Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Houston blogger jailed

I'm trying to snap out of my funk...

Here's an interesting case. I guess we'd better take John Ashcroft's advice more seriously, especially in a blog: "WATCH WHAT YOU SAY!" There has always been a difference between criticism spoken vs criticism written. At the end of the article below is an interesting link compiling many lawsuits against bloggers.


Blogger jailed for contempt in Smith case
May 27, 2009

A Houstonian who’s being sued by the mother of the late Anna Nicole Smith spent the holiday weekend in jail, making her the latest gossip blogger to pay a steep price for her hobby.

Lyndal Harrington, a 53-year-old real estate agent, was jailed for contempt of court Friday by state District Judge Tony Lindsay.

The judge said Harrington lied about what happened to a computer she says was stolen in a burglary less than a week after the judge ordered the machine be produced to be combed for evidence in a defamation and conspiracy case against Harrington and others.

Harrington, sitting in bright orange Harris County Jail garb and handcuffs in court Tuesday morning, appeared to be crying when Lindsay released her from jail with orders to hand over the computer by July.

“I can’t turn over something I don’t have,” Harrington said Tuesday night after being released from jail.

She said it was a humiliating and degrading experience she never expected to have in her life.

Harrington said she doesn’t have enough money to keep paying a lawyer, and she said she just did what hundreds of others did — and are still doing — in writing her thoughts about Smith’s mother.

“I think in voicing your opinion you can make a difference,” she said. But she said others have now written falsehoods about her on the Internet.

Harrington’s case is highly unusual in that a judge used civil laws to place someone, especially a non-lawyer, in jail.

But the case is not unusual in that a blogger is one of the people Virgie Arthur, Smith’s mother, sued for defamation.

Groups that watch Internet law say bloggers are increasingly being sued for defamation, copyright infringement and privacy invasion. One blogging group now offers insurance against these lawsuits.

Attorney Neil McCabe represents Arthur and asked that Harrington be jailed.

He said the lawsuit isn’t about blogging, it’s about a conspiracy to defame his client around the time of custody hearings for Smith’s infant daughter, Dannielynn, who could inherit an $88 million fortune.

“This was pretty vicious stuff,” said McCabe. “You can’t flaunt a court order by destroying evidence. I don’t like putting someone in jail, but she put herself in jail.”

In the defamation and conspiracy lawsuit, Arthur also accused another blogger; lawyer Howard K. Stern; Stern’s sister; Dannielynn’s father, Larry Birkhead; TMZ Productions Inc.; TMZ’s Harvey Levin; and others.

Harrington blogged and moderated discussions about Arthur on a Web site called “Rose Speaks” but said she didn’t conspire with anyone.

According to the lawsuit, the falsehoods that were spread included allegations that Arthur allowed her daughter to be abused as a child and that Arthur married her stepbrother.

Robert Cox, president of the Media Blogger Association, a 2,000-member group based in New York, said lawsuits such as this are more common.

His group offers members legal insurance starting at about $540 a year for $100,000 coverage per incident.

“Bloggers have a tendency to believe myths — like that they are judgment-proof,” Cox said.
He said lawsuits against bloggers have more than doubled every year for the past five years, with most lawsuits over defamation. Other suits are over copyright infringement and privacy invasion.

Dave Heller, of the New York City-based Media Law Resource Center, said many bloggers are surprised to be sued.

“They are surprised they can be held responsible for the loose, hyperbolic language often used in private speech that they post on a public platform,” he said.

His group’s Web site features a growing list of lawsuits against bloggers.

The original, with pictures, is here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Krugman on Obama vs Healthcare companies

Here's a chance to see Obama stand up for what's right and fight like he said he would: against the entrenched healthcare company pirates to try and get towards universal healthcare coverage.

Obama is turning out to be what we suspected he was all along - a centrist. Too appeasing to the tortuous conservative crowd IMHO. But healthcare is a "signature" issue, and as Paul Krugman says below, we have Obama on record here. Wouldn't be the first time a politician said one thing and did another, and it wouldn't be Obama's first time either.


BLUE DOUBLE CROSS

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Published: May 21, 2009

That didn’t take long. Less than two weeks have passed since much of the medical-industrial complex made a big show of working with President Obama on health care reform — and the double-crossing is already well under way. Indeed, it’s now clear that even as they met with the president, pretending to be cooperative, insurers were gearing up to play the same destructive role they did the last time health reform was on the agenda.


So here’s the question: Will Mr. Obama gloss over the reality of what’s happening, and try to preserve the appearance of cooperation? Or will he honor his own pledge, made back during the campaign, to go on the offensive against special interests if they stand in the way of reform?

The story so far: on May 11 the White House called a news conference to announce that major players in health care, including the American Hospital Association and the lobbying group America’s Health Insurance Plans, had come together to support a national effort to control health care costs.

The fact sheet on the meeting, one has to say, was classic Obama in its message of post-partisanship and, um, hope. “For too long, politics and point-scoring have prevented our country from tackling this growing crisis,” it said, adding, “The American people are eager to put the old Washington ways behind them.”

But just three days later the hospital association insisted that it had not, in fact, promised what the president said it had promised — that it had made no commitment to the administration’s goal of reducing the rate at which health care costs are rising by 1.5 percentage points a year. And the head of the insurance lobby said that the idea was merely to “ramp up” savings, whatever that means.

Meanwhile, the insurance industry is busily lobbying Congress to block one crucial element of health care reform, the public option — that is, offering Americans the right to buy insurance directly from the government as well as from private insurance companies. And at least some insurers are gearing up for a major smear campaign.

On Monday, just a week after the White House photo-op, The Washington Post reported that Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina was preparing to run a series of ads attacking the public option. The planning for this ad campaign must have begun quite some time ago.

The Post has the storyboards for the ads, and they read just like the infamous Harry and Louise ads that helped kill health care reform in 1993. Troubled Americans are shown being denied their choice of doctor, or forced to wait months for appointments, by faceless government bureaucrats. It’s a scary image that might make some sense if private health insurance — which these days comes primarily via HMOs — offered all of us free choice of doctors, with no wait for medical procedures. But my health plan isn’t like that. Is yours?

“We can do a lot better than a government-run health care system,” says a voice-over in one of the ads. To which the obvious response is, if that’s true, why don’t you? Why deny Americans the chance to reject government insurance if it’s really that bad?

For none of the reform proposals currently on the table would force people into a government-run insurance plan. At most they would offer Americans the choice of buying into such a plan.

And the goal of the insurers is to deny Americans that choice. They fear that many people would prefer a government plan to dealing with private insurance companies that, in the real world as opposed to the world of their ads, are more bureaucratic than any government agency, routinely deny clients their choice of doctor, and often refuse to pay for care.

Which brings us back to Mr. Obama.

Back during the Democratic primary campaign, Mr. Obama argued that the Clintons had failed in their 1993 attempt to reform health care because they had been insufficiently inclusive. He promised instead to gather all the stakeholders, including the insurance companies, around a “big table.” And that May 11 event was, of course, intended precisely to show this big-table strategy in action.

But what if interest groups showed up at the big table, then blocked reform? Back then, Mr. Obama assured voters that he would get tough: “If those insurance companies and drug companies start trying to run ads with Harry and Louise, I’ll run my own ads as president. I’ll get on television and say ‘Harry and Louise are lying.’ ”

The question now is whether he really meant it.

The medical-industrial complex has called the president’s bluff. It polished its image by showing up at the big table and promising cooperation, then promptly went back to doing all it can to block real change. The insurers and the drug companies are, in effect, betting that Mr. Obama will be afraid to call them out on their duplicity.

It’s up to Mr. Obama to prove them wrong.

Go read it here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

99 Things

Greg Rutter's Definitive List of The 99 Things You Should Have Already Experienced On The Internet Unless You're a Loser or Old or Something

(In No Particular Order)

01) Grape Stomp
02) Charlie Bit Me
03) Chocolate Rain
04) Dancing Baby
05) Post Secret
06) Charlie The Unicorn
07) Mentos and Diet Coke
08) Numa Numa
09) Peanut Butter Jelly Time
10) George Lucas In Love
11) You're The Man Now Dog
12) Yatta
13) Star Wars Kid
14) Bubb Rubb
15) The Flying Spaghetti Monster
16) Dramatic Chipmunk
17) Homestar Runner
18) GI Joe Pork Chop Sandwiches
19) Fail Blog
20) Skateboarding Dog
21) All Your Base Are Belong To Us
22) Winnebago Man
23) We Like The Moon
24) I Can Has Cheezburger
25) Barney Vs. Tupac
26) Shining
27) Cute Overload
28) Rick Roll
29) Lazy Sunday
30) David After The Dentist
31) Powerthirst
32) Christian The Lion
33) Bert and Ernie Rap
34) Lady Punch
35) Leprechaun in Alabama
36) Where The Hell Is Matt
37) Boom Goes The Dynamite
38) Breakdancing Baby
39) Drunk Jeff Goldblum
40) Scarlet Takes A Tumble
41) Susan Boyle
42) Gay Mount Everest
43) Afro Ninja
44) Cop Shoots Himself In Leg In Classroom
45) Tron Guy
46) "Leave Britney Alone"
47) Laughing Baby
48) I'm the Juggernaut Bitch
49) Exploding Whale
50) Take On Me The Literal Version
51) Bill O'Reilly Flips Out
52) Don't Tase Me Bro
53) The Landlord
54) Breakdancing Baby Kick
55) The Pet Penguin
56) Ms. South Carolina Answers A Question
57) I'm F*#king Matt Damon
58) Will It Blend
59) Spaghetti Cat
60) Tom Cruise Kills Oprah
61) Little Superstar
62) Chad Vader
63) Pretty Much Everywhere It's Going To Be Hot
64) I Like Turtles
65) Who Needs A Movie
66) Jake E. Lee Shreds
67) Hawaii Chair
68) Aussie Party
69) Hitler Plans Burning Man
70) Montgomery Flea Market 71) Look At The Horse
72) Asian Backstreet Boys
73) Leroy Jenkins
74) Pinky The Cat
75) Monkey Sniffs Finger
76) Sneezing Panda
77) Prison Inmates remake "Thriller"
78) Techno Viking
79) Ask A Ninja
80) Best Man Trips and Ruins Wedding
81) Best Wedding Toast Ever (Amy's Song)
82) Kitten Surprise (how to break up a cat fight)
83) Katana Sword Infomercial Goes Wrong
84) Matrix Ping Pong
85) La Pequeña Prohibida
86) Angry German Kid (translated)
87) Evolution of Dance
88) Ok Go – "Here It Goes Again"
89) Battle at Kruger (lions vs. buffalos vs. crocodiles)
90) Daft Hands
91) Human Beatbox
92) Most T-Shirts Worn At Once
93) Zero G Dog
94) Cuppy Cakes Song
95) George Washington
96) Scary Maze Prank
97) Gay Referee
98) Tranquilized Bear Hits Trampoline
99) Reporter Gets A Fly In The Mouth

Bonus NSFW Links

01) Meat Spin
02) Two Girls One Cup (cannot legally be reposted in the US)
03) Goatse (mirror)
04) Lemon Party

The website is here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Send Cheney to jail?

Someone needs to remind President Obama that ALL CRIME HAPPENS IN "THE PAST." Obama's insistence that we "look forward and not backward" is in contradiction to the enforcement of laws.

If we truly are going to look "forward" and not "back" then I guess we should release every single prisoner from jail, and cease prosecuting any future criminals, because, simply, once a crime is committed, it is in the past, and we want to only look "forward," right Mr. President? I know I simplify, but give me a break here.

Don't let Dick Cheney get away with torture.
He asked for it.

Cheney told CBS News he'd welcome an open discussion of the CIA torture memos. Let's give him what he wants — in open court.

The news is buzzing that Dick Cheney would welcome a commission to investigate Bush-era torture — but we need to make it clear that a mere investigation is not enough. What we need is a prosecution.

The buzz intensifed on May 10, when Cheney told CBS' Bob Schieffer that he hopes for a public discussion of the CIA memos on torture — or, as he refers to it, "enhanced interrogation techniques."

Why would Cheney hope this? Because he believes the torture was justified. As Andrew Sullivan put it, Cheney "believes that freezing naked prisoners to hypothermia or strapping them to a board for a 175th near-drowning or stringing them up in stress positions so long the shackles rust up is in line with America's constitutional history and custom."

Cheney told Schieffer that he hopes CIA memos on torture will be released and examined by journalists and the public.

Mr. Cheney, we'd like to do you one better. We'd like those memos to be examined by a special prosecutor.

Only after a thorough investigation by a U.S. attorney will we know for sure whether and to what extent Cheney broke the law and besmirched the Constitution while serving in the Bush administration. And if he did break the law, he deserves to be prosecuted and sent to prison.

Click here to tell Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Bush-era torture and what role Dick Cheney played in making it happen.

Thank you for working to build a better world.

Kate Stayman-London, Campaign Manager CREDO Action from Working Assets

Monday, May 11, 2009

They're not all "banksters"

This story in the New York Times is much-needed. There have been many community banks, savings and loans and credit unions in this country that have been performing quite well, thank you very much, while the big boys like Citigroup and Bank of America - the Banksters - have been melting down.

How did we get to a place where a 50% profit was just not enough? Big banks (and payday loansharks that can charge, legally, up to 400%!!) have become addicted to sky-high profits. The never-ending drive for more products! more services! more investment vehicles! has fueled todays crisis.

What the hell is wrong with a reasonable 10% profit? Most people would be quite happy with that. But not the Banksters. And the credit card bill winding its way thru Capitol Hill? From what I can see, our Congress is about to pass a bill that ALLOWS credit card companies to charge up to 30%, and some people on the left are claiming this is a victory for the little guy?! 30%?! A victory for the little guy?

As this story below shows, there are quite a few people quite content with a reasonable, boring, safe profit. But that just doesn't fly on Wall Street, does it? Or Congress either, apparently.


We’re Dull, Small Banks Say, and Have Profit to Show for It


At a recent conference of the Indiana Bankers Association, attendees proudly called their business plodding and boring.

By DAVID SEGAL
Published: May 11, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s unlikely that any group of professionals is happier to highlight the dullness of their work than small-town bankers.

At a recent conference held here by the Indiana Bankers Association, attendees said it over and over: our business is plodding and boring and we would not have it any other way.

“Banking should not be exciting,” said Clay W. Ewing, president of retail financial services at German American Bancorp, a community bank in Jasper. “If banking gets exciting, there is something wrong with it.”

It is an ethos squarely at odds with the risk-addicted style of megabanks, like Citigroup and Bank of America, that trafficked in the subprime mortgages and complex financial products that helped drive the country into the grimmest recession in decades.

But to the deep chagrin of Mr. Ewing and others at the conference, the public, politicians and the media have made little distinction between the stress-tested behemoths and the 7,630 community banks across the country — the vast majority of which have watched the crisis like bystanders at a 10-car pileup.

As a result, community bankers have felt compelled in recent months to mount public relations campaigns to emphasize their fiscal health and in some cases to announce they rejected Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, funds. Some have held cookouts, others have held “reassurance” meetings in their lobbies, hoping to educate customers and prevent panics. All are dealing with banker jokes and the occasional wisecrack.

“I was on vacation in California and this guy I had just met said, ‘So, traveling on that bailout money, huh?’ ” said Blake Heid, of First Option Bank in Paola, Kan., which didn’t take any bailout money. “I didn’t find that very amusing.”

Though they greatly outnumber the national and regional banks, community banks have barely registered in any of the fallout from the credit crisis, in part because they hold less than 10 percent of the $13.8 trillion in bank assets nationwide.

The 50 or so bank failures have been largely clustered in a few states, like Florida, Arizona and California, where the bursting housing bubble had the greatest impact.

In states like Indiana, where property values never soared, community banks have been rock solid. The last failure in the state was in 1992.

To spend time with these Indiana community bankers is to step into an alternate universe, where everything sounds a little strange because it makes perfect sense. You hear things like, “If you don’t understand the risk you’re taking, don’t take it.” And, “We want to be around for decades, so we’re not focused on the next quarter.”

Forget “too big to fail.” These banks consider themselves too small to risk embarrassment. They are run by people who grew up in the towns where they work, and their main fear is getting into a financial jam that will shame them in the eyes of their neighbors.

The steep profits earned by national banks didn’t turn their heads in the last decade because they were inherently skeptical of double-digit growth rates.

“We like a nice, gentle, upward slope,” said Donald E. Goetz, the president of DeMotte State Bank, an 11-branch operation in the northwest part of Indiana.

“This kind of growth, like you see in the stock market” — Mr. Goetz ran his hand through the air, tracing the shape of a mountain range — “that doesn’t interest us.”

One recent morning Mr. Goetz gave a tour of his bank, which included a bulletin board with fliers for a fire department fish fry and the Kankakee Valley Women’s Club flower sale.

There is a lot of bric-a-brac in his wood-paneled office and a Thomas Kinkade painting of a green-gabled stone house after a snow fall, titled the “Olde Porterfield Gift Shoppe.”

“There is one set of footprints, going in,” he said, pointing to the painting. “That’s how we feel as a business sometime. We’re walking alone.”

Mr. Goetz, who was wearing a tie and a short-sleeve shirt, started as a teller at DeMotte right after he graduated from college in 1976, and he’s been president since 1988. He is a stolid guy who, when asked what he does for fun, offered two words: “Yard work.”

He sounds somewhat aggrieved. His bank, which opened in 1917, didn’t make any subprime loans, nor did it take any bailout money. Even when bank stocks were soaring, not one of his 246 shareholders needled him to earn more than the 3 to 4 percent dividend that DeMotte has generated for years.

Still, he’s had to train employees in the art of assuaging the fears of jittery customers. He programmed the blinking signs outside his branches to read “Safe, Strong, Secure.”

Despite these efforts, he’s fielded some customer calls at night, to his home. In rare cases, people withdrew their savings.

“We had three or four people panic,” he said. “A couple of them said, ‘It’s not the bank. We just don’t trust the government.’ And I told them, ‘If the government fails, the money you’re taking out of this bank won’t be worth anything.’ ”

Mr. Goetz, like a lot of his competitors, is livid about the mortgage shenanigans born of the securitization craze. But he thinks his public relations problem had many authors.

“The media, Congress, the president, everyone just keeps saying ‘the banks, the banks, the banks,’ like we’re all the same thing,” he said. “Well, we’re not all the same thing.”

Explaining that distinction has been especially challenging for community banks that signed up for TARP funds, which initially were pitched by the government as a way to shore up healthy banks. Only later, after the American International Group bonus fiasco, community bankers say, did the TARP acquire a stigma.

“We heard a lot of smart-alecky comments,” said James C. Latta, president of the Idaho Banking Company in Boise, Idaho, which took $6.9 million in TARP funds. “A lot of ‘Wish I had a bailout.’ ”

At DeMotte, Mr. Goetz is bracing for a steep increase in a crucial overhead cost: the bill from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which is basically an insurance fund underwritten by banks.

Last year, DeMotte paid $42,000 into the fund. This year, because of failures in other parts of the country and particularly among national banks, that sum will rise to $500,000 or more.

“Isn’t that the American way?” he says, folding his arms. “Whoever is left standing, whoever was prudent, is always the one who has to pick up the pieces.”

The original is here.

Challenging Corporate Personhood

Do we really want to get big money out of politics? Most would say "yes," but how? Revoking the "personhood" status of corps could be one way to do it. It seems like whenever campaign finance rules are passed, a loophole or seven are found, and the situation ends up worse than before. We need to have the guts to stand up to these behemoths.

Multinational Monitor: What is corporate personhood?

Jan Edwards: It is corporations having rights in the constitution that are normally meant for human beings. Those rights include rights in the Bill of Rights, the Fourteenth Amendment, and civil rights laws.

MM: How did corporations gain these rights?

Edwards: The founding fathers of the United States were not interested in giving constitutional rights to corporations. In fact, they wanted to regulate corporations very tightly because they had had bad experiences with corporations during colonial times. The crown charter corporations like the East India Company and the Hudson Bay Company had been the rulers of America. So when the constitution was written, corporations were left out of the Constitution. Responsibility for corporate chartering was given to the states. State governance was closer to the people and would enable them to keep an eye on corporations.

In the eighteenth century, corporations had very few of the powers that we now associate with them. They did not have limited liability. They did not have an unlimited life span. They were chartered for a limited period of time, say 10 or 20 years, and for a specific public purpose, such as building a bridge. Often a charter would require that, after a certain amount of time, the bridge or road be turned over to the state or the town in which it was built. Corporations were viewed differently in early America. They were required to serve the public good.

But over time people forgot that corporations had been so powerful and that they needed to be strongly controlled. Also, corporations began to gain more power as the wealthy elite.

After the Civil War, Congress passed several constitutional amendments relating to slavery. The Thirteenth Amendment freed the slaves, the Fourteenth Amendment gave the newly freed male slaves equal protection and due process under law, and the Fifteenth Amendment gave voting rights to these same former black male slaves.

The Fourteenth Amendment used the word "person" in the body of the amendment. This caused some confusion about who "persons" were. Did women qualify? Or corporations? The Supreme Court responded by saying that the word "person" in the Fourteenth Amendment meant just black males.

That, however, wasn't the end of it. Corporations had a lot of money and a lot at stake, and they took case after case to court. In 1886, corporations gained a victory. Before the Supreme Court session to announce the decision in the case Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad, Chief Justice Waite said that the court wouldn't hear arguments on whether the Fourteenth Amendment clause on equal protection applied to corporations; they all believed that it did.

The case was decided on other grounds. But, the principle that corporations have Fourteenth Amendment rights was inserted by the Supreme Court reporter in a header in the published report of the case. A couple of years later, in the case Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad v. Beckwith (1889), the Court cited the Santa Clara case as the precedent for corporations having due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. With that, corporations became legal persons in the United States, and gained the ability to challenge in federal court regulatory actions at the state level.

Corporations had been looking for a way to control the process of state regulation and taxation. Now they were able to control it by having the federal government say you can't discriminate, when discrimination meant any rule that applied just to corporations, such as railroads. Of the Fourteenth Amendment cases brought before the Supreme Court between 1890 and 1910, 19 dealt with African Americans and 288 dealt with corporations. The corporations won more than 200 of these cases.

Federal regulatory agencies were also being created during this time. In 1893, corporations won a case called Noble v. Union River Logging, which gave them Fifth Amendment due process rights against the federal as well as state governments.

For the first 100 years or so of U.S. history, Supreme Court decisions regarding corporations were made under the artificial entity corporate theory. But from 1886 or 1889 on, the justices wrote their opinions in terms of personhood, and they considered corporations to be corporate persons.

MM: How does the history of "substantive due process" fit into the story?

Edwards: A 1905 case called Lochner v. New York established the doctrine of substantive due process. Lochner was about a New York state law limiting the hours that people could work in bakeries. Lochner said that the law violated "substantive due process" because it invalidated contracts the bakeries had with their workers. This case involved an individual, but the ruling was then extended to cover corporations. Lochner became shorthand for using the constitution to invalidate government regulation of the corporation. Until the mid-1930s, the court used this doctrine to invalidate, or to prevent states from enacting, economic regulations -- minimum wage, maximum hours and related issues -- usually under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In the thirties, the Court became a little bit more liberal and eventually overturned Lochner, shifting away from substantive due process.

MM: What is the lingering importance of corporate personhood?

Edwards: Corporate lawyers began to go through the Bill of Rights and claim more and more of these rights for corporations. The Fourth Amendment right against search and seizure, for example, is used to keep corporations like Enron from having to open up their books. Corporations' Fourth Amendment protections require OSHA [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration] to produce a warrant to check for safety regulations, which gives employers time to clean things up. It also requires the EPA to produce a warrant before checking for environmental infractions.

MM: What kind of First Amendment rights do corporations have?

Edwards: They have the right to spend unlimited amounts of money on overturning referenda, established by the Boston v. Belotti decision in 1976. Buckley v. Valeo, in 1977, said that political contributions, including financial contributions to candidates and parties, are equivalent to speech. This applies to both corporations and human persons.

Corporations have the right not to speak. This argument was used to overturn a law in Vermont requiring the labeling of bovine growth hormone, with the courts ruling that because the Food and Drug Administration has not required such labels on health grounds, corporations could not be required to label their products.

In many of the important cases establishing corporate personhood and corporate rights, the Supreme Court has not been unanimous. For example, Boston v. Belotti was a 5-4 decision, with Justices White, Brennan, Marshall and Rehnquist dissenting. Over the past 75 years, Justices Douglass, Brandeis and Black made some insightful dissents.

MM: Nike has recently been involved in a high-profile First Amendment case.

Edwards: In that case, a sweatshop activist accused Nike of lying about their use of sweatshop labor in a letter to the editor, and argued that this violated consumer protection laws barring false advertising. Nike's lawyers said that this was political speech, not advertising, and that in political speech, you can say whatever you want, true or not.

The California Supreme Court decided that this was not political speech. They did not decide that Nike did not have political speech rights, but that Nike was speaking because the company wanted to clear its name in order to sell more products.

This case is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court is going to decide whether or not this particular speech of Nike is protected speech or not.

The ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] is saying that Nike has a right to free speech. As I understand it, they feel that more speech is better and that they are protecting our right to hear as well as Nike's right to speak.

MM: In what other ways does corporate personhood affect concrete policy or government's ability to restrict corporate power?

Edwards: It's like a roadblock that needs to be removed before all sorts of other options to limit corporate power can be pursued. The fundamental issue is: Who makes the rules? Who governs the country? Do the corporations govern as people, or do the people govern? Are the corporations subservient to people or not? After corporate personhood is eliminated, we could begin to challenge many other sources of corporate power.

We could prohibit all political activity by corporations. We could stop all corporate political donations and corporate lobbying. We could inspect plants for environmental and health violations without a warrant or prior notice. We could revoke corporate charters by popular referendum. We could prohibit chain stores from doing business in our town, county or state, and the erection of cell towers. We could stop advertising for tobacco, guns and other dangerous products. We could levy differential taxes for corporations and restrict their size. We could require labeling for genetically modified foods.

This is just a short list of what we could do. We could go in a lot of places where we can't go now and don't even think to go because of constitutional restrictions. If you redefine who is a person, if you redefine what a corporation is in relation to We the People, then you open up a lot of avenues now blocked by this strange concept of a corporate half person entity that shapeshifts between public and private as suits it.

MM: What can people do about this?

Edwards: I'll tell you what our strategy is. We believe that a constitutional amendment is needed to clarify who is a person in the United States. All living, breathing human beings would be included, but no non-human beings.

I know a constitutional amendment is very difficult, but that is what we think is the proper way to change things -- in the constitution, not in the Supreme Court. At some point, the Supreme Court might hear a case and they could overturn corporate personhood. But we think that the question, "Should corporations have the rights of legal persons?" is a political question, a question for the people.

We're starting at the grassroots level. We're encouraging people to pass resolutions in their towns to create corporate personhood-free zones -- to build up strength at the grassroots level. Moving on from there, we hope to do a state-wide constitutional amendment, and once we get some of those we would go for the federal amendment. That sounds like a lot of work, but that is the proper way to do it, the democratic way.

Jan Edwards is a member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom "Challenge Corporate Power, Assert the People's Rights: Abolish Corporate Personhood" Leadership Team. She was the co-chair of the Redwood Coast Alliance for Democracy, which introduced the first ever successful resolution on corporate personhood to the Point Arena, California City Council in 2000. She also hosts a show on Mendocino Community Radio called "Corporations and Democracy."


Friday, May 8, 2009

Meet the President

Offered without much comment, other than to say that I'll bet that Obama's jokes - like pretty much anything "Obama" - will be better than Bush's, and surely we won't have any embarrassing video from the bumbling President looking under seats and tables for weapons of mass destruction. That was just so ha ha funny, you disgustingly slimy, condescendingly arrogant son-of-a-Bush.

Obama Gets Ready For His First Prom

President Obama will make his debut as comedian in chief when he appears at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner on Saturday.

The annual gala is like prom night for Washington's media elite, and this year's guest list features a veritable stampede of celebrity hangers-on, including Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Ben Affleck, George Lucas, Sting, Whoopi Goldberg, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Eva Longoria Parker, and naturally, Kevin Bacon (see the White House Correspondents Weekend Insider blog for a complete list of who's coming to dinner).

Comedian Wanda Sykes will be the featured entertainer at this year's dinner, but all eyes will be on Obama as follows in the footsteps of his predecessors by performing his own comedy shtick.

To get you primed for this year's festivities, here's a look back at memorable moments from past White House Correspondents' Dinners, including George W. Bush conducting the U.S. Marine Band, Stephen Colbert's legendary Bush roast, Laura Bush's "Desperate Housewife" routine, and Bill Clinton's "Final Days" farewell video.

See more highlights from Washington's Silly Season...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Re-fi!!

Last week the wife and I took Obama's advice and closed on re-financing our home mortgage. We were able to shave 175 basis points off of our original interest rate, saving us around 18% on the monthly note, which translates to around $300/month less in the monthly house payment. Yeow! That $300 will either be plowed back into the note to pay it off early, or we'll save it or use it for other needs.

You should look into whether or not it makes sense for you to refinance. Interest rates can be had below 5% these days, and that's pretty attractive. I don't know about you, but we can sure use that extra $300/month.

Thank you, President Obama!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Gardening report for May

Awhile ago, we adopted some of the Square Foot Gardening ideas for our rooftop garden. Instead of putting soil inside a 4' x 4' box, we instead placed 13 containers (with soil inside the containers) inside a 4' x 4' box.

I didn't w
ant to build a box and fill it with dirt, on the roof. This way, we can move one container out of the box and a different one in, if we need to. And we have needed to already. Plus we flipped the positions of a couple of containers, something we wouldn't be able to do if every plant was simply in the soil. This is how SFB1 (Square Foot Box #1) looked early on. We planted the box March 8, and I think this picture is from March 28.


One of the ideas of the Square Foot Gardener is to use a minimum number of seeds per plant. So, we tried to use only one seed per pot, but some seeds are so small, it's hard to get only one. Regardless, we have had close to a 100% germination rate, using seeds from Burpee, Ferry-Morse, Park, and Gourmet.


For ten of the 13 containers, we planted seeds. For the other three (the Red Sails lettuce and two tomatoes, a Rutgers and a Better Bush), we moved containers into the SFB1 whose plants were already growing and had a head-start. The two tomato plants we got from Buchanan's Native Plants. Of the four seedlings we bought, only these two survived.


This will be the third year that we have tried some plants on the roof. The first year was very truncated, since we didn't even get the deck ins
talled until May of 2007.

The second year, 2008, we had some better luck but some really disappointing failures. This blog contains numerous posts on the previous attempts.


This third year, 2009, we seem to be doing much better. So far.


This is the first year we have set up an automatic watering system on the roof. Previously, we did it all by hand, and it was often hit-and-miss.
First, we bought a small Raindrip Vegetable Kit. We laid out about 22 of the 25 provided drippers. Most of the containers got only one dripper, but the bigger ones, like the tomato pots, got two.


How to secure the dripper line to each container is a rather tricky proposition, and we chose a rather unscientific method: use a twist-tie to fasten the dripper line to a metal stake that we drove into each pot. It is rather inelegant, but it works.


When they say that these drippers will kick out 1/2 GPH (gallon of water per hour), they are pretty accurate. That averages to about 1 oz of water output per minute. I did several test drips, and the result was right where they said it would be. Amazing.


We matched the Raindrip system up with a Vigoro Two Zone Water Timer we got at Lowe's.


For the second zone, we hooked up a typical yard sprinkler (not pictured). Since we were going on vacation in late April, we hooked it all up and ran some tests on it and decided that having the spigots on once per day per zone ought to provide enough water.

So, the dripper comes on once a day for 20 minutes and the sprinkler comes on once a day for 30 minutes. And when we came back from vacation, everything was well-watered and looking great. Success!

Of course, it had also rained a good bit while we were gone, so we decided to simply leave the system in place, even while we're here. This way, we can rely on consistent, steady watering. So far, so good.
Here's are some more-recent pics, taken in late April. Here's the entire SFB1.


And some closer shots:


We had originally planted Jewel Mix nasturtium in the first position (lower-left above), but since it doesn't need that much water, we moved it out of the SFB1 and replaced it with some Ya-Ya carrots. The nasturtiums are going quite well regardless. They're very tasty in salads. All of it: leaves, flowers, and stems.


The butterhead lettuce is growing just fine.


The Red Sails lettuce that had a head start is doing great. We've already trimmed quite a lot off of this one for salads.


The Bush Lake 47 green beans are looking healthy.


The Florence fennel, started from seed, looks great.


The Ya-Ya carrots that took the place of nasturtium inside the SFB1 i
s doing fine. This is easily the best we've done so far with carrots. The last batch were all stunted and split.


The Pearl Hybrid cucumber is looking fine. It's already starting to flower (not shown).


The Inca II Gold Hybrid marigold (also edible) is progressing nicely.


The Mesclun Mix was doing great until a caterpillar ate up a bunc
h of the leaves. It was clinging to the underside of a leaf, having a good old time.


The tomatoes are going gangbusters.


Today, however, we pulled a green tomato hornworm caterpillar off of one of the young green tomatoes growing on the Rutgers plant. We saw a sizeable hole in one tomato, and the wife snipped it off with sc
issors.

She then let out a piercing squeal, because she TOUCHED THE CATERPILLAR!!!! It stuck it's head out of the tomato and winked at her! Fat bastard! It was gorged on the green contents.

I should have taken a picture of the fat bastard beast, or made a video of its demise. Alas. The wife is still shuddering over it. I don't really want to resort to chemicals on the plants, but we may go with the Bt. I understand that those hornworms can decimate a whole bush overnight.

We think we're almost ready to start SFB2. For that one, we're going to use seeds we recently bought from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.


Sheesh!! This is work!!

Swine flu victims

Friday, May 1, 2009

It's a miracle!

Actually, no, it isn't. Seems we have yet another apparition of a holy figure, this time the Virgin Mary in a griddle. Jesus Christ on a popsicle stick!

I'm sorry, but I have to laugh when these things come up. An image of Jesus in an oil slick. Virgin mary on a pancake. A pretzel that looks like....a pretzel.

Diners head to see Virgin Mary on griddle
Associated Press

This is the griddle that people have been flocking to see.

CALEXICO, Calif. — The hottest thing on the griddle at the Las Palmas restaurant these days isn't the food. It's the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that a cook says she saw in the griddle.

Restaurant manager Brenda Martinez says more than a hundred people have flocked to the small town of Calexico on the California-Mexico border to gaze at the image since it was discovered as the griddle was being cleaned.

Among the awe-struck was a group of masked Mexican wrestlers who arrived Thursday for an exhibition at a nearby swap meet.

"This is amazing. It's a true miracle," said one, known as Mr. Tempest.

Since the discovery, the griddle has been taken out of service and placed in a shrine in a storage room.

Health care for everyone?

From MoveOn.org - you may not agree with every move that MoveOn has made over the years, and I have not either, but, hey, nobody is perfect, especially when you actually try to take into account your members attitudes and ideals.


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