We The Corporations


IMG_3487This is for those who are mystified, upset, angry, or whatever else about Citizens United.  Without doubt I learned more from this book by Adam Winkler than I have learned from any book in months and some of it shocked me. It is this month’s assignment if one is a member of the PBS/New York Times online book club.

The first English settlement, Jamestown, was a corporation.  The people who first lived there were all employees of that corporation and could not own anything  themselves.  Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded as a corporation as were several other colonies and Dartmouth, Harvard, and Yale.  In the first business related case before the Supreme Court in 1809, Bank of the United States vs. Derveaux, the bank won.  It was the first Supreme Court case which dealt with the constitutional rights of corporations.  With occasional exceptions, since that first case, the Supreme Court has generally sided with businesses.

Corporate and business donations to presidential campaigns began over a hundred years ago with the election cycle of McKinley vs. William Jennings Bryan. Marcus Alonzo Hanna realized just how much money could matter and transformed the campaign process.  He created the first national advertising campaign.  This new strategy required money, lots more than the traditional campaigning methods.  Where did he acquire this money?  Corporations.  He coined the phrase, “There are two things important in politics.  The first is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is.”

In a case in 1916, Dodge Brothers vs. Ford Motor Company, Ford lost because of his testimony when he said he had the right to make business decisions in the interests of the general public even if stockholders had to sacrifice.  The Michigan Supreme Court ruled against him, stating that they could not commit to the concept that “a general purpose and plan to benefit mankind at the expense of stockholders” is acceptable.

Although there have been periods of time when the Supreme Court of the US has been prone to limit the rights of corporations, they have been brief in comparison to periods where corporate rights were increased by Supreme Court decisions. The extension of corporate rights to free speech began long ago in Britain.  However, in the US, the Fourteenth Amendment was used in the case of Grosjean vs. American Press Company to guarantee free speech rights to corporations. This case decades ago is, along with many other cases, a precursor to Citizens United.

If you want to understand how corporations have increasingly attained rights, I highly recommend this book.  It will give you new insights into where we are now and how we got to this point regarding the rights of corporations in the United States.

Taking a Knee?


When I read this post, I kept think the other times in life when people as he puts it, “take the knee”: when men propose, when people pray. No one see those as signs of disrespect or do they? For all those who think it is disrespectful, try reading every verse of the national anthem. Hint: the author was a pro-slavery slave owner.

northierthanthou

Institute of American Indian Arts (Photo compliments of Moni)

Not everyone really appreciates just how powerful the ritual of standing for the National Anthem really can be. I got a real sense of this when I was 14. My Jr. rifle team won the Wyoming-state BB-Gun finals, which earned our way to the International BB-Gun Championship in Bowling Green, Kentucky. …on July 4th. As the child of a career military officer, I was always happy to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner or to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, but standing there during the final ceremonies, the whole thing took on a whole new layer of meaning for me. That time, I had my heart in my throat. That time, the whole ritual moved me nearly to tears. I loved my country so much, and at that moment, putting my hand over my heart for that beautiful song was absolutely the…

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Religion


Recently, while reading a novel about a woman in Shakespeare’s time, I came across this statement by one of the characters.  It rings so true for many eras of human history, I feel compelled to share it:

 

“Religion is not only about men’s souls.  It is about who rules us, what laws we obey, how and why we are punished, and by whom.”

ACoE Invades South Texas


No regard for precious wildlife, no regard for property rights, no regard for anything.

Jude Lieber

Photo caption: Snapshot from one of my trips to the Rio Grande — Big Bend National Park hot springs with with wild mustangs on the Mexican bank.

We knew this was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Trespassing on private soil, our own Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE) have begun clearing areas for the border wall. Rather than steal land legally through eminent domain, they have arrived without permission or notification. Instead of cutting through ranchland, they have begun where it will hurt the most — nature preserves. The first location to fall beneath the saw, machete, and blade is a strip through the National Butterfly Center. Scientists had purchased the area from farmers and restored it with plant species vital to the survival of the threatened monarch butterfly. Now, only brown stubble remains. The wall will block the migration of thousands of land-based animals, cutting their territory…

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Make America Great Again?


Although few argue with the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, few look long and hard at the history and life then.  Unless you owned land, were male, were white, nothing for you.  Most of the founding fathers still held, tacitly or openly, to the old English class system.  Many owned slaves even when they claimed to dislike it.  Throughout United States history,  a small group of high status, white men have controlled the country.

More recently during WWII, we imprisoned Japanese Americans but not Germans.  The Japanese were often seen as ruthless, barbaric while the Aryan German remained quite close to the idealized, white, patriotic American ideal.

Today when people read about white men murdering large numbers of people, the news and the comments indicate that most think these people are abnormal, not like the rest of us.  This is a country fascinated with hate.  For many in the last couple of years this has taken the form of hatred of outsiders, refugees, dark people.  This has brought a new wave of tough on crime mentality.  People who think differently, more welcoming, more critical, are seen as subversive, anti-patriotic.  Much of the public sees certain groups, e.g. black men, as criminals, wicked, violent, groups to be feared.  Any research contrary to these prevalent views tends to be hidden, pushed away, unreported.  One example is a report by Homeland Security in 2009 which warned law enforcement agencies about the dangers of right-wing conservatism.  Certain conservative groups demanded the withdrawal of this report and succeeded.

Certain Christian groups push for a return to Christian values not realizing perhaps the origin of some of these values.  The word, evil, provides an excellent example.  This word goes back to Saint Augustine who defined it as a refusal to act morally, a refusal to do good.  While Hitler, the Holocaust, and Nazism have been associated with evil, interestingly fascism has not. Franco in Spain escaped the evil label probably because the Vatican, the US government, and US businesses supported him.  The word evil is rarely used to describe state sanctioned violence as in the US support of the Shah of Iran, Pinochet in Chile.  It appears we pick and choose the evil label to suit certain purposes.  Powerful groups are rarely labeled evil and therefore do not become targets of general hatred.

Fear relates to hate.  People hate what they fear.  Some media play on these fears to incite hate to suit their own goals and philosophies.  Certain talk radio hosts use their rants to further their goals in this manner.  They want people who do not think like they do to incite fear which leads to hate. These media can easily inflame the public fears about crime, refugees, drug usage.  They also rely on the often hidden preexisting prejudices that many deny they have, e.g. racism, fear of outsiders, fear of differences.

The ultimate end of these prejudices is war.  The often popular belief remains:  justice and goodness can be attained via violence, force.  We are good and everyone against us is evil and therefore to be hated.  The war vocabulary remains part of common everyday language:  War on Women, Drug War, War on Poverty.  Our language remains full of these types of communications.  It expresses a common worldview. Problems can be solved by force.  This continues in spite of enormous evidence that it does not work.  The War on Drugs never attained success, our economic and social problems remain.  Even efforts at containment frequently fail, e.g. the current opioid epidemic.  Many schools currently hire police officers and sometimes students are arrested for relatively minor infractions.  Often those arrested are students with certain types of disabilities or from certain minority groups.  Our prison population has increased by 500% over the last thirty years with the increased imprisonment of women double that of men, mainly due to drug related crimes.  Obviously, these “wars” are failing. Because of the “cult” of individuality and freedom, people in the US often see these failures as the result of individuals acting irresponsibly rather than societal failures.  Although these factors do not force an individual to behave in certain ways, they do affect a person’s psychological makeup, opportunities for betterment, and mental and physical health.

We have become a society possessed with fear and hatred caused by a profound mistrust of others.  Contrary to what many wish to believe this nation has a long history of obsession with perceived enemies and evil.  Some see threats everywhere, liberals hate conservatives and vice versa, some fear and hate those with different sexual orientations, the list seems endless.  Many see the solution as one form of war or another either through violence, incarceration, or laws.

Mass rallies on both sides further incite this sort of mass mentality.  History remains full of disastrous consequences of such behavior.  The Nazis came to power this way and killed millions of Jews via such strategies.  The genocide in Rwanda is another example. We see the perpetrators of such as monsters, but common, ordinary men and women made the Holocaust possible.  Good, decent people engage in horrible crimes.  The Ku Klux Klan continues with membership of otherwise ordinary, upstanding citizens. Doctors in Nazi Germany rationalized their help with exterminations and experimentations as part of German nationalism to save their country.

In the US racism is not the sole purview of white bigots.  Just recently someone commented to me about being colorblind.  Such is a form of denial.  When people see another person, they notice how they look, eyes, height, etc.  Most white people in the US today never choose to recall, if alive then, and acknowledge, if not,  the millions of black people (mostly men) lynched, most of whom were raped, tortured and castrated before they were killed.  When someone commits these types of atrocities today, we often refer to him as a monster.  We conveniently forget the long history of atrocities against all people of color in this country, atrocities deemed perfectly normal at the time.

As noted in the examples above, much of the violence and hatred and injustice currently seen in this country has a long history.  We have not been able to even come close to the ideals espoused in the Declaration of Independence. Instead of talking about Making American Great Again, we need to change the conversation into a future vision of making the US like the vision detailed in this document, a place where justice and the hope of equality can be attained by all, regardless of color, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, religion.

 

 

 

 

Note:  Recommended readings include “Considering Hate” by Kay Whitlock and Michael Bronski and “White Trash:  the 400-Year Untold History of Class in America” by Nancy Isenberg.

 

 

 

Religion and Politics


The two things some of us were taught never to discuss in social situations.  Reading The Silk Roads, A New History of the World, simply reaffirms why those who wrote the United States Constitution insisted on separating religion and politics.  Mixing the two leads to tyranny, war, misunderstanding, and a host of other ills. When did this mixture start?  Prehistory or at least the early recorded history.

Constantine, the Roman emperor,  converted for political purposes.  The Persians tolerated a wide variety of religions until it was no longer politically expedient; then they decided to persecute Christians and declare Zoastrianism as official.  When the barbarian hoards from the steppes started to overrun both the Roman and Persian Empires, they decided to cooperate–a huge change–and actually built a wall between the Black and Caspian Seas to stop the uncivilized.  Roman soldiers guarded the wall.  This helped Rome little, however, because the Visigoths sacked Rome.  The barbarians won.

And then there was Constantine’s Counsel of Nicea, held in 410, 420, 424.  The “eastern” bishops were not invited.  Therefore, the results applied only to what later became known as Roman Catholicism. Infighting among bishops, arguments over who was right and wrong continued, and on and on.  Eastern bishops saw the western teachings as heresy. The arguments mainly centered on the divinity, or lack thereof, of Jesus.

The western church focused on rooting out unofficial religious views, while the east focused on missionary activity.  The king of Yemen even became a Christian. Rulers converted, shifted allegiances, persecuted or tolerated, according to political expediency.

Little seems to have changed in 1500 years.

 

Random Acts: Don Freeman


Planned another hiking post today but found this and its message seemed too important to ignore.

“We need to stop looking to politicians to make our world better. Politicians don’t make the world a better place. Everything that’s ever made the world a better place has come from inventors, engineers, scientists, teachers, artists, builders, philosophers, healers, and people that choose love over hate.” — Don Freeman

raw-heart-purpleCommit Random Acts of Writing + Art. Image: Philadelphia Muses, mural by Meg Saligman. Philadelphia Muses has remained one of the Mural Arts most iconic projects since its creation in 1999. It is intended to be a contemporary interpretation of the classical muses, which Saligman has created an arts landscape filled with figures and elements symbolizing today’s art and creativity. Within the design Saligman uses portraits of local performing artists and references to works of art by local artists, to honor the many forms of creative expression.

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Making Peace by Denise Levertov


Business in Rhyme

As today we are celebrating a World Peace Day, I thought of sharing this beautiful words by Denise Levertov, “Making Peace” and through poetry take opportunity to first find peace within ourselves and simply let that energy transcend further, around us:

peace_poetry


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Religion, Politics, and the RNC: Separation of Church and State Anyone? by Marie Cartier


This blog post provides a number of well thought out issues and arguments to ponder regarding the upcoming election. Somehow a civil discourse needs to occur but sadly seems less and less likely.

MarieCartierforKCETa-thumb-300x448-72405When you read this Feminism and Religion community, we will have just finished the televised portion of the Republican National Convention (RNC), which as I write this Wednesday, July 20 has announced that Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee for president of the United States.

Last night the first night of the RNC we witnessed the emerging platform of the party going far to the right.

From the New York Times:

Republicans moved on Tuesday toward adopting a staunchly conservative platform that takes a strict, traditionalist view of the family and child rearing, bars military women from combat, describes coal as a “clean” energy source and declares pornography a “public health crisis.”

The platform demands that lawmakers use religion as a guide when legislating, stipulating “that man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights.”

It also encourages the teaching of the Bible in public schools because, the amendment…

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Modern Politics and Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz


Who would think that a Mexican woman who wrote poetry more than three hundred years ago would have anything applicable to today’s political arena?  About one and one half years ago, my daughter returned from a business trip with a little gift, a translation of Sor Juana’s work.  It is not the sort of literature I sit down and read all the way through.  It is deep, questioning, the sort of literature you savor here and there.  A few minutes ago I opened the book once again to read one of her ballads–typically referred to as romances.   However, this is not exactly a romance.  It reads:

“One who is sad criticizes

the happy man as frivolous;

and one who is happy derides

the sad man and his suffering.

 

The two philosophers of Greece

offered perfect proofs of this truth;

for what caused laughter in one man

occasioned tears in another.

 

The contradiction has been framed

for centuries beyond number,

yet which of the two ways was correct

has so far not been determined;

 

instead, into two factions

all people have been recruited,

temperament dictating which

band each person will adhere to.”

 

This is only a small portion of the ballad.  It is ballad 2 in the translation by Edith Grossman.  The introduction to the book is by one of my favorite authors (I have read all her books published to date), Julia Alvarez.