Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Montana Takes on Citizens United/Dozens of Stranded Dolphins on Cape Cod Shores Perplex Rescuers



January 23, 2012

Montana Takes on Citizens United

Two years ago, when the Supreme Court struck down bans on independent corporate and union expenditures in elections in the Citizens United case, Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion claimed that money does not “give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” While it might result in “influence over or access to elected officials,” he wrote, it is not the same as bribery.

Last month, in a 5-to-2 vote, the Montana Supreme Court rejected that misguided reasoning and upheld a part of a state anticorruption law banning corporations from making political expenditures from general treasuries. The court’s dissenters argued that Montana cannot ignore the Citizens United decision — and they may well be proved right when the case is appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Still, the majority and a dissenting opinion agree that Citizens United has given corporations enormous power barely distinguishable from bribery.

Montana has a long history of fighting political corruption. A century ago, state voters passed an initiative that banned corporate spending to help or hurt candidates for public office. They were responding to epic political corruption caused by the copper kings who controlled a big part of the state’s wealth.

The court’s majority in Western Tradition Partnership v. Montana ruled that Citizens United does not apply to Montana’s law because it is tailored to meet a compelling state interest and its burden on corporations’ “political activity or speech” is minimal — they can easily set up political action committees for contributions from officers and shareholders. The court also stressed the acute need to limit corporate influence in politics because elected officials shape policies that determine winners and losers in fights over the state’s natural resources.

In Citizens United, the conservative majority turned itself into a copper kings’ court. The Montana Supreme Court, faced with tangible effects of corporate electioneering, shows how that decision undermines the fight against political corruption — and can make it far worse.

© 2011 The New York Times Company


January 23, 2012

Dozens of Stranded Dolphins on Cape Cod Shores Perplex Rescuers


WELLFLEET, Mass. — When a single dolphin washed up on Cape Cod on Jan. 12, it was nothing out of the ordinary.

But eight days later, 81 more had been found stranded on this craggy coastline, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, bringing the weekly count unusually close to the 120 animals the group typically responds to in high stranding season, which typically runs from January to April. By Jan. 23, the count was 85.

“It’s just about as intense as I’ve ever experienced,” said Katie Moore, the manager of the mammal rescue and research team at the nonprofit fund, which employs six scientists to rescue dolphins and whales that find themselves the unwitting occupants of Cape Cod’s empty winter beaches.

It is common for dolphins to be corralled by the cape’s U-shape and flummoxed by its shallow inlets and extreme tides. In fact, Cape Cod is, like parts of New Zealand and Australia, a world hotspot for dolphin strandings.

But so many dolphins washing up in less than two weeks — 61 of which were dead, killed by stress or injuries from the stranding — has baffled researchers, who have been working relentlessly with volunteers to rescue as many as possible.

Six of those dolphins turned up on Thursday in “The Gut” of the Herring River, in Wellfleet, a waterway in the Cape Cod National Seashore that turns into a squelchy stretch of sticky mud at low tide. When researchers arrived, they found five live dolphins gulping for air with their blowholes, sounding like asthmatic humans. The sixth was dead. At the time, hundreds more dolphins were being coaxed out another part of Wellfleet Harbor by a small team of rescuers and its harbormaster.

“These animals seem to be coming from one large group,” Ms. Moore said as she drove to Wellfleet on Friday to monitor the harbor for more animals. “They’re all of the same species, and aerial views have seen large groups of 400 animals just off the cape.”

The question they cannot answer, Ms. Moore said, is why they are all here in the first place. “It’s driving us crazy that we don’t know,” Ms. Moore said.

Some believe it is simply a question of feeding, although Ms. Moore said that the empty stomachs found in the dolphins scientists have dissected suggest otherwise. The International Fund for Animal Welfare researchers are excited about new work recently presented at a conference by C. T. Harry, the assistant stranding coordinator, that suggests there may be a correlation between dolphin strandings and weather oscillations.

In some cases, a sick dolphin can lead its pod off course. But many of the dolphins, Ms. Moore said, have so far seemed healthy when they strand (apart from the stress they experience caused by the stranding itself).

That appeared to be the case for the dolphins in The Gut on Thursday. With the sky spitting snowflakes, rescuers quickly began working to take the animals, covered in blankets and looking every part like the mammals that schoolchildren love, back to safe waters.

But it is slow, backbreaking work. Each animal must be rolled onto a stretcher and then carried by up to nine people to a vehicle.

“Can we make it to the reeds? Are you going to be all right?” Mr. Harry said to the volunteers who helped him carry one dolphin, its tail dragging blood through reeds sprouting out of the mud, to an old truck.

The group hoisted the dolphin onto a pad inside, struggling to get the animal, which could weigh hundreds of pounds, high off the ground.

“Like you’re a Patriot linebacker!” said Larry Bessenger, a retired banking executive from North Eastham who says he would rather be here than in a boardroom.

Later, when a stressed dolphin’s thrashing tail appeared to endanger one of the scientists, Mr. Bessenger, who was kitted out in a dry suit designed for kayaking, dived on top of it. “It’s more fun than wrestling seals!” he said of the job he used to help with at the New England Aquarium.

Dedicated volunteers come out in droves to deal with strandings; the animal welfare fund says it has about 350 on its rosters. And they are needed: by the time each dolphin was driven over the sand dunes and up the road to a medical trailer, where they were given blood tests, hearing tests, ultrasounds and more, the fund scientists were exhausted. Their work would not be finished until they released the dolphins later that night.

“It’s a lot of work, it’s long days,” said Kat Rose, the stranding technician for the fund. “A lot of people, I think, are ready for a break.”

© 2011 The New York Times Company

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


No comments: