Tag Archives: United States

Thank You, Mr. President!

Citizens Thanking President Obama

Much is being written all over the Internet today about President Obama’s speech last night, what these events portend, who should take credit for bin Laden’s death, and whether credit should be apportioned for political gain.  I am re-printing here what I wrote in a Note to my friends on Facebook this morning, entitled “President Obama:  Getting The Job Done:”

I am reading with great interest some of the comments here and elsewhere in reaction to yesterday’s news from the President that Osama Bin Laden has been neutralized.

While I agree with the concerns that we not “rest on our laurels,” so to speak, simply because Bin Laden was taken out, I don’t think any reasonable person can deny that President Obama has achieved an extraordinary outcome benefiting our Nation.  He, and those around him, have done what the Bush Administration merely paid lip service to in order to advance their own distorted view of world order.

President Obama demonstrated to me the qualities of a true Commander-in-Chief — contemplative and cautious when he was presented with information about Bin Laden’s whereabouts; yet, determined and decisive, when it came down to striking out.

In everyday speak, folks, that’s called “Gettin’ ‘er done.” He deserves our praise, thanks, and respect.  Can you imagine what the press, the people, the Republicans would be saying had this mission gone the way of President Carter‘s failed attempt to rescue the Iranian hostages.  Remember that?

President Obama is not the kind of President who would, now, shrug his shoulders and say, “Guess that’s over and done with…We can all rest easy…Mission accomplished.”  Whatever doubts I may have from time to time about our President, who does not make me happy all of the time, my faith in him was strengthened immeasurably last night.

Beyond this Note, all I have to say, as a citizen of the United States, is thank you, Mr. President.  You make me proud of our Nation!

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To All Our Veterans – Thank You!

I had intended to write a much longer piece in honor of our Nation’s veterans.  Unfortunately, a person can get too busy with this or that and the day gets away from you before you know it.  So, I will simply say “thank you.”  Because of your service, I had the gift of a day spent in freedom today.  That gift is priceless.

Here are a few images I saw on the Internet today that caught my eye.

This last picture is from an excellent blog article you can link to here. If you have the time to take a look at the article, it is a wonderful and quite personal tribute to all veterans.

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In Significant Workers’ Rights Case, The U.S. Supreme Court Grapples With Grammar

In legal disputes, success or failure often turns on the definition of a word.  For example, what does the word “file” mean?  To some, it refers to that ubiquitous manila or colored organizer that many an office could not survive without.  To others, it refers to the act of lodging something with a particular body, agency, or office; e.g., to file a complaint.  Lawyers speak of a client’s “file” meaning the papers and records and other materials comprising the client’s case, dispute or matter.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines “file” in this way:

1. “A record of the court.  A paper is said to be filed when it is delivered to the proper officer…received to be kept on file as a matter of record;
2. To lay away and arrange in order, pleadings, motions, instruments, and other papers for preservation and reference…To deliver an instrument or other paper to the proper officer or official for the purpose of being kept on file…as a matter of record…It carries the idea of permanent preservation as a public record.”  (Black’s Law Dict. (6ht ed. 1990) p. 628, col. 1, citing City of Overland Park v. Nikias (1972) 209 Kan. 643, 498 P.2d 56, 59.

Once again, Black’s Dictionary seems to sum it all up nicely, simply and succinctly.  Oh, but if language were that simple.  Words don’t exist in a vacuum, after all.  They represent beliefs and intent expressed in a particular context.  As I heard an attorney state in a recent oral argument, “Nomenclature matters.”  Yes, it does.  But, so does context.

During its October term, in an employment law retaliation case that will potentially affect tens of millions of workers, the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are grappling over how to define the word “file.”  While their struggle may seem like petty semantics, “file” is important in the context of the employment law statute at issue – the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The case involves an employee who sued his former employer, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., alleging that it fired him in retaliation for a series of verbal complaints about the illegal location of time clocks in his factory.  Both a federal district court judge and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled against the employee, holding that the FLSA required a written complaint.  The employee’s case invokes FLSA’s anti-retaliation provisions, which seek to prohibit employers from taking adverse actions against employees who raise internal complaints about their working conditions, safety as well as others.

So, the crux of the issue is this:  Does the word “file,” by definition, mean to put something in writing as when you complain, or is a verbal complaint enough?

According to an excellent article in Law.com, at oral argument, the Justices peppered both sides with hypothetical situations involving verbal employee complaints.  These situations are well worth reading, and illuminate the analytical problem facing the Court and the real-world problem vexing employers.  Based on the questioning, the right wing of the Court appeared concerned that too broad a definition might expose employers to retaliation-based lawsuits over nothing more than a verbal reminder about a minor maintenance issue initiated in passing, or even social remarks made outside the office.

The “left-ish” wing of the Court, however, seemed to invoke the history of the FLSA.  In particular, many of the workers whose conditions were most improved by the FLSA – and who will likely be most affected by the Court’s ruling – include migrant field workers or others employees working in situations where writing something down was not thought to be all that easy to do.  Counsel for the employee, Kevin Kasten, remarked:

“It’s implausible to think migrant workers would leave the field to file written complaints with a government agency,” he said. “Migrant workers, coal miners, factory workers — they don’t write memos. This has to have a broad interpretation. Employees are the engine that drive this act.”

Realistically, both sides have a valid point.  In those case, the “right” decision usually is a combination of both viewpoints.  Retaliation lawsuits represent a serious threat to employers, particularly smaller employers who often have haphazard or non-existent complaint/response procedures.  Employers should have some parameters to rely upon when an employee makes a complaint, which should be easy for all to understand and follow.  To preserve the intent of the FLSA, an employee should not have to jump through burdensome or confusing procedural hoops to register a complaint about their working conditions.  In and of itself, that smacks of unfairness.

Fortunately, we live in a world where information sharing has been greatly improved over the world that existed when the FLSA was passed in its original form and even when its anti-retaliation provisions were added.  Today, as reported at Cyber-Esq., the vast majority of Americans own cell phones.  Cell phones are capable of confirming a verbal complaint (at least to some degree of specificity) with a text message or send even longer messages, textual and visual.  Mobile, hand-held forms of communication grown more capable and more approachable every day to “average” workers; they are no longer the playthings of the well off.  These “average” workers are the very people, as Justice Ginsburg correctly, remarked, the FLSA was intended to protect.

As a matter of fairness, taking into account the intent of the FLSA but also the current technologies available for creating a “writing” without having to leave the field and write a memo, it is not asking too much for employees to lodge some form of a writing that at least memorializes or confirms what may have started out as a verbal complaint.  In turn, an employer ought not require or expect the specificity of a pleading, motion or other instrument that transforms a remedial procedure like a complaint procedure into nothing more than a barrier to improved working conditions.

A word of advice for workers reading this article – I have counseled employees for more than a dozen years, and have given them all the same advice when it comes to making a complaint.  If a complaint is worthy enough of a verbal reproach to your boss, why not protect yourself and confirm that with something in writing.  In past generations, that might have been a letter, a handwritten note perhaps.  Today, it can be easily achieved via electronic means.  Do yourself a favor and don’t lock yourself into a dispute like this employee did.

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Federal Judge Blocks Controversial Portion Of Arizona Immigration Law

Seal of the United States Department of Justice

Image via Wikipedia

FindLaw.com’s blog is reporting news today that a federal judge has preliminarily blocked enforcement of at least a portion of Arizona‘s controversial immigration law, known as the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.

Because the Arizona immigration law contained a “severability clause” – a clause that allows a provision of law that is of questionable legality to be severed from a larger statute or body of laws – U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton did not enjoin enforcement of the entire law.  However, she did enjoin enforcement of the controversial portions of the statute until resolution of the U.S. Department of Justice‘s lawsuit against the State of Arizona is resolved.

That lawsuit, filed by the U.S. on July 6, 2010, argues principally that immigration law is a matter left up to the sole legislative authority of the federal government, an argument known as “pre-emption.”  “Pre-emption” finds its roots in the U.S. Constitution’s “supremacy clause,” which states:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

U.S. Const., Art. VI, Clause 2. (Emphasis added.)  See also, Wikipedia article here.

In reaching her conclusion, Judge Bolton determined that, in all likelihood, the U.S. would be successful in its lawsuit against the State of Arizona.  This determination is a pre-requisite finding before a federal judge can enjoin the enforcement of a law.

A copy of Judge Bolton’s order has been downloaded to the Box for viewing.

Breaking News Update!

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said Wednesday she would swiftly appeal a judge’s ruling blocking key parts of a new state immigration law, vowing to take it all the way to the Supreme Court.  You can read the Arizona Governor’s response here, courtesy of Yahoo.com.

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History Of Child Labor Laws In The U.S.

The photo above was taken from today’s MSNBC PhotoBlog. As you can see, the photo features a young boy in Kabul, Afghanistan waiting to sell popcorn from a rolling cart as evening settles in. I found the photograph to be poignant, and despite its relative darkness, visually stunning. The photograph also got me to thinking about the topic of child labor, a topic that has not yet been covered here at CRW. So, I have included below a brief outline of the history of U.S. child labor laws.

1832 New England unions condemn child labor
The New England Association of Farmers, Mechanics and Other Workingmen resolve that “Children should not be allowed to labor in the factories from morning till night, without any time for healthy recreation and mental culture,” for it “endangers their . . . well-being and health”
1836 Early trade unions propose state minimum age laws
Union members at the National Trades’ Union Convention make the first formal, public proposal recommending that states establish minimum ages for factory work
1836 First state child labor law
Massachusetts requires children under 15 working in factories to attend school at least 3 months/year
1842 States begin limiting children’s work days
Massachusetts limits children’s work days to 10 hours; other states soon pass similar laws—but most of these laws are not consistently enforced
1876 Labor movement urges minimum age law
Working Men’s Party proposes banning the employment of children under the age of 14
1881 Newly formed AFL supports state minimum age laws
The first national convention of the American Federation of Labor passes a resolution calling on states to ban children under 14 from all gainful employment
1883 New York unions win state reform
Led by Samuel Gompers, the New York labor movement successfully sponsors legislation prohibiting cigar making in tenements, where thousands of young children work in the trade
1892 Democrats adopt union recommendations
Democratic Party adopts platform plank based on union recommendations to ban factory employment for children under 15
1904 National Child Labor Committee forms
Aggressive national campaign for federal child labor law reform begins
1916 New federal law sanctions state violators
First federal child labor law prohibits movement of goods across state lines if minimum age laws are violated (law in effect only until 1918, when it’s declared unconstitutional, then revised, passed, and declared unconstitutional again)
1924 First attempt to gain federal regulation fails
Congress passes a constitutional amendment giving the federal government authority to regulate child labor, but too few states ratify it and it never takes effect
1936 Federal purchasing law passes
Walsh-Healey Act states U.S. government will not purchase goods made by underage children
1937 Second attempt to gain federal regulation fails
Second attempt to ratify constitutional amendment giving federal government authority to regulate child labor falls just short of getting necessary votes
1937 New federal law sanctions growers
Sugar Act makes sugar beet growers ineligible for benefit payments if they violate state minimum age and hours of work standards
1938 Federal regulation of child labor achieved in Fair Labor Standards Act
For the first time, minimum ages of employment and hours of work for children are regulated by federal law

The outline above was obtained from The Child Labor Education Project. Below are some additional photos on the subject that readers may find interesting or useful.

What Is The True Meaning Of Memorial Day?

In the United States today, Memorial Day has become a day where we celebrate the start of summer with backyard barbecues and family picnics.  But what are the origins of Memorial Day?  How is it different from Veterans’ Day?

Unlike Veterans’ Day which is a day set aside to honor those men and women who serve our country, Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day,” a day instituted after the Civil War to honor veterans killed in service.  According to the website findingDulcinea, the first Decoration Day was held on May 5, 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War.  Maj. Gen. John A. Logan changed the date of the celebration to May 30. “It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country,” the Veterans Affairs Web site reports.

New York was the first state to officially recognize Decoration Day in .  Soon, other Union states followed, but the Confederate states did not immediately embrace the holiday, choosing instead to honor their fallen with a separate holiday.  Over time, however, all of the states began to hold some day of remembrance, and in 1882, Decoration Day became known as Memorial Day.  In 1971, Memorial Day was recognized as a federal holiday and became part of the 3-day weekend we all love so dearly.

Many activities to honor fallen veterans are associated with Memorial Day.  Cities throughout the U.S. organize parades to commemorate the day, and it is also traditional to fly the American flag at half-mast to honor those who have died.  Services are also traditionally held in Europe to commemorate those who fell in the Normandy Invasion as well as the many who died in the fields of Flanders, Belgium during the trench warfare of World War I.

So, while it may seem a bit off-topic to discuss Memorial Day in a blog about civil rights, the fact remains that the true meaning and origins of this important day are right on point.  Without the sacrifice of these brave men and women, neither you nor I would have the freedom to do the things we like to do in the United States – like, in my case, sit at my desk, secure in my home, and blog about civil rights.  That may sound a bit preachy, but it’s worth remembering.

If you are interested in this topic, I encourage you to check out findingDulcinea as well as theHistoryOf.net.  You can also find out more information about Memorial Day at the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

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To Congresswoman Michele Bachmann: Try ‘Honesty’ For A Change; You Will Find That In The Dictionary Before You Get To ‘Hypocrite’

Our Nation faces a profound crisis, my friends.  We face a crisis of ethics and principles because, as best I can tell, we live in a country where many of our most outspoken leaders are bereft of either.

The poster child for this ethical crisis is Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, pictured below.

I have watched and listened to this Queen of the Harpies for months now, and I am utterly convinced that she grits those Chiclet teeth of hers together to hide the forked tongue with which she spews her treasonous venom.  However, I don’t intend to write about her rabble-rousing statements here.  She is already well-known for such statements, which is what makes her the darling of those hat-wearing imbeciles, the Tea Baggers.  Instead, I intend to remark on a more common problem that this “lady” suffers in spades – she is a two-faced liar.  Moreover, liberals, moderates, and conservatives everywhere who have any interest in integrity in government should start calling her out for what she is.

While Ms. Bachmann spouted off against President Obama’s financial reforms, her District – the Sixth Congressional District – languished with the worst foreclosure rates in the entire State of Minnesota.  In 2008, the district had the highest number of foreclosures in Minnesota and the highest rate of foreclosures. When 2009 drew to a close, that sad trend continued, but did nothing to abate Bachmann’s arrogance or idiocy.  Moreover, according to new data from HousingLink and the Minnesota County Sheriffs’ Offices, the Sixth Congressional District continues to be disproportionately impacted by the foreclosure crisis despite its representative’s reticence to vote for foreclosure relief legislation. Why should she?  It’s not her house on the chopping block, is it?

Is that where her lies and hypocrisy ends?  Hell no it isn’t!  Ms. Bachmann has forged quite the national identity for herself by calling President Obama’s health care reforms “socialism.”  Consider this quote from the “good” Congresswoman when encouraging a march on Washington to oppose health care reform:

“Nothing is more effective at reaching a congressman than having a citizen come to Washington, D.C. – not asking for a handout, not asking for tax money, not asking to take some liberty away from somebody else, but just asking for freedom.”

I want to make sure you got that – being a good American, to Ms. Bachmann, means “not asking for a handout” and “not asking for tax money.”  Did you get that?

If that is what it means to be a good American, then why is it that Ms. Bachmann and her husband’s business – Bachmann and Associates, Inc. – take in tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money?  What is Bachmann & Associates, you ask?  Bachmann & Associates is a Christian mental health clinic run by Bachmann’s husband.  It opened in 2003, and since that time it has been taking money from Minnesota’s public funds (that means taxpayer money) under two different provisions of law.  Both provisions of law, one known as Rule 29 funds and the other as Rule 31 funds, are voluntary for health clinics, meaning that the Bachmann’s were not required to sign up under these rules to operate their clinic.  They chose to sign up for them!  Now who’s the good American, eh?

That must be the extent of her fraud on the public, isn’t it?  Not so fast.  In addition to the thousands of dollars the Bachmann have received in “socialized medicine” payments, her family is estimated to have received more than $250,000 in farm subsidies over the past decade.  What happened to that whole “not going to Washington looking for a handout” thing, Michele?

The bottom line is this – Michele Bachmann is a hypocrite and a liar.  Her advocacy of issues is selective – it is perfectly ok for her and her family to get rich off of government funds, but damn you if you want to get in on a little bit of assistance to pay for a doctor’s visit.  You are a “SOCIALIST” and any politician who agrees with you is a “SOCIALIST!”

Hey, Michele, while you’re looking up the word “honesty” in the dictionary, you might want to try looking up the word “socialist,” too.  You will find that word a wee bit before the word “succubus.”  For succubus, you only need to look in the mirror.

For further reading on Ms. Bachmann, check out this report from the Minnesota Independent.

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