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The Supremes led by Justice Alito writing for the majority found in favor of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber company on a narrow interpretation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 disallowing years of gender discrimination in which the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company underpaid one Lilly Ledbetter on average around $6000 per year less than her male counterparts doing the same work.The fascist majority on the court (fascism being defined as the seamless merging of government and corporate interests) ignore the human consequences of their actions as they support the corporate ethics that seem to say screw the workers just line my pockets with silver and gold.

The Supremes had an opportunity to do the right thing, to send the right message to corporate greed mongers that they let slip right through their fingers.

Even more egregious was the joining of this decision by Justice Thomas, the least ethical of the fascist majority and one who allegedly engaged in sexual harassment himself, as he flip flopped on his own decision to support the employee position when the discrimination lasted for periods of months or years as it did in this case. I guess Mr. Justice Thomas finally found a place where harassment and abuse have found a home. Bully for you Mr. Justice. Or should I say Mr. Injustice?

This decision, while not unexpected given the current makeup of the Supreme Court, is ugly. By supporting greed over people, narrow interpretation over ethical concerns, I fear for the future of this nation.

Just as an aside, and I am only speculating on this one, but it is highly possible that Ms. Ledbetter, a southerner, has been voting Republican (if she votes at all) and, by doing so, simply dug her own grave in this case. Wouldn’t that be ironic. Since 1980 the electorate has made it a practice to vote against its own economic interests–another proof for the fact that there is no intelligent design in the universe or, perhaps just no intelligence.

So now we can live with the consequences of the influence of the far right wing, the perfect marriage of government and corporate interests, for some time to come.

clipped from news.findlaw.com
(AP) – WASHINGTON-The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday limited workers’ ability to sue employers for pay discrimination that results from decisions made years earlier.
The court, in a 5-4 ruling, said that employers would otherwise find it difficult to defend against claims “arising from employment decisions that are long past.”
The case concerned how to apply a 180-day deadline for complaining about discriminatory pay decisions under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Lilly Ledbetter sued Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., claiming that after 19 years at a company plant, she was making $6,000 (�‚�4,440) a year less than the lowest-paid man doing the same work.
Ledbetter claimed the disparity existed for years and was primarily a result of her gender. A jury agreed, but an appeals court overturned the verdict because she had waited too long to begin her lawsuit.
The decision broke along ideological lines, with the court’s four liberal justices dissenting.

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Yesterday the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, upheld the national ban on a midterm method of ending pregnancies sometimes referred to as partial birth abortion. The decision clears the way for states to pass new laws designed to discourage women from having abortions.

Of course President Bush could not keep silent on this one. In a statement issued by the White House, Bush welcomed the decision. “The Supreme Court’s decision is an affirmation of the progress we have made over the past six years in protecting human dignity and upholding the sanctity of life,” he said. “Today’s decision affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people’s representatives enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America.”

Somehow, Bush relates the notion of life to the sacred. But has Bush analyzed with any precision what sacred really means? We can look to the work of Giorgio Agamben (1998) as he writes about Homo Sacer (Sacred Life) in the following terms. The sacred is found in a double state of exception between the unpunishability of killing and the exclusion from sacrifice. Agamben’s analysis rests on a snippet from Pompeius Festus from the treatise On the Significance of Words in which Festus writes: The sacred man is the one whom the people have judged on account of a crime (this man has been excluded from the community). It is not permitted to sacrifice this man (to offer him up to the gods), yet he who kills him will not be condemned for homicide (he may be executed by the state without subjecting the executioner to the crime of murder). Agamben understands the sacred (sacer) then to take the form of this double exception both from the human and the divine sphere of influence, from the profane and the ‘religious’ spheres. The fact that sacrifice is taboo for homo sacer is another way of saying that what already belongs to the gods cannot be offered up to those very same gods and so is excluded from sacrificial consideration. At the same time, the homo sacer is included within the community as he/she takes the form of being able to be officially killed. “Life that cannot be sacrificed and yet may be killed is sacred life (Agamben. 1998, p. 82). Sovereignty lies at the crossroads of this double exception.

The sovereign sphere is the sphere in which it is permitted to kill without committing homicide and without celebrating a sacrifice, and sacred life–that is, life that may be killed but not sacrificed–is the life that has been captured in this sphere (Agamben, 1998, p. 83).

Bush trivializes the sacred when he speaks about upholding human dignity and the sanctity of life. What is really happening here is that the sovereign makes the choice to create an exception for women, to exclude women that opt for termination of pregnancy, to cause those women to become homo sacer. In the case of abortion, this amounts to a minority of religious zealots dictating policy while the rest of us stand by watching. What is being sacrificed here is precisely the sacred, that very quality Bush is so ready to protect. The Bush/Roberts court, by creating the exception that creates homo sacer effectively perpetrates a violence at the crossroads of the profane and the divine that is subtractive of both the profane and the divine.

Justice Ginsburg called the decision alarming. She argued as follows:

It “cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away
at a right declared again and again by this court,” she said.

She said this dispute was about how, not whether, abortions would be
performed during the second trimester. Despite Kennedy’s talk of
“promoting fetal life,” the ban on the procedure “targets only a method
of abortion,” she said. “The woman may abort the fetus, so long as her
doctor uses another method, one her doctor judges less safe for her.”

She also called the decision demeaning to women. It “pretends” to protect
them “by denying them any choice in the matter,” she said.

Justice Ginsburg, in referencing the court’s desire to “chip away” at Roe v. Wade scolds the majority for ignoring precedent of over 40 years. If we are a nation of laws, then precedent must rule. I seem to recall that the conservatives yell most loudly about activist courts that simply rewrite the law to suit their needs. It seems that the Bush/Roberts court is turning down the road of activism…but, of course, it is activism that the radical right agrees with so no hue and cry from them now.

Justice Ginsburg’s remarks could also be considered in the light of Agamben’s view of homo sacer. By denying women choice the court excludes women from the process, creating an exception that stands at the crossroads and, therefore, falls within the power of the sovereign to dictate. This is a disturbing development in the democratic experiment called the United States.

References

Agamben, G. (1998). Homo Sacer: Sovereign power and bare life (D. Heller-Roazen, Trans.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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NeoCon BS blogged this one

They’re Terrorists, but They’re Our Terrorists…

Based on a story by Michael Ware at CNN.com U.S. Protects Iranian Opposition Group in Iraq

I really want to scream. Not only is this a bungled war (actually the war effort was a great success–it is the peace that is being bungled) but the hypocrisy of the Bush White House is without bounds.

NeoCon points out that lessons learned (or forgotten) that resulted from the US support of the muhajadeen in Afghanistan in the 1980’s have largely been mislaid. Of course, terrorism is okay if the terror supports our own goals in Iraq.

While I support NeoCon’s basic premise, I want to take it a bit further. Here, the double standard of fighting a “war on terror” while, at the same time, supporting groups that engage in terror for political purposes is merely another nail in the coffin of international support for the United States. As Bush insists on forcing democracy on the world (or at least that part of the world rich in oil resources) he behaves as if he were king at home. Secrecy, deliberately hiding the facts of the prosecution of this peace in Iraq from the American people, whose tax dollars are being used to pay for the Bush aggression, is not the act of the leader of the “greatest democracy” in the world. It is, rather, much like that of a Fascist despot believing that if he tells a lie long and often enough that lie becomes the same as the truth.

When will the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK, the Iranian terrorist group being supported by the Bush administration, come back to bite us?

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In Baghdad, official control over the news is getting tighter. Journalists used to walk freely into the city’s hospitals and the morgue to keep count of the day’s dead and wounded. Now the hospitals have been declared off-limits and morgue officials turn away reporters who aren’t accompanied by a Coalition escort. Iraqi police refer reporters’ questions to American forces; the Americans refer them back to the Iraqis.” reports Newsweek this week.

So the war to bring democracy to Iraq (because democracy is what the people of Iraq really wanted all along) has created a condition where the press is relegated to being locked out of hospitals and morgues by Coalition (the great coded euphemism meaning United States) forces (forget about the handful of British forces and the few more from several other countries). Some demonstration of democracy, eh! Cover-up the facts by not allowing accurate or truthful reporting of events, atrocities, or what have you as an expression of freedom carries with it an arrogance of power that speaks better to Fascism than it does to freely elected democratic governments.

What is Bush afraid of? That reporters might actually report the growing number of casualties and deaths in the streets of Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq? What must the real numbers look like? But, then the administration tells us the lie that the current surge strategy is working in parts of Baghdad. So, it probably isn’t working in other parts, yes? And, then, I was under the impression that Iraq is much larger than merely the city of Baghdad. I don’t think I am mistaken on that one. What is the truth about the surge in the parts of Baghdad and the rest of Iraq where we must assume the policy isn’t working?

Censorship has no place in democratic institutions. While I would not advocate irresponsible journalism such as reporting troop movements or attack plans prior to execution, to report real numbers of casualties and deaths gives no aid and comfort to the enemy. Quite the contrary, what it does is point to the utter failure of the administration strategy (a word Bush loves to slur) in the prosecution of this botched war.

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BBC NEWS | UK | Education | Tests ‘stopping children playing’

Five-year-olds are being prevented from engaging in traditional play as they are under too much pressure from the national tests, teachers have warned.

With lessons geared towards assessment, children are bored from the moment they begin formal schooling, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers warned.

What is this world coming to? British kids at 5-years of age are already bored with school from the moment they begin formal education. The sad fact is that school policy in Britain and the United States violate the most important maxim of teaching: TO DO NO HARM TO CHILDREN!

Children need to play, need to get their hands dirty, need to explore the world they live in on their terms with guidance from adults that are well educated and understand the relationship of play to learning. To metaphorically strap children to their seats at age 5 is to literally beat curiosity out of them, to make them passive and, in doing so, dull their minds so that an entire generation of children will be lost to intellectual pursuits. This is an egregious breech of faith with younger people, a retreat from adult responsibility to educate our children to be productive citizens of the world. To bore and not to challenge is frightening; a reminder of Orwell’s conception of his future from the point of view of the 1950’s when he wrote 1984. The world, in Orwell’s terms was turned on its head–Peace is War, Love is Hate and so on–so that life no longer made sense.

What will happen to these 5-year-old children as they reach adulthood in a mere 13 years? Will they be so deprived of curiosity, of the ability to think for themselves, of the ability to form responsible opinions, that they will understand the world in Orwellian terms? It is a truly upside down world we inhabit today.

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The paradox of sovereignty consists in the fact that the sovereign is, at the same time, outside and inside the juridical order.
Giorgio Agamben (1998)

In Agamben’s view, the sovereign has the implicit power to declare himself outside the law, to create an exception which cannot be subsumed by any other. In the United States, this creation of the exception is often couched in the language of “executive privilege” upon which Richard M. Nixon so heavily relied. The President of the United States, in whomever that office resides, has made a living drawing upon executive privilege. From Ford, to Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush, the claims of executive privilege distance the office of the president from the people the president is elected (or in the case of George W. Bush–SELECTED) to serve. Democrat, Republican who cares. The office itself carries with it an overwhelming need or desire to create a state of exception; of being at once outside and inside the law.

In the case of the present Bush White House, domestically that exceptionality has reached a boiling point surrounding the actions of Attorney General Gonzalez as he acted on behalf of the President. The White House demanded that in the Patriot Act, the President, through his AG, shall have the right to hire and fire and or replace federal prosecutors without the advice and consent of the Senate. In a Republican dominated Congress, one that did little, if any, oversight as was their duty as a fully authorized and equal constitutional branch of government along side the executive, the Patriot Act passed and was signed into law. The Patriot Act, by the way, creates many new areas of exceptionality but I’ll save those for later posts. The specific flap that concerns me here is that the AG chose to exercise the exceptional authority granted him as an agent of the President and allegedly fired a number of prosecutors for purely political reasons.

The White House had, but has since lost, the opportunity to step away from the problem by simply admitting to the problem and moving to rectify the situation. Bush, in this sense, is not unlike any of his predecessors. He chose to hunker down, to create a state of exception that places him simultaneously outside and inside the law. In the case of this sovereign, and much like Nixon, the state of exception is designed to protect his friends, foremost among them being AG Gonzalez. So Bush, taking his lead from Nixon (who, in the end, was not so successful in his defense of his friends), is declaring that he and his administration is both outside the law and is standing firmly within that law–after all, the AG acted in compliance with the Patriot Act, didn’t he?

The good news is there are less than two-years to go. Of course the bad news is that Bush’s replacement, whether Democrat or Republican, will necessarily fall into the same trap. It seems to be part of the territory of office.

References

Agamben, G. (1998). Homo Sacer: Sovereign power and bare life (D. Heller-Roazen, Trans.). Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press.

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I received a comment from someone who did not agree with my position. After some consideration I decided that I would delete the comment, not because of its content, but because of the language used to express disagreement. In two lines I counted five off-color comments. Rational debate has no room for language that is offensive, for name calling, or for displays of anger that are out of control. One of the great features of a blog is the ability to carry on reasonable discussions regarding many issues of interest to the blogger. This blog is no exception to that idea. My concern here is not that someone disagrees with my position; I do not nor can I claim a lock on any knowledge. Rather, my quarrel is with the tone and tenor of the comment itself. Rather than dispute ideas, the commenter resorted to name calling and foul language that has no place in civilized discussion. I will delete comments like this one every time I see one. I will never delete a comment that engages in an exchange of ideas.

Giorgio Agamben (1998) makes the point that modern democratic societies run the risk of decaying into totalitarian states when the subjective self confuses itself with the objective whole thereby granting to the sovereign all power, even full power over death. The comment I received was from an individual who, in his (or her) anger, could no longer engage in rational debate; he (or she) could no longer recognize that a difference of political opinion in a democratic state must not lead to responses embedded in anger, rather that they ought to be open to the light of day for all to respond. When anger wins out Agamben’s point appears in full force–the totalitarian state is here as we are expected to submit to the will of the dictator, in this case, George W. Bush. Granting the sovereign maximum power outside of debate and with no accountability is nothing more than objective submission to totalitarianism, something a democracy cannot tolerate.

I struggled with deleting this particular comment, the first time I have ever done so, because I believe in the power of rational debate, discussion and the inevitable disagreements that flow from these debates. The fact is, however, that I have chosen to approve comments as a form of censorship of abusive, crude, or foul language; language that has no place in thoughtful debate or discussion. I doubt if the commenter is a regular reader of this blog, but if he is I invite him to resubmit his comment without the language problems that prompted my deletion. Make your point, make it clear and let’s have at it and see what ideas prevail in the end.

References

Agamben, G. (1998). Homo Sacer: Sovereign power and bare life (D. Heller-Roazen, Trans.). Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press.

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