September 2016 Archives

Waist Deep in the Big Sandy

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Thumbnail image for pete seeger.jpgFourteen years ago, at the age of five, I sent my first-ever protest letter to George Dubya. The war in Iraq was just beginning to escalate, and I had written that the conflict was bad "because people die." (Two years later I received a reply -- "Thanks for your support.")

In a continuation of this disastrous policy, the Obama administration announced today that it's sending 600 more soldiers into the quagmire created by Bush's quest for oil and Halliburton contracts.

Hillary Clinton's historical support for the Iraq War and current push for regime regime change in Syria is justly alarming. But voters who think Donald Trump would solve the problem are mistaken: he has suggested sending thirty thousand troops to fight ISIS.

Which of these Big Fools should be leading the country? That is the question the two major parties are asking voters.

Should a Big Fool be leading the country at all? That's the question we should be asking ourselves -- and that's why a so-called "protest vote" becomes a moral imperative.

Hillary Clinton, Criminal Justice Reformist? - Not So Fast

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
In tonight's spirited, unpredictable presidential debate, criminal justice reform became a hotly contested issue due to Donald Trump's recent espousal of "stop-and-frisk" policies designed to reduce crime in high-risk inner cities. Clinton, with the help of debate moderator Lester Holt, assailed this proposal as discriminatory, citing the New York federal court decision Floyd v. City of New York (959 F. Supp. 2d 540 (2013)). She then went on to call for the abolition of mandatory minimum penalties for nonviolent offenses and the removal of the profit motivation from the penal system, an attempt to win over dubious former Sanders supporters. However, her efforts to paint herself as a reformist gloss over the legal and political reality of this controversy.

Trump in League with Earl Warren, Thurgood Marshall

Hillary's reliance on Floyd - a case which is actually still in negotiations after a dropped appeal - may appear to be concern for the Fourth Amendment rights of minorities and the underprivileged, but she failed to mention the Supreme Court's contrary holding in the landmark 1968 case Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1. That case involved a stop based on reasonable suspicion, but not probable cause to make an arrest. Petitioners Chilton and Terry were standing on a street corner when Detective McFadden noticed them walking repeatedly up and down the same stretch of sidewalk, pausing each time to look into the same store window at length. After one of them did this, he would return to the street corner to confer with the other, who would then repeat the process. This happened a total of two dozen times before McFadden, suspicious that the two could be planning a robbery, approached the two men and asked their names. Terry was unresponsive, and the detective quickly patted down the outside of his clothing, found a pistol in the left pocket, removed the coat and confiscated the gun. Terry was later convicted on weapons charges, and his case made its way to the Supreme Court.

In an authoritative 8-1 decision, the Court held that the search of Terry was constitutional. Earl Warren, writing for the majority, set forth that "When an officer is justified in believing that the individual whose suspicious behavior he is investigating at close range is armed and presently dangerous to the officer or to others, it would be clearly unreasonable to deny the officer the power to take necessary measures to determine whether the person is in fact carrying a weapon and to neutralize the threat of physical harm." See also Preston v. United States, 376 U.S. 364 (1964), Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143 (1973). This principle, not the inconclusive decision in Floyd, is still the law of the land.

Mandatory Minimums - Why They're Here to Begin With

On its official website, the Clinton campaign avows its opposition to mandatory minimum sentencing, stating that the practice "keep[s] nonviolent drug offenders in prison for too long -- and have increased racial inequality in our criminal justice system." However, her current stance belies her past support for the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the law which rendered the courts powerless to correct the excesses of state sentencing policy.

AEDPA was passed in 1996 with the full support of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and one of its most controversial provisions effectively cut off federal habeas corpus review of state convictions. Many of the challenges barred by AEDPA involved the Eighth Amendment and double-jeopardy questions raised by so-called "three strikes" laws. The damage done by this denial of due process was real. In 1995, human trafficking survivor Sara Kruzan was sentenced to life without parole after killing her abuser in self-defense. In 2003, Army veteran Leandro Andrade shoplifted nine children's videotapes worth about $150 and was sentenced to fifty years to life. Kruzan was freed in 2013, after spending eighteen years behind bars; Andrade is still incarcerated, and will become eligible for parole in 2046.

These injustices still occur regularly and these laws still stand because of Bill and Hillary Clinton's tough-on-crime stance, which apparently can be reversed far more quickly than the injury it caused.

Bayer-Monsanto Buyout: Dangerous Waste of $66B

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
finalsign.jpgPost the premerger notice and let the bells ring. German pharmaceutical and pesticide titan Bayer and controversial seed giant Monsanto have finally tied the knot for $66 billion, in a deal complete with a $2 billion breakup fee owed to Monsanto if the deal is disallowed by the authorities. Not only is this deal a blatant attempt to monopolize the agricultural industry; upon closer scrutiny, Bayer may have dramatically overestimated the value of their newest purchase.

This buyout will be highly advantageous for Monsanto, which has routinely defrauded the growers of its genetically modified seeds for decades by vastly overstating its protections under U.S. patent law. The corporation speciously claims that patents on its asexually created plants forbid farmers from saving and replanting second-generation seed produced by a GMO plant, an assertion that clearly contradicts the unequivocal text of 35 U.S.C., Chapter 15. By using this deception to force farmers to repurchase seed every year, Monsanto has collected millions of dollars in unlawful profits - but, however lucrative that practice may prove at present, there remains the distinct possibility that regulators could at some point curtail such cozenage. By walking away with a cushion of some $66 billion dollars and handing Bayer the responsibility for this precarious operation, Monsanto's executives have ensured that they are never held accountable for their illegal restraint of trade.

Because of those legal uncertainties, this acquisition could prove to be a mixed bag for Bayer. The recently passed "Dark Act" overruled more comprehensive state-by-state GMO labeling laws that required notices to be placed physically on grocery packages, instead allowing manufacturers to obscure this information by posting it on websites or providing phone numbers consumers must call to learn the truth about their foods. This poorly veiled boost to the agribusiness industry is expected to increase the prevalence of GMO crops by making avoidance nearly impossible, and therefore would render Monsanto a desirable purchase. However, Monsanto's duplicity regarding its patents could prove to be more of a burden than a boon to Bayer if its claims are ever disputed. In addition, in an entirely separate controversy, an ongoing Justice Department suit against both Monsanto and John Deere over a partial merger of their machinery divisions (orchestrated prior to this buyout) could result in substantial penalties. Taking all these things into consideration, it is unlikely that Monsanto's products are worth the massive investment Bayer has just made in the company.

No matter what the outcome for the entities involved, one thing is clear: this merger will have a decidedly negative effect on American farmers and consumers. The two largest GMO seed companies are now both foreign-based: the Monsanto brand will now be German-held, and primary competitor Syngenta was recently purchased by ChemChina, a state-owned Chinese chemical developer. This could complicate an eventual challenge to Monsanto's interpretation of the patent laws by embrangling regulators or a class of growers in a drawn-out fight over the legitimacy of US jurisdiction; see World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286 (1980), Asahi Metal Industry, Co., Ltd. v. Superior Court of California, 480 U.S. 102 (1987). In addition, the merger gives the new conglomerate unprecedented market power over the price of seed and the herbicides most GMO plants have been specifically engineered to withstand, costs that will further repress small farmers and will be passed on to the consumer through increases in the prices of basic necessities.

The premerger notification will soon be available for public comment, and it is imperative that anyone ever having grown staple crops, eaten corn, soy or sugar, or worn cotton clothing unite to stand up against this plainly wrongful attempt to restrain the free market. So speak now or forever hold your peace.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2016 listed from newest to oldest.

August 2016 is the previous archive.

October 2016 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.