January 31, 2010
January 30, 2010
Isn’t it interesting what our kids don’t learn in school?
Even many educated people seem never to have learned that some of the earliest British colonies were corporations chartered by the King of England. Take for instance the 1628 creation of the Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay, granted to a group of Puritans. The result was a theocratic Massachusetts with political power held by staunch Puritanical believers.
In 1636 we see the chartering of the Rhode Island colony by a group of disaffected Massachusetts Bay folk, then the Connecticut colony followed in 1662. These early American corporations were forced under terms of their charter to deal strictly with the British East India Company, and under some very disadvantageous terms.
That was the way it was until the American Revolution, which began as a rebellion more against the East India Company than of the Crown.
Our founders held a deep distrust of corporations. So much so that Thomas Jefferson offered freedom from monopolies as part of our Bill of Rights. The proposal failed to gain acceptance, and later Jefferson wrote, "I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." 
But corporations survived, and in 1886 SCOTUS inadvertently decided that a private corporation is the same as a person, and entitled to the same Constitutional protections as any other person.
The case that did it was Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886), and according to the records, Associate Justice Morrison Remick Waite, before the opening of argument, stated aloud that “[t]he 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 opinion that it does.”
The court reporter, former judge and lawyer J.C. Bancroft Davis, later entered into the summary record of the Court's findings that, “The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Thus Davis took Waite’s words, twisted them and granted something to corporations which was never even discussed. It was never the intent of SCOTUS to make that statement, and the full text of the opinion says no such thing. The case was brought as a complaint by the railroad about the taxing of fences bordering rail lines, and the railroad won. There were no arguments relating to corporate personhood or corporate rights under the First Amendment. The whole corporate personhood thing is a sham.
Corporate personhood came to be simply because of an off the cuff statement of a single justice, and the brief summary written by Court Reporter Davis. Davis himself becomes suspect in a fraud, and it has been alleged that he was bribed. After 150 years we shall never know for certain, but it is perhaps relevant that Davis was the former president of Newburgh and New York Railway Company.
The concept of corporate personhood generates some interesting questions. If the corporation enjoys the same rights as a person under the First Amendment, would it not also enjoy equally the rights protected by the full Constitution and all the amendments? Should a corporation have the right to vote? Join the military? Marry your daughter? Be called for jury duty? If a corporation is suspected of a crime, can it be remanded for trial?
I think probably not, and I further think that allowing corporations shelter under the First Amendment is a disastrous idea. Since the Constitution makes no mention of corporations, it seems clear that the law that has been promulgated under this “decision” is an attempt at rewriting the Constitution to suit the needs of the corporation, and nothing more. The fears of our founders have been realized.
"Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."
Abraham Lincoln wrote these words in 1864, twelve years before Bancroft Davis took it upon himself to grant the protections of our Constitution to the very entity Lincoln, and our founders, despised.
 Abraham Lincoln: A New Portrait, Hertz, E.
January 28, 2010
A while back I made a post in which I jokingly promoted The Green Alternative, and pointed out that certain vegetables had offered a green alternative for years, and for far less cost.
Since that time I’ve learned that the topic is not a joking matter. Vegetable abuse, it seems, is a serious problem. This was brought to my attention when I learned of a billboard in the Dallas area, which seems to have raised some conservative hackles... and then discovered this video...
So, boys and girls, do your part to stop the abuse. Belly up and pay for the proper toy.
January 24, 2010
January 23, 2010
EB Misfit has a post this morning in which she apologizes to Hillary for mean and nasty things said about her in the primaries. I started to comment, but got carried away, so I wrote a blog post.
Many of my friends suffer from some sort of delusion-inducing cerebral edema, causing them to think that far right conservatism or far left liberalism is good, and that anyone wearing the mantle of their choice is the person for whom to vote. Not so much so for me. We need a degree of conservatism in our leadership, but we need progressiveness, reason and pragmatism as well.
I’ve supported some of the so-called “fiscal conservatives” in the past because they were making more sense at the time than their election opponent. I wonder why the Republicans no longer field such candidates. The 2008 field of Republican hopefuls had nothing but wingers of one stripe or another, and although they nominated one of the least kooky, there was no way I could support McCain.
Picking a candidate these days seems to consist of choosing the one who stinks the least, so I supported Hillary in the primaries and accepted Obama by default. Harsh reality told me the country had to get away from government by corporations, and leadership by ideology. Barbarians had gained the Oval Office, and that had to change or our country would end up a pile of smoking ruins.
I watched all the debates, and the Republican field of hopefuls was a rogue's gallery of corporate pocket rats and family value bozos. There were none fitting any rational criteria, with each claiming either the mantle of Bush or of Reagan and all spouted the rightwing hemlock of “social conservatism.” That kind of political philosophy had led the country down the primrose path in the recent past, so there was no apparent help for the country coming from the right.
Of course there was Ron Paul...
So a Democrat was my alternative. Somehow we had to move away from the previous, disastrous eight years, but my fear was and remains that an Obama win would be a short-lived victory… that he would be a single-term President and the forces of evil would again, in 2012, gain the Oval Office.
Hillary, in my mind, had the better opportunity of maintaining the White House for eight years and perhaps sowing seed that could carry rational political thought beyond that time. But Hilary ran a faulty campaign and lost the primaries. Left with no other choice, I voted for Obama and I was glad he won.
He did so rather handily too. Hillary would have experienced a greater struggle to achieve a win in the general, but I have little doubt that she would have won. A large enough majority of the people were just sick of Bushism, and McCain was running on Bush coattails. Adding an extremist to the ticket, in an attempt to mollify the wingnuts, doomed that campaign.
Obama energized voters who had never before even registered to vote, creating a handy win. Hillary had women voters on her side, but couldn't have accomplished the landslide Obama did. A great many Obama voters would have stayed home if Hillary had won the nomination, but I think Hillary voters came out for Obama for the most part.
So she would have won regardless, but maybe with a lesser margin of victory, and not so much of a "mandate." A win of lesser magnitude may have even been in her favor, as expectations might not have been so lofty.
Although my friends on the right still cling to power as a means of maintaining American Exceptionalism, and the Shrub was playing their tune, I felt the country needed to establish our exceptionalism in the world by means of moral, not ideological leadership. Anybody, including Obama, would have done better at that than any of the Republicans.
Obama might have been okay under other circumstances. He got handed a mess bigger than he has been able to handle, and he keeps making mistakes, surrounding himself with advisors certain to create a fail (Think Geithner). Hillary as President, I think, would have done better, and in State is Obama’s greatest asset. But unfortunately, that is not enough. Obama is catching it from both sides. His former supporters are becoming discouraged and teabagger wingnuts are marching in the streets.
Hillary as President, with Obama perhaps as VP, would likely have ensured someone of reason in the Oval Office for more than a single term, but that is crying over spilled milk. I’m expecting the independents to abandon him and guessing those first-time voters of 2008 will stay home in 2012 too, so the corporations will regain the White House in 2012 and the country will resume business as usual.
Maybe some rational candidate will step up to the plate by then and capture the imaginations of the electorate, but more likely the pendulum will just make another swing and it will be generations in the future before reason has another chance.
The religious extremists and corporate rats are already gloating.
January 21, 2010
Just a brief missive in order to make up for my recent absence. I’d been preparing to deploy for some duty in Haiti, but due to the security (or lack thereof) situation, my team is on standby. Therefore, I have a few moments to post the gist of a recent, interesting conversation with a friend.
We began talking about books, which is one of or regular topics, when she mentioned that she was re-reading a tome by Dr. Andrew Weil. The author’s name tickled my CRS memory, but I couldn’t quite connect the dots. Then she mentioned the title, Health and Healing (Houghton Mifflin, 1983).
Weil is, apparently, a proponent of alternative medicine (he calls it integrative medicine), and is the founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. There is, as one might expect, much controversy with Weil’s theories.
My friend is more open to alternative medical theories than I, so the conversation got a bit heated, but in the end both she and I picked up on a quite interesting quote from the book. Weil cited the Bible, Isaiah 45:6—7, and noted that God is the creator of all evil in the world.
In addition to being a nut about alternative medicine, my friend is somewhat of the Biblical scholar. She admitted that the chapter and verses cited by Weil were unfamiliar to her, but that she would research. Later that day I received the following email…
“After reading that surprising passage in Weil’s book, I first consulted my copy of The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text, published by The Jewish Publication Society of America, showing copyright dates of 1917, 1945, and 1955. In the JPS scriptures, Isaiah 45:6—7 reads thus:
I am the Lord; and there is none else; I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I am the Lord, that doeth all these things.
Next I looked up the same scripture reference in my copy of the Protestant world’s chief standby, the Authorized King James Version, which reads almost identically:
I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.
Then, just because it struck my fancy, I checked on how a couple of more modern translations of Isaiah handled this passage. You might find them interesting also. Check these out.
Revised Standard Version (1952):
I am the Lord and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe, I am the Lord, who do all these things.
The New English Bible (1971):
I am the Lord, there is no other; I make the light, I create darkness, author alike of prosperity and trouble. I, the Lord, do all these things.
New American Standard Bible (1973):
I am the Lord, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.
So, we translate ‘evil’ as woe, trouble, and calamity, watering it down a little. But look who is causing it, no matter how you name it.”
We may not agree on alternative medicine, but my friend and I certainly agree on the interesting inconsistencies that can be found between the god of the old testament and the one praised by modern xtians as the “god of love”.
Does this mean Pat Robertson is correct… at least partially… that god is the source of the misery in Haiti…
January 15, 2010
You can buy communion wafers on Amazon, which is no surprise. Amazon will also tell you what other customers bought when they ordered their communion wafers.
I…I…don't understand! I get a brainlock when I try to put these things together, I'm afraid.
Damned if I catch the connection either, PZ... Just makes me scratch my head.
January 14, 2010
The USS Carl Vinson with 19 helos and 30 extra pallets of relief supplies is now reported on station at Port-au-Prince.Doesn't sound like much, but with the nuclear carrier's capability to desalinate water (400,000 plus gallons a day), and the calorie density of the 'disaster crackers' that have become the pretty much de facto standard for emergency field feeding...that will go a long way to relieving some of the problems.Add in the improvement in air traffic control, the medium sized hospital on board to handle some of the more critical cases, and just the extra coordination and manpower available, it's a decent start.
January 13, 2010
It didn't take long before I had an answer.
SCOTUS considered a very interesting challenge today, and raised questions regarding the state’s power to detain prisoners considered “sexually dangerous” beyond time sentenced.
It was a year ago that the 4th Circuit ruled that neither the commerce clause nor the necessary and proper clause of our Constitution provided Congress the necessary authority to civilly commit persons convicted under the provisions of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. The court also implied that the commitment provision of the act violated 10A state’s rights.
United States v. Comstock challenged the Act, and in arguments today, U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan defended the federal government’s actions in civilly committing these prisoners for a longer time than they were sentenced; potentially indefinitely.
Kagan claimed the provision was necessary and that Congress could reasonably find it to be so. States, she said, are unwilling to take responsibility for mentally ill and sexually dangerous convicts when their federal sentence ends, thus shifting the onus to the feds.
The office of the Federal Public Defender represented the opposition, countering that the federal government has no right to extend the sentences once the convicts have met their obligation. G. Alan DuBois, Assistant Public Defender, stated in his argument, “… at that point, any further detention must stand on an independent conviction."
The Justices tossed both lawyers a series of hypothetical situations, testing the validity and scope of their arguments, with Justice Scalia pounding particularly hard on Kagan.
"I'm not terribly impressed with your argument,” stated the Justice. “This is a recipe for the federal government taking over everything. The states won't do it, so the federal government will."
Then it was Justices Stevens and Bader’s turn to take DuBois to task, with Stevens telling DuBois, "I think, as the case comes to us, we have to assume there are cases out there in which there will be no solution [except for action by the federal government]."
Justice Ginsburg then stated, "We're talking about endangering the health and safety of people, so the government has some responsibility, doesn't it? "
While I am sure there are some limits that can be found, and perhaps the civil commitment of certain sexually dangerous and mentally incompetent individuals may indeed be necessary, I find the arguments offered by Kagan, and apparently supported by Stevens and Ginsburg, seriously lacking in weight. The people, I don’t think, really want the federal government as nanny.
In this instance at least, I find myself in the odd position of agreeing with Justice Antonin Scalia.
January 9, 2010
Pop over and give Robb’s piece a read, then pop back here and give me a comment.
January 8, 2010
The advertisement, paid for by John Birch Society affiliate, the previously unheard of American Fact-Finding Committee, accused the President of responsibility for the imprisonment, starvation, and persecution of 'thousands of Cubans,' claimed he sold food to ‘Communists,’ accused him of letting Attorney General Robert Kennedy ‘go soft on Communists’ and ‘leftists’, and of persecuting ‘loyal Americans who criticize you, your administration, and your leadership.'
Two hours after the President read that advertisement he was dead. There is no known link between the Birchers and the assassination; there certainly is a link between JBS and the hateful rhetoric infecting our political discourse both then and now.
The John Birch Society has a history of extremism, liberal bashing, hate speech, and conspiracy theories. In the almost 50 years since the Kennedy assassination the Birchers have never let up on the rhetoric. Now today the right-wing blog The Hill has included JBS president John F. McManus as one of “the nation’s top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals.”
We’ll never be able to say for certain that the hateful words and actions of the likes of the John Birch Society in the early 60’s had anything to do with the death of a President, but as Chief Justice Earl Warren said in his eulogy delivered two days following the assassination, acts such as JFK’s murder “…are commonly stimulated by forces of hatred and malevolence. ... What a price we pay for this fanaticism. ... If we really love this country, if we truly love justice and mercy, if we fervently want to make this nation better for those who are to follow, we can at least abjure the hatred that consumes people, the false accusations that divide us, and the bitterness that begets violence.”
Today we have the likes of Glenn Beck stoking the flames on hate TV and hate radio, and there are the Michele Bachmans and Joe Wilsons in D.C. pushing their hate-filled agendas in the halls of Congress. In the old days we had Father Coughlin and Joe McCarthy. The hate has always been there, and it will forever be there, but we must not allow it to poison our body politic. Reason must prevail.
January 5, 2010
Humble beginnings, but over the next few decades this youngster would give us marvelous inventions such as the induction motor, a variety of new types of generators and transformers, the fluorescent light, improved steam turbine, and alternating electrical current. He would lay the foundations for our ability to transmit electricity over long distances, and he very nearly gave us the ability to transmit electricity without the need for wiring.
This was one bright lad, and with reference letters from Charles Batchelor, Nikola Tesla gained employment in the New Jersey laboratories of Thomas Edison, but that didn’t last long. The two great inventors, it seems, had conflicting styles. Or perhaps Edison was unwilling to share the spotlight with this 28-year-old kid and his alternating current, correctly seeing this as a threat to his investment in direct current power generation.
So Tesla departed Continental Edison Companies in 1885 and sold the patent rights to his alternating current systems to George Westinghouse, founder of the Westinghouse Electric Company. Tesla had demonstrated the advantages of alternating current over Edison's system of direct current when Westinghouse used Tesla's system to light the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Due to this success, Tesla fulfilled a childhood dream by winning the contract to install the world’s first hydroelectric power plant at Niagara Falls.
Tesla continued to dream of providing electrical energy wirelessly over large areas, and it is to this dream we can attribute his greatest invention. The Tesla coil remains widely used today in radio and television sets and other electronic equipment, and in 1898 it was this invention, utilized in a Colorado Springs demonstration that created spectacular 30-foot lightning bolts and lighted, without the benefit of wires, 200 bulbs spread over 25 miles.
Tesla next met financier J.P. Morgan, and with a $150,000 loan began construction of a wireless broadcasting tower on Long Island. The loan, secured with 51 percent of Tesla’s patent rights, was a worthwhile investment as Tesla expected the tower to be the start of a communications system, transmitting pictures, messages, weather warnings, and stock reports worldwide. The project was abandoned because of Morgan's withdrawal of support in 1905. Morgan wanted to meter the power output for profit, while Tesla wished it to remain free.
Over the decades more than 700 patents were issued, and the world benefitted greatly from the genius that was Nikola Tesla; the fluorescent light, lasers, wireless communication technology, remote electrical control, robotics, improved turbine engines and even vertical take off aircraft have direct roots in Tesla patents. He even invented the flashbulb for photography, if you’re old enough to remember those.
Although the accolades and even a Nobel Prize went to Marconi, Tesla is the father of radio. His published schematics appeared in 1896, several years before Marconi introduced his transmitter to the world.
Tesla gave us our modern electrical transmissions systems, and his dreams, depicted in crude drawings, included energy from the sun and the sea. He predicted interplanetary communications, satellites and space travel long before the science fiction writers scribed their amazing stories.
But the dream of abundant, free energy transmitted around the world sans wiring died with Tesla. Tesla’s tower was demolished in 1917 for wartime security reasons. The tower site remains, and the 100 foot deep foundation is still intact. Tesla's laboratory is maintained in good condition, and now sports a bicentennial plaque. Young engineers still pour over Tesla’s papers seeking unexploited ideas.
Matthew Behrend, Vice President of the Institute of Electrical Engineers (now the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers), in a 1915 speech while presenting Tesla with the Edison medal, announced, "Were we to seize and eliminate from our industrial world the result of Mr. Tesla's work, the wheels of industry would cease to turn, our electric cars and trains would stop, our towns would be dark and our mills would be idle and dead. His name marks an epoch in the advance of electrical science."
In 1931, on Tesla’s 75th birthday, the inventor appeared on the cover of Time Magazine. He received congratulatory letters from more than 70 pioneers in science and engineering, including Albert Einstein, and upon his death was eulogized by the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Mark Twain and Ayn Rand.
As we approach this coming Thursday, the 67th anniversary of Tesla’s January 7,1943 death, please take a look around you and rediscover the genius of this man. How much of your lifestyle do you owe to this poor, Serbian immigrant? Is your home heated by electricity? Do you enjoy your television and radio?
If you appreciate these comforts of your life, pause a moment to be thankful for giants who came before
 Rajvanshi, A., 2007. Nikola Tesla — The creator of the electric age. J. Resonance Volume 12, Number 3 / March, 2007.
 Seifer, M., 2001. Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla : Biography of a Genius (Citadel Press)
 The Tesla Memorial Society of New York.