Entries Tagged as 'History'

#MeToo

I’ll open by underscoring this is my personal opinion.

I’ve read and watched a number of individuals come forward about being sexually harassed in the past — and I think that’s a great travesty that people would take advantage of another based on their position, social status, wealth, or power — but let’s wake up here… that is how the world has operated (and we’ve all turned blind eyes for years, decades, millenniums), so let’s ratchet down the (false) indignation and work for a newer world order where harassment is a thing of the past.

I see this as an issue were we need not only looks at who did what — but when it was done.

Yes, the standards 10, 20, 30, 40, 50… years ago were very different than it is today.  And the way things were done might be appalling by today’s standards, but none the less that’s how they were done and we all knew it (don’t even try to pretend you thought all those stories of the “casting couch” and “sexitaries” was just locker-room banter… you knew it was true, and simply chose to do nothing about it).

Here on MLK day I’ve decided to share my thoughts — though let’s not pretend like MLK was a saint… he too was a sinner. He too (seemingly) had issues with equal rights for all (you didn’t hear him mention women, you didn’t hear him mention races other than white and black, you didn’t hear him mention gays).  The one thing Dr King did do: he opened up dialog which started to move this country forward from a long period of stagnation.

My feeling is actions which happened many years ago need to be looked at in the light of the prevailing time… those people need to be admonished at minimum, but if they didn’t cross what was the norm at the time that needs to be the end of it.  We just need to make sure that we update our image of the past and those personalities to include that they failed to treat everyone with the respect they deserved, and failed to take a stand to end harassment.

However, when similar things are happening now, or within the past several years — that’s different.  Clearly these events are transgressions that go far beyond the accepted norms.  Not only do we need to admonish these individuals, but we need to take action to insure that they and the industries they are in change.  That change needs to occur sooner, not later.

Should they be fired — yes — if they don’t have the courage and integrity to resign.

But should individuals who committed transgressions many, many years back when times were different be fired — that’s a little more complex; we need to look at the individual now, appraise what changes have been made to their life, and if they are still that same person.  If they are — then they’re out; however, if they’ve made change… we can give them a little time under the microscope before we make our final decision.

I’m all for zero tolerance, but zero tolerance never seems to be that (just check when the local school’s sports hero crosses the zero tolerance line, there always seems to be tolerance for at least a second chance — so something else we need to be honest with ourselves about — rarely do we really have zero tolerance, it’s just a catch phrase).

Personally I abhor harassment of any kind, I abhor those who feel they are better than others and can get away with it, I abhor those who help hide it and punish the victims… but this is a problem where we have to start to resolve today, and not get carried away with witch-hunt after witch-hunt of “dark” figures from out past.

Off Shore Drilling

For years the oil and gas companies have been telling us (the American public) how safe off shore drilling is, and they’ve been trying to convince us that they have contingencies for anything that might happen, and that there’s no substantial risk to our environment.

Well, take a look at the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the relatively tame Gulf of Mexico and the inability of the world’s largest oil company to stop (or even really slow) a huge oil leak and consider who ill prepared the oil companies would be to handle a spill anything like this is the Gulf of Alaska (or any place near the Artic) in the middle of the Winter — or what could happen in the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic seaboard during hurricane season.

Yes, I think it’s a travesty that the Federal Government didn’t have any contingency plans for oil spills of this magnitude — but don’t point a finger at the current administration; you’ll find that’s been years and years in the making (and least you forget, we just had an “oil and gas man” in the Whitehouse for eight years), but in the end, it is the industry itself that is ultimately responsible for the impact of their decisions to use such a small amount of their profits to insure the safety of their endeavors — and it is the companies that should be made to pay for the damages they’ve caused.

Damages to the coastal ecosystem of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are increasing hourly as BP does little to stem the disaster — except possibly try and contain the public relations damage.  While BP stock is down 40%, first quarter 2010 saw record profits — and in the end, I suspect BP will find a way to pass all the costs and loses onto consumers and reward their investors.  BP CEO Tony Hayward has already assured investors that the company has “considerable firepower” to cope wit the severe costs… but missing are statements to the world that they’ll commit the “firepower” it’ll take resolve this disaster.

Bottom line, perhaps rather than increasing the leases for off-shore drilling it’s time to pull back all the currently unused leases and start heavily fining the oil and gas industry for any and all violations.

NASA Satellites’ View of Gulf Oil Spill

Originally posted 2010-06-07 02:00:25.

Northwest Passage

There have been a number of articles recently on the effect of global climate change on the arctic ice pack, and I guess you could say one of the “good” things that is happening is that a (Summer) shipping route North of the Arctic Circle may be a reality within the next few years.

While the melting of the ice pack might be good news for shipping and oil/gas exploration, it might not be a good thing for the world as a whole.

Remember, a large portion of the world’s population lives in coastal regions, not far above sea level — when the ice pack melts, that water goes somewhere — and, of course, that’s fresh water, so not only does the level of the oceans rise, but the salinity of the oceans goes down.

No one can really predict what these changes will have on the habitability of this planet long term, but along with the receding glaciers we have more evidence of rather dramatic climate change.  Whether these changes are a natural event, a natural even being accelerated by emissions, or purely cause by emissions may still be debatable, but whether or not it’s happening… that’s fairly well documented.

Of course, as I always say — many love to do the back-stroke in de-nile; or as other like to day, de-nile isn’t just a river in Egypt…

Originally posted 2011-08-18 02:00:18.

ROWE

No, not Rowe vs Wade (but I’m sure I’ll have a rant on that if the current court hears a case that could reverse that land mark decision)… but Result Only Work Environment; essentially a version of “Flex Time” that is focused on increasing productivity by avoiding “presenteeism” (where someone is physically in the office, but mentally somewhere else).

You can read about an article on NPR about the Human Services and Public Health Department of Hennepin County (Minneapolis, MN).

The End Of 9-To-5: When Work Time Is Anytime

Originally posted 2010-03-29 02:00:45.

As Kagan Joins, Federal Courts’ Roles Rise In Importance

by Ron Elving

This weekend, Elena Kagan was sworn into the elite club of 112 who have served on the U.S. Supreme Court. The moment was duly noted across all news media, in large part because Kagan is just the fourth woman in the club.

But journalists also pounce on new appointments to the High Court in part to correct our perennial neglect of the judicial system. By far the preponderance of political journalism spilling out of Washington is devoted to the White House and Capitol Hill. As a rule, we pay attention to the courts when they interfere with something the other branches are trying to do.

This summer, federal judges have once again been horning in on issues of great interest and high stakes. Gay marriage. Immigration. The health care law. The post-BP moratorium on deepwater drilling. Each of these decisions will be reviewed by federal courts of appeal and ultimately by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But for that reason alone they will be generating news, inflaming public opinion and determining the direction of our politics, economics and culture.

Although most of the federal judiciary labors in lofty obscurity, at moments such as these one man or woman in a black robe can make an incalculable difference. Governors and senators and others in public life can only dream of such moments of influence.

Consider that on one day last week, one federal judge in San Francisco issued an opinion that invalidated the best known voter initiative of recent years: Proposition 8 on the 2008 California ballot, which overturned the state’s recognition of gay marriage.

Presenting extensive findings of fact from the trial before him, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker noted that defenders of Proposition 8 had scarcely attempted to refute these findings. In fact, the Prop 8 defense in its entirety was so cursory as to suggest its attorneys scarcely thought the trial court level was important. Their eye was on the friendlier venues of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.

But if liberals and libertarians were heartened by Walker, they were equally gratified one week earlier by the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton, who kicked out the key pillars of an Arizona law attempting to crack down on illegal immigration. Bolton found fault in that law’s provisions allowing state and local officials to question the immigration status of people they deemed suspicious — for whatever reason. The requirement that residents who ran afoul of such suspicion produce papers proving their immigration status was also spiked by the judge.

Bolton, like Walker, knew well how every word she put to paper would be scrutinized, analyzed and politicized. No doubt the same could be said for other judges bringing a more conservative viewpoint to bear on equally significant issues in recent days.

First of these was federal District Court Judge Martin Feldman of Houston, who spiked the administration’s six-month moratorium on oil-and-gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The administration may well have thought the argument for shutting down new explorations in the Gulf was open and shut in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon debacle. But if the shutdown was a no-brainer for environmentalists and industry critics, business folks in the Gulf states seemed to see it primarily as a short-term job killer and a long-term cloud over the economic future of the region.

Liberals were swift to note that Judge Feldman had a portfolio of stock holdings in the oil and gas sector, one that might well suffer in the event of a long-term slowdown in Gulf energy production. They also noted that the relevant federal appeals court, the 5th Circuit in New Orleans, was dominated by judges with business interests much like Feldman’s.

But the judge’s ruling stands, and is likely to stand longer than the Obama administration stands behind its six-month moratorium.

Similarly, in the same week as the Prop 8 ruling, supporters of the Obama health care law were incensed that U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond had approved Virginia’s standing to sue the federal government over the enforcement of provisions in that law. Defenders of the new health law had hoped that Hudson might uphold the historic principle of federal pre-eminence, a central issue since the founding of the Republic.

Many have noted the symbolic power of having this challenge emanate from Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy in the 1860s and the epicenter of “massive resistance” to the school integration decision of the Supreme Court in the 1950s. State’s rights may be a heading in a history textbook for some parts of the country, but they remain a mainstay of current events in the South.

Talk of nullification — the asserted right of states to ignore federal laws as they choose — has re-emerged as President Obama has pursued an activist agenda. In Texas and Tennessee, candidates for statewide office have allowed references to secession to enter their campaign vocabularies.

While no one expects another Civil War, we are clearly heading into the most significant round of state-federal confrontations we have seen since the 1960s. And that struggle has already been joined in courtrooms around the country, where it will largely be fought.

Small wonder then that Republicans in the Senate have made resistance to the judicial nominees of the new president such a salient element of their mission in these past 18 months.

To be sure, the president has seen both his nominees to the Supreme Court approved with little suspense. But the Senate has yet to allow a vote on most of the 85 nominees he has sent up for federal judgeships at the district and appeals court levels.

Same old partisan story? Not quite. The last five presidents, three of them Republicans, have seen four out of five of their appointments confirmed.

Democrats under Majority Leader Harry Reid have not been willing to call the minority’s bluff on this tactic by demanding real-time filibusters with all-night sessions and cots in the lobbies. No one wants the delay, the drama or the indignity.

But as the number of Democrats in the Senate shrinks in the November election, those who remain will need to reconsider what means are necessary to install their president’s choices in the increasingly powerful job of judge.

Original Story on NPR.org

Originally posted 2010-08-21 02:00:48.

Limited liability resulting from the Deepwater Horizon incident?

Right away after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon Swiss company Transocean Ltd moved to have their liability for damages limited to the cost of the “sunken ship” ($27 million) citing an 1851 law that says the owner of a sunken vessel is liable only for its value after the accident.

Transocean expects to receive $560 million in insurance, so subtracting what they consider their maximum liability they’d just about meet their three year revenue projection under the BP contract.

Hmm…

Many of the judges are recusing themselves from hearing cases involving the oil spill; but I’d say if a federal judge in Houston makes a ruling we’ve certainly found a judge that can no longer recuse himeself (though he might be a candidate for impeachment)… my guess is Transocean will not get their ruling quickly, and likely will not get a ruling they like ever.

Transocean CEO Steven Newman told investors in addition that its contract with BP holds BP entirely responsible for all damages and liability from the spill.

I guess Newman isn’t totally confident of the petition filed in federal court, or his contractual liability limits so he’s working both ends… and is probably worried that a review will show negligence on his company’s part — which could cause a judge to throw out any and all liability limits.

BP, Halliburton, and Transocean are each responsible, and each of them should (and hopefully will) be held accountable for this mess — and their massive profits will be used to undo the damage their greed has caused.

As I’ve said before — make the problem expensive enough for them to allow to continue; and any future problem much more expensive for them to clean up — and we won’t have to worry much about the spill continuing… or ever happening again (just take highest quarter’s profits from the last year, divide by 90 — and that’s the daily fine).

Originally posted 2010-06-16 02:00:17.

Due Process in Jeopardy

by Wendy McElroy, The Freeman

The Supreme Court takes liberty lightly

Last week the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Comstock et al. that Congress has the constitutional authority to empower federal district courts to civilly commit dangerous sex offenders who had completed their sentences. In effect, the courts can mandate indefinite confinement of such federal prisoners. The controversial power derives from Section 4248 of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.

Civil commitment generally refers to the involuntary confinement in a mental institution of a person deemed dangerous to themselves or to others. In 1949 the federal government assumed the power to detain federal prisoners in treatment facilities past their sentences if they were judged insane. The new decision expands this power in significant ways. Moreover, given the aggressiveness with which the law and public opinion focuses on sex offenders, use of the new civil commitment power is likely to become widespread.

The decision also invites state involvement in federal civil commitment. The ruling declares that “‘all reasonable efforts’ must be made to cause the State where tried person was tried, or the State where he is domiciled, to ‘assume responsibility for his custody, care, and treatment.’” Only if both states refuse will the federal government accept responsibility for the prisoner. Currently, 20 states have their own civil commitment programs that include sex offenders. Presumably, all states will now be expected to establish policy on this issue.

The respondents in the original motion were federal prisoners who challenged the constitutionality of being detained through civil commitment for years past their release date. The federal government argued the Walsh Act is authorized by both the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution, which are often paired together. The Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) gives Congress the power “To regulate Commerce … among the several States….” It has been broadly interpreted to include laws mandating the state sex registries also established by the Walsh Act. The Necessary and Proper Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 18), also known as the Elastic Clause, gives Congress the power “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.” The government argued that the Walsh Act is necessary to establish and maintain a federal penal system.

In an amicus brief filed on behalf of the prisoners, the Cato Institute countered these claims. Regarding the Commerce Clause: “Notably, the Government does not and cannot affirmatively argue that the Act is a legitimate exercise of Congress’ Commerce Clause power. Civil commitment involves neither commerce nor interstate activity. Mental illness demands physicians not merchants.” Regarding the Necessary and Proper Clause: “[L]egislation adopted under the Clause may be justified only by an enumerated power, not by an implied power. Congress may carry into execution the powers specifically delegated to it, and the Necessary and Proper Clause permits adoption of reasonable means to carry into execution the enumerated power. But there the power ends. Indeed, the Tenth Amendment was adopted to ensure that Congress did not rely upon the Clause to expand its powers….”

Lower courts agreed with Cato’s analysis.

In the original motion both the district court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that Congress had exceeded its constitutional powers. The unanimous appellate decision held that Congress lacked a general police power to protect the public at large from crime.(By contrast, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of civil commitment for a “sexually dangerous person.”)

The Supreme Court decision, however, endorsed the federal power by a vote of 7-2. Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissented. In the dissenting opinion, Thomas stated, “The fact that the federal government has the authority to imprison a person for the purpose of punishing him for a federal crime — sex-related or otherwise — does not provide the government with the additional power to exercise indefinite civil control over that person.”

Interestingly, the constitutional protections of due process contained in the Bill of Rights played no substantive part in the ruling. The decision stated, “We do not reach or decide any claim that the statute or its application denies equal protection of the laws, procedural or substantive due process, or any other rights guaranteed by the Constitution.”

Thus the most important issue for civil libertarians was not addressed: Does the continued imprisonment of a category of criminals who have served their sentence violate the due-process and equal-protection guarantees in the Constitution? The closest the Court came to addressing this issue was Justice Breyer’s statement, “[We] assume, but we do not decide, that other provisions of the Constitution — such as the Due Process Clause — do not prohibit civil commitment.” In short, the Court’s default position is that indefinite confinement of a prisoner past his sentence is constitutional and legally proper. Constitutional considerations such as the due-process protections of the Fourth and Fifth Amendment, the Eighth Amendment protection against “cruel and unusual punishment,” and the Equal Protection of the Fourteenth Amendment appear not to automatically apply to “dangerous’ sex offenders.”

A key concern about the ruling is mission drift — namely, that civil commitment will be applied to ever widening categories of people. Since alcoholics and drug addicts are currently subject to such involuntary commitment in several states, this is a reasonable concern. It is not reassuring that the government’s case in Comstock was presented by Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court. She is almost certain to be confirmed. Orin Kerr, who attended the proceedings, reported at the Volokh Conspiracy website, “Kagan made a much broader Article I power argument at oral argument than was made in the Government’s brief. Indeed, her argument struck me as sort of shockingly broad: She argued that the Constitution gives the federal government the general power ‘to run a responsible criminal justice system,’ and that anything Congress plausibly thought a part of running a ‘responsible criminal justice system’ was within the scope of federal power.”

This does not bode well for individual rights or due process.

NOTE:

I wrote this post a little over a week ago; yesterday the Supreme Court issued a ruling effecting Miranda Rights.  Apparently choosing to be silent, without actually stating that you choose to be so is no longer considered exercising your right to terminate a police interrogation.  The 5-4 decision puts those who Miranda was most intended to protect at the most risk for police abuse.

The bottom line, now a suspect must clearly state that they wish to remain silent and that the interrogation is over… if a suspect does not invoke their right, the police are free to keep interrogating their suspect as long as they so choose.

Originally posted 2010-06-02 02:00:07.

There’s no place like home…

According to a survey by Mercer (a London based investment services company owned by Marsh and McLennan Cos) that’s true is you live in Vienna.

Their survey considered political stability, crime, economy, personal freedom, health services, sewage, air pollution, schools, public utilities, transportation, housing, and climate.  It aslo took into account the cities’ restaurants, theaters, sports, availability of consumer goods, and record of natural disasters.

The United States didn’t have a single city appear in the top ten.

The ten most liveable cities included Vancouver Canada; Auckland New Zealand; Dusseldorf, Munich, and Frankfurt Germany; Bern Switzerland; and Sydney Australia.

Of US cities, Honolulu ranked 31, San Francisco ranked 33, and Boston ranked 37.

The company also prepared a list that emphasized eco-friendly cities; focusing on water availability, cleanliness, waste removal, sewage, air pollution, and traffic congestion.

Honolulu placed second, bested only by Calgary Canada.  Minneapolis was sixth, Pittsburgh was thirteenth, and Washington was twenty-third.  Cities in Canada, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan dominated the list.

Originally posted 2010-05-31 02:00:15.

Debunking Canadian health care myths

The following is an except from a Denver Post opinion article by Rhonda Hackett (a clinical psychologist born in Canada, living in the US)

Myth: Taxes in Canada are extremely high, mostly because of national health care.

In actuality, taxes are nearly equal on both sides of the border. Overall, Canada’s taxes are slightly higher than those in the U.S. However, Canadians are afforded many benefits for their tax dollars, even beyond health care (e.g., tax credits, family allowance, cheaper higher education), so the end result is a wash. At the end of the day, the average after-tax income of Canadian workers is equal to about 82 percent of their gross pay. In the U.S., that average is 81.9 percent.

Myth: Canada’s health care system is a cumbersome bureaucracy.

The U.S. has the most bureaucratic health care system in the world. More than 31 percent of every dollar spent on health care in the U.S. goes to paperwork, overhead, CEO salaries, profits, etc. The provincial single-payer system in Canada operates with just a 1 percent overhead. Think about it. It is not necessary to spend a huge amount of money to decide who gets care and who doesn’t when everybody is covered.

Myth: The Canadian system is significantly more expensive than that of the U.S.Ten percent of Canada’s GDP is spent on health care for 100 percent of the population. The U.S. spends 17 percent of its GDP but 15 percent of its population has no coverage whatsoever and millions of others have inadequate coverage. In essence, the U.S. system is considerably more expensive than Canada’s. Part of the reason for this is uninsured and underinsured people in the U.S. still get sick and eventually seek care. People who cannot afford care wait until advanced stages of an illness to see a doctor and then do so through emergency rooms, which cost considerably more than primary care services.

What the American taxpayer may not realize is that such care costs about $45 billion per year, and someone has to pay it. This is why insurance premiums increase every year for insured patients while co-pays and deductibles also rise rapidly.

Myth: Canada’s government decides who gets health care and when they get it.While HMOs and other private medical insurers in the U.S. do indeed make such decisions, the only people in Canada to do so are physicians. In Canada, the government has absolutely no say in who gets care or how they get it. Medical decisions are left entirely up to doctors, as they should be.

There are no requirements for pre-authorization whatsoever. If your family doctor says you need an MRI, you get one. In the U.S., if an insurance administrator says you are not getting an MRI, you don’t get one no matter what your doctor thinks — unless, of course, you have the money to cover the cost.

Myth: There are long waits for care, which compromise access to care.There are no waits for urgent or primary care in Canada. There are reasonable waits for most specialists’ care, and much longer waits for elective surgery. Yes, there are those instances where a patient can wait up to a month for radiation therapy for breast cancer or prostate cancer, for example. However, the wait has nothing to do with money per se, but everything to do with the lack of radiation therapists. Despite such waits, however, it is noteworthy that Canada boasts lower incident and mortality rates than the U.S. for all cancers combined, according to the U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group and the Canadian Cancer Society. Moreover, fewer Canadians (11.3 percent) than Americans (14.4 percent) admit unmet health care needs.

Myth: Canadians are paying out of pocket to come to the U.S. for medical care.Most patients who come from Canada to the U.S. for health care are those whose costs are covered by the Canadian governments. If a Canadian goes outside of the country to get services that are deemed medically necessary, not experimental, and are not available at home for whatever reason (e.g., shortage or absence of high tech medical equipment; a longer wait for service than is medically prudent; or lack of physician expertise), the provincial government where you live fully funds your care. Those patients who do come to the U.S. for care and pay out of pocket are those who perceive their care to be more urgent than it likely is.

Myth: Canada is a socialized health care system in which the government runs hospitals and where doctors work for the government.Princeton University health economist Uwe Reinhardt says single-payer systems are not “socialized medicine” but “social insurance” systems because doctors work in the private sector while their pay comes from a public source. Most physicians in Canada are self-employed. They are not employees of the government nor are they accountable to the government. Doctors are accountable to their patients only. More than 90 percent of physicians in Canada are paid on a fee-for-service basis. Claims are submitted to a single provincial health care plan for reimbursement, whereas in the U.S., claims are submitted to a multitude of insurance providers. Moreover, Canadian hospitals are controlled by private boards and/or regional health authorities rather than being part of or run by the government.

Myth: There aren’t enough doctors in Canada.

From a purely statistical standpoint, there are enough physicians in Canada to meet the health care needs of its people. But most doctors practice in large urban areas, leaving rural areas with bona fide shortages. This situation is no different than that being experienced in the U.S. Simply training and employing more doctors is not likely to have any significant impact on this specific problem. Whatever issues there are with having an adequate number of doctors in any one geographical area, they have nothing to do with the single-payer system.

Originally posted 2010-03-10 02:00:43.

Trust In Government Hits Near-Historic Low

A Pew Poll released yesterday shows “Americans’ trust in government and its institutions has plummeted to a near-historic low…”

Americans’ trust in government and its institutions has plummeted to a near-historic low, according to a sobering new survey by the Pew Research Center.

Only 22 percent of Americans surveyed by Pew say they can trust government in Washington “almost always or most of the time” — among the lowest measures in the half-century since pollsters have been asking the question.

And an increasing number — almost 1 of every 3 people — say they believe government is a major threat to their personal freedoms and want federal power reined in.

You can read the complete article on NPR.

Originally posted 2010-04-19 02:00:57.