Court rules Wal-Mart can fire legal medical marijuana user

If you ever wondered what was meant by the phrase "letter of the law", read this.

Although he lives in a state where medical marijuana is legal, a federal court ruled on Wednesday that a Michigan man could be terminated by his employer for testing positive for the drug.

(link) [The Daily Caller]

10:06 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

The Brilliant Prudence of Dwight Eisenhower

Maybe we could exhume him for this election cycle ...

We know now that Ike was quietly powerful, that he operated with a "hidden hand," as Princeton professor Fred Greenstein once put it. In my new book on how President Eisenhower kept America out of war, I examine his ability to bluff and outmaneuver the Soviets and, when necessary, his own generals. The Eisenhower leadership style sharply contrasts with what we have come to expect in our celebrity culture and tit-for-tat politics. Eisenhower was never showy or impulsive; he disdained partisanship and always played for the long term. He was patient and calm in the face of uncertainty. He needed to be, for he faced an unpredictable and dangerous foe.

(link) [The Atlantic]

08:21 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

The Agents of Outrage

It was some internal debate in my head that placed this in my Politics category, rather than religion. It could have gone either way, but my musings on the Danish cartoons were placed here, and I do try for some semblance of consistency.

My take on the situation remains pretty much the same, but the worry that I expressed then that the crazy would spread to the perpetrator's monotheist buddies here in the US seems to get closer every day. Just read some of the political rhetoric being tossed about, not to mention the spate of recent mosque controversies. And while no Christian group has attacked a newspaper here (yet), abortion clinics are none too safe from their depredations. More and more I'm coming to believe that it's just a matter of time before we will face the threat of a world wide religious war. As a Heathen and polytheist, I feel completely caught by this - not only do I not have a dog in this fight, I (and other heathens/pagans/polytheists) are the dogs in the middle - liable to catch fire from all monotheist combatants.

I've sometimes referred to the monotheist faiths as Highlander religions - "There can be only one!". And by definition, that's the real recipe for intolerance and violence. It's been somewhat muted in the West after centuries of intra-Christian religious wars, and in the Islamic world by centuries of decline and colonization. But the core (fundamental) belief in One Way Only has remained intact on both sides of the divide, and the monotheist chickens are coming home to roost. As they always will, until and unless people understand that the pathways to the divine (or simply through life) are many and varied, and start treating each other as humans beings, rather than as heretics, apostates, unbelievers and devils.

For the sake of the planet, I hope we learn this pretty quickly, because rather than swords and stakes, these modern chickens have nukes, chemicals, biological agents and drones.

The violence looked spontaneous; it was anything but. Instead it was the product of a sequence of provocations, some mysterious, some obvious. It seemed to start in the U.S., then became magnified in Egypt and was brought to a deadly and sorrowful climax in Libya—all on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. The cast of characters in this tragedy included a shadowy filmmaker, a sinister pastor in Florida, an Egyptian-American Islamophobe, an Egyptian TV host, politically powerful Islamist extremist groups and, just possibly, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Libya. The instigators and executors didn’t work in concert; they probably didn’t even know they were in cahoots. Indeed, some of them would sooner die than knowingly help the others’ causes. Nonetheless, the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was the result of a collective effort, with grievous consequences.

(link) [TIME]

11:37 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Dead Birds In Ohio Leads To Record Fines

This story is really illustrative of what I consider to be the major problem with our current economic system, and it has nothing to do with pesticides or environmental issues.

For the record, I don't use any pesticides or herbicides on the farm, and find their wide use at all objectionable due to the high potential for chemical trespass. But that's not what got my blood boiling here.

If I, as an individual farmer, sold adulterated goods that resulted in this kind of damage I'd be sitting in a jail cell.

So why isn't the Miracle-Gro Company in the Big House? After all, corporations are people. So why isn't it (the corporation) doin' hard time?

How could you jail a piece of paper? The individual directors, shareholders and managers were not found individually liable, so we can't toss them in the block. The shareholders will (assumably) suffer some financial loss from the fine, but that's it. Me, I'd have to pay the fines and restitution in addition to being locked up.

And you can't exactly force the corporation into bankruptcy for every criminal misdeed - that would be the death penalty. So what do you do? If we are going to grant corporations rights, there must be a corresponding responsibility if justice is to be realized.

In the shorthand of the Net, IANAL, but I've got a suggestion here anyway.

An essential property of imprisonment for persons is the loss of the ability to perform economic transactions. Prisoners can receive very limited funds from outside, and make very minimal returns from prison jobs. Basic survival is assured with food and shelter, but that's all.

Why not sentence miscreant corporations to a total suspension of economic activity for a given period of time? Freeze stock trading, forbid bankruptcy, seal access to foreign accounts. Audit every transaction and freeze all profits into trust funds that will be released upon completion of the sentence.

A life sentence would be functionally equivalent to the death penalty since corporations are essentially immortal.

Of course, we could always start treating corporations like the peculiar partnerships that they functionally act like, but that would potentially place criminal liability on every shareholder (partner). Oh well - betcha we see some serious boards in place really quick, instead of the chummy clubs that pass for shareholder representation today.

If justice is to be served at all, we must decide if corporations are actually people or not.

If they are, we need to endow them with all of the rights and responsibilities of citizens. Imagine a real "corporate presidency" if you will, or a application of the Second Amendment to a Fortune 500 member. The "corporate vote", literally. Down that path lies madness... and grotesque travesties like this.

Scotts [Miracle-Gro Company] pleaded guilty in February 2012 to illegally applying insecticides to its wild bird food products that are toxic to birds, falsifying pesticide registration documents, distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels and distributing unregistered pesticides.

(link) [WOUB]

21:12 /Politics | 1 comment | permanent link

How Do You Build a Union for the 21st Century?

An interesting thought for Labor Day - social unionism.

The next generation of organized labor should be about something more than recovering middle-class wages. It should be about recovering a middle-class way of life.

(link) [The Atlantic]

19:43 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Revolt of the Rich

There is little in the way of political writing these days that I would characterize as "brilliant" - this is one such essay. Read it.

If a morally acceptable American conservatism is ever to extricate itself from a pseudo-scientific inverted Marxist economic theory, it must grasp that order, tradition, and stability are not coterminous with an uncritical worship of the Almighty Dollar, nor with obeisance to the demands of the wealthy. Conservatives need to think about the world they want: do they really desire a social Darwinist dystopia?

(link) [The American Conservative]

via Dispatches from the Culture Wars

16:39 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

George Orwell Meets a 'Call of Duty' Cityscape

Void Bill of RightsIt'll be the same scene at the Democrats get together next week. I wonder if anybody remembers this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Note the illustration.

Deep inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the impenetrable fortress where this year's Republican National Convention is being held, my colleagues and various GOP delegates assure me that the venue security I experienced is typical for events of this kind -- that it's been this way ever since 9/11. "This must be your first convention," they say. It is. As a newbie, it feels like an Orwellian police state, albeit one where the men in military fatigues carrying assault weapons are exceptionally polite. Convention veterans are inured to the layers of security checkpoints, the metal detectors, the bomb sniffing dogs, the concrete barricades, the chain link fences, and the virtual absence of protesters. I'll likely feel that way too after a few more days flashing my official credential, emblazoned with a holographic elephant raising its trunk in triumph. It's the new normal.

(link) [The Atlantic]

18:23 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Romney’s Biggest Problem: He’s a Republican

No sympathy from me - after years of Wille Horton style ads and swiftboating it seems the Republican chickens are coming home to roost. I for one am going to make some popcorn and enjoy the show...

But really, what can Romney do? If he sticks by the platform then he alienates even more women and swing voters, whom he desperately needs to win the election. If, on the other hand, he sticks by his wishy-washy "pro-choice-for-life" history then he alienates the Republican base, who've had their suspicions about his conservative cred all along and they sit out the election or go for the really loony fringe and he loses.

The icing on this cake is Hurricane Issac, which could potentially land in Tampa just as the convention hits full stride. Beautiful...

Spare a sympathetic thought, if you have one in you, for the Mittster. There he is, diligently preparing for his big week down in Tampa, when along come the hapless Todd Akin and some self-styled visionary called Paul Ryan espousing views that, if the Democrats and their media allies succeed in pinning them on him, would make it a near mathematical impossibility for him to be elected President. At a moment when the G.O.P. candidate-elect is understandably eager (make that desperate) to talk about debt and jobs, the political-news media is consumed with abortion and Medicare.

(link) [The New Yorker]

20:50 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

At Guantanamo tribunals, don't mention the T word

Horrifying - but I guess it's just more of the same change you can can't believe in.

CIA agents have written books about it. Former President George W. Bush has explained why he thought it was necessary and legal. Yet the al Qaeda suspects who were subjected to so-called harsh interrogation techniques, and the lawyers charged with defending them at the Guantanamo Bay military tribunals, are not allowed to talk about the treatment they consider torture.

(link) [Retuers]

08:13 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

14 Wacky 'Facts' Kids Will Learn in Louisiana's Voucher Schools

This is a collection of quotes from textbooks used by schools that will receive taxpayer subsidies (commonly known as vouchers) in Louisiana. Most are the usual sort of pap you'll find coming from the religious right - anti-gay and anti-abortion with a healthy dose of wrong headed historical revisionism. The lit book even takes the time to swipe at Mart Twain and Emily Dickinson.

But what really got me was #11:

Abstract algebra is too dang complicated: "Unlike the 'modern math' theorists, who believe that mathematics is a creation of man and thus arbitrary and relative, A Beka Book teaches that the laws of mathematics are a creation of God and thus absolute…A Beka Book provides attractive, legible, and workable traditional mathematics texts that are not burdened with modern theories such as set theory."—

Wow. Just wow. Hope none of these kids are planning a career in engineering...

Thanks to a new law privatizing public education in Louisiana, Bible-based curriculum can now indoctrinate young, pliant minds with the good news of the Lord—all on the state taxpayers' dime.

(link) [Mother Jones]

Update: BoingBoing has a wonderful explainer up on this - What do Christian fundamentalists have against set theory?

22:42 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Retirement plan

The mechanisms of crony capitalism laid bare...

Chesapeake, based in Oklahoma, has two powerful politicians on its board — former member of the Senate from Oklahoma, Don Nickles, and former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating. The company’s board members used the firm’s private planes for travel — a perk most governance experts frown upon. Perhaps the more salient question is why the two have stayed on the board under the current circumstances. It is equally reasonable to ask why politicians, with their backgrounds unrelated to running big companies, were even appointed to the board.

(link) [NBC News]

via Dispatches from the Culture Wars

13:09 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

LIBOR Fraud May Be the Mother of All Bank Scandals

Details emerge ... we had hunches, now we have numbers.

The sheer volume of contracts based on LIBOR defies the imagination. Estimates vary, but $500 trillion seems reasonable. Even if the banks lied by as little as one-tenth of 1 percent, that percentage applied to $500 trillion multiplied by the six years of the fraud comes to $3 trillion stolen from customers. Cutting that amount in half to allow for the fact that some customers benefited from the fraud while others lost still gives implied damages of $1.5 trillion, greater than the combined capital of all of the too-big-too-fail banks in the United States. Taken to the full extent of the law, these damages are enough to render a large segment of the global banking system insolvent. These damages will be pursued not by regulators, but in private lawsuits by class action lawyers.

(link) [US News]

22:59 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Modern Tax Farmers

Ah, the joys of privatization...

What could be worse than bypassing the messy process of imposing taxes to instead use fines and court fees as revenue-generating tools so that people are penalized for exactly the wrong reasons? How about then leveraging the efficiency of private firms to collect those fines and fees, and levy more of their own, so that you're deputizing for-profit companies to wield the coercive power of the state, but largely divorced from those vestigial legal restraints and constitutional concerns that hobble the state itself?

(link) [Reason]

06:34 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Wall Street Bank Investors in Dark on Libor Liability

Crony capitalism at it's finest! What a grandiose scam! Nearly every adjustable consumer interest rate in the US is tied to LIBOR, including mortgages and credit cards. I'm sure there are several thousand (at least!) class action lawyers salivating right now at the prospects of going after some really, really deep pockets ....

Barclays’s fines were the first in a two-year, inter- continental investigation into manipulation of Libor and Euribor, benchmarks used globally for setting borrowing rates. Among the 18 lenders on the U.S. dollar panel are the three biggest American banks, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Bank of America and Citigroup, as well as Barclays and Zurich-based UBS. The 16- member British pound panel includes Barclays, UBS, JPMorgan and Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank AG.

(link) [Bloomberg]

07:29 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

House finds Atty. Gen. Eric Holder in contempt of Congress

Now there's a charge I could happily plead guilty to - contempt for Congress! Of course, I have an equal amount of contempt for the executive and judicial branches of government.

All government, in its essence, is organized exploitation, and in virtually all of its existing forms it is the implacable enemy of every industrious and well-disposed man.
-- HL Mencken

The House votes to hold the attorney general in contempt over Operation Fast and Furious documents. About 100 Democrats walk out on the vote, dismissing it as partisan political theater.

(link) [LA Times]

21:31 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link