Saturday, July 14, 2018

Rep. Liz Cheney - Daddy Would Be Proud

Former VP Cheney and Rep. Liz Cheney
Another Cheney, Another Exploitation of Our Natural Resources.


It was Kenny Invergo who first opened my mind to the wonder of the annual migratory patterns of birds, especially raptors.  He and the group of us often slept in a mud-spattered and frost-whitened van on the cascades of the Mississippi River in Jo Daviess County, Illinois, and crawled out of our blankets at dawn to check mist nets for foraging owls and the morning skies for hawks traveling south in the beginning cold of fall. Raptors were just one species of the thousand species flying high over our blind, but Ken kept a copious record of times, weights, band numbers, types, and descriptions of the many hawks he captured through the fall.   For decades.  Kenny passed away some time ago on his land overlooking the long valley running into the Mississippi Valley, his favorite creatures still making their instinctive travels overhead each fall.

“July 3rd marked the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. On that day in 1918, America’s most important bird protection law went into effect. Throughout 2018, we are celebrating this milestone as the Year of the Bird, yet at the same time, we (the Audubon Society) are defending the law in the face of unprecedented attacks, including by recently filing a lawsuit against the administration.

The Great White Egret 
Because of the Migratory Bird Act, it is not legal to take or possess or export/transport or sell or barter migratory avian species in America. Nor is it legal to have or hold their physical parts, nests, or eggs except with a valid Federal permit providing an allowance to do so.  Remember the Passenger pigeon?  Gone. Remember the clamor for White Egret plumes for fashionable hats just after the First World War?  Still around, because the same bird made it to 1918, and was saved under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  

“A few weeks ago, in conjunction with other conservation groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation, and others, Audubon filed litigation to challenge the administration’s interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that guts enforcement of the law. The policy reverses decades of precedent in the interpretation of the law by both Republican and Democratic administrations. The new interpretation allows all industrial activity to be exempted from the MBTA by only prohibiting deliberate acts, and letting off the hook bird deaths caused by hazards such as oil waste pits, oil spills, mining activity, power line electrocutions, and other threats. It drastically reduces the incentive for companies to adopt best practices that save birds from preventable harm, along with the ability to recover after events such as oil spills by applying fines under the law to habitat restoration.”

And, if you considered Scott Pruitt a danger to the environment?  Don't feel too relieved.  Enter stage Halliburton, Representative Liz Cheney – like father, like daughter.

According to Audubon:

Oil-Soaked Pelicans
“In reaction to a bird-killer amendment introduced today by Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) and passed by the House Committee on Natural Resources, National Audubon Society President and CEO David Yarnold (@david_yarnold) said, “Rep. Cheney is giving oil and gas companies and other industries a free pass to kill birds with impunity. This amendment guts the most effective bird conservation law that has been on the books for a century, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Under Cheney’s amendment, companies would have no responsibility for bird deaths. We will engage our 1.2 plus million members to stop this and any other attack on the laws that save birds.”
Cheney introduced the measure as an amendment to H.R. 4239, a bill written to weaken environmental protections in order to facilitate oil and gas drilling. The amendment was approved in the committee mark-up, and the bill passed out of committee earlier today. 
“The MBTA is one of Audubon’s earliest victories. Congress passed the MBTA in 1918 in response to public outcry over the mass slaughter of birds, which threatened egrets and other species with extirpation. The law prohibits killing or harming America’s birds except under certain conditions, including managed hunting seasons for game species. The law protects more than 1,000 bird species in part because industries implement commonsense best management practices like covering tar pits and marking transmission lines.
“Facts and figures on industrial causes of bird mortality in the United States:
·      Power lines: Up to 175 million birds per year (Source: http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/documents/psw_gtr191/Asilomar/pdfs/1051-1064.pdf)
·      Communication towers: Up to 50 million birds per year (Source: http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/documents/psw_gtr191/Asilomar/pdfs/1051-1064.pdf)
·      Oil waste pits: 500,000 to 1 million birds per year (Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16988870)
·      Gas flares: No reliable mortality estimates, but an infamous 2013 incident in Canada incinerated an estimated 7,500 birds (Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/7-500-songbirds-killed-at-canaport-gas-plant-in-saint-john-1.1857615
“Audubon members can take action and urge their legislators to vote against any legislation that includes language weakening the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

“The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon's state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon's vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more how to help at www.audubon.organd follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.

“Contact: Nicolas Gonzalez, ngonzalez@audubon.org, (212) 979-3100.”

Saturday, July 7, 2018

"Stare Decisis"

Justice Elena Kagan
Elena Kagan: “And at every stop are black-robed rulers overriding citizens’ choices.”


Likely, the most nightmarish legal scenario for an Illinois public employee receiving a pension after May 15, 2015, would have been the successful appeal by Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the United States Supreme Court to hear the case before the Trump Court, including the recently added Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Why?  Stare Decisis.  

In her blistering dissent of the majority’s opinion in the recent JANUS Case,  Justice Elena Kagan invokes the term Stare Decisis on multiple occasions to emphasize her incredulity at what the majority ignored while coming to a decision rendering “fair share” void regardless of over 40 years of precedent in dealing with First Amendment rights when it comes to dissatisfied public employees in a collective bargaining unit.

Stare Decisis is the long held legal principle of determining points in litigation according to precedent.  When lawyers DeVito, Fitzgerald, O’Brien, & Rothstein of We Are One representing the IRTA’s complaint in Heaton v. Quinn entered the courtroom in Springfield, they relied upon the foundations of previous findings: Kraus v. Bd. of Trustees of Police Pension Fund of Village of Niles, 72 Ill. App. 3d 833, 850-51 (1979); Felt v. Bd. of Trustees of Judges Ret. Sys., 107 III. 2d 158 (1985; as well as decisions at the state Supreme Court levels in Arizona and New York. And, of course, Article XIII, section 5.  

In the legal arena, what is past is indeed prologue.  But, according to Justice Kagan, not when it comes to this new “majority” and the Janus decision: “But the worst part of today’s opinion is where the majority subverts all known principles of stare decisis” (¶III p.19).

What Justice Kagan contends is that the “majority” had little if any respect for precedent, and has instead used the First Amendment as a cudgel to apply a fatal blow to public employee unions, thereby refuting the flexibility of the four-decade legal arrangement in Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed.,431 U.S. 209 (1977)to fashion an intractable structure designed to undermine collective bargaining units in the public sector; indeed, a goal which the majority has attempted for the last six years.  

Back in 2015, the Illinois Supreme Court looked carefully at the “affirmative defense” of sovereign powers argument put forth by AG Lisa Madigan (the need to sacrifice those Constitutionally promised for the betterment of the state’s financial situation) and said no.  The Illinois Supreme Court regarded the historical choices made by the state to short the funding of those contractual arrangements they had made with them and said no.  The Justices in Illinois agreed 7-0 that the state had foreseen the dilemma and ignored the growing predicament; furthermore, they suggested that there were opportunities left to still raise the amount needed to fulfill the contractual promise.

In Abood, the decision by the court provided some latitude in the regulation of an employee’s free speech – specifically in regards to terms of employment – in the interest of operating workplaces effectively and without conflict.  In short, those who wished to withhold the fees for union membership based upon a refusal to represented by a bargaining unit with whom they disagreed in the political arena would be required to pay a “fair share” for the costs of collective bargaining and legal supports in case of employer conflicts.  

By identifying “fair share” as a workable arrangement, Abood avoided the confusion of different agreements or contracts for those not participating in a “same” condition of employment or the dissension/disagreement caused by competing labor organizations.  For forty years, Abood provided stability in the balance between those who wanted membership and those who did not.  It likewise understood the costs borne by the union in legal fees and litigation when it came to supporting those who did retain full membership as well as those who paid a “fair share” to be protected.  And finally, of course, the sensible realization that some will “free ride” in an understandable financial selfishness that – if allowable – would undermine the ability of the collective bargaining unit to serve and protect the workers’ needs and best interests.

Not anymore.  Not with this court.  Not with Gorsuch.    

Kagan warns us all: “There is no sugarcoating today’s opinion.  The majority overthrows a decision entrenched in this Nation’s law – and in its economic life – for over forty years.  As a result, it prevents the American people, acting through their state and local officials, from making important choices about workplace governance. And it does so by weaponizing the First Amendment, in a way that unleashes judges, now and in the future, to intervene in regulatory and economic policy… And it threatens not to be the last.  Speech is everywhere – a part of human activity (employment, health care, securities trading, you name it).  For that reason, almost all regulatory or economic policy affects or touches speech.  So, the majority’s road runs long.  And at every stop are black-robed rulers overriding citizens’ choices.  The First Amendment was made for better things. It was meant not to undermine but to protect democratic governance – including over the role of public sector unions” (¶IV, p.26).  

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Correction: The Original Lady Liberty was Muslim

Correction: The Original Lady Liberty Was Muslim

HT: JM

Trump may look at the recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States as a “tremendous success and tremendous victory for the American people…and our Constitution.”   

It’s not.

But it is likely he has little or no idea that the original design for the Greco-Roman, 305 - foot statue in New York harbor was originally an Arab peasant woman or fellahin traditional Muslim garb.

She was.

According to historians like Edward Berenson at New York University, “The statue was originally modeled after an Egyptian Muslim woman during the 1860’s to commemorate the opening of the Suez Canal.”

The statue's designer, Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, was enamored with Egyptian pyramids and monumental sculpture. According to historian Edward Berenson, in the 1860s, Bartholdi decided to build a monument to commemorate the opening of Egypt's Suez Canal.
“When the Egyptian government sought proposals in 1869 to build a lighthouse for the Suez Canal, Bartholdi designed a huge statue of a robed woman holding a torch, which he called 'Egypt (or Progress) Brings Light to Asia.'” 
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3342140/Statue-Liberty-inspired-Arab-woman-researchers-say.html
In the original design, she stands at the southern opening of the Suez Canal, holding a torch and wearing a hijab.   After the Bartholdi’s start on the statue, the president of Egypt fell into bankruptcy and could not afford to pay the commissions for the icon. 

Later, Bartholdi and Gustave Eiffel utilized the statue to instead commemorate the centennial of the birth of the United States.  He and other artists in France had decided to find some way to also commemorate the centennial of America’s Revolution, and they realized the advantages of re-purposing the original statue to serve the need.  Thus, they began to reconstruct the original concept of an Arab peasant woman into a Greco-Roman version representing Liberty.  

Bartholdi often commented that his original design was based upon his mother’s image, Charlotte Beyser Batholdi; however, such an attribution seems possibly apocryphal from a truly loving son and artist.  In 1870, Bartholdi began designing the statue based on his previous design. The final product, representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, was inaugurated in 1886 for the country's centennial. 
“’While there is certainly a connection between Bartholdi's initial design for the Suez Canal and the woman he designed to usher in immigrants to America,’ Berenson told Fox News that it's a 'serious oversimplification' to say Lady Liberty is a Muslim. “
'’There's a relationship between the Egyptian statue that Bartholdi first conceived in the late 1860s,' Berenson said. 'But that statue changed as it migrated to the United States. The original version of the statue made sense for Egyptian society. It wouldn't have made sense for America.'”
Nor anymore than the inscription inside the building platform would make for Trump.
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Emma Lazarus

Pity the “poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free” in our current constitutionally-fractured climate.  Instead of lamps, cages.  
And more ironical, the original design for the Statue of Liberty was for the holding aloft of a torch in one hand and the swinging of a broken chain and handcuff in the other, not the tablet she now holds.  Bartholdi’s original design also incorporated the historical commemoration of the abolition of slavery.  But in the end, powers determined that enough time had passed since the Civil War, and it would be more acceptable to have the Lady holding a tablet of Law marked with the date July 4, 1776.
I remember my brother and I approaching the Statue of Liberty on our way into New York harbor one afternoon.  It was a clear and windy day, and she was beautiful to behold, forcing us back into the imagination of our own log-dead forefathers clinging to whatever they could bring from a broken land.  
What we could not see because of the angle of her height was what lay on the top of the building’s base:  broken chains curled about her feet as she stands to welcome those who enter into Freedom.
Happy July 4th, and Paz, Shalom, Salam, and Peace.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

SCOTUS Has Taken a Sledgehammer to the New Deal!

From the Guardian: SCOTUS Has Taken a Sledgehammer to the New Deal

HT: MT

Author Heather Cox Richardson, a professor of history at Boston College, warns us all that the “historic battles between business and ordinary people have played out in America’s top court before.  Now it’s happening again.” 

Read here:

“Of the three decisions the US supreme court handed down this week, the gay wedding cake case and travel ban cases were the latest battles in the culture wars that Republicans long have waged. The Janus decision declaring that public sector employees cannot be required to pay fees to the unions that represent them went beyond culture to the very meaning of the American government and how Republicans define it.

“Since the 1930s, when then president Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised to break the hold of moneyed men on the government and broker ‘a new deal for the American people’, a cabal of reactionaries resolved to destroy the new government Democrats created. Roosevelt’s New Deal regulated business, protected social welfare and promoted national infrastructure on the principle that the role of government was not simply to protect the property of the wealthy, but rather was to promote equality of opportunity for all. The popularity of both Roosevelt and his agenda showed that Americans recognized that the government must rein in the runaway capitalism that had brought the nation to its knees.

“But not everyone was on board. A group of reactionary Republicans sided not with the cosmopolitan eastern Republicans who came around to the New Deal but with Ohio senator Robert Taft, a proud representative of small-town, traditional America who maintained that the New Deal undermined liberty and snaked socialism into the nation. They hated government rules and laws that protected their workers, and the need for new taxes to pay for bureaucrats and welfare programs. Above all, they rejected the idea that workers should have a say equal to theirs in what the government did. They loathed the Wagner Act, which empowered workers to unionize and bargain collectively.

“The ‘completely one-sided’ Wagner Act, they complained, enabled labor leaders to challenge business leaders. In 1947, when Republicans regained control of Congress, their first step in their quest to roll back the New Deal was to weaken the political power of unions. The Taft-Hartley Act outlawed closed union shops and weakened union political activism. It passed over then president Harry Truman’s veto.

“Taft-Hartley seemed destined to be the last gasp of reaction in the face of the overwhelming popularity of the newly active government. Republicans rejected Taft as their standard-bearer in 1952, turning instead to Dwight Eisenhower, who launched the ‘Middle Way’, his version of the New Deal. The Middle Way included the largest public works project in American history: the Interstate Highway system, which updated American roads for a driving generation with leisure time on their hands, but expanded the federal government’s purview. 

“But Eisenhower’s policies extended some opportunities to people of color, and race gave the Taft Republicans a wedge to begin razing the activist state. Equality of opportunity for African Americans could only be achieved through the use of state power, and that would cost tax dollars. Equal rights, Taft Republicans insisted, simply redistributed wealth from hardworking white taxpayers to undeserving people of color.

"Now, ​Donald Trump is achieving their dream. But this scheme has created a crisis in American democracy.

“And now, Donald Trump is achieving their dream. But this scheme has created a crisis in American democracy. New Deal-era programs are as popular now as they were in the 1950s, and voters have come to recognize that Republican policies have hurt them. After the American people did not condemn the Democratic president Bill Clinton as Republicans expected, the Republican party has maintained control by gaming the system. Since 2000, Republican policies have suppressed Democratic voting; since 2010, Republican gerrymandering has given the Republicans a heavy systematic advantage in Congress; and the last two Republican presidents have won the White House while losing the popular vote to their opponents.

"Movement conservatives have always known their program appealed to only a minority of Americans, and from the start they have worked to pack the courts with allies. Reagan named more than 375 federal judges, and while Trump has let vacancies eat holes throughout the government, he has concentrated on filling judicial vacancies. That strategy is now paying off. While the Janus ruling strikes at the power of public unions, the other, limited decisions reinforce the cultural parameters of the 1920s: traditional religion and the president’s power to determine immigration, a power rooted in a law from 1924. FDR promised “to restore America to its own people”, and the coffin seems to have closed on that principle."
Please read the entire article in the Guardian.

By the way, also from this magnificent site: 

If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $1, you can support the Guardian – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Happy Juneteenth Day

Tuesday, June 19th is the 153rd Juneteenth Independence Day  

The date celebrates the June 19, 1865, announcement of the loss of the Civil War and the abolition of all slaves in the state of Texas.  This was two and a half years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1st

In Chicago, many events will be held on the following weekend, and a  number of concerts will be held by the Old Town School of Music.  Customary celebrations, like those held in Texas in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s provided an opportunity for simple freedoms like singing, dancing, and readings from worshipped artists.

In Aurora, Events With Elegance, a member of the National Association of Juneteenth Lineage, will sponsor it's 2nd Juneteenth Dinner Dance at six o'clock in the evening on Saturday, June 21, 2003, at the Hyatt Hotel located in Lisle, IL. The Event will also consist of a Speaker and Live Entertainment. African American entrepreneurs will have a chance to display and sell their products to promote their business to other African American consumers. For more information or updates, please send an e-mail to: eventswithelegance@msn.com

Why June 19th?  It was on that date in 1865 that Union soldiers under the command of General Granger finally washed ashore in Galveston to inform the Texans of what had transpired.  By and large, Texas and its citizens were not impressed.  The limited size of the Union force and the increased numbers of slave-holders fleeing southern states to Texas as the war ravaged their plantations made for little response or acceptance of the news.

Other stories and conspiracy theories, most likely apocryphal, surfaced as reasons for the delay in the announcement for over two years after the President’s Proclamation.  The soldier sent to carry the news to Texas was murdered by those who wanted to prevent such information from reaching the fields.  Plantation owners kept the information from their work force to maintain order and production.  The Union soldiers were complicit in keeping the information from slaves to assure cotton crops were picked before freedom.

In fact, slaves worked and tilled the fields for over two years after they had been acknowledged free men and women in the Capitol.

Despite the Lone Star pushback, after Lee surrendered in April of 1865, it was only a matter of time before the tide of change would sweep across the nation.  Texas Supreme Court decisions in the next decade reaffirmed the status of freedom for those brave African Americans who had cautiously celebrated their liberty in June in the streets of Galveston upon first hearing the news.

Other racial justice organizations will mark the day remembering the horrific history of the slave trade and its everlasting impact on a people and two continents separated by over 5000 nautical miles. 

Over 2 million died while crossing the Middle Passage into America. 

At least as many others perished during the forced transportation across West Africa to the waiting ports.

Estimates of total captives brought to America for slavery run as high as 12 million.

Several hundred captives were chained together below decks in deplorable conditions, suffering cramped contagion and death on the journey.

Insurance brokers provided for coverage in cases of drowning, but not simply deaths.  As a result, some historians visualize the Atlantic sea bottom marking the exact paths of ships with the mountains of bones left from throwing strings of sick or unwanted slaves overboard. Deplorable.

It’s small wonder that Juneteenth will likewise mark the strong, resentful argument for reparations by racial justice organizers like the Black Land and Liberation Initiative.  They and others symbolically revisit the issue by highlighting General William Sherman’s original order in 1865 by recognizing a national day of action.  According to writer Aviana Willis, “In 40 acres across 40 cities black people will take nonviolent direct action to occupy and reclaim spaces such as abandoned schools and empty lots, with the goal of putting these spaces into service of the community.”

Black Land and Liberation Initiative states it clearly:  “We are people who have been enslaved and dispossessed as a result of the oppressive, exploitative, extractive system of colonialism and white supremacy.  In this system, our labor and its products have been taken from us for generations for the accumulation of wealth by others.”(http://blacklandandliberation.org/)

“We have been taught in school that the source of the policy of “40 acres and a mule” was Union General William T. Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15, issued on Jan. 16, 1865. (That account is half-right: Sherman prescribed the 40 acres in that Order, but not the mule. The mule would come later.) But what many accounts leave out is that this idea for massive land redistribution actually was the result of a discussion that Sherman and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton held four days before Sherman issued the Order, with 20 leaders of the black community in Savannah, Ga., where Sherman was headquartered following his famous March to the Sea. The meeting was unprecedented in American history.

“Today, we commonly use the phrase “40 acres and a mule,” but few of us have read the Order itself. Three of its parts are relevant here. Section one bears repeating in full: “The islands from Charleston, south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns river, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of the negroes [sic] now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States.”

“Section two specifies that these new communities, moreover, would be governed entirely by black people themselves: ” … on the islands, and in the settlements hereafter to be established, no white person whatever, unless military officers and soldiers detailed for duty, will be permitted to reside; and the sole and exclusive management of affairs will be left to the freed people themselves … By the laws of war, and orders of the President of the United States, the negro [sic] is free and must be dealt with as such.”

“Finally, section three specifies the allocation of land: ” … each family shall have a plot of not more than (40) acres of tillable ground, and when it borders on some water channel, with not more than 800 feet water front, in the possession of which land the military authorities will afford them protection, until such time as they can protect themselves, or until Congress shall regulate their title.”

“With this Order, 400,000 acres of land — “a strip of coastline stretching from Charleston, South Carolina, to the St. John’s River in Florida, including Georgia’s Sea Islands and the mainland thirty miles in from the coast,” as Barton Myers reports — would be redistributed to the newly freed slaves. The extent of this Order and its larger implications are mind-boggling, actually.” (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/the-truth-behind-40-acres-and-a-mule/)
Stanton had gone to a group of African American preachers and ministers at the conclusion of the war, asking what would be an appropriate payment for the debasing of a race and people.  The answer was the assurance of future economic freedom by receiving land on which to farm, land that had been taken in Sherman’s march along the southeastern coast of the United States.  Sherman later threw in the single mule with the 40 acres – as many of the pack animals were now available after the war.

“And what happened to this astonishingly visionary program, which would have fundamentally altered the course of American race relations? Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s successor and a sympathizer with the South, overturned the Order in the fall of 1865, and, as Barton Myers sadly concludes, “returned the land along the South Carolina, Georgia and Florida coasts to the planters who had originally owned it” — to the very people who had declared war on the United States of America.”

Only a small handful of states – Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota and South Dakota – do not recognize the date as a day for observance, a ceremonial holiday or state sanctioned holiday.  45 other states, including Illinois, recognize the date’s importance and its observance of the participation and achievements of African-Americans in the progress of our country.