The Widdershins

The faces of rights…

Posted on: July 5, 2013

This being the 4th of July weekend, we often find ourselves all caught up in thinking about our “rights” — whether Fireworks and Flag...they be our First Amendment rights, our right to choose, our right to vote, our right to bear arms, our right to marry. Thinking about “rights” is somewhat sterile because it allows us to keep a nice clinical distance from the reality of what those rights represent in terms of human cost.

Even if we attach those rights to legislative action it still allows us a certain empathetic distance. I can recite what it means when 36 out of 42 public family planning clinics are made to close in a state the size of Texas, but it doesn’t tell the stories of the women affected. We can analyze the effects of barring women from admission to Ohio’s publicly funded hospitals after they have opted to have an abortion, but it doesn’t put a face on the women who might be harmed during a health crisis. We can bemoan the unfairness of the North Carolina legislature’s use of a bill publicized to outlaw Sharia law to close all but one of North Carolina’s women’s health clinics, but it does nothing to forewarn us of the day after their closure.

During the last session of the Supreme Court, the most interest seemed to be focused on the cases about affirmative action, the Voting Rights Act, DOMA, and California’s Proposition 8. Important cases all, but there were other cases that may affect our rights even more starkly — they got nothing close to the coverage of the more sensational cases.

The first is American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurant, another case by the Roberts court making it more difficult to use the only economically viable way for the little guy to fight big business — the class action suit. This was a follow-up to the case two years ago saying individual customers were bound to the arbitration provisions hidden in a cell phone contract and did not have the right to bring a class action.

The next case was Vance v. Ball State. Again a follow-up case to Lilly Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber making it more difficult to bring an action for workplace discrimination.

The last case that puts a disfigured face on otherwise amorphous rights is that of Karen Bartlett adv. Mutual Pharmaceutical Company. Ms. Bartlett lost two-thirds of her skin, was left disfigured and blind after taking a generic drug for some shoulder pain. The Court held that generic drug manufacturers could not be sued for defects in product design, thereby causing Ms. Barlett to forfeit the $21 million she had been awarded. Eighty percent of all the drugs sold are generic.

Thunder over Louisville..This session of the Supreme Court was truly a Chamber of Commerce dream and an embarrassment of riches for corporations. At their heart, these cases are a capitalization on corporate rights at the expense of  nameless, faceless individuals.

On this weekend of the 4th of July, let’s redouble our efforts this year to remind ourselves that we are these nameless, faceless individuals and that rights, while giving us a definitional framework, do nothing to tell the story of the individuals affected.

Have a great weekend.

This is an open thread.


18 Responses to "The faces of rights…"

How many times have we been told that we take our freedoms for granted? Not until they are eliminated or threatened do we then begin to pay attention,

When the “freedom” to own any assault rifle that promises to blow the heads off anyone trying to steal our parking space was brought to the attention of the public the hue and cry was heard throughout the land.

Yet a woman’s right to privacy, which should only be discussed in the sanctity of a physician’s office is openly challenged, the coverage is minimal.

The black community gained strength over the years by demanding their rights. The gay community came out in force to demand their rights of equality. The NRA found its voice by suggesting government takeover was in the offing and hinting at the bad guys lurking in the bushes.

But women, who once believed that settled law was enough to ensure their equality are still fighting an uphill battle to maintain those rights they took for granted.

Amazing that this battle is still ongoing after 40 years of liberation. Which only goes to show how fragile these rights can be.

Beautifully written, Prolix.
Some days when I read the news, I think that it is 1965 again until I gaze into the mirror and realize that this is not the reflection of a 17 year old girl looking back at me

Great choice of topic for this fourth of July weekend. Very interesting food for thought. 🙂

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, …

Another great post, Prolix. You’re a peach.

The SCOTUS ruling on the Karen Bartlett case is a disgrace. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. May Karma visit those who voted on the side of “Corporations are People” vs. “We, the People”.

Folks, it is supposed to make us feel better to have historians on the teevee telling us, “Hell, it’s been this bad before. American history is full of instances where there has been rancorous divide within the country.”

I don’t doubt that fact, I don’t doubt the sincerity of the historians, I don’t doubt their admonitions. What I feel is missing is this: What happens to all the people, mostly women and children, who fall through the cracks during these periods of social discord?

I grow very weary by those pundits who say, “The pendulum is swinging, we just have to be patient.” The truth is, what happens in the interim — what happens to those who must wait, but who can’t? Are they merely casualties of the rancorous, social wars?

We are better than that. Or at least I thought we were.

@4, Beata, you can trace all these pro-corporation, pro-business cases to the same 5 culprits: Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy.

Kennedy is a strange bird — he’s libertarian on social issues, but firmly entrenched at the head table of the Chamber of Commerce.

@4, Beata, oh, and one other thing — Karen Bartlett’s injuries were so horrific and her disfigurement so profound, that most articles glossed over it since it is so revolting. Two-thirds of the woman’s skin fell off. The only publication I could find that really dared talk about what happened to her in terms of the human aspect was The Daily Mail.

At the end of every “right” there is a human or humans who suffer the effect of these rulings. We forget about that too easily.

i recall seeing the news about the Bartlett case and thought it was shocking. We know that generics are supposed to be the “equivalent” to brand name drugs, but there are always those “inert” ingredients that we have no knowledge of. And lets face it: we are more or less forced to purchase the generics just by the economics of the situation. We can get the generic version of a medication for a lot less under most insurance plans and if you want the brand name, you will either pay a small fortune for it or your insurance will simply not cover the cost of them. In the case of Ms. Bartlett who knows what the inert or filler things were.

I admit I did not even know about the Italian Colors Restaurant case or the Vance vs Ball State case and know I’ve got to go look those up.

Prolix if you want to see the genius of a legislature at work, check out this piece by Tom Aswell at Louisiana Voice. It involves a piece of legislation drafted by Ed Murray, a state sen. from nola on equal pay for women and it covered them in both the private and public sector. However, another state senator (Republican) amended the bill so that it only covered folks in the public sector. As Tom wrote:

That certainly seems fair. If a computer is repaired, does it matter who fixed it? If a story appears in the paper, does it make any difference if it’s written by a man or woman? If a female bricklayer lays the same number of bricks in an hour as the man beside her, shouldn’t she receive the same pay considerations? The same should apply to truck drivers, sales personnel, engineers, architects, and attorneys. A woman who performs the same job as a man certainly should receive the same pay, after all. Who could argue with that?

Another aspect of the amendment is that lil Bobby has declared war on the public sector employee in Louisiana, basically contracting out as many services as possible or just downright abolishing state jobs so there will be fewer individuals that would be covered by the amended law.

@9, Fredster, the Chamber of Commerce wins again.

Prolix: Exactly.

This was a very depressing and disturbing post! But, of course, important. It’s absolutely true, all of these cases got lost in the noise of DOMA, Prop 8 and Voting Rights Act.

The Karen Bartlett case is truly distressing. I am so sick of this corporate lackey bench. Is there any hope of any of the evil 5 retiring soon?

@12: agree.

@13: Scalia and Kennedy are both 77 years old. One can only hope they are thinking of retirement. Surely Scalia can envision the pure joy of simply sitting on his front porch day after day ( fully robed ) and yelling at punk kids to get off his lawn.

Just don’t call him “Shirley”.

12 | DYB

Well look who showed up after Pride Week in NYC. 😉

Beata@15: I’d love to see Clarence in that group of retirees too.

@ 17, oh God yes!

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