Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Law

Hunhh…Good God! What's it good for?
Absolutely nuthin'…Say it again, y'all…

[With apologies to Edwin Starr vis-à-vis his 70s anthem: "War"]

Lately, the Law seems lacking. Certainly Justice has gone askance. Though, truth be told, Justice has been a long, long time deviating along that unfortuitous route. Now, the Law (whether you're talking local codes, or statewide legislation, or federal policy, or international standards of legal conduct) not only doesn't live up to the false notion of America's Founding Fathers' great moral courage to champion such "Justice for all" philosophy, but the Law is being shown as it truly is, bared of such presentiments which are pure poppycock; as they were even then. We, the People, are not supposed to notice those phrases in the Declaration of Independence ("We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness") and in the Constitution of the United States of America ("We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice…promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves, and our posterity,") that demonstrated cowardice, for in reality, they were lies. At the founding of this great republic, more than half the population were exempted (women and men of color) from liberty, justice, the pursuit of happiness and égalité.

The majority. Denied rights guaranteed to the minority elites. America's initial premise, bogus, hypocritical on its face. But, woe unto ye who says so.

In fact, as even a skeptical reading of "An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States of America" by Professor Charles Beard will convey, America's Founding Fathers is a virtual Who's Who of well-heeled capitalist land owners (thieved from indigenous populations) conspiring to preserve, nay improve, the value of their money/assets. That and nothing more. All their hype about democracy of, by and for the People, was to bolster support for the enactment of such institutional inequality. The single biggest factor in the Founding Fathers' plan was to create a central bank in order to assure their loans/investments would be repaid either in gold or gold-backed currency. You see, when the various states began to issue their own paper currency, the big lenders would get reimbursed with currency that only had currency in the state of issuance. Inconvenience big money? Exact a tax on big money? But, of course, a revolution was required.

From such roots does present-day America blossom. TeaBaggers and "No-ists" and demagogues, Oh, my! The same hypocrisy is in evidence [McConnell turning down unemployment extension bill because it would add $30B to the debt even though George W. Bush Republican Administration ran up a 2 Trillion debt load with McConnell's help and silence on the matter]. The same lies [Arizona's race-based anti-immigration law of which Governor Brewer and Senatorial hopeful Sharron Angle claim Mexicans will not be targeted and will be treated as equals even though anyone with brown skin will be seen as suspect]. The same deaf-dumb-blind being led by self-serving, finger-pointing charlatans and criminals [Sarah Palin and Oliver North speaking at a Tea Party event in Norfolk, VA].

The inebriating agents used are also the same as back when: Appeals to blind patriotism, to xenophobia, to ancient prejudices, to American exceptionalism and, last but certainly not least, to God Almighty. Unless you glorify Uncle Sodomy's anal rape of Latin America (from the Monroe Doctrine onward), or Truman's "courage" (dropping atomic bombs on civilians), or the Republican mantra of "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" which translates into "Exploit, Baby, Exploit" you are looked at as a traitor. To want to regulate in order to preserve the bounty of America from being utterly destroyed so that future generations may luxuriate in that natural bounty, to desire regulating safeguards against the few getting more and more while the many pay for it again and again, is somehow seen as being "liberal" which translates, prima facie, to being wrong and un-American.

But isn't the Law supposed to be a positive force in society? Without the Law won't we shortly devolve back into a way of life where the strong devour the weak? Won't we become a nation where a few with power/money can exact servitude from the many in order to further fatten their already plentiful larders. Are we there yet?

Actually, been there, done that. Round robin. Back to the Future. Here we go again. The same pulling of wool over the eyes of the masses; agitating with outlandish claims of peril and doom so that those whom are exploited will relish their exploitation even as they lash out at those whom attempt to end such exploitative practices as non-living minimum wage level, not enough jobs to go around, no single-payer health care, no guaranteed pensions, no guaranteed acceptable minimum standard for housing, fighting "terrorists" over there so we won't have to fight them here.

The TeaBaggers have been shown to be largely white, Christian, bigoted, racist, right-wing, intolerant, uninformed, illogical and lousy spellers. These people are the fodder that feeds the mindlessness surrounding us. There is little, if any, thought process involved in arriving at their positions. The Republican rightwing has so ensconced itself into the Republican party's mainstream (or, perhaps more aptly described, to borrow Sarah's reference, "lamestream") that their minority status and fringe viewpoints are dictating the parameters of debate among the party's so-called centrists. In other words, the Republican party has moved so far rightward, that their center has been yanked to the proximity of Pluto.

Karl Marx (in 1848) had something relevant to say about today's TeaBaggers, those disenfranchised, disgruntled, simple masses, "...all of these fight against the bourgeoisie*, to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history…" And what of this "'dangerous class', the social scum, that passively rotting mass…?" Marx says "its conditions of life, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue." Counter-revolutionists, in a word. The Republicans lost power and this insanity called Tea Partiers, the Palin worshipping, the "No-ist" strategy on Capitol Hill, Senatorial hopefuls espousing "second amendment remedies" is the result; an effort to disrupt and dislodge the victorious Democrats. Notice, such a reactionary counter-offensive speaks nothing of doing right by Americans and/or America. Rather, it speaks to the greed for mo' money and mo' power for the few. Back to our roots, if you will.

At local levels, too often the Law gets applied according to who appears before a permitting board. Long time local gets the benefit of a streamlined (read: inappropriately truncated) process; the newcomer unknown to the politically appointed board members (whom generally are of a pro-growth bent for the jobs-jobs-jobs), gets the full-monty as to stringency of review (as this newcomer is a potential competitor vis-à-vis one or other old time interest). To hell with SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) even though the Law demands it. Many local Planning Boards and Zoning Boards of Appeal simply do not know what they are doing as per requirements of the Law. They simply wing it and hope for the best. So, if you're wondering how the hell that pig farm (owned and operated by a local yokel) was ever allowed next to a tourist-oriented restaurant (owned and operated by a new family of city transplants) thereby putting the latter business out of business, now you know why.

At both the local and national levels, the Law is warped by promises of jobs that never appear, of promises (rather than proofs) that there will be no negative impacts, of corners cut, process fudged in favor of the business applicant. So, while the business entity gains tax breaks galore and saves on initial start-up costs and never delivers anywhere near the number of jobs promised and has the process skewed such that safeguards against potential negative impacts are not demanded, therefore delivering a nice return to stockholders/investors (the ownership class), once the project goes into production and there's a problem (noise, dust, unhealthful fumes, oil spill of billions of gallons, leaking carcinogenic chemicals, etc) suddenly "the process" stops working and the impacted/harmed person is left to defend a prohibitively expensive legal process that, because of the great cost of pursuing same, always favors the perpetrator that lied and the regulating board that didn't do the job the Law requires it to do. Ironic, is it not, that the Supreme Court has ruled corporations answering ONLY to their shareholders, with vast sums of money to safeguard their interests, are considered persons. In the eyes of the Law, BP and any of the many victims of BP's callous cost-cutting measures, are equal. Well, except when it comes to paying the victims their due. Then the Law favors BP with its army of attorneys and privileged information restrictions due to the fact that BP is a private corporation and doesn't have to release such internal data. A protracted legal process can last decades victims getting paid only a meager sum. Or, as is more likely the scenario, a corporation goes into bankruptcy to avoid paying on those damage claims only to come out the other side with a new name, logo and no liability. In order to avoid such an outcome President Obama appealed directly to BP. Obama's subsequent "shake down" of BP as characterized by the "No-ists" is nothing of the sort. "The 'escrow account' in 2010 is not $20 billion dollars. BP will put in $3 billion dollars in the third quarter of 2010 (ending September 30) and another $2 billion in the fourth quarter (ending December 31). Thereafter, it will have to make installments of $1.25 billion each quarter for the next three years. This means that the necessary money will not be available to pay the tens of billions in losses that are real and immediate. It also means that people and businesses will have to get in line. The real number for the escrow account in 2010 is $5 billion—six months from now at the earliest. To put this in perspective, BP has been bringing in between $26 billion and $36 billion annually in profits on revenue of $250 billion, and pays out more than $10 billion in dividends yearly. According to a report in Forbes, BP could absorb $35 billion in spill costs before it would have a 'material impact' on its operations. But instead, it will be allowed a paltry $5 billion a year, in an installment plan over four years. Another measure of perspective can be had by comparison of this $5 billion per year voluntary set-aside to the accumulated potential fines and penalties under the Clean Water Act. BP can be fined $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled as a consequence of gross negligence. With the recent acknowledgment that the spill volume is 60,000 barrels per day, that is a potential penalty of over $250 million per day. Put another way, every 60 days accumulates a potential $15 billion fine under the Act. The voluntary arrangement to set aside $5 billion per year is meager in comparison."

In fact, the recent judicial decision to disallow the federal government's six-month moratorium on all new and as yet off-line deep water oil facilities is another example of the Law not working. Judge Martin L.C. Feldman (himself heavily invested in oil production) nitpicked the fact that while the Obama Administration via Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, made a good case for problems at 1000-plus feet (as DEMONSTRATED DAILY by BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe) the actual request for the moratorium used a greater than 500 feet figure. Judge Feldman said there was no reason whatsoever for this figure to be used; even as he mentioned the precise reason that figure was used: The Shallow Water Energy Security Coalition—itself an industry funded group –uses that figure because the Law (in this case the law of physics that determines a "standard" which) demands that over 500 feet depth, floating rig systems be used; precisely the systems that require further study. Convoluted? Absolutely. Justice served? Absolutely not. So, as provided by the Law, the Administration appealed. Also as provided by the Law, guess who heard the appeal? That's right, Justice Feldman. Now, this case is headed to the Supreme Court unless the Obama Administration decides to implement Section 12c of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and declares a national emergency in order to stop all facilities from continued operation: "12(c) All leases issued under this Act, and leases, the maintenance and operation of which are authorized under this Act, shall contain or be construed to contain a provision whereby authority is vested in the Secretary, upon a recommendation of the Secretary of Defense, during a state of war or national emergency declared by the Congress or the President of the United States after the effective date of this Act, to suspend operations under any lease; and all such leases shall contain or be construed to contain provisions for the payment of just compensation to the lessee whose operations are thus suspended." Notice how, should the President need to declare such a state of emergency, the United States taxpayers must pay BP for its daily losses. Outrageous, huh? But, that's the Law.

And then there's a most egregious breach of the Law to consider. Israel's interception of a Gaza-bound humanitarian aid ship in international waters, Israel's use of special forces to sniper/murder at least four unarmed civilians on that ship before any Israeli dropped aboard, its confiscation of all recorded media from the civilians, its disabling of the ships propellers, its towing of the boat into an Israeli port, its subsequent charging the civilians (hijacked against their will) with illegal entry into Israel, its subsequent editing of the recorded media to reconstruct (fabricate) the scenario so that the armed Israeli commandos became the victims; a video created that played worldwide as truth. By the end of the brutal assault, nine civilians were dead; the rest held and questioned by Israeli authorities. Now, ask yourself this: "Had ANY OTHER NATION IN THE WORLD done the same, having murdered an American in cold blood after illegally boarding a ship in international waters, would America be as silent as it has been?" In fact, ask yourself, "If another theocratic regime, say, IRAN!!! had done the same thing, would the Obama Administration be quiet as a church mouse? Would America be so willing to look the other way and do NOTHING after such a regime—this one replete with illegal nuclear program with 200-400 actual nuclear warheads and missile capability to launch them –murdered the innocent?! Would America allow the perpetrator of such indecent acts to investigate itself as to find cause/blame? Well, even though the United Nations has called for an international panel to investigate the incident, Israel refuses and America supports them in their intransigence. Utterly despicable! Unconscionable! Sick!

Of course, as their ancestors have for thousands of years, Israeli Jews claim victimhood. Israel maintains it has the Law on their side. How so? The Israeli position is that under international law they have the right to detain any ship attempting to violate a blockade in order to assure there are no weapons aboard. Of course, what never seems to come out in various pro-Israeli media is the FACT that international law allows for such actions ONLY if the combatants are nations at war. Obviously, Gaza isn't a nation; a point Israel has reinforced time and again since Zionism began over a hundred and twenty years ago. So Israel then claims that because it's fighting Hamas, the International Armed Conflict (IAC) provisions of San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflict at Sea and the 1909 Declaration Concerning the Laws of Navel War (London Declaration) apply. But that brings Israel full circle, back to having to accept Gaza as being occupied which would immediately render their land blockade of same illegal via the Fourth Geneva Convention. So, no matter how Israel tries to justify their brutal illegal hijacking and murdering of civilians, they are guilty by virtue of the Law. Some consolation to the dead. This type of perverted mental gymnastics to allow continued occupation and usurpation of Palestine has been used without censure from Israel's biggest supporter, America, for more than a century with Palestinians being humiliated, tortured, disenfranchised from their homelands and murdered, on a daily basis, for generations.

Which gives rise to another feature of the Law, any law. Laws are written by elite entities that attempt to have the words written mean what they want them to mean to serve their own purposes. Too many times laws are written in language that is unclear at best and confusing/contradictory at worst. While legal experts engage in a battle of wits, real battles with human loss are waged on and on with great consequence; no, not for the scholars, jurists, attorneys, etc. But, for the people in whose name these laws have been written.

The LawWhat's it good for? Hunh…Absolutely nuthin'…

*According to Marx in the Communist Manifesto: "The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his "natural superiors", and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment". It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom – Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation."