Monday, October 20, 2014

Utah Gun Laws and the Blame Game.

As you may know, feminist activist and lecturer, Anita Sarkeesian, was scheduled to address the students at Utah State University (USU) about sexism and the way woman are portrayed in video games. Several email threats were sent to USU regarding her visit, including a very disturbing one threatening violence and death on a scale to rival the school massacres of recent years. As a student at USU, I received several emails from the school about the subject, as events unfolded. Extra security was put in place and the campus officials felt confident in allowing the event to go on. Ms. Sarkeesian was not satisfied with the level of security, however, and decided to cancel her lecture. I was curious to hear her take on things, and I'm sorry she decided to cancel. I understand and respect her decision, even if I don't agree with her reasoning.

Someone has now posted a statement to various places on the web, along with her picture, stating that, "Because of lax gun control laws in Utah, the police were unable to ensure that weapons wold be brought into the venue, forcing her to cancel." I have no idea if  these were Ms. Sarkeesian's actual words or not. What they are referring to is Utah's concealed carry law, which allows those with concealed carry permits to carry a weapon in public and on government property. Because USU is a state owned school, people with a Utah concealed carry permit would be allowed to bring their weapons.

Where the pundits, and Ms. Sarkeesian, get it wrong is that the bad guys don't care about the law. First, open carry is not only discouraged on campus but will get you arrested. Concealed carry is only legal if you have been trained and have a permit. The bad guys don't like to get permits because then they get fingerprinted and are know to carry a gun. It is likely that those packing either have permits, or are the bad guys, If the police can't tell if you're carrying a weapon or not, they're not going to be able to tell if you have a permit or not. If they figure out you're carrying, they'll approach you and ask for a permit. If don't have one, they'll haul you away and now you are no longer a threat, anyway.

Second, most of the student population here doesn't carry a weapon. As I said, open carry isn't allowed on campus, and those living on campus are forbidden from having weapons in their apartments.

Third, in order for the death toll to have been as catastrophic as the emails were threatening, it would likely be a team with larger weapons, such as rifles, or a bomb. These are not allowed on campus, no matter what kind of permit you may have. The possibility of their presence is no greater on USU campus than in any other state in the U.S that Ms. Sarkeesian may have chosen to speak at.

Still, it's the person with the concealed carry permit, that has been fingerprinted, is known, is trained in the safe handling of a weapon, and knows when deadly force is, and is not, appropriate, that the pundits feel is the real threat. Not the criminal nutjob terrorists who don't care what the laws are, anyway.  Oh no. The law abiding citizenry are the problem according to these people.

And now, because Ms. Sarkeesian canceled her lecture, complying with the terrorist's threat, she's allowed them to win. Freedom of speech has given way to fear. And so in the spirit of college athletics, let me give you the score, at least as far as this case goes: Terrorists 1, Freedom of Speech 0.

What a lousy game.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Hobby Lobby and Delusion of Corporate Personhood

The recent supreme court ruling regarding Hobby Lobby has a lot of people up on arms. Including me. I'm not sure how many of these people are upset for the same reasons, though. To me, this has less to do with religious rights than with the political fiction that corporations are people.

This legal fiction began back in the early 1800's so, it's nothing new. It's a convenient way of justifying making corporations pay taxes and protects their owners from some kinds of lawsuits and other legal matters. But things have gone a little crazy in the last several years. Corporations have the right to donate money to political campaigns, and are now exempt from the requirement to provide certain kinds of medical coverage demanded by the Affordable Care Act. What I believe we really need to do is sit back and evaluate just what corporations are, and what they are supposed to be.

In one very clear way, a corporation is a legally recognized group of people, acting in concert. The original idea of corporate personhood was intended to protect the constitutional rights of individual shareholders, when they acted collectively. Sounds all well and good, on the surface. The problem, as I see it, comes in two forms:
  1. When a shareholder is allowed to act as himself, and as the corporation, the shareholder effectively becomes more than one person.
  2. The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution is being used to protect the rights of corporations, but not their employees.
Let me explain. When it comes to political campaigns, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has decided that donating money to a cause is the same as political speech. Therefore, to protect the First Amendments rights of shareholders, corporations must be allowed to donate to political campaigns. In effect, then, a shareholder may donate twice, once as himself, and once as part of his corporation.

Political campaigns can only accept a certain amount of money from an individual, or corporation. Accordingthe Federal Election Commission, an individual may give up to $2,600 to each candidate of their choice. That money, however, is not counted against the additional $2,6000 that can be given through a PAC. Nor does it count the other multitude of ways a person can donate funds, as long as the individual donates through various corporations.

Many corporate shareholders own more than one company. Large corporations own smaller corporations and each corporation may be considered yet another “person,” even if, in the final measure, it is only one or two actual human beings. To put it simply, an individual can extend their political power and influence by owning more and more corporations. Why? Because each one of them is a legal “person” on paper. In effect, they are able to exercise certain rights more than other individuals because the law considers them to be more than one person. I can only guess at the other abuses this legal fiction enables.

Let's move on to my second point, and use Hobby Lobby as an example. For this to make sense, let's revisit the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

When we apply corporate personhood to this portion, “ No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...” it becomes clear why the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby denying coverage of “morning after” birth control measures to their employees. If the shareholders of Hobby Lobby are acting as a “person,” they cannot be denied their right to exercise their religious beliefs regarding appropriate birth control measures. But here's the part the court's seem to have ignored, “nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” If the Affordable Care Act is a legal protection for employees, then ANY exception, if not specifically written into the law, would violate the Constitution. By that reading, any corporation seeking an exception to the Affordable Care Act would be violating the Constitutional rights of its employees.

All of this stems from the simple delusion that corporations are people.

If you want to help fight the legal fiction of corporate personhood, visit Move To Amend for more information.