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OK, so here's a point concerning the Hobby Lobby case that was argued yesterday before the Supreme Court that I've not seen addressed anywhere. Hobby Lobby is a privately held corporation (Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.), whose shares are owned by founder David Green and members of his family. By virtue of incorporating his business, Mr. Green and his family enjoy the chief benefit of incorporation: the shielding of their personal assets from the debts and liabilities of the business. (Google "benefits of incorporating" and you will see that that freedom from personal liability is cited in virtually every article on the subject as being the primary reason to, and benefit of, incorporating a business. Once a business is incorporated, as a matter of law, the business is treated as a wholly separate entity from its individual shareholders, even where, as here, there may be only a handful of shareholders who are all members of the same family. The corporate entity, and not the shareholders, becomes solely responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business. And generally speaking, only the corporate entity can be sued over any disputes involving the business. (There is something called "piercing the corporate veil," where one can go after shareholders and officers individually, but that is only available under very exceedingly rare and narrow circumstances.) Owners of unincorporated business -- partnerships, sole proprietorships, etc., don't enjoiy these same protections.
So, given that Hobby Lobby is a completely separate entity from its owner-shareholders in every other respect, how is it that the owners, individually, can claim that their religious liberty is in any way infringed when the _corporate entity_ -- from whose interests they have legally and voluntarily separated themselves -- is required to comply with a regulation that requires it to do something the individual shareholder-owners have a religious objection to doing? Seems to me they are enjoying all he benefits of having legally separate interests, yet are seeking, in this one particular area, to claim those interests are one and the same. If they are going to enjoy the benefit of limited liability, should they not also be barred from imputing matters that are purelye a matter of individual conscience onto that separate corporate entity?
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Mar 26, 2014, 03:48 AM (70 replies)
This is a Facebook Note written by a friend of mine, Frank Dana, that was so good I thought folks here might enjoy reading it.
Why do we tolerate mega-wealth?
By Frank R. Dana
(I wrote this about a year ago, initially as a comment on someone else's post, then as a status update of my own. In honor of the information I posted today, based on an Oxfam report, that EIGHTY-FIVE people control the same amount of wealth as the lower half of the *world* population, I'm reiterating...)
...Why do we tolerate mega-wealth? — Not mere millionaires, but really obscene, couldn't-possibly-use-it-all accumulations of untold multiple billions of dollars? Your Bill Gateses your Saudi sheiks, your Apple Computers. (And this isn't about Apple's corporate value, but its wealth — some say they could be sitting on as much as $100 billion.) Societally, I mean, why do we accept, admire, even praise the "achievement" of consolidating so much wealth into the control of one entity?
If your small fishing village was experiencing a famine, or if your country had instituted wartime rationing of food, it wouldn't be considered "okay" for some morbidly obese glutton to be stuffing himself to death with food while everyone around him fought not to starve. Even if he obtained the food fairly, heck even if he produced every bite of it himself, it would still be viewed as shameful to be wallowing in such excesses of consumption. It wouldn't have to be illegal, or even "wrong", to be viewed as morally lacking, and most people would take a dim view of someone with such a gluttonous appetite, and so little self-awareness or empathy for the other members of the community. Fatso would get the stink-eye, for sure.
Yet, when someone scrapes together a pile of gold big enough to choke the Nile and shoves it in their basement, we marvel at their achievement and praise their "success", as if what they've accumulated are merely points on a scoreboard, and not actual, fungible resources. (Money, dammit, IS a commodity, if perhaps a uniquely volatile one.) Why do we drool over Apple's $100 billion corporate bank account, and devour breathlessly-written pieces on what a "problem" they have trying to figure out how to spend all that cash, without even raising the question of whether their massive wealth is a good thing? How could it not be, right?
Wouldn't it be appropriate (perhaps even more appropriate) to instead react with something like, "Holy shit, Apple so overprices their products, and/or underpays their employees or suppliers, that they're sitting on $100 billion in CASH from being the peddlers of wildly unnecessary digital toys."? Why would it be wrong to consider their massive wealth and the process by which they achieved it just as gluttonous, shameful, and reprehensible as our theoretical food-hoarder?
Or, take Bill Gates. Now, he's done a lot of really amazing things with his wealth, things which are undeniably praiseworthy. I have absolutely no desire to diminish the incredibly generosity he's demonstrated, with his incredibly vast personal fortune. But, thing is, he didn't HAVE to do that. (Which makes it all the more laudable, of course.) He could just as easily have sat on the entire $70+ billion or whatever it was, or swam around in it like Scrooge McDuck. So, why would we (again, societally) favor people having that option? Why was it even "okay" that he became worth so much to begin with, regardless of what he did or didn't ultimately choose to do with the money? Why are we so unquestioningly worshipful of financial gluttony?
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Mar 25, 2014, 02:17 AM (68 replies)
. . . what is at stake in the allegations concerning the CIA is very different from the issue of the NSA's overreach (of which I am no fan, and Feinstein's defense of which I have been very critical). Look, the issue of the CIA spying on members of Congress and their staffers is NOT the biggest issue here. The biggest issue is the CIA's alleged attempts to interfere with an ongoing investigation into possible misconduct by the CIA itself, an investigation being conducted by the elected body that has lawful oversight authority of the agency, and further, the attempted intimidation of Senate investigators by filing a crimes report with the Justice Department against the very Senate staffers who were working on the investigation and who took steps to protect the integrity of the investigation. If that is true as Feinstein has alleged, then the CIA has gone totally rogue, and the ramifications for a democratically elected government, and about the accountability of government agencies to the electorate, are enormous.
Sure Feinstein is a hypocrite. But, assuming you are really concerned about the burgeoning security state, if you allow this to be turned into a pissing match about who gets to spy on whom, you play right into the CIA's (and by extension, the NSA's) hands, thus making yourself a tool of the very security state you oppose. I would urge folks to set aside their like or dislike of Feinstein, and even their justified disgust at her hypocrisy, and focus instead on the enormously larger issue of government accountability to the elected representatives of the people.
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Mar 12, 2014, 07:13 AM (11 replies)
. . . he needs to demand the resignations of Brennan and the Acting General Counsel to the CIA TOMORROW. Just sayin'.
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Mar 12, 2014, 01:09 AM (3 replies)
(A personal note relating to the last paragraph of the editorial, which paragraph is included in the excerpt provided here: when President Obama, shortly after his election in 2008, said that he didn't "want to relitigate the previous eight years" and that he wanted to "Look forwards, not backwards," i made the observation at the time that a failure of the country to come to terms with all that had gone on under the previous administration would be the surest guarantee that we would remain mired in it. I wish I had been wrong about that.)
The C.I.A. Torture Cover-Up
THE EDITORIAL BOARD MARCH 11, 2014
It was outrageous enough when two successive presidents papered over the Central Intelligence Agency’s history of illegal detention, rendition, torture and fruitless harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects. Now, the head of the Senate intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, has provided stark and convincing evidence that the C.I.A. may have committed crimes to prevent the exposure of interrogations that she said were “far different and far more harsh” than anything the agency had described to Congress.
Ms. Feinstein delivered an extraordinary speech on the Senate floor today in which she said the C.I.A. improperly searched the computers used by committee staff members who were investigating the interrogation program as recently as January.
< . . . . >
Today, the C.I.A. director, John Brennan, denied hacking into the committee’s computers. But Ms. Feinstein said that in January, Mr. Brennan acknowledged that the agency had conducted a “search” of the computers. She said the C.I.A.’s inspector general had referred the matter to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. “Besides the constitutional implications,” of separation of powers, she said, “the C.I.A.’s search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the C.I.A. from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.”
< . . . . >
The lingering fog about the C.I.A. detentions is a result of Mr. Obama’s decision when he took office to conduct no investigation of them. We can only hope he knows that when he has lost Dianne Feinstein, he has no choice but to act in favor of disclosure and accountability.
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Mar 11, 2014, 07:46 PM (17 replies)
I was diagnosed almost four years ago, at the age of 49. I knew I likely had a genetic predisposition to it given my family history (my father, his father and and three out of four of his siblings, several of my mother's siblings, and (at the time) two of my three sisters (the third has since been diagnosed as a borderline case, or 'pre-diabetic.' I had pretty classic symptoms when I was diagnosed. I had noticed that my thirst had increased exponentially -- like nothing I have ever experienced -- and of course, because I was taking in such large quantities of liquid, I was getting up four or five times a night. I was familiar enough with the symptoms to have a pretty good idea what was going on, but I guess I went into a kind of denial. The thing is, despite the genetics, I guess I figured I could dodge this particular bullet because I have never been overweight and have always been fairly physically active. But sometimes, the luck of the genetic draw trumps everything else!
After this had been going on, and increasing, for a while, I ran into a friend whom I hadn't seen in about a month. The first thing he said to me was, "Mark, you look skinny, and not in a good way. You need to see a doctor!" At that point, my little denial scheme fell away. I went the following day, a Friday, to my internist. He did a quick check of my blood/glucose, and said it was in the 400s, and also drew blood for a variety of other tests. The following morning, Saturday morning, I got phone call from my internist's office. He wasn't in the office, but it was another doctor in the practice. She said they had just received my lab results, and that everything was so far out of whack they wanted me to report immediately to an emergency room. She said my blood/glucose was actually 692, and my potassium level was dangerously low, placing me at serious risk of a heart attack or stroke. I went to the emergency room at Lenox Hill Hospital here in NY (where, I must say, I received superb and amazingly prompt treatment -- I was triaged and seen by a doctor within 15 minutes of my arrival. I spent the better part of the day there as they tried to bring down my blood/glucose, and bring up my potassium.
The doctors at Lenox Hill really wanted me to remain in the hospital for a few days. But here was the thing: I am single, and have no other means of support other than myself. And I hadn't had time to check out all the ins and outs of my insurance coverage concerning hospital admissions, and didn't want to accidentally get myself into a situation I couldn't handle financially, and insisted upon going home in order to get things in order. The doctor -- a wonderful woman -- practically begged me not to leave, so concerned was she that I was at imminent risk of something like a heart attack or stroke. Although it was probably foolish of me, I insisted on leaving, but she made me PROMISE I would see my doctor first thing Monday morning. Fortunately, there were no negative consequences, and my doctor got me in to see an endocrinologist by midday Monday. He put me immediately on insulin (Lantus, a long-acting, basal insuline). As it happens, the endocrinologist's wife is a dietician specializing in diabetes, and I met several times with her as well, to help get me on the right track.
Things are more or less under control now, although it is, as Nadine says, a constant battle, and if I allow my attention to slip, can very easily (and has on a few occasions) spin out of control again.
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Mar 10, 2014, 05:46 PM (2 replies)
There seems to be some widespread notion among conservatives that Lois Lerner was some kind of Obama loyalist within the IRS. But she was appointed to her post in 2005, by GEORGE W. BUSH!
Lerner was appointed as head of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division during the Bush administration, in 2006. She served as director the IRS Exempt Organizations Rulings and Agreements Division for four years before that. A graduate of Boston’s Northeastern University and Western New England College of Law in Springfield, Mass., Lerner began her legal career as a staff attorney in the Department of Justice’s criminal division before joining the Federal Election Commission as an assistant general counsel in 1981. She spent 20 years at the FEC, where she was appointed head of the Enforcement Division in 1986 and then acting general counsel for six months in 2001
And here is the official IRS announcement, from the IRS' website, of her appointment:
Lois G. Lerner Selected as Director of IRS Exempt Organizations Division
IR-2005-148, Dec. 22, 2005
WASHINGTON — Lois G. Lerner has been selected as the director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the Internal Revenue Service. In this position, she will be responsible for administering and enforcing the tax laws that apply to more than 1.8 million organizations recognized by the IRS as exempt from tax.
“Protecting the integrity of tax-exempt organizations is an important part of our enforcement program,” said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson. “Lois’s background, including her work for the Federal Election Commission, qualifies her for this new assignment.”
Before this appointment, Lerner had been the director of the Exempt Organizations Rulings & Agreements Division, where she was responsible for the EO determinations letter program, public guidance and technical assistance for IRS agents conducting examinations of tax-exempt organizations. Lerner came to the IRS in 2001 from the Federal Election Commission, where she was Associate General Counsel for Enforcement and Acting General Counsel. She replaces Martha Sullivan, who will retire from the IRS at the end of December.
“Lois is an integral part of the EO team and has successfully increased the IRS presence in the exempt community,” said Steven T. Miller, Commissioner of the IRS Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, of which EO is a part. “Her integrity, skills and judgment are exceptional and will allow us to continue to provide improved service and enhanced enforcement of the tax laws.”
The tax-exempt sector of the economy had total assets of approximately $3.7 trillion in 2002, the latest year for which data are available, with revenues of $1.2 trillion.
Lerner will report to her new position in early January 2006. Joseph Urban, EO Senior Technical Advisor in Rulings & Agreements, will serve as acting director of EO Rulings & Agreements.
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Mar 7, 2014, 01:27 PM (8 replies)
. . . head of the American Enterprise Institute.
Here is the text of my comment:
Mark Kessinger New York, NY 2 hours ago
The suggestion that most middle- and working-class folks are 'envious' of the very wealthy is an outrageous insult. Nobody is begrudging anybody's success, nor do they covet what the very wealthy have. But many of the very wealthy seem to have lost sight of the fact that nobody succeeds alone. What people want is the ability to make a decent living for themselves and their families. They want a real chance to get ahead. They want job security. And when the businesses who employ them enjoy large increases in profitability, they want their contribution to that increased profitability to be fairly reflected in their wages or salaries.
In any case, the prevailing emotion is not 'envy,' but rather bitter resentment. People resent that this tiny percentage of folks who have succeeded so spectacularly have used the fruits of that success to undermine the formerly robust commons this country once enjoyed. They resent that they use that money to lobby legislators to tear away at the social safety net and to block a long-overdue and very modest rise in the minimum wage.
An economic system must work for everyone. A system that enables a relative handful to hoard ever larger sums of wealth while everybody else is left to divvy up an ever declining remainder is unsustainable.
Finally, if anything is feeding this resentment, it is the smug, self-satisfied pronouncements of the 1% about what is "healthy" for society as a whole!
And here is an excerpt of Brooks' Op-Ed:
The Downside of Inciting Envy
Arthur C. Brooks
< . . . . >
Unsurprisingly, psychologists have found that envy pushes down life satisfaction and depresses well-being. Envy is positively correlated with depression and neuroticism, and the hostility it breeds may actually make us sick. Recent work suggests that envy can help explain our complicated relationship with social media: it often leads to destructive “social comparison,” which decreases happiness. To understand this, just picture yourself scrolling through your ex’s wedding photos.
My own data analysis confirms a strong link between economic envy and unhappiness. In 2008, Gallup asked a large sample of Americans whether they were “angry that others have more than they deserve.” People who strongly disagreed with that statement — who were not envious, in other words — were almost five times more likely to say they were “very happy” about their lives than people who strongly agreed. Even after I controlled for income, education, age, family status, religion and politics, this pattern persisted.
It’s safe to conclude that a national shift toward envy would be toxic for American culture.
< . . . . >
. . . e must recognize that fomenting bitterness over income differences may be powerful politics, but it injures our nation. We need aspirational leaders willing to do the hard work of uniting Americans around an optimistic vision in which anyone can earn his or her success. This will never happen when we vilify the rich or give up on the poor.
< . . . . >
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Mar 2, 2014, 01:04 PM (26 replies)