General Mills Blinks–Can You Say OOPS

It was only last week that General Mills announced a change to its legal terms for use of its website. (See post from last Thursday):

“We’ve updated our Privacy Policy. Please note we also have new Legal Terms which require all disputes related to the purchase or use of any General Mills product or service to be resolved through binding arbitration.”

It was widely discussed that liking General Mills on Facebook (possibly only by downloading coupons) could also invoke these legal terms. In response to apparently massive protests and adverse media discussion, the company has promptly done an about face. Here is what their blog post on the subject says: Continue reading

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Protecting The Hunter-Gatherers and Others Like Them

CNN carried an article recently about the Hazda, an ancient tribe of hunter-gatherers living near the Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania.

The Hadza people live in a remote part of Northern Tanzania. They have lived in the area for thousands of years, and represent one of the oldest lineages of mankind.

Like other indigenous people once living in semi-isolation, they are more frequently subject to intrusion by more civilized  people. Their available hunting area is reduced. Their way of living is challenged. Their very existence is imperiled. Their plight is not unique, as members of Survival International will attest. The NGO (Non Governmental Organization) is a non-profit group whose stated mission is to help tribal peoples “defend their lives, protect their lands and determine their own futures.” Their website claims that there are still 100 groups of what they refer to as “uncontacted.” By this they mean that there has been little or no interaction with outsiders. It may be hard to believe, given global development, but it is hard to argue with the facts that they marshal. When I first read the CNN article, I considered the protection and preservation of these cultures a hard question. Maybe, or maybe not. Read on and make your own judgment. Continue reading

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Green Homes

When you have the opportunity to build a custom home in the Southwest where you may expect 300+ sunny days, there is no excuse for not making it green–so we did. We wanted low water usage, low heating/cooling energy use and minimal power use otherwise. So here is what we included:

  • Passive solar design–large glazing along a wide south-facing front
  • Concrete floors for thermal mass (also saves on costlier low VOC floor coverings) Continue reading
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Debtor’s Prisons Still Exist in 21st Century America

PBS NewsHour will air a segment tonight featuring our fight against modern-day debtors’ prisons. Please tune in to see SPLC Deputy Legal Director David Dinielli discuss the all too common yet unconstitutional practice of putting poor people behind bars for their inability to pay fines for minor offenses.The U.S. Supreme Court found this practice to be unconstitutional many years ago, yet it persists.

Watch SPLC on PBS NewsHour
Saturday, April 12
Check local airtimes, 
  or watch online

Without funds to pay fines, minor incidents can mean jail image

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First Amendment Political Money

The Supremes are at it again, albeit 5-4 along political lines. Spending money on political campaigns is free speech they say, which cannot be constrained (in meaningful ways) by acts of Congress. I cannot say I disagree with the right of free speech, but I wonder at the wisdom of this decision that piles onto the already pernicious effects of the Citizens United case from a few years ago–which allowed the creation of unlimited funding of campaign advertising by Super PACs.  I must confess I have not read either decision, so I cannot say whether they considered what I would call the “megaphone effect.” Let me explain in the context of the Westboro Baptist Church case, in which the Supreme Court essentially said that the very obnoxious protests outside funeral homes by the church could not be prohibited, despite the emotional distress suffered by funeral goers. Did the court say such protests could be limited by precluding megaphones or sound systems so loud that they penetrated the funeral wall homes? Most of the protest, if I recall correctly, came in the form of signs. If the court did not opine on such, perhaps it was not present, but let’s examine that in the political campaign context. Continue reading

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Is It Time to Repeal the Second Amendment?

Got your attention? Not happening any time soon. Wayne LaPierre, et al will take care of that. But that was a facetious title. No, this is really about the Ft. Hood shooting. We could all probably write the script for the news: Hand wringing, video of police cars and ambulances, news conferences by applicable authorities and most of all, discussions with analysts or “experts” on what went wrong and what might be done to prevent such incidents in the future. Most of the “solutions” that have been tried are impractical or ineffective. There is really only one, that doesn’t get discussed on air, the web or in print. Continue reading

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Is a Roth Conversion Right for You?

Have you considered or are you wondering about the merits—pros and cons of converting some of your 401 K (or other retirement accounts from which this is permissible–403 b or 457) traditional IRA assets into a Roth IRA? Traditional retirement accounts are based on accumulating earnings on investing pre-tax income you while you are working. The Roth, on the other hand, accumulates earnings on investments from earnings you have already paid taxes on. Surprise—the IRS and you have an understanding—pay me now or pay me later; either way, the tax man gets his due. When you take money out of the traditional account, you pay tax not only on the (tax-deferred) income you invested, but the earnings on those funds as well. With the Roth, on the other hand, not only do you not pay tax on what you invested (because you already paid them), you pay no tax on the earnings either. Continue reading

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