Like many progressive/radicals i was pleased that the US Supreme Court struck down parts of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) denying federal benefits to same sex couples. The court dodged the much bigger issue of whether same sex marriage should be legal in all 50 states. Were this the only important Supreme Court decision this week, i would give the court a B-. But it was not.
The Supremes also cut out one of the most important sections of the voting rights act. This section required some states, especially southern states with terrible histories around discriminatory voting practices, to get federal approval before changing their voting requirements. The newly-eliminated section of the VRA worked so well that it dramatically increased the number of black voters as well as enabling black members of congress hopefuls to get elected.
Also recently, the 5 conservative justices shot down much of the right to remain silent. The court gave greater flexibility to police to question suspects and even pressure them into making confessions. This is especially disturbing given the number of forced and false confessions which have been discovered with DNA testing in recent years.
They also recently decided a case that guts the ability of local municipalities to secure public benefits when private developers plan to cause local harm. This is a 5th amendment case, which requires compensation from the government when private land is “taken”. In this case, what was “taken” was permission to develop the land in an environmentally sensitive area. We can expect developers to sue municipalities more for their rights to develop after this ruling.
In the case which Acorn‘s seed business is bringing against Monsanto, a lower court ruled that organic farmers couldn’t fight Monsanto patents in court. These patents are so powerful that Monsanto employees can break into farmers land, steal their crops and test them for their GMOs. Before this case Monsanto was successfully intimidating small farmers who had been contaminated (but had not paid Monsanto for the privilege). The one silver lining to this case is that the Federal court interpreted Monsanto’s endless statements to the court about not suing as an actually legally binding commitment to not sue any farmer who has a 1% or less contamination level. This, combined with Japan and Korea boycotting some US wheat because of Monsanto contamination means Monsanto is not completely unstoppable. [Separately, the Supremes can be rightly blamed for their 9-0 decision earlier this year guaranteeing Monsanto’s right to patent seeds and collect damages from all who use their seeds without paying.]
These cases combined give the highest court an unsatisfactory grade of D.
And before we all celebrate the death of DOMA and Prop 8, please remember the fact that in 33 states you can still be legally fired or kicked out of your house for being transgender – and in 29 states you can be fired or evicted for being gay. There is much work to be done.
Puck and i have an informal room sharing agreement. In all of the sharing experiments we do at Twin Oaks, one of the ones which it is hardest for mainstream folks to wrap their heads around is sharing bed rooms. When someone leaves Twin Oaks for more than 3 days, their room becomes community property and it can be assigned to guests who need space. Room assigning is one of the jobs i have done for a long time and am currently covering it while Sapphyre is off meditating.
Different communards have different capacity for sharing rooms and Pucks capacity (after perhaps mine) is the best. He is generous with his room at Twin Oaks when he is not using it and it is often the place i end up sleeping when it gets to be 2 in the morning and i realize i have not worked this problem hard enough to know where i am going to sleep.
Puck gave me a ride and we chatted about the similarity of our situation.
“I am not an alternating member” he said “i am a dual member” People often ask Puck (as they probably will me) “Which community are you part of now?” And while there is a technical specific single membership at any one time, what is really true is he (and hopefully i) are working on behalf of both of our home communities almost everyday.
When i arrived at Acorn i was pretty quickly given a seed picking orientation. January is the beginning of the busy season and there is lots to do. Rejoice explained how we take the orders customers have mostly placed thru our online ordering system and pull the various seeds for them. We wander in circles around this smallish air conditioned space, in our little circular path pulling tiny packets of seeds from the 700 varieties in the room. Mac came in and helped and for a while we had 5 people picking seeds in this tiny room. We cleared 3 days back log of orders, which was quite satisfying.
I did not get a chance to play Dominion or Magic with GPaul or Abe – but it was discussed and i am sure i will enjoy the company of these clever boys and these thoughtful complex games int he coming days.
Ira invited me to be the spokesperson for the Monsanto case, in which farmers and seed companies are suing this giant, because of there terrible behavior and their poisoning the ecosystem. It is a long shot, because Monstanto outguns us with expensive lawyers and sympathetic judges. What is fascinating to me is that Monsanto is illegally sending people onto farmers lands, stealing their crops, testing these crops finding traces of their genetically engineered materials in these crops and then successfully suing the farmers. Most of these farmers would rather not have the Monsanto stuff in their fields and did not buy it in the first place. Then these farmers settle out of court and part of the settlement is they can no go public with this injustice. In 16 years they have sued 150 farmers and brought charges against 700. Were Obama not appointing former Monsanto executives to the top spot in the Department of Agriculture, this would be something to seek justice over.
And i am blogging for Acorn, both for the community and for the business. This will be good for me, to have a regular editor audience. My job is to turn ideas into rough posts and then they can shape them, potentially radically.
The night wound up in the smoke shack, where there is card playing, and chess games and animated conversation. There was this story game which i did not quite understand the rules of, but in which different players told true and fictitious stories about their lives and it moves thru all the people int he room. i am excited as a story teller about this piece of the culture.
At the very end of the evening i went to the Rec Collective to go to sleep and went in only to find someone else (who i quite startled) had hopped into the bed i had made for myself (and understandable mistake, since there were no private blankets in the building other than the fluffy ones i brought). I scurried out of the building as to not wake the perhaps 5 others sleeping in the crowded room. This is why there are couches.