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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 11/19/20

Good morning and Happy Thursday!



CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY


You may recall that I wrote a Musing about corporate responsibility in a time when our country and our economy really require “all hands on deck.” It seems it is time to reconsider whether the “sole” purpose of a corporation is shareholder profit or whether there perhaps are responsibilities to employees, consumers, and those most affected by the corporation’s actions. After all, if we are going to treat corporations as “people,” with respect to speech, it would seem logical to treat them as “people” when they despoil the environment.


Here, is Mark DiMaria, is a passionate appraisal of “corporate responsibility” (which he maintains is an oxymoron):


Corporations have one legitimate purpose -- to encourage investment by limiting economic liability of the non-managing investor to the amount of their investment. That's it. The gross perversions being foisted on us through legalistic gymnastics in the name of protecting the supposed "rights" of corporate "persons" are appalling. A corporation has no thoughts, no imagination, no soul, no body, and certainly no religious convictions of its own. Rather, it is a construct created and operated by mortal human beings who have these qualities, but hide behind the corporate shield to avoid a broad swath of their individual responsibilities as citizens to their fellow citizens. To limit the rights of real human beings (to enjoy the benefits of legislation, to have access to necessary information, to equitably share the responsibilities of funding our society among all participants, etc.) based on the supposed "rights" of "persons" who are nothing more than legal fictions is indefensible.


CHILDISH THINGS


After the Musing about trains, number of people have written about their train sets, including Ron Stern, who says his HO train set led him to appreciate trains and public transportation of all types. Another person, who wishes to remain nameless, notes that his train set, elaborately built over years, with many scenes that he constructed out of models, was sold by his father, without his knowledge, for a fraction of its actual physical value and, of course, nowhere near its sentimental value. I wonder how many of us have seen prized dolls, baseball card collections, back issues of Mad Magazine or other precious remembrances of our childhoods sold or discarded without a thought—scarred for life!recover


SPEAKING OF THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION PROPERTY


I’m a little obsessed with these old government properties. Harvey Englander reminds me that there is a golf course on the property, build by Hillcrest Country Club members years ago. Today, the club helps maintain that course.


SPIELBERG AND HISTORY—ONCE AGAIN


Last week I recommended several movies and miniseries about recent historic events, well produced and informative. Peter Bain recommends the Comey Rule. He also says that “virtually anything Spielberg has done recently” should be viewed. I agree. Peter goes on to say, “he seems to have decided to devote himself to teaching us history, bless him!”


Peter points out that Bridge of Spies is a great primer on the Cold War and a gripping story. Leaving it off the list was an error on my part.


A POWERFUL BOOK ABOUT STRUGGLE, GRIEF, AND RECONCILIATION


I help lead a book group that read a book that is high on my list of recommendations, not just for the subject matter, but for the way it is presented. The book is Apeirogon, by Colum McCann. On its face it the story of an Israeli father who loses his daughter to a suicide bombing and a Palestinian father who loses his daughter to a random rubber bullet fired by a young Israeli soldier. They find each other and speak out about the conflict and employ their grief to change hearts and minds.


What is most interesting about the book is the way the story is presented. This is not a “linear” story. It is a mosaic of history, metaphor, the desert and water, birds and migration, aspiration, photographs, musings, and so much more. The “chapters” are numbered and consist of a few words, a sentence, a single picture, or pages of text. An apeirogon is a polygon of infinite sides. The story, the chapters and the structure reflect the notion of a place and a problem with infinite facets and perspectives.


EXPANDING THE SUPREME COURT IS NOT A CRAZY IDEA


A proposal being floated is that the Supreme Court should be expanded to 11 or 13 or more Justices. I don’t see the logic in some of the numbers being thrown out, but 11 seems right for reasons I’ve set out below. Let’s remember that the number is not established by the Constitution. This discussion probably is academic, as a Republican-led Senate won’t agree to this.


But it’s not a crazy idea. Increasing the size of the court from nine to eleven would not be court packing in the sense of the court packing pursued by FDR. In that instance, FDR was trying to tilt the Court toward support of his New Deal plans. But here it’s different. Here it is to right a wrong.


In a tactical error, I believe the debate about the confirmation of Amy Coney Barret was mischaracterized by President-elect Biden and the Democrats during the campaign. They saw her confirmation as somehow inappropriate because it came at the end of the Trump presidential term. But actually, it should have been prevented in order to right the wrong of the Republican-led Senate not considering the Merrick Garland nomination in 2016. As a result, President Trump received one “extra” nomination. By virtue of the three Trump nominations that should have been two, the make-up of the court is a 6-3 conservative majority, when by all rights, logic and fairness, it should be a 5-4 conservative majority.


I think a move to increase the Court to 11 justices is simply to rectify the court packing already done by the Republican Senate. The court packing occurred in 2016 and by virtue of failing to follow the precedent they sought to create. Increasing the number would be an elegant solution. And if people wanted to go back to the nine justice current size, there could either be an agreement not to fill the next two vacancies or (better) create term limits for justices.


WASHINGTON D.C. SHOULD BE A STATE


Again, not crazy. The Republican majority in the Senate will point to the Constitution as not providing for representation in the Senate. They will also point to the fact that Congress has plenary power over the Federal District. They will claim that a constitutional amendment would be required to change the state of play.


But there is a way to solve this. The Constitution doesn’t specify the size of D.C. So if Congress chose, it could define the District as encompassing the relatively small area of the Capitol, the White House, the Mall and the federal buildings in between. Not many people live within that area. Then the balance of what is now the District of Columbia could become a State. With the constitutional arguments falling by the wayside, the Republicans would have to argue from the position of attempting to disenfranchise the citizens living around the Capitol. It would be an interesting debate to watch.


Have a great day,


Glenn

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