Category Archives: Politics

Megan McArdle, Justice Alito and Hobby Lobby’s rights

Roy Edroso catches libertarian Megan McArdle (some of her past deep insights here and here) blithely dismissing critics of the Hobby Lobby win: Isn’t demanding your employer buy you birth control no different from demanding he buy you a car or some furniture? If an employer refuses to provide free toothpaste, would you sue him for condemning you to have cavities?

As pointed out at Edroso’s post (and in comments thereon), the obvious difference is that Hobby Lobby isn’t being asked to give employees something for free. Health insurance is part of their pay. Hobby Lobby is simply being told that the coverage has to meet minimum standards, which include providing birth control for women who want it (I imagine if they wanted to pay in company scrip McArdle’s argument would be “Saying you have to be paid in dollars is like demanding you be paid in gold!”).

She also argues that all the decision really does is say Hobby Lobby’s owners should be treated just like a small properitoer, why should that be a big deal? Wow, let’s think … could it be because being a corporation offers Hobby Lobby legal shielding from lawsuits and debt that small proprietor’s don’t have? Because a corporation is, in fact, legally different from a small proprietor?

That same issue is part of what makes Alito’s majority opinion a bad one. As noted in the Edroso post, Alito states that corporations don’t have a legal existence apart from their owners: “Corporations, ‘separate and apart from’ the human beings who own, run, and are employed by them, cannot do anything at all.”

Yet if Hobby Lobby gets sued, the law clearly says that the corporation (or any other) clearly does have a separate existence. If the company can’t pay the lawsuit or settle its debts, the owners don’t make up the difference (there are legal exceptions that pierce the corporate shield, but they’re exceptions). Unlike a sole proprietor (either McArdle, despite years of writing about economics, never learned this, or she is fudging the facts somewhat).

It’s not all about McArdle, of course. Edroso also catches a libertarian explaining the solution is to dump Obamacare and “unleash market forces to lower soaring costs without resorting to price controls or rationing” Because, of course, market forces did such an awesome job picking up the 40 million uninsured Americans around prior to Obamacare. And if people can’t afford to pay for the medical treatment they need, libertarians and conservatives won’t count that as rationing.

While I’ve never agreed with libertarians, years ago I had a certain respect for them. Their position usually ran that yes, in a completely unregulated market, bad things will happen but in the long run, it works out. I don’t believe that an unregulated market will work out well for most people, but at least that view acknowledged some people would get screwed. Now “unleash market forces” is like magic: Bad results? People losing out? Don’t be silly, everyone’s getting a pony.

Someone in the comments also pointed out the Hobby Lobby situation is precisely the bogeyman opponents of Obamacare raised when the bill was going through Congress: What if the government appoints some panel that won’t let your doctor give you the treatment you want? As common with libertarians, if it’s a business that does the same thing, that’s fine.
On the same topic:

•Ruth Bader Ginsberg is much less confident than Alito the genie of a universal religious exemption can be kept in the bottle. Here are some points from her dissent.

•Scott Lemieux looks at the argument the birth-control requirement imposes an unreasonable burden on Hobby Lobby.

•Digby wonders why Hobby Lobby feels it’s morally complicit in its employees using birth control—after all, gun stores aren’t usually considered complicit in shootings?

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Hobby Lobby triumphant and other links

By this time you’ve probably heard that Hobby Lobby won its Supreme Court case (and I notice from the old link that Dahlia Lithwick predicted the vote breakdown). The significant points being, according to Samuel Alito (writing the majority opinion) it doesn’t matter whether IUDs and other birth control are actually abortifacents as long as Hobby Lobby sincerely believes they are; the government can and should work around this by paying for birth control directly; the ruling only applies to “closely held corporations”; and this ruling only applies to religious objections to contraception and specifically isn’t granting the same right to people who object to vaccination, blood transfusions or other medical treatments.
As noted in this linkpost, Lithwick’s discussion, Daily Beast and Slate, closely-held corporations employ around 60 million people so this could affect millions. And it’s entirely possible that Ruth Bader Ginsberg is right in her dissent: Alito can assert this is narrowly tailored as much as he wants, but he doesn’t really offer a logical reason it can’t apply elsewhere. And while he also says flat-out it can’t be used to justify racial discrimination, he pointedly doesn’t bring up discriminating against women or gays (you know, the unserious kind of discrimination).
So very sexist, and potentially worse is in the wings. In other news …

Meriam Ibrahim of Sudan was condemned to death for being Christian when her father was Muslim. At Slacktivist, Fred Clark points out not only are laws that cripple religious freedom this way wrong, they’re bad for the faith they’re supposedly protecting: If everyone’s forced to stay in Islam by law, are they truly faithful?

•The Prime Minister of Morocco sounds a lot like an American conservative in insisting the world is better off if women stay at home. Echidne looks at his speech here.

•The Supreme Court shoots down Massachusetts’ buffer zone around abortion clinics.

•LGM justifiably mocks a pundit who finds a new reason to object to minimum-wage increases, taxes on high earners and protecting the environment—those ideas are from the sixties! How dated! The Republicans are the ones with fresh ideas! Which is a fair point, if you ignore political paranoia about the UN that I was reading as a tween (that’s a looooong time ago) and an enthusiasm for 1800s economics and women staying home. Yes, all that stuff is very fresh.

•And to prove that having new ideas isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, we have Kevin Williamson arguing that if the Affordable Care Act can make people replace bad health insurance with better policies, why can’t the government force everyone in shitty towns to move to San Francisco?

Rape apologist Rod Dreher is shocked, shocked and appalled that “Vice President Joe Biden declared Tuesday that protecting gay rights is a defining mark of a civilized nation and must trump national cultures and social traditions,” adding that “The mark of a civilized nation. Well. Let it be noted that as far as the Obama administration is concerned, traditional Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are vestiges of barbarism.”
Actually, no. The White House didn’t say “silencing people who condemn gays,” it said “protecting gay rights” (Dreher makes it clear he doesn’t see a difference). Sounds fair to me. And it’s not as if “Christianity” as a body condemns gays—plenty of churches and individual Christians support gay rights (I assume the same is true of Judaism and Islam, but I don’t know).
And frankly this sounds way too close to the logic used in defense of slavery and segregation: It’s our culture, it’s our tradition, are you saying we’re uncivilized, that’s a slur on my honor!

•At least one VP at General Motors may have known about the Chevy Cobalt’s defective ignition switches (they can turn off when you don’t want them to) nine years ago.

•A company with an app that lets drivers auction off parking (you’re ready to pull out, see what someone will pay you to wait until they get there) says it will fight San Francisco, which has told the company it can’t make a profit off public parking.

•The new Six Strikes copyright-protection system is supposed to reduce lawsuits and the threat of them. Some copyright trolls apparently hope to use it to find more people to see.


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To bigotry no sanction

My new And column went up today, on religious freedom. No, it went in too late to react to the Hobby Lobby decision today.

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Never mind rape victims, George Will’s the one who’s being persecuted!

As I mentioned earlier this month, George Will has a simple explanation for the growing number of reported campus rapes. It’s the hookup culture plus the fact colleges have made it so cool to claim you were raped: “when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.”
Will does not explain what he thinks the privileges are—a slot on the next Bachelorette? They all get a pony? The men they accuse will be castrated without trial? Possibly he’s just playing the standard right-wing theme that any minority who claims to be persecuted is playing “the victim card.” (much like sexual harassment is something lawyers made up).
Or maybe it’s just the standard rape-apologist claim that rape is what women cry when they’ve had sex and decide they wish they hadn’t, only updated with references to hookups. And if a slut goes around having casual sex, well
Echidne points out what a line of bull this is and also links to Will’s defense (this is a quote from the video, whichI should admit I haven’t watched): “indignation is the default position of certain people in civic discourse. They go from a standing start to fury in about 30 seconds. I think it has something to do with the internet… it erased the barriers of entry to public discourse — that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, the downside of this — there’s a downside to everything — is that, among the barriers of entry that have been reduced, is you don’t have to be able to read, write, or think. You can just come in and shout and call names and carry on.”
Yes, because writing about the “coveted status” of rape victims certainly doesn’t indicate a lack of thought. Or name-calling. He sounds a lot like some anti-gay pundits who feel that saying gays are anti-God, anti-Jesus and possibly pedophiles is part of a perfectly reasonable discussion; it’s when people criticize them and say they’re narrow-minded bigots that things are getting over the top.
Just bite me, Mr. Will.
•Aero warns that the ruling against its TV-antenna service is bad, bad, bad for the tech industry. A Slate columnist agrees.
•LGM on another Supreme Court ruling, regarding recess appointments.
•Johan Goldberg is shocked that people on the left think Dick Cheney and other Bush cabinet members have discredited themselves as experts on Iraq. He actually has one good point, that some of the members of Obama’s administration supported the war, so are they discredited from opinions too?
But then he goes on to explain that he still thinks the Iraq War was right—the arguments for going in were better than the arguments against, even though “against” turns out to be right (he does his best to make it sound like the fact the arguments were wrong were irrelevant). And the current problems aren’t because we invaded a country we didn’t have to invade, they’re because Obama actually pulled out when the Iraqis wanted us to! The fool! Doesn’t he know that our invasion was justified purely by our right to take smaller, weaker countries and destroy them to show our power (Goldberg did not say that in this column, but he has said in the past. So remember, that’s all the argument he needed).
•A company that tried to fine a couple for criticizing them in a review has to pay up $300,000.
•Washington state tries to distinguish edible marijuana products from candy.
•Should hospitals use information from data brokers to track our health?

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The Total Woman

Defeating the Dragons does a regular feature where blogger Samantha Field looks at various Christian how-to-submit and how-to-be-a-real-women books written for Christian women. Frequently when I read them I think of the first book of this type I ever encountered, Marabel Morgan’s The Total Woman.
This book came out around 1973, in the early years of second-wave feminism (as it’s now called). It hit like a bomb: Best-seller (IIRC) with features in magazines and newspapers because what Morgan was saying flew in the face of everything feminists were saying (this no longer surprises me. As Susan Faludi has said, the mainstream media love them some antifeminism).
In the intro to the book, Morgan explains how her marriage was a disaster, primarily because she was too damn uppity. Her husband came and dumped stuff on the table she’d just polished? She got upset. He made plans that conflicted with plans she’d already made? He got outraged at her defiance. At one point he apparently told her he’d notify her 30 minutes ahead of time when they were going out, no sooner. Which would, of course, make it impossible for her to plan anything without talking to him first.
Morgan’s conclusion? Not that her husband is a jerk, but that she’d ruined her marriage. Her solution? Obey him in everything. Literally. No matter what he asks, she would do whatever he said. Along with that, she’d give him lots of sex, and dress up in sexy costumes to greet him at the door after work.
Within a short while, or so Morgan says, he was eating out of her hand. Which was, quite clearly, the point: She was submitting, but it was like topping from below. Over and over, the book emphasized that if readers follow Morgan’s directions, it’s not really a sacrifice because their husbands will be so in love they’ll be willing to do what the wife wants.
A lot of the book was much more conventional, like making a to-do list with your top things to do, then crossing off each item as it’s done (I’m aware that sound simple but if you’re not by nature organized, it’s remarkably effective. I speak from experience). Some of the book was religious (believe God has a wonderful plan for your life) which didn’t seem significant then. I realize in hindsight Morgan was a forerunner of the writers Samantha blogs about, and much more religious than I assumed at the time (this may reflect growing up in a small, fairly rural town where God having a plan for your life wasn’t an unusual idea).
Even as a teenager, Morgan’s idea of a perfect relationship didn’t appeal to me at all. Less now, as I’m aware that no matter how well a woman treats her husband, that’s no guarantee he’s going to change his behavior accordingly. And that if your husband is abusive, it’s nothing to do with whether you worship and obey him or not.
I’m also aware, though not surprised, that Morgan didn’t follow her own advice or at least not after a while. In a follow-up when she had another book out, she admitted she hadn’t had the time in her busy career to dress up in costumes to greet her man. Which is pretty typical of anti-feminists (Susan Faludi writes about this too in her book Backlash).
Morgan, as far as I know, has faded from the public eye. But her philosophy, it seems, lives on.

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Guard the phone! (and other links)

The Supreme Court announced today that police searching a suspect can’t search his cellphone without a warrant. The rationale is that given the amount of personal information on our phones, it’s closer to searching a computer or a house than just frisking a person’s pockets. More here.
•The Supreme Court also ruled that Aero—the company that planned to offer broadcast TV over the Internet without paying cable-type fees—would be breaking the law if it went ahead. So it looks like the company is done for. However it sounds like the ruling stopped short of making a more general ruling that might have threatened various cloud services.
•Are massive salaries for college presidents a good thing?
•A college professor claims his college’s decision not to apply for a Koch Foundation grant is suppression of free speech.

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Impeachment and more! Political links

You’ll be fascinated to know that among other things, Obama recovering that Taliban prisoner is grounds for impeachment. Of course if he hadn’t recovered the guy, I imagine that would have been grounds too.
•A new ruling on patent law from the Supreme Court, and what it might mean in practice.
•GE Capital gives back $225 million to consumers because of questionable business practices regarding fees and credit-card protection plans.
•Pick-up artists and wannabes love their evolutionary psychology.
•A woman kidnaps her two year old daughter from her ex-husband to save her from vaccination.
•The FCC is looking into data bottlenecks imposed by Internet providers on companies such as Netflix.
•There are a number of companies suing people who download bootleg porn. There are now sites fighting the more extreme “copyright trolls” and now one porn company has labelled an anti-trolling site as a hate group.
•Blogger Roy Edroso has often said that when conservatives talk about free speech they mean “why can’t I say the N-word?” And wouldn’t you know, that’s exactly what Glen Beck says the “thought police” are doing.
•No, employers cannot force employees to accept food as wages.
•Cheese frequently upsets regulators because making it involves bacteria. The FDA is concerned about bacteria on wooden boards used in cheese-making but says it’s not banning the boards.
•London is dealing with a real-estate market catering to investors rather than homebuyers. Prices are going up, but fewer people can afford to live there.
Destin Florida, where I used to work, had the same concern: Prices were so high, living in Destin was for tourists, second-home owners, rental-home owners and well-off retirees, not people who worked there. And a city where most property owners aren’t full-time residents becomes a ghost city.
•Yes, debtors prison still exists in practice.
•What does the Supreme Court’s new EPA/greenhouse gas decision mean?
•San Francisco says drivers can’t take money to save their parking spot for someone else.
•Viacom and Cablevision are going to court over the practice of content providers (Viacom in this case) requiring cable companies take several unwanted channels to get the good ones. Of course, as noted at the link, that’s no guarantee we’ll be given the same option, even if Cablevision wins.

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Secularism will destroy us all (and other political links)

This look at the Becket Fund, a legal group that works on religious freedom cases, is quite interesting. I know them mostly from their right wing work (they’re advocating for Hobby Lobby in the current court case) so it’s interesting they’ve championed Muslims and others not so popular with the religious right.
What really leapt out at me was a statement late in the article that while the group’s founder believes in freedom of religion that doesn’t include non-religion: “The fight is now between people who believe in something and people who believe in precisely nothing. They are nihilists, and this is a threat that is simply unprecedented.”
The equation of secularists with people who believe in nothing is an old one, and complete bullshit. Not believing in God is not the same as believing in nothing or having no moral precepts. Rather than take time for a logical deconstruction, I’ll just throw in the words of Robert Ingersoll, the “great agnostic” of the 19th century: “Secularism teaches us to be good here and now. I know nothing better than goodness. Secularism teaches us to be just here and now. It is impossible to be juster than just. Secularism has no ‘castles in Spain.’ It has no glorified fog. It depends upon realities, upon demonstrations; and its end is to make this world better every day — to do away with poverty and crime, and to cover the world with happy and contented homes.
And frankly I’d opt for a secularist any day over a man who equates the fight against gay marriage to the fight against slavery. Not that he’s the first to do it, but it’s still repulsive and illogical. Particularly coming from the guy who thinks Biblical injunctions on slaves obeying their masters apply to employees.
•And then we have this gentleman, who thinks God is against beards. If beards weren’t wrong, why would men of honor object to them?—which seems the same as saying “The fact I oppose beards proves they must be sinful!” (Discussion at Slacktivist)
•A pagan temple in Beebe, Ark. discovers that no matter what they do, they can’t get the permits to open.
•Echidne looks at a recent survey finding more mothers are staying home and not working.
•Some Republicans says Obama has lost everything we gained in Iraq. A veteran responds that we gained absolutely zero.
•A new study indicates that people self-segregate into communities with similar politics. Roy Edroso looks at some libertarians who suggest this is all the more reason for shrinking the federal government, so that we don’t have to live under federal laws we don’t like.
Edroso’s commenters point out the flaws in this (like one of the primary historical reasons for segregation has been racial), but I’ll add one more: Who are these people who are perfectly happy to let the rest of the country run freely on its own way as long as their community does its own thing? I’m not: If some town enforces racial segregation or refuses to sell houses to Jews, I don’t think everyone in the community agreeing (assuming they do) justifies it, or that it should be up to local levels. And there’s no sign that conservatives who proclaim their belief in federalism really support it when it works against them. Rick Santorum, for instance, has no problem with saying that yes, he wants smaller government, but no, of course that doesn’t mean letting states decide their own gay marriage policies (because it’s wrong! Just like slavery!)
•On the merits of owning guns for self defense
•Dick Cheney says Obama’s been more wrong about Iraq than any president in history. A Fox News host points out Cheney is hardly in a position to claim that: “Time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well in Iraq, sir. You said there was no doubt Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. You said we would be greeted as liberators. You said the insurgency was in its last throes back in 2005, and you said that after our intervention, extremists would have to ‘rethink their strategy of jihad.’ Now, with almost a trillion dollars spent there, with almost 4,500 American lives lost there, what do you say to those who say you were so wrong about so much at the expense of so many?”

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Undead Sexist Cliche: American feminists have it so good, why do they complain?

This is a cliche that crops up a lot on the right: Western women have it easy. Nothing like the women in Saudi Arabia. Or the kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria. Or the militant ISIS group telling Iraqi women not to leave the house.

So when you look at stuff like that around the world, isn’t it pathetic that American feminazis think they’re oppressed? Oooh, maybe they don’t get paid enough! Oh, maybe some guy flattered them and they complain they’re harassed! Or some women in comics are written too sexploitative! How shallow feminists are to waste their time complaining about that shit when other women in the world experience real suffering.

This is not, I should note, unique to the left. Flying Close to the Sun, Cathy Wilkerson’s memoir of her time with the SDS and the Weather Underground in the 1960s, emphasizes how when Wilkerson and other leftist women brought up “women’s liberation” (as the term was back then), they’d be mansplained that it was absurd to think the problems of women compared to the problems of the Vietnamese, black Americans, etc. So feminism went to the back of the bus.

The obvious flaw in this argument is that American feminists have written and protested plenty about the rights of women in the third world. Ms. magazine covered the Taliban when they weren’t on anyone’s radar. The only time I see conservatives bring up those issues is when they can use them to bash Muslims or feminists (of course I don’t read every conservative magazine and website, so it’s quite possible some right-winger out there has brought it up). But I do remember when one UN conference considered condemning honor killing and similar customs as unacceptable, even when tradition and custom says its OK, one American conservative women’s group (sent to the conference by the Bush 2 administration) objected: Why, that’s like saying tradition and custom are bad!

I brought this up because of a related post by rape apologist Rebecca Cusey on Maleficent. It seems star Angelina Jolie intended the ripping off of Maleficent’s wings as a rape metaphor, part of her own campaign about the rights of women (or lack of same) in the third world. The article quotes Jolie as saying “We must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence—that the shame is on the aggressor … We need to shatter that impunity and make justice the norm, not the exception, for these crimes … I have met survivors from Afghanistan to Somalia and they are just like us, with one crucial difference: We live in safe countries, with doctors we can go to when we’re hurt, police we can turn to when we’re wronged and institutions that protect us.”

If that’s not taken out of context, I strongly disagree with Jolie’s sunny view that women can count on our institutions to protect us. Sometimes, not even 14 year olds. Yes, it’s better here than Saudi Arabia, but the US is not a “safe country.”

But for Cusey, Jolie is a breath of fresh air into the stuffy feminazi cloisters, ready to “talk about rape, but not in the Western-centric, man-blaming, feminist-professor way of the chattering classes.” Instead of criticizing men for rape, “‘Maleficent’ baffles victim-centric American feminists because instead of merely a story of victimhood or vengeance, it goes beyond both to become a story of rising above abuse and choosing to be better.”

So the message Cusey wants to take is what, women should just rise above such trivialities as prosecuting rapists? Or turning to police? Maybe accept the rape as God’s gift? Is she trying to imply, like George Will, that in America, it’s all the woman’s fault?

Or is she trying to equate actually prosecuting rapists with what Maleficent does in the movie? Because in the movie, Maleficent’s response is to target her rapist/wing-destroyer’s daughter, not the man himself, which is why she has to choose to be better: What she does is unfair and evil. Would Cusey say the same if, say, Jolie had directly gone after her attacker (who after call comes to a bad end—it’s not like he gets off with forgiveness)?
I’m not sure I want to know.

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War? What is it good for? Republicans, maybe

As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of right-wingers are fine with government spending like there’s no tomorrow, as long as it’s on war. So it’s no surprise that a lot of right-wingers are all excited about the need to go into Iraq and save it. And it’ll be totally different from the last time they pushed that. The linked Village Voice article shows another point I’ve made, that no amount of failure can discredit a pundit: Everyone in our out of the Bush White House who said Iraq would be a cakewalk is being treated as if they know what they’re talking about.
And as Roy Edroso says here, we spent 10 years in Iraq. What could staying longer possibly accomplish?
•Though admittedly this makes me wish we did have an effective option. Of course, Saudi Arabia’s horrendously sexist but as they’re our ally, I know our leaders will never come down on their theocratic regime (as former Bush White House official Paul Wolfowitz once said, one of the reasons for invading Iraq was that with Saddam gone, we could remove troops from Saudi Arabia which reduced pressure on the government).
•Consumerist looks at the growing number of auto recalls.
•The Supreme Court will decide when ranting about killing your ex constitutes an actual threat.
Slacktivist links to this analysis of David Brat’s writing (the guy who just beat Eric Cantor) which claims capitalism leads logically to Calvinism and that Christians should be more open to people they’re excluded—that is, liberals need to embrace capitalists and be nice to them (keep in mind this is coming from a guy who ran on an anti-immigrant platform). Oh, and it seems he got his professorial gig because someone paid the college to hire Brat to teach Randian philosophy in economics.
•Contrary to rape apologist George Will, rape victims aren’t eager to bask in their “coveted status.”
•A car backfires. Police, assuming it’s gunfire, shoot the occupants after a chase involving 63 officers (this is from last year but I only just heard about it).
•One company forces workers to follow the owners’ religion.
•Apparently a new book uses quizzes like this to figure out our political affiliation. Because the question of whether you’d prefer to watch a monster truck rally over pro wrestling is certainly deeply revealing. This chart on whether you’re a high-brow or low-brow (for 1949) is actually more thoughtful (possibly because it’s not entirely serious).
•A California school learns asking for essays on whether the Holocaust was real is not a good choice for a “critical thinking” exercise.
•Slate looks at a California court’s decision to gut tenure on the dubious grounds it will attract more teachers to poor schools.
•CEO compensation keeps going up.
•David Brooks claims democracy doesn’t work because it’s not resulting in policies he likes. Paul Krugman responds.
•If headlines treated women like people …
•A Fortune writer says it’s soooo boring when people talk about income inequality.
•A Republican claims falsely that the IUD is an abortifacent. His defense of his error: He’s not a doctor!

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