Supermoon and the Stanley Cup (June 24, 2013)

Supermoon and The Stanley Cup

Since May 9, 2013, “normal life” has been in an extended holding pattern. That was the day that I unexpectedly lost my full-time job and embarked on an exhausting scramble for temporary solvency and long-term employment security. These two goals overlap in the slightest of ways: the former designed to supplement unemployment insurance benefits and keep my household afloat, the latter a strategic, big-picture mission intended to provide career and bottom-line satisfaction for the next five years or so. The tension between these two immediately necessary concerns has resulted in late nights temping at a digital advertising agency in downtown Chicago, while slotting in phone and face to face interviews wherever possible. I have in the past likened my daily life to that of a plate spinning act on 1970s oddity fest, The Gong Show, but now the analogy has never seemed more appropriate.

The plates that I’ve had to let drop over the last six weeks include some serious sacred cows: the more-effective-than-antidepressants exercise routine, the bandwidth to visit my Cousin Carla and her latest arrival, my new nephew Bradley and the treasured romantic partnership, currently molting between first year infatuation and the steady, cohabiting rhythm of daily routine. Under different circumstances, today would also be a day of hitting “refresh” every five minutes on nytimes.com, awaiting a series of key decisions from the Supreme Court of the United States that relate to marriage equality, affirmative action and the college admissions process and more. Instead, I am staring at my Gmail inbox and waiting for the phone to ring, having completed the final interviewing stage with two very different, yet equally exciting companies. The fact that both of these outfits gave me a Friday deadline for determining a soul-crushing return to square one, versus a buoyant restoration of dignity, has done little to stop me from staring at the kettle.

As I stumbled in the door last Friday afternoon, bleary-eyed and exhausted after four consecutive days of branding and advertising in front of committees with the power to render me professionally relevant again, I promised myself a break. Two days of relative normalcy where I would sleep, immerse myself in the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run and see what all the supermoon fuss was about. The edge-of-seat freneticism would surely return Monday morning (yep).

Wikipedia describes the supermoon phenomenon as “the coincidence of a full moon or a new moon with the closest approach the Moon makes to the Earth on its elliptical orbit, resulting in the largest apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth.” I think this makes a great metaphor for the professional crossroads at which I sit. Will the specter of possibility, looming large above my head, sit with fleeting promise before retreating unmemorably back into its regular position? Or will I be able to capture and hold that energy, bigger and brighter than I was before?

The Stanley Cup Series offers another accessible parallel for present circumstances. For it was Summer 2010 when I last cheered the black and red on their way to an eventual championship – the last year I faced a fork in the career road. Inside a foundering marriage, underpaid and underwhelmed in a full-time position afield of my stated goals, I channeled hope into the Hawks’ improbable ascent. If a team that had been so terrible for most of my life could reach this ascent, surely anything was possible.

The last time the supermoon was visible was May 2012. So here we all are again: the bright, beautiful celestial body reminding humans of their innate smallness, the upstart sports team attempting to prove that their first trophy of the decade was no fluke, and me, the struggling writer desperate for additional career path vindication. The moon left its aesthetic imprint on those who ventured outdoors, not to be seen again until late 2014. The Hawks return to Beantown for Game 6 after dominating the Bruins at home last Saturday, momentum decidedly on their side. And me? Well, even I have learned never to count myself out.

SCOTUS to Decide in 2014 If It Will Continue to Confer Personhood Rights on Corporations (November 13, 2013)

Hobby Lobby

In September 2009, the right-leaning Supreme Court of the United States rendered the controversial Citizens Uniteddecision. In its judgment, the SCOTUS determined that “Political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections.” In other words, business entities were conferred the same First Amendment rights that you or I would have with regard to promoting or disparaging our chosen candidates. With its decision, the Supreme Court willfully opted to ignore two essential differences:

  1. Corporations lack two feet and a heartbeat.
  2. Regular folks typically do not have access to the same millions (or billions) that a company desiring to wade into politics can leverage, rendering the playing field inherently unequal.

Legitimate fears that the nation was on a slippery legal slope that would eventually confer full personhood on corporate entities commenced. Independent Bloomberg editors ran a piece in June of 2012 entitled, The Supreme Court’s Cowardice. The writers pointedly concluded: “The First Amendment ain’t beanbag. What undermines the ruling’s legitimacy is its flights of fancy about the world of political finance. In an assertion of shocking naivete, Kennedy, writing for the court’s 5-4 majority, said corporate independent campaign expenditures ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.’”

Well said. But as we approach the end of 2013, it seems that Court may decide to undertake another key case in the New Year that will provide it with an opportunity to reverse its gradual and unconscionable determination that the Bill of Rights extends to DBAs. Alternatively, as many liberals and independents justifiably fret, SCOTUS may instead cement corporate claims to privileges and rights historically reserved for people by taking another look at the First Amendment. Only this time, the Supreme Court may weigh-in on a company’s freedom of religious practice.

The New York Times ran an article this week with the rather boring title, Court Confronts Religious Rights of Corporations. Don’t let the dull syntax fool you. This is a big deal and we should all be paying attention. Centered around Hobby Lobby, a successful chain of retail craft stores, writer Adam Liptik characterizes the complaint as follows:

“The stores play religious music. Employees get free spiritual counseling. But they do not get free insurance coverage for some contraceptives, even though President Obama’s health care law requires it.

Hobby Lobby, a corporation, says that forcing it to provide the coverage would violate its religious beliefs.”

Apparently, a federal appeals court agreed with Hobby Lobby’s owners, paving the way for the issue to be decided anew by SCOTUS. After all, the justices were the inspiration for the latest convocation of First Amendment rights to a corporate ledger. Per the Times piece, “the United States Court of Appeals for the 10thCircuit said it had applied ‘the First Amendment logic of Citizens United.’”

It’s important to note that the Supreme Court is still deciding whether or not it will hear arguments in the case. Let’s hope they do. If not, the 10th Circuit’s ruling will become de facto law. Academics as well as regular peons (us) are concerned about the expanding implications of a right wing view of companies as people. Per the Times: “‘This is a perfect storm,’ said Richard Garnett, a law professor at Notre Dame, adding that it is also a worrisome one. ‘Debates about campaign finance in Citizens United and abortion and Obamacare,’ he said, ‘could distort the court’s analysis of religious freedom.’”

It may seem obvious to most of us, but corporations are NOT human beings. They cannot bleed, do not experience emotions and in many cases, are seamlessly formed and dissolved without giving pain to anyone at all. What’s next? Do we arm Hobby Lobby with cannons to randomly shoot at customers it deems offensive to its moral code? If Hobby Lobby commits a crime, do we invite Target, Walmart, Home Depot and Best Buy to comprise a jury of its peers?

Sound ridiculous? That’s because it is.