child. Eventually however, the days at Worthington Elementary School were over and I was a seventh grader at Eureka Junior High. The first week was a rather interesting one and I quickly found myself at odds with the powers that be. All seventh grade newcomers were ushered into the gymnasium and shown films depicting the power of a nuclear bomb. After observing the devastation, we received much needed information on how to save ourselves in the event of an atomic attack.

“When you see the bright flash of light in the sky, a flash as brilliant as the sun, hide under your desks.” I couldn’t resist. Up went my hand.

“Did you just see what just happened to that air base and the small town around it? It is gone. It’s not there anymore. It’s just gone. So is everyone who took shelter under their desks.”

Thus began the first of many trips to the vice principals office. Mrs. Davis had a face that would curd milk and a sense of humor to match her countenance. She was quite angry with me, but more than that, she was genuinely afraid. I learned more about the “Communists” and their plans for our obliteration. They were everywhere. There was one behind every tree and they were out to get us. Just like the Russians who did that awful Sputnik thing. It wasn’t long after this initial “office visit” that I learned that the Russians were the Communists.

I didn’t understand what a communist was or better yet, what communism was. No one could tell me. Even my parents had no clear notion of whom, or what a communist was. They just knew that Russians were communists. That was bad because our government leaders told them it was bad. Without knowing why I believed them, I did nonetheless.

Then came October of 1962 and the Cuban Missile Crisis. For the first time, I was really afraid. At the tender age of thirteen, I wasn’t ready to die just yet. But I could sense that this was very real and along with everyone else, I held my breath, waiting for the bomb to drop. On Saturday night, the air raid sirens went off in town, and even though my family lived several miles outside the City, I reverently placed my head between my knees and said good-bye to my gluteus maximus.

Much to my relief, the night skies never lit up and it turned out to be a five alarm fire that caused the sirens to scare the hell out of all of us. It seems a drunk driver went headlong into a gas station, causing a huge fireball and the burning of quite a large block of town. I awoke Sunday morning to the news that cooler heads had prevailed and the immediate crisis was over. This was indeed welcome news to somewhat who thought we were all goners. It wasn’t until I was much older that I learned just how close we were to the unthinkable.

Many years have gone by and much water has passed beneath the bridge of my life. The cold war is a thing of the past. The evil “Iron Curtain” has collapsed and the foe has been vanquished. But some things remain, seeming eternal. We have a new “ism” to contend with, one that we are being led to believe is infinitely more evil that the old. Terrorists have replaced Communists as the enemy of the day. Just as in Orwell’s novel “1984”, the face of the enemy is ever changing, depending on political and economic expediencies. Today’s ally will be tomorrow’s foe. We continue to live in fear of each other and even ourselves. Fearful people are easier people to control.

    In conclusion, I hearken to the words of one of our greatest Presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt. During one of his famous Fireside Chats, he told America that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Indeed, fear can do many strange things. Let us hope that as citizens of Planet Earth, we will awaken to a new age, a true age of reason. I, for one, choose not to let live in constant dread of unseen enemies, whether real or imaginary. My prayers are that the world will do the same.


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