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333 weeks ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - Toleration: As America... · 0 replies · +1 points

Why should an employer get to decide what health benefits an employee gets to use?

Because, in this case, it violates the employer's religious beliefs.

A corporation cannot have religious beliefs.

We have a family-run business, organized as a corporation, all of whose owners share the same religious values. I think it's very reasonable to say that such a corporation has religious beliefs. Things are different in a publicly held corporation with a diverse collection of shareholders.

Regardless of whether we view the corporation as having religious beliefs, it is certainly true that the business owners do.

An administration that respected religious differences could have (at the very least) provided a waiver.

333 weeks ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - Toleration: As America... · 0 replies · +1 points

For reference, the Federal statute:

There isn't any language in the Federal statute that specifies private life or that excludes for-profit enterprises. Here's what it says:

Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b) of this section.

This all hangs on what we mean by "person." Definitions are given in the so-called "Dictionary Act."

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise—

. . . .

the words “person” and “whoever” include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals;

If Congress had indeed wanted to narrow the scope of the bill to include only individuals, they would have made it explicit. The Indiana law makes explicit what is implicit in the Federal Law. Maybe it's because they don't have a similar dictionary statute, I'm not sure.

333 weeks ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - Free trade, Pareto imp... · 0 replies · +1 points

Let's put aside for a moment the question of whether maximizing efficiency necessarily maximizes overall benefit to society, and the question of how much an economic model that assumes a make-believe fairyland where all actors behave rationally and have perfect information can be applied to the real world. Let's imagine that both of these are true.

Does setting up a "free trade" pact actually promote free trade? Let's say we eliminate all the tariffs, import quotas, and so forth between two countries. Inside each country, there isn't going to be free trade: we'll have safety regulations, labor rules, environmental regulations, farm subsidies, a public sector funded by the taxpayers.

Does removing tariff barriers between two entities, neither one of which has an economy based on free trade, bring us closer to the ideal of free trade?

333 weeks ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - Toleration: As America... · 0 replies · 0 points

I don't think people are motivated by hatred as much as you would have it.

In the last election, Republicans improved their standing with Hispanics and with Asians. (And with Whites, too, by the way.) The Dems got 62% of the Hispanic vote, which was comparable to the GOP's 60% of the white vote. And the GOP got almost half of the Asian vote.

Whether this trend continues, we will see. IA lot will depend on their choice of candidate in 2016.

Blacks are firmly in the Democratic camp, and the GOP has mostly written them off. I can't say that's a bad strategy.

333 weeks ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - Toleration: As America... · 4 replies · 0 points

Mr. Washington's letter is in the public domain, so it's not hard to find a copy that isn't hiding behind a paywall. Here's one:

In response to a 1990 Supreme Court ruling in the matter of Employment Division v. Smith, which denied unemployment benefits to a member of the Native American Church who was fired from his job for using peyote in a ritual setting, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to correct what they saw as an infringement of religious liberty. People really believed in religious freedom in those days, so much that the bill passed unanimously in the House and 97 to 3 in the Senate and signed by President Bill Clinton.

Just last year, in Indiana, there was a bill that attempted to do that at the state level. The state bill was modeled after the earlier Federal bill and the differences were quite minor. If you supported one, you really ought to support the other. There were a bunch of big corporations I’m sure many of the readers of this blog have read about this bill.

A very, very low bar for liberals to jump over is to support the Indiana bill. If you can’t support that, you’re not much of a liberal. Where were the Democrats on this one? Why couldn’t Obama, after all his flowery speeches about religious diversity, speak out in favor of this very modest, very benign Indiana bill? I can’t find any important Democratic figures who offered a word of support.

The Republicans did much better, with most of the presidential contenders speaking out in favor of the bill.

Liberals are not welcome in today’s Democratic Party. You can call yourself a liberal, but you’d better not speak out in favor of any kind of liberal polity. This is all of a piece with the Hobby Lobby case, where the Obama Administration insisted that the closely held corporation provide insurance for certain contraceptives, contrary to their religious objections.

344 weeks ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - Non sequitur · 0 replies · +2 points

Well written, maybe, but poorly argued. The historians are attacking a straw man. Instead of arguing against the traditionalist point of view, as set forth in the Sixth Circuit opinion, they set up a caricature.

NOBODY is saying that forming families is the only social function of marriage, just that it’s the most important one, and the reason why marriage has been protected by the state. Of course there are other functions.

And of course the failure to produce offspring does not make a marriage invalid. The purpose of marriage is not to procreate per se, but rather to increase the likelihood that any offspring produced will be taken care of by their biological mother and father, which is ordinary circumstances what is best for the child. Back in the old days, it was not scandalous for a married couple to be childless. Having children without being married was not good. And everybody understood that was because a child was best off being raised by his mother and father.

The brief also mentions adoption as an exception. Adopted parents are indeed considered by the law to be treated exactly the same as biological parents. However, it has always been seen that adoption is not ideal, but a remedy for a tragic loss. Adopted kids have problems that their classmates do not. Separation trauma is seen in both the child and the birth mother. Many of them have a great yearning to find their natural parents.

The institution of marriage has changed over time and varies from one culture to another. However, the essential elements have remained fairly constant. We join together a man and a woman, who have the rights and responsibilities of being the child’s father and mother, respectively. It has always been recognized that there is something special about biological kinship, about one’s own flesh and blood.

Some courts are finding this traditional view -- despite its universal acceptance across cultures and across time – to have no rational basis. In other words, it was only a few years ago that human beings acquired the ability to think rationally. To say that such a position is arrogant is a colossal understatement.

One of the most basic of human rights is the right of a child, under normal circumstances, to be taken care of by its biological parents. This right is foundational to our family law, and is recognized internationally in the Universal Declaration of Rights of the Child and the Convention on Rights of the Child, and more obliquely in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In order to conclude that the traditional view of marriage has no rational basis, courts must affirm that this most basic of children’s rights is not important.

344 weeks ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - The GOP's political in... · 0 replies · +1 points

And where were Bill and Hillary Clinton? If the 2016 GOP candidates were wrong for not showing up, why not mention the absence of the 2016 Democratic Party front-runner? Jimmy Carter and the two George Bushes were there, so the only living ex-president not to make it there was a Democrat.

You mention the liberal Republicans who supported the civil rights struggle. Back in those days, being a liberal was synonyomous with supporting the civil rights movement. There were other issues, but that was the big one: if you supported the civil rights movement, you were a liberal; if you didn't, you weren't.

By that standard, almost everybody is a liberal. Mitt Romney is a liberal. George W. Bush is a liberal. Maybe not Rand Paul. Jim Crow is dead, and nobody wants to bring him back. Nobody questions whether blacks should be able to vote, most people would be offended if some greasy spoon wanted to deny service to persons with the wrong skin color. Not that it's the only metric to use, but George W. Bush appointed more black cabinet secretaries than any other president except Bill Clinton.

Of course, today the term liberal is used differently.

Republicans are enacting voter-ID laws, ostensibly for the purpose of reducing fraud, but probably also for the purpose of making it require more effort to vote, which would work to their advantage. I don't know if this is smart politics or not. Democrats have put forward policies (Clinton's motor-voter law, for example) to make it easier to vote, also offering a high-minded-sounding rationale. Suggesting that voter-ID laws have anything to do with what was going on in the Jim Crow South is demagoguery.

Republicans get the majority of votes from White Christians, and Democrats win most other groups, but blacks (when they actually make it to the polls) are the biggest supporters of the Democrats by far. Often, Republicans choose to write off the black vote.

376 weeks ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - Pub Quiz · 0 replies · +1 points

I guessed 1 and 4 were the fakes, but it was just a blind stab in the dark for both of them. They all sounded plausible to me.

Ed Wood's films are bad, but they're bad in an interesting way. And despite the huge faults, there's a quality to his films that is compelling, an emotional power, a distinctive vision. There's a reason people watch "Plan 9* or *Glen or *Glenda* other than just to laugh at how bad they are.

380 weeks ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - Godly hobbies and lobbies · 5 replies · +1 points

In their brief, the respondents are claiming that their desire to provide health insurance for their employees is religiously MOTIVATED. What they’re not saying (and what you seem to want them to say) is that their religion REQUIRES them to provide insurance. Those are two separate things. I had a friend who was Roman Catholic, and whenever he went to McDonald’s on Friday he got the Filet-o-Fish sandwich. He had a religious motivation, but his religion did not REQUIRE him to abstain from meat on that day.

Also, and maybe more to the point, is that this bit about the health insurance being religiously motivated wasn’t part of their argument. It is presented as part of the “Factual Background.” The argument, which is presented in a later section of the brief, does not stand or fall based on whether their decision to provide health insurance for their employees is religiously motivated.

I don’t think it’s very precise to say that “medical opinion” says that the four disputed birth-control methods are contraceptives rather than abortifacients. It’s medical terminology. The botanist says that the squash is a fruit, while the cook tells me that the squash is a vegetable.

Contraception is defined as the prevention of conception. I checked several medical dictionaries, and they all seem to agree that “conception” can mean either (a) fertilization or (b) implantation. Implantation is what conventionally marks the beginning of a pregnancy.

However, if you take conception to mean fertilization, then any methods that prevent an already fertlized egg from being implanted would not properly be considered contraception. A reasonable term for these methods would be an abortifacient. There is nothing about this view that is contrary to science; it follows logically from science and from certain metaphysical suppositions.

If you think that a fertilized egg has the moral status of a human being (I don’t, but I understand that some people do) then you must see a very serious problem with paying for these methods of birth control.

The question about whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) covers corporations is a pretty simple one. According to the Dictionary Act:

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise . . . the words “person” and “whoever” include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals;

It’s Congress who said that a corporation is a person, not some judge. If you think it’s silly that a corporation can be considered a person, don’t blame the judges.

Does RFRA apply to corporations? Well, there’s nothing in the text of RFRA to suggest otherwise, so the most straightforward reading of it (following the Dictionary Act) would be that it does. If Congress had wanted to exclude corporations, they could have done so explicitly.

Following the principle that the best way to understand what a law says is to read it, the most reasonable interpretation is that Congress, when they passed RFRA, meant it to apply to corporations such as Hobby Lobby.

381 weeks ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - Weekend Film Recommend... · 0 replies · +1 points

I liked the 1940 Howard Hawks film *His Girl Friday,* starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, more than the 1931 film "The Front Page*, although I'm not sure if that counts as a remake of the first film rather than a second adaptation of a stage play. The 1940 film changed one of the main characters, Hildy Johnson, from a man into a woman.

As for movies that were better than the novel they were based on, let me nominate Sam Peckinpah's 1971 masterpiece *Straw Dogs*, which was based on the Gordon Williams 1969 novel *The Siege of Trencher's Farm*.