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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.

Now, I’m pissed.

September 3, 2013 1 comment

Warning: this post contains very strong language.

It’s been a while since I posted to the blog, mostly because I didn’t have anything to say.  Now, I do.  This is a photograph I took last year:

Root formation along the McKenzie River Trail.

Root formation along the McKenzie River Trail.

This is a natural root formation along the McKenzie River trail.  It has been here for hundreds of years.  Thousands of people have stopped along the trail to marvel at its beauty and all have shown the sense and courtesy to leave it alone.  Until now.

Today, my wife and I took the dog up to the trail for a Labor Day family outing and I discovered this (DJ took this photo with here cell phone):

2013-09-02 14.08.33Now, I’m pissed.  No, let me rephrase that.  I’m fucking livid.

JP, whoever the fuck you are, I hope you’re reading this.  You are a colossal piece of shit.  You hear me?  You are a miserable, festering pile of human waste.  You have forever destroyed a spectacular natural work of art.  No one will ever be able to enjoy the beauty of this root formation without having to stare at the disgusting ass wipe you left behind.  You deserve to spend the rest of your pathetic life living in a cold, colorless world where neighborhood gang bangers tag your stupid pickup once a week.

Fuck you, asshole.

This time, it’s different.

December 20, 2012 3 comments

The shooting of twenty innocent children in Connecticut has caused me to rethink my position on gun control.  I hope that it causes others like me to do the same.  The rights of small children to attend school without being gunned down outweigh anyone else’s right to own any firearm they want.  The NRA will paint this an attack on individual liberties.  That’s a bullshit argument.  There’s a very big difference between regulating access to particular firearms and banning all of them outright.  This is about individual rights versus responsibility to community.  This time, the community wins.

This time, it’s different.

When a shooter entered a crowded theater in Aurora, Colorado, and gunned down adults, I thought, “Well, if someone had been armed, they could have defended themselves and others.”   A short time later, when a shooter entered a crowded shopping mall in Portland, Oregon and gunned down Christmas shoppers I thought, “If someone with a concealed weapons permit had been there, they could have defended themselves and others.”  Then, about ten days after that a crazy person walked in to an elementary school and shot and killed twenty small children and six adults.  Again, I thought, “If one of those adults had been armed…”

And that’s when I realized just how completely crazy my thinking had become.

Kindergarten teachers should not have to go to work armed to the teeth.  We should not be living a society where we must surround our schools with armed guards.  I don’t want my children or grandchildren attending any school that operates like a maximum-security prison.

This time, it’s different.

The weapons used by these killers were modular, assault rifles developed for use by the military, not hunters.  The only difference between what the military uses and what these madmen carried is the ability to operate at full automatic.  Nevertheless, they are capable of spraying bullets as fast as one can repeatedly pull the trigger.

I spent 21 years in the military.  I am more than familiar with these weapons.  They have high clip capacities in order to allow for the most death and destruction with the least amount of effort.  They are not very effective at long-range accuracy; their barrels are too short for that.  They are designed to hunt human beings in the dense jungle or an urban environment – close-quarter fighting.

As I have stated in a previous post, I am a gun owner.  I like guns.  I sell guns.  But I have no legitimate reason to own a modular AR and neither does anyone else in the private sector.  I can’t carry it concealed.  I don’t need it for the defense of my home and hearth.  I have plenty of other guns that are more than capable of that.  I don’t need it for hunting.  If I can’t take an animal down range with one shot, I shouldn’t be pulling the trigger in the first place.

These guns were marketed to the private sector for one reason: they have macho appeal.  They may be fun to shoot, but the rights of little children outweigh anyone else’s right to a good time.

There are some who will argue that the Second Amendment affords them the right to own these weapons.  I disagree.  If the right to “keep and bear arms” includes, by definition, weapons that can be carried and used by one person, then by that logic we must also include fully automatic weapons and shoulder-fired missile launchers.  I cannot, in good conscience make that argument.  Some limitations must be made for the common good.

This time, it’s different.

Some have made the ridiculous argument that these atrocities would not happen if we would all just get down on our knees and prostrate ourselves to god.  That argument is so completely stupid it doesn’t even warrant a response.  Magical thinking will not solve our problems.

Some have argued that we should arm teachers and school staff.  That, too, is utterly ludicrous.  The people who committed these crimes were well armed.  They were fearless.  They were ready for death.  Only SEALs and SWAT teams are prepared such an adversary.  Effectively fighting an opponent such as that requires dedicated, daily training and readiness, not a weekend seminar.  Even seasoned police officers fire a number of shots that miss when they are faced with a gunman.  Arming teachers would only get more people killed and cause massive confusion among the police officers once they respond to the scene.

Some (myself, included) have argued that we must place more attention on our identification and treatment of the mentally ill.  And while this is true, it presents even more challenges than our other options.  People who are mentally ill don’t see themselves as mentally ill.  As far as they are concerned, you are the one the problem, not them.  Getting them in to treatment is next to impossible unless they agree to it.  You cannot simply label someone mentally ill and start shoving pills down their throat.  They have to want the treatment.  Only after they have done something wrong or dangerous can you effectively force treatment upon them.  By then, the damage is done.  By then, they’ve already sprayed bullets into a crowded restaurant.

The only sensible solution at this point is to limit access to these weapons.  Hunters can have their bolt-action rifles and revolvers.  Competitive shooters can still have their semi-automatic 9mms and .45s.  Homeowners can have their 18.5-inch shotguns.

But nobody needs an AR-15.

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.

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