Radical SCOTUS Eviscerates Our Rights

The radical right control of the Supreme Court turned the nation sharply right again today with its two final decisions of the term.  Both 5-4 votes they eviscerated more of our rights.  In the Hobby Lobby case they determined that closely held companies have the right to impose their extreme religious beliefs on their employees health care coverage.  The small, family owned stores decided they didn’t want to comply with the ACA mandate that their health care cover their employees birth control.  99% of all American women use birth control at some point in their lives.  Many use it because they could die if they get pregnant.  Women have been dying during birth since the dawn of man.  It isn’t a matter of choice for these women, it means life or death.

The Supreme Court decided today that their right to life is trumped by their employer’s radical religious agenda.  This opens all sorts of slippery slope consequences as Justice Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent.  If your employer in such a company doesn’t believe in immunizations, blood transfusions or other common medical practices they now have the right to impose those beliefs on you, their employee.  Be very careful if your employer is a Christian Scientist:  they don’t believe in medical care for anything.  These folks actually allow their children to die of common viruses rather than seek treatment.

Now, when you interview for a job you’d better ask hard questions about your potential employer’s religious beliefs before accepting employment offers.  I imagine this decision will make it very hard for such companies to attract and keep good employees.  I certainly hope so.  The rest of us need to be sure never to transact business with them.

In the second case home health care workers represented by SEIU in Illinois sued because they want to freeload on the system by accepting the negotiated benefits the union gets for them without paying union dues in return.  SCOTUS said they don’t.  This decision is a significant loss for unions.  These workers, who are earning higher wages because SEIU negotiated them now don’t have to pay dues to SEIU in return for this largesse.  This makes them freeloaders.

Elections have consequences and who we elect President has a direct effect on our everyday lives due to such radical right wing decisions by five Supreme Court Justices.  Chief Justice John Roberts (GW Bush appointee), Samuel Alito (likewise GW Bush), Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Anthony Thomas have shoved the nation far rights with sweeping decisions the past few years.  Worse, the two GW Bush Justices are quite young and could serve for decades.  Scalia and Thomas are getting long in the tooth and we have to hope they either die soon or decide to retire.  That isn’t likely until, if ever, a Republican gains the Oval Office again.  It is imperative to restore balance to the Court before these five drive America into third world status.  Or before a populist revolution takes their heads.  I’d be very fearful of that latter possibility if I were them or the Koch brothers.

News & Notes June 22, 2011

I had to drive to Exton this morning and was near Rt 322 where Ryan Dunn crashed and burned taking a Navy SEAL to die with him.  Police say he was going 130 mph at 3 am after visiting a West Chester tavern.  He had a history of wild, reckless driving.  The lesson here is when you drive like a jackass you die like a jackass.  I never watched Jackass, I can see enough of them driving Pennsylvania’s roads every day.  Why glorify stupidity?

President Obama will address the nation tonight about a gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan.  Someone remind me, now that OBL is dead what IS the mission?  I’ll be on a 3:30 PM White House conference call previewing the speech.

Clarence Thomas is corrupt and must resign.  The New York Times expose which hit Sunday shows exactly how unethical this Justice is and his time has come and gone.  Go get your dirty Coke can Justice Thomas and try and learn a few ethics before you go down as the next Abe Fortas.  Combine this with his repeated failures to reveal his wife’s $800,000 in fees from The Heritage Foundation and other sources and the bottom line is simple:  we have a thoroughly corrupt Supreme Court Justice.

Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards might just gain control of Montgomery County for Democrats.  They have $378,000 cash on hand in their joint committee compared with $37,000 for Bruce Castor and Jenny Brown.  PhillyBurbs.com called them “money magnets.”  While money doesn’t insure victories in an expensive TV market it is absolutely necessary for a good result on election day.

The National Labor Relations Board reviewed organizing rules for unions and yesterday released revisions shortening the time for workers to vote on union membership.  This will help level a very unbalanced playing field for Labor.  The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO sent a press release yesterday from national President Richard Trumka:

Although we are still reviewing the proposed new changes from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), they appear to represent a common sense approach to clean up an outdated system and help ensure that working women and men can make their own choice about whether to form a union.

When workers want to vote on a union, they should get a fair chance to vote.  That’s a basic right.  But our current system has become a broken, bureaucratic maze that stalls and stymies workers’ choices.  And that diminishes the voice of working people, creates imbalance in our economy and shrinks the middle class.    

With the proposal of these new standards, the Board is taking a modest step to remove roadblocks and reduce unnecessary and costly litigation-and that’s good news for employers as well as employees. The proposed rule does not address many of the fundamental problems with our labor laws, but it will help bring critically needed fairness and balance to this part of the process.

Unfortunately, in today’s poisonous political environment, any action by the Board may unleash a torrent of attacks from politicians and ideologues opposed to any protection of workers’ rights. We call on leaders from both sides of the aisle to defend the independence of the NLRB. Political interference with any independent agency sets a dangerous precedent that should not be tolerated.

Bethlehem is the latest Pennsylvania municipality to approve a comprehensive civil rights ordinance.  It now goes to Mayor John Callahan who introduced the bill.  From The Pennsylvania Diversity Network:

June 21, 2011, Bethlehem, PA — Following a three hour public meeting, the City Council of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania voted unanimously to send the proposed non discrimination ordinance back to Mayor John Callahan for his signature. The ordinance was introduced by Mayor Callahan in September 2010 and previously passed unanimously through the Human Resources and Environment Committee and the First Reading of City Council. Mayor Callahan is expected to sign the bill into law.

Adrian Shanker led the coalition effort to pass this ordinance. Shanker, who is Vice President of Pennsylvania Diversity Network, built a coalition of more than 100 business, faith, labor, arts, education, and civil rights organizations in support of the ordinance. “We won tonight, but there were no real losers,” stated Shanker. “The Bethlehem community was loud and clear that they want Civil Rights protections, and the City Council tonight listened and voted accordingly.” Shanker continued, “This law helps working people, it helps small business, it protects religious freedom, and most importantly, it makes discrimination illegal in the City of Bethlehem.”

“I would be hard-pressed to find a vote that I support more than the one I’m voting on tonight” said Councilperson J. William Reynolds as he cast his vote in favor of this ordinance. Reynolds is not alone his sentiments. Mike Fegley of the popular Bethlehem Restaurant, the Bethlehem Brew Works stated, “this is the ethical thing to do in Bethlehem.” Before passing the ordinance, Council voted to clarify the religious exemption and retain expanded powers, such as subpoena power, for the Human Relations Commission., following requests from many supporters of the ordinance

Broad support for the law did not end in Bethlehem. Testimony was provided by the AARP of Pennsylvania, Equality Pennsylvania, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, Communities in Schools, and the Indian American Association of the Lehigh Valley, among others. Ted Martin, Executive Director of Equality Pennsylvania attended three of the four public meetings on the issue. Following tonight’s vote, Martin said, “I can only hope that the Pennsylvania legislature will follow Bethlehem’s lead and pass a fully inclusive statewide non discrimination law.” Senator Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) has introduced this legislation in the Senate, and Representative Frankel introduced companion legislation in the House. The lack of a fully inclusive state law has caused 21 municipalities, including Bethlehem, to pass their own versions on the local level.

Bethlehem follows neighboring Allentown, Easton, and Reading in passing this law. Liz Bradbury led a similar effort in Allentown more than ten years ago and attended tonight’s meeting. “I am so pleased that I can now recommend Bethlehem as a safe place to live or work for members of the LGBT community” said Bradbury.

The President’s visit to CMU Friday coincides with a visit from family coming from North Carolina so I won’t be able to travel to the Iron City for this event.  He’ll be speaking about manufacturing jobs at the same time he pursues more “free trade” (the only thing free about them is the ease with which OUR jobs are lost) deals killing manufacturing here at home.

Elsewhere on the jobs front a Pennsylvania company in Exton is featured on the website for the National Export Initiative.  Analytical Graphics hosted an event last year highlighting its success which I covered for the Department of Commerce.

I was on a White House conference call Monday morning about foreign investment in the States expecting some significant announcement but none came.  While it’s nice to see companies coming here and hiring our masses of unemployed why aren’t we doing more to create our own jobs?

The Pennsylvania legislature is so busy creating jobs they haven’t had time for voter suppression, making it easier to kill people, easier to get drunk, harder to get a safe, legal abortion, and tougher to get an education while tossing 100,000 seniors, children and poor people off Medicaid.  Isn’t it nice to see all these newly furloughed teachers, state employees, fireman and cops being disenfranchised to solve a non-existent problem?  By the way the budget is due a week from Thursday and doesn’t appear to be ready.  What have they been doing all this time???

I’m having some Achilles Heel issues and haven’t been able to sit for extended periods at the computer.  I apologize for not being able to blog much this past week.  I’m wearing a brace at night and icing it constantly and some progress is being made towards recovery.  Its tough getting old…

News & Notes June 6, 2011

I lost my cat Linus last night so I apologize for not getting back to blogging until now.  He was the inspiration for the cat mascot on the blog.  

Anthony Weiner owned up to texting lewd pictures of himself to young women.  So is Weiner-Gate finally over?

Meanwhile important stuff like Justice Clarence Thomas lying on his financial disclosure statements then lying yet again is lost, not to be found on CNN.

My friend Steve Crockett was profiled on OpEd News for his collegiate activist work.

What’s worse than getting something totally wrong like Paul Revere’s famous ride?  Denying you got it wrong when the entire nation knows you got it moronically wrong.  No silver for you!

The Bush tax cuts for the rich turn ten tomorrow.  They continue bankrupting us but Republicans refuse to repeal them.  In Pennsylvania here’s what they’ve meant:  average tax cut for the poorest 60% is $469 and for the richest 1% $65,480.

Allentown is laying off 265 teachers and Bethlehem is losing 56.  Why are we cutting teachers and not football coaches?

The nuclear plant in Limerick is having more difficulties.

Easton Mayor Sal Panto signed a bill recognizing same sex relationships. “It is my honor to sign this law in the same spot as the declaration of independence was read, hopefully the State legislature will pass this to give equal civil rights to everyone in Pennsylvania.”

Al Qaeda is urging its supporters to use gun shows in the U.S. to stock up on automatic weapons:  

America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?

PennEnvironment won a big case against GenOn with a $5 million settlement for polluting the Conemaugh River.

The Voter ID law which will disenfranchise thousands of Pennsylvanians should come up for a vote this week and the Pennsylvania Alliance of Retired Americans is urging for its defeat.  From their press release:

“The Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans strongly opposes House Bill 934, because it will disenfranchise Pennsylvania seniors, thereby compromising the legitimacy of the elections themselves.

I hope the Representatives and Senators who are not standing with us here today stop and think whether it’s worth denying so many seniors the right to vote, while creating difficult hurdles for many more, just to combat fraud that no one can prove is going on in the first place.  To seniors, this is an issue of respect – respect for the rights of our generation.  The Alliance for Retired Americans will make sure our members and all seniors know which representatives showed us respect, and which did not.”

News & Notes October 22, 2010

Several controversies are distracting from the upcoming election as racism issues take over the national discourse.  Last week conservative NPR news analyst Juan Williams appeared on Fox News, his other gig, to help Bill O’Reilly defend his comments on The View that Muslims attacked us on 9/11 and, therefore, all Muslims are terrorists.  I sure am glad I’m not a Christian considering all the atrocities, genocides and other crimes committed by those of that religion!  Stereotyping everyone of a class, race or group is dangerous and Williams joined O’Reilly in defending such demagoguery.  He was summarily fired by NPR for the ethics violation.  This followed several warnings that his Fox work compromised his work for NPR.

The right wing noise machine geared up in outrage over this issue and Fox gave him a $2 million contract.  It sure is profitable to be a bigot these days.  Where was all this conservative outrage when Helen Thomas and Rick Sanchez got fired?  Sanchez was one of the few reasons to watch CNN though what he said was wrong and offensive.  Still, I miss his show.  Its all much ado about nothing.

The other racial controversy surrounds Ginny Thomas, wife of SCOTUS Jurist Clarence Thomas.  She left a mysterious message for Anita Hill asking for an apology for her husband’s inexcusable sexual harassment of his aide and her subsequent testimony about it 19 years ago.  Isn’t it Justice Thomas who owes the apology?

Speaking of Thomas, it seems he and Justice Scalia attended a political organizational meeting sponsored by the Koch brothers of Tea Party fame.  The Kochs have funded most of the ultra right wing operations for years and have pumped millions into the Tea Party and various front groups.  Is it really proper for sitting Justices to engage in blatant partisan activity outside of Bush v Gore?

Meanwhile the NAACP has issued a report detailing racism inside the Tea Party.  This also is getting pushback by the right wing who doesn’t want to confuse voters about its agenda directly before the election.  Of course the fact white supremacists are documented to be involved in the fringe groups doesn’t seem to count as racism.  I suppose this is simply more evidence that tea baggers live in some parallel universe where reality doesn’t exist.

Jim Gerlach got caught lying about support he’s getting.  It seems he lied to a reporter asking about an $85,000 effort done for him and reported in public documents.  The Congressman should realize lying about something easily verifiable makes him appear stupid.  It also shows his true side:  someone wiling to say or do anything to win re-election.

State Senate candidate Ruth Damsker (12th) has a neat animated ad about her opponent Stewart Greenleaf.  The incumbent used to be the kind of moderate Republican who worked across the aisle and got things done.  Not lately.  Greenleaf has become a radical extremist unwilling to compromise.  The GOP controlled state Senate has blocked budgets and just killed a severance tax on shale drilling for natural gas.  Pennsylvania, starved for revenue resources, is already out $100 million while energy companies remove a precious resource belonging to Pennsylvanians.  They aren’t paying a dime while destroying local infrastructure, polluting water supplies and paying off politicians to allow them to continue unregulated.  Stewart Greenleaf has become part of the problem in Harrisburg.

Republican State Representative candidate Justin Simmons is under investigation for accepting help from groups who haven’t reported their financial involvement in his race unseating Karen Beyer last May.  The race in Allentown saw two organizations, Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania and Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania spend money on Simmons’ behalf.  In fact they spent tens of thousands of dollars influencing the primary election and have not reported those or the sources of those funds as required by state law.  How does Justin think he can be a lawmaker when he doesn’t respect or obey the law?

Prejudices and Perspectives

President Barack Obama appointed a new super computer to the Supreme Court this spring.  The announcement came as an old IBM model neared obsolescence and their is much hue and cry throughout the land about the legal software the new machine will bring to future cases.

What if that had been the announcement recently instead of the one which appointed Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the high court?  Machines, after all, are run by the software, not human emotions, life experiences or personal perspectives.  Conservatives are having a field day over something Sotomayor said and have called her a racist.  She had the temerity to say she could make better decisions that white men who have dominated the Court for our entire history.

Looking st many of the dreadful decisions of the Supreme Court since 1783 one can easily agree with the Judge.  From Dred Scott to Bush v Gore white men have used their life’s perspectives to control the country in ways which have not always been just.  Th elaw is not something which a computer software program can determine.  It is a living thing which evolves, a concept which changes with time, experience and perspective.  Each new Justice brings their own unique histoy an dlife’s experiences to the bench.  Judge Sotomayor is no different from Samuel Alito (Catholic), Antonin Scalia (Catholic), John Roberts ( privileged white man), Ruth Bader Ginsberg (Jewish woman) or Clarence Thomas (African American angry at affirmative action) have brought.

We see every individual Justice’s perspectives in their writings, questions and decisions.  No Justice has ever sat on the Court and decided cases like a computer might.  This is why we do not appoint computers.  We appoint people with all their prejudices and perspectives.  The right wing does not like the perspectives Sonia Sotomayor brings so they have relentlessly attacked her perspectives.  This has now extended to personal attacks by calling her racist for daring to speak truth to power.  The Supreme Court has been dominated by male WASPs for over two hundred years.  The current make up of the Court has ONE woman, ONE African American who is a traitor to his race, and NO Hispanics.

Clarence Thomas is an excellent example of how an individual’s life’s history shapes his legal thinking.  Replacing the revered Thurgood Marshall as the token Black he does not believe in standing up for his race.  He opposes affirmative action which seeks to reverse 300 years of oppression and racism.  If any Justice ever exemplified how a personal life experience shapes one’s perspectives it is Justice Thomas.

Why then is it that Judge Sotomayor is receiving such exterme treatment?  Because she will be a Justice who has said publicly she would stand up for her gender and race.  That is scary to white men who feel their privilege is threatened.  I’m sorry but after having all but five Supreme Court Justices represent your perspective it is time for new blood not a machine to spit out pre programmed legal opinions based on a software program.  If there ever was an example of the term  garbage in, garbage out, it is the history of the white male dominated Supreme Court.  It is time for a new program, fresh perspectives and diversity.