July 5, 2014

Using Amazon's "Popular Highlights" feature to see whether the books people bought are actually getting read.

"Every book's Kindle page lists the 5 passages most highlighted by readers," notes Jordan Ellenberg in The Wall Street Journal. If the highlights come from all over the book or near the end, it suggests people are actually reading it. When the highlights all come from the beginning, they probably are not.

Ellenberg — who's a UW-Madison math prof — does some calculations and declares that the most unread book of the summer is Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the Twenty-First Century":
Mr. Piketty's book is almost 700 pages long, and the last of the top five popular highlights appears on page 26.

At the Blue Sky Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

How should Obama respond to Hobby Lobby and Wheaton College?

Now that the Supreme Court has shown how seriously it intends to take RFRA-based demands for exemptions to contraception coverage, Obama has many things to consider. As the NYT puts it, he's going to pay attention to getting no-added-copay contraception to women. But there's also the politics:
Still, the administration has another motivation to act as quickly as possible: It is eager to court the votes of women dismayed by the rulings. The Democratic National Committee is already urging voters to fight back against the Hobby Lobby decision and to “stand up for Obamacare” in the November elections.
Of course, political advantage will be taken. This issue is served up nicely for Democrats. What can Republicans do? Personally, I recommend that the federal government directly pay for all birth control. Take the employers, all employers, out of the process of funding birth control and make it a straightforward public health program.

You know, we ought to be glad that women control their reproductive function to the extent that they do. We can't force women to use birth control. We should at least facilitate the voluntary behavior that benefits all of us. It's ridiculous that we've stumbled into a position where this perfectly wholesome governmental policy is bedeviling religious people.

Behind that "Hillary Clinton Says She’s Donated All University Speaking Fees" headline.

I didn't bother clicking through when I saw that running as the top headline all day yesterday. It was the 4th of July, and when I think of the 4th of July, I don't wonder what's the latest on the Clintons. But now it's the 5th of July, and that headline — which has left quite the impression by now — is still reigning atop Memeorandum.

Finally reading it, I'm irritated at Hillary and outraged at the new media outlets who put the headline in that form, which is missing the fact that flips the story: Hillary Clinton donates the money to her own foundation.

Here's the ABC News piece under the headline quoted above:
“All of the fees have been donated to the Clinton Foundation for it to continue its life-changing and life-saving work. So it goes from a foundation at a university to another foundation,” Clinton said when asked about the criticism she and her husband have faced recently for their wealth.
What is her salary from the foundation? How much of her expenses are covered by family foundation money? How many members of her family make salaries from that foundation? To what extent is the foundation an income tax dodge? And didn't Hillary Clinton recently portray herself as not truly rich because she and Bill pay income tax on their money?

Taking from your foundation and putting it in my foundation... what a lovely, arrogant metaphor for a liberal's view of government! I can spend your money better than you can. The universities have money that they might spend to improve education for their students and to advance scholarship, but it could be shifted into the Clinton Foundation which does whatever it does, some charitable things that maintain and advance the Clintons' political fortunes. 

In my post about a "spurious teaser," I ended with a spurious teaser of my own.

The topic was a Women's Studies professor who gave extra credit to students who wore their body hair in a non-gender-normal way and wrote about their experience. Last line of the post:
Maybe you think body hair is too trivial of a topic to study at the college level, but I believe there is no more profound subject in human civilization than the female body. It is the central focus.
At the end of a long chain of comments, I'm seeing sojerofgod, who says:
Ann is right and all the rest of you bozos are wrong.

Ok, just kidding about the bozo part.

The truth everyone seems to be missing is that for the last 99.999% of the history of Man, women have been the focus of civilization for a very simple reason: No women = No future.

July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July!







All photos by Meade, taken tonight in Boulder, Colorado.

"Yay! Life!"


"Got Mead."


Seen in the last few days in Boulder, Colorado.

"University Offers Female Students Extra Credit For Not Shaving Armpits."

There's a spurious teaser at Drudge, and it goes to a Campus Reform headline that's virtually the same: "University offers female students extra credit for not shaving their armpits." In the interest of brevity, Drudge trusted us not to picture female students shaving other people's armpits.

So did female students really get extra credit for not shaving their armpits, and did male students not get an equivalent extra credit offer? No and no.

The extra credit assignment was to do something nonconformist with your body hair as an experiment and to write about it. Not shaving armpits and — I take it — displaying those hairy armpits to see if people shun you or make remarks is what the females had to do to transgress the gender norm. Actually, they also had to grow in their leg hair.

Male students had to something different to transgress the gender norm. They had shave all their body hair from the neck down and, again, write about it.

The professor, Arizona State University's Breanne Fahs, teaches in the area of Women and Gender Studies and her writings include material specifically about body hair:
Breaking body hair boundaries: Classroom exercises for challenging social constructions of the body and sexuality. Feminism & Psychology.

Shaving it all off: Examining social norms of body hair among college men in a women’s studies course. Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal.
Is there something wrong with her assignment? You might think it's a bad idea for students to put their scarce college time into courses on gender studies, but these were students who chose Fahs's course. Or is there a gender studies requirement? I observe that Arizona State has something called The School of Social Transformation. My point is: Once you've come this far, and you're in this women's studies class, do you have any real basis to object to what is only an optional assignment?

I could see some objection based on the variable difficulties of not shaving. Did the women get an easier assignment then the men? Did any students have religious scruples about the preservation or nonpreservation of body hair or about displaying the parts of the body that would need to be seen to prompt the reactions you needed to get to do the writing?

ADDED: Maybe you think body hair is too trivial of a topic to study at the college level, but I believe there is no more profound subject in human civilization than the female body. It is the central focus. 

"Who Are The Mysterious Forces Behind The 'Draft Mitt' Movement?"

A Talking Point Memo headline for a piece by Dylan Scott, who doesn't actually call anything "mysterious." We noticed Scott a couple weeks ago, writing under another TPM headline that caught my eye: "George Will's Rape Column Was Edited By A Bunch Of Men."

Scott's new piece fixates on the "Draft Mitt" website, which has only collected 28,000 names of Romney 2016 people, which is close to nothing.
But it's not nothing.

Which begs the question: Who's running this conservative (and low-budget) version of Ready for Hillary? That's the rub: Nobody seems to know.
Not nothing... begs the question (used incorrectly as usual) ... [There's] the rub... The clichés dribble out as Scott endeavors to make something out of virtually nothing.
Contacted by TPM via its Facebook page... an anonymous presence behind the site replied, saying the group "consists largely of former Romney campaign workers and donors."
But the site wouldn't disclose the names of these characters — or "forces" (to use TPM's word) — so I guess that's a bit "mysterious."

Back in April, we talked about rumors that Mitt Romney might run again. I said:
Why couldn't he win if he ran not because he was a sore loser and felt entitled or ambitious, but because he's a modest, dutiful man, called into service in a time of need?
Which is why the draft Romney step is helpful.
And take into account that the opposing candidate is quite likely to be Hillary Clinton, who was so much the front runner in '04 that her failure to get the nomination makes her seem like a previous loser, and that prior loss seems more loser-ish than Romney's 2012 loss, since Hillary was a frontrunner who got blindsided by an upstart, and Romney had an uphill battle against an incumbent. (And wouldn't Romney have won if he'd kept up the first debate aggressiveness in that second debate?)
I took a poll:

Best $10 bargain ever... purchased from the federal government.

Last night's "Snow on July 3rd" post had 3 photographs taken at the Rocky Mountain National Park. Here's one more, showing a boy standing on top of a cool rock formation near the highest point in the park.


It was the first time I'd gone to a national park since turning 62, the age at which you can purchase a lifetime pass — for you and everyone who's in the car with you — for $10. A regular day pass — per car — is $20. Thanks, federal government.

And, now, it's the 4th of July. Another beautiful day in the United States of America.

Snow on July 3rd.




July 3, 2014

"Clad in outfits fashioned from the football-sized leaves of the skunk cabbage plant..."

"... they play an odd medley of instruments—trombones, kazoos, pots and pans—as they march forward, then backward down Elk Avenue, the main street in this Rocky Mountain ski town...."
As the cacophony swells, they chant letters spelling out four words: "Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory."...

The tradition... began in the summer of 1984... Two students started it...

The point of the costumes was to "be risqué in a biological way. Veratrum is just the plant that's everywhere out here, and has big enough leaves to make it possible to wear," [said Ecology professor Dirk H. Van Vuren]....
The original manifestation of this costume concept was nakedness underneath. One of the 2 founding students said: "People started running up at the end and tearing our skirts off of us... People were wowed. That was the best time I ever had at a parade."

Don't let the word "skirts" make you picture a female getting her clothes ripped off, wowing others thereby, and proclaiming it a great time. That was a guy, and now he's got it in the Wall Street Journal that "people were wowed" at whatever they saw.

These days the parade is "more family friendly" and "people just kind of attach veratrum to whatever they're wearing."

There's also the "RMBL Forward-Backward Marching Band," originated in 1976 by biologist Nickolas Waser who was "cynical about the political scene, so I think it had an additional meaning of marching forward and backward into the third century of the U.S." They played things like the Mickey Mouse Club song ("Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me...."). You can see how that would make for a mockery of patriotism. That's how some people feel about the 4th of July, but we're told it's "more family friendly" now, and I don't know what that extends to other than having a bathing suit under your skunk cabbage garb.

"If congressional Republicans had even minimal institutional trust in the president, Mr. Obama would be able to assemble a majority to pass immigration reform."

"He can't, or won't, and so he rants. More than a few Americans watching parades pass by this weekend will recall that one man's whim as the way we make laws has no support in the U.S. Not now, not ever."

Writes Daniel Henninger in a Wall Street Journal piece. (If you don't have a subscription, google some of that text and you'll get in on a free pass.)

Henninger is more sanguine about Boehner's lawsuit than I am, but he is right, I think, to point to the Supreme Court's recent resistance to the expansion of executive power and to question what seems to be Obama's idea: If Congress won't give him want he wants, that justifies executive power to do what needs to be done.

"[My abortion] was too traumatic for me to make art of."

Writes Lisa Selin Davis, in a NYT "Private Lives" piece. Davis had "essentially majored in experimental feminist video" in college, believed she "could make art out of anything," and saw her unplanned pregnancy as "an opportunity."

But then she fails to have the camera running for the dramatic moment when her car service driver, on hearing that he's taking her to her abortion appointment, pulls the car over, on a bridge, in traffic, to say: "Don’t kill the baby."
“Keep driving! I have an appointment!” I shook his headrest. This was not part of the script.

“Please don’t kill the baby,” he said again, turning around to face me. He had beautiful big brown eyes — almost black. “I will take care of you and the baby. I work two jobs.”
We're told this man was "Middle Eastern."

But would she have wanted that scene in her movie? Later, she chose not to turn the camera on in the waiting room, she says, because the women there didn't fit her mental image. She hadn't planned for a baby, and she hadn't planned for "the saturnine cloudiness" of the waiting room and "all those sad-looking women burying their faces in tabloid magazines."

If they'd been reading The New Yorker, would it have had a more feminist vibe — more of a sense of informed, intelligent, autonomous individuals discovering and delineating the meaning of life for themselves?

Describing these women, Davis deadpans, "The video camera stayed sleeping in my lap," as if she could have filmed patients in a clinic waiting room if only they conveyed the message she'd hope to find.

The film prospects are also undercut by the need for general anesthesia. But the writing prospects remain, of course, and that's what we are reading.
The first thing I thought when I awoke from the anesthesia was that I’d never be pregnant again, that I had just squandered my only chance at motherhood.
That's quite a sentence, exposing her to the criticism that she's thinking only of herself. The lost child becomes the lost opportunity to be a mother. The pregnancy was an opportunity to make a feminist film, and with the opportunity to make the film disappointed, the writer shifts us forward to the new lost opportunity, motherhood.

Davis ends upbeat. We jump 20 years into the present, where she's "happily coupled with a wonderful man," and 2 daughters. She still supports abortion rights, but she wants women to know that having an abortion is brutal and traumatic.

I suspect that Davis got the idea to write this piece because of the recent attention to a film that did get made of a woman getting her abortion and presenting abortion in the cheerful, liberating way that had been Davis's original conception.

July 2, 2014

July landscape.

"I was a virgin to humiliation of that level, until that day" — the day the Starr Report came out — said Monica Lewinsky...

... in a TV interview yesterday.

If you're going with the "virgin" metaphor, I don't think you can have levels. You don't get to be a "virgin" at multiple levels. Unless she'd never been humiliated before — and did Bill Clinton not humiliate her? — then she was not a humiliation virgin at the point when Ken Starr released his dry, detailed descriptions of her interactions with Bill. But it is funny for someone who chose a lot of daring and transgressive sexual activities with our sexy President to attempt to con us into thinking that she lost her virginity to the snoopy prosecutor who enabled the President's constituents to visualize what she had done.

"We’re getting better, and we argue... That’s how we do science."

Said a climate scientist, provoking Instapundit to say: "Well, except climate science, where the models are already perfect, and anyone who argues is a Denier."

The first link goes to a NYT article about the solar cycle about a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research whose  computer model made 2 predictions about the sun cycle, the first of which happened, but the second did not.

Instapundit's post went up yesterday, a day when I, by chance, happened to be gazing upon the National Center for Atmospheric Research. I put up 4 photographs from our hike last evening, and the NCAR building, designed by I.M. Pei, was visible in the last photograph, and one commenter deemed it "some rocks," because there were rocks in the foreground, the rocks of Woods Quarry, some of which had been piled up at the edge of the cliff in what I took to be a reference to the NCAR architecture, which I took to be a reference to the rocks.

Here's a closer look at the architecture (which I loved, because of the way it seemed like an ancient stone monument that belonged in the landscape):

And here's another look at the piled rocks on the cliff, with the NCAR building in between:

Protecting religious freedom — we've seen our Supreme Court, now let's look at The European Court of Human Rights.

The NYT reports:
The European Court of Human Rights has upheld a ban imposed by France on the wearing of face-covering veils in public, rejecting arguments that the measure violates religious freedoms and bolstering opponents of strict Islamic dress in other parts of Europe....
In the United States, the question would be whether the government had a compelling interest that required this substantial burden on religion (at least under the current statutory law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act). The European court's statement explained its decision this way:
“While the court was aware that the disputed ban mainly affected certain Muslim women, it nevertheless noted that there was no restriction on the freedom to wear in public any item of clothing which did not have the effect of concealing the face and that the ban was not expressly based on the religious connotation of the clothing in question but solely on the fact that it concealed the face.”

The court also said it was “able to understand the view” that, in the interests of social cohabitation, the wearing of such face-covering veils might be perceived as thwarting “open interpersonal relationships, which, by virtue of an established consensus, formed an indispensable element of community life within the society in question.”

While opponents of the ban complained that it could exacerbate social tensions, the court’s statement concluded that the prohibition could “be regarded as proportionate to the aim pursued, namely the preservation of the conditions of ‘living together' ” in French society.

July 1, 2014

Today, July 1st. What we saw.

Why does Valerie Jarrett have a picture of herself with figurines of bowing men in front of it in her office?

Caught on "Meet the Press" camera.

Drudge is linking to that, at Buzzfeed.

I would guess that it was one of those office gifts that you keep on display to show you have a sense of humor. I'd rate it more self-deprecating than grandiose. If you really think you're a goddess you don't keep dopey junk like that around.

Unless you're hiding your goddesshood under a pretense of not thinking you're all that.

So many layers!

Watch the whole video at the link. She seems to like to think she's the equivalent of Karl Rove.

The Supreme Court grants cert. in a pregnancy discrimination case.

SCOTUSblog reports:

The difference between requiring a business to cover contraceptives for employees and barring it from committing acts of racial discrimination.

The dissenting opinion in Hobby Lobby and many sincere commentators worry that the Supreme Court's opinion could mean that the government won't be able to require businesses — if they cite a religious objection — to refrain from race discrimination and other acts that we, as a society, consider morally wrong and terribly harmful.

But the majority opinion makes a sharp, clear distinction that it's very important for people to understand before they accept the invitation to become inflamed over the horrible prospect of religious exemptions from laws that restrict businesses that are causing harm to others.

Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, when the federal government imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion, it must justify that burden by showing that it is the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling governmental interest. In Hobby Lobby, the compelling governmental interest is comprehensive preventive health care for women, and the majority said that requiring the employer to include coverage of all FDA-approved contraceptives in its health care plan was not the least restrictive way to to serve that interest. There are other ways the government could get the cost of contraceptives covered, ways that wouldn't rope in the employer.

So the government's interest could be served without imposing the burden on religion.

But when the government bans race discrimination, it is serving a compelling interest in banning race discrimination and there is no alternative way to achieve that end. From the majority opinion:
The Government has a compelling interest in providing an equal opportunity to participate in the workforce without regard to race, and prohibitions on racial discrimination are precisely tailored to achieve that critical goal.
With race discrimination, the corporation that gets the burden is the source of the harm to others that the government seeks to eliminate. That can only be done by regulating the business. It's automatically the least restrictive way to meet the compelling interest.

As Chief Justice Roberts famously said (in another context): "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

Making employers cover particular health needs of employees is tapping them to provide a benefit. The corporation is not the source of the harm. It's the source of jobs. Historically, businesses have included health insurance as part of the pay package, and then the employees are getting their personal health-care needs met with this benefit, but there are other ways that health care could be funded. And that's why the government in Hobby Lobby couldn't show that it had used the least restrictive alternative.

So don't think that Hobby Lobby would apply to situations where the business is itself inflicting the harm to others that the government wants to alleviate. So let's say that in the future the federal government would like to ban employment discrimination against gay people, and a business wants to use RFRA to claim an entitlement to continue to discriminate. Quite aside from the difficulty of expounding a sincere religious belief that is substantially burdened by needing to refrain from discriminating, the government's argument that banning discrimination would easily satisfy the least-restrictive-alternative requirement.

The way to stop discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is to stop discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

Those who don't like what did happen in Hobby Lobby have an incentive to portray it as portending horrible consequences that, in fact, the Court took pains to foreclose.

Fantasizing, in writing, on the internet, about terrible crimes — cannibalism — when is it a crime?

We talked about Gilberto Valle a year and a half ago: "When does a fantasized crime become an actual crime?"

The jury found Valle guilty back in March 2013, but today we hear that the trial judge, federal district court judge Paul G. Gardephe, has granted a verdict of acquittal based on insufficient evidence of a conspiracy to commit kidnapping.  Valle was prosecuted for what was "more likely than not...  fantasy role-play."
"[O]nce the lies and the fantastical elements are stripped away, what is left are deeply disturbing misogynistic chats and emails written by an individual obsessed with imagining women he knows suffering horrific sex-related pain, terror and degradation. Despite the highly disturbing nature of Valle’s deviant and depraved sexual interests, his chats and emails about these interests are not sufficient — standing alone — to make out the elements of conspiracy to commit kidnapping."
That charge had a maximum sentence of life in prison.
[F]ederal prosecutors [had] argued that Mr. Valle had taken “concrete steps” to further his plans, including illegally looking up potential victims in a law enforcement database, carrying out surveillance of them, and using the Internet to research ways to abduct, subdue and cook potential victims.
The conviction for illegally gaining access to the law enforcement database stands (with a possible sentence of up to 1 year).

So ends the saga of "The Cannibal Cop."

Morning Hobby Lobby blogging dilemma.

I've read the 27,000+ words of the Hobby Lobby case — all of the opinions. I read the whole thing out loud to Meade yesterday as we drove 500 miles. And it took all 500 miles, with pauses to talk about the details and to debate the issues. Has anyone spent as much time with this text as I have? (Other than lucky/poor Meade?) I have the notes I took as we drove so I'd remember specific points I want to develop in blog posts. I was totally immersed in my engagement with this text, which includes the analysis of many cases — like Lee and Braunfeld — that I know very well, having taught Religion and the Constitution for more than a decade.

When we arrived at our destination, one of the first things I saw was a TV tuned to MSNBC and a news head was interviewing the president of NARAL who was delivering talking points that, every few seconds, misstated what was in the case. I glance around the internet in my usual way and see the chatter about the case and get the nagging feeling that everyone on the internet is getting things wrong and it's my job to get busy chiding them for this and that or making sport of their stupidity and deviousness. Why these folks have a political agenda! Don't you need me to entertain and enlighten you by selecting some egregious examples of what you very well know they must be doing? War on Women! The warriors are out in force, determined to strike first and leave a mark, a mark that's unlikely to fade, because the marked ones — the masses of American electorate — are never going to do what I, the law professor, would like them to do to erase that mark: Read those 27,000+ words.

What should Althouse do?
pollcode.com free polls 

About that car ride?
pollcode.com free polls 

ADDED: I'm preserving the poll results:

June 30, 2014

Justice Alito, in Hobby Lobby, adds to the corporations-are-people discourse.

I have a corporations are people tag for a reason. Remember when Romney said those words? Much more at the tag. This is a discourse I have been following. The haters of Citizens United love to mock this idea, and it may have seemed especially mockable in the context of religion. (Can a corporation pray?!!)

From today's opinion upholding a corporation's challenge under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of the contraception coverage requirement under Obamacare:
As we will show, Congress provided protection for people like the Hahns and Greens by employing a familiar legal fiction: It included corporations within RFRA’s definition of “persons.” But it is important to keep in mind that the purpose of this fiction is to provide protection for human beings. A corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends. An established body of law specifies the rights and obligations of the people (including shareholders, officers, and employees) who are associated with a corporation in one way or another. When rights, whether constitutional or statutory, are extended to corporations, the purpose is to protect the rights of these people. For example, extending Fourth Amendment protection to corporations protects the privacy interests of employees and others associated with the company. Protecting corporations from government seizure of their property without just compensation protects all those who have ae a stake in the corporations’ financial well-being. And protecting the free-exercise rights of corporations like Hobby Lobby, Conestoga, and Mardel protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies.
There is also some excellent discussion of why people might choose a for-profit corporate form when they have purposes other than just to make money:
Not all corporations that decline to organize as nonprofits do so in order to maximize profit. For example, organizations with religious and charitable aims might organize as for-profit corporations because of the potential advantages of that corporate form, such as the freedom to participate in lobbying for legislation or campaigning for political candidates who promote their religious or charitable goals. In fact, recognizing the inherent compatibility between establishing a for-profit corporation and pursuing nonprofit goals, States have increasingly adopted laws formally recognizing hybrid corporate forms. Over half of the States, for instance, now recognize the “benefit corporation,” a dual-purpose entity that seeks to achieve both abenefit for the public and a profit for its owners.

The Supreme Court — in Hobby Lobby — upholds religious exemptions to Obamacare.

"RFRA applies to regulations that govern the activities of closely held for-profit corporations like Conestoga, HL and Mardel."

Once RFRA (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) covers Hobby Lobby and other for-profit corporations, the government could still win if it could show that what it's done is the least restrictive way to meet a compelling interest.

Here's the opinion PDF. It's 5-4, written by Justice Alito. Along with Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas, Justice Kennedy joins the Alito opinion. He also writes a concurrence. The dissenting opinion is written by Ginsburg.

ADDED: From the opinion:
In holding that the HHS mandate is unlawful, we reject HHS’s argument that the owners of the companies forfeited all RFRA protection when they decided to organize their businesses as corporations rather than sole proprietorships or general partnerships. The plain terms of RFRA make it perfectly clear that Congress did not discriminate in this way against men and women who wish to run their businesses as for-profit corporations in the manner required by their religious beliefs.
The Court found a substantial burden to the religion of the owners of the businesses in being required to facilitate what they see as abortions or to pay fines that could be as "as much as $1.3 million per day, or about $475 million per year, in the case of one of the companies."

Under the statute (RFRA), that substantial burden triggers strict scrutiny, and the Court assumes for the purpose of the opinion that the HHS regulations have a compelling interest, because is so easy to say: Even if the interest is compelling, HHS hasn't used the least restrictive means for serving it.

HHS has already put into place a system for contraceptive coverage for religious nonprofit corporations, and it gave "no reason why the same system cannot be made available when the owners of for-profit corporations have similar religious objections."

Here's some push-back to the dissent:
We do not hold, as the principal dissent alleges, that for-profit corporations and other commercial enterprises can “opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.” Post, at 1 (opinion of GINSBURG, J.). Nor do we hold, as the dissent implies, that such corporations have free rein to take steps that impose “disadvantages . . . on others” or that require “the general public [to] pick up the tab.” Post, at 1–2. And we certainly do not hold or suggest that “RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on . . . thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby.” Post, at 2.1 
If HHS would just give the religious for-profit corporations the same accommodation it already gives to the nonprofit religious corporations, the effect on women employees "would be precisely zero."

I need to spend more time with the opinion, but for now, I'll say that it may be harder for the government to figure out which for-profit corporations warrant the accommodation, but that's the consequence of Congress's own statute RFRA, so it's a problem of the government's own making, not a compelling interest itself to be served by denying religious accommodations. RFRA itself is a monument to the government's lack of interest in avoiding the trouble of figuring out things like this.

UPDATE: I've just spent a lot of time and I've read every word of all of the opinions. I have a bunch of things to say, but maybe not too much before tomorrow, other than to say that contrary to the quote from SCOTUSblog that begins this post, the case isn't restricted to closely held corporations. Any corporation can use RFRA, but it's unlikely that a publicly traded corporation will be able to establish that there is a substantial burden on its exercise of religion, which is what is needed under RFRA to force the government to show that it has a compelling interest and has used the least restrictive means to serve that interest.

In Harris v. Quinn, "The Court recognizes a category of 'partial public employees' that cannot be required to contribute union bargaining fees."

That report, from SCOTUSblog, make it sound like a minimalist result, not the "kill shot" to unions that we were discussing here yesterday.

Here's the full opinion. It's written by Alito and 5-4, in the usual 5-4, conservatives-and-liberals split.

ADDED: The majority opinion discusses a set of precedents that I won't attempt to summarize. It criticizes the precedents for failing to recognize the difference between public and private sector unions:
In the public sector, core issues such as wages, pen­sions, and benefits are important political issues, but that is generally not so in the private sector.
For this reason, the money extracted from nonmembers to cover the work on their behalf by the unions can't so easily be called nonpolitical, so the problem of compelled speech can't be avoided by saying that only part of the union dues pays for political speech. It's all political:
Collective  bargaining concerns the union’s dealings with the employer; political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government.  But in the public sector, both collective­ bargaining and political advocacy and lobbying are di­rected at the government.
AND: It sure was political — salary, pensions, health insurance — here in Wisconsin. It was the most political thing I'd seen in 30 years of living in Wisconsin. (Not that the Supreme Court case mentions Wisconsin.)

"The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organisations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph's authority and the arrival of its troops to their areas."

"Listen to your caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day."

Is it a caliphate if you say it's a caliphate? Who's the caliph? It's Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Remember him? He's the guy who — when we released him from our custody — said "I’ll see you guys in New York."

Finale day at the Supreme Court.

I'm following the live-blog at SCOTUSblog.

Women full of binders.

"Talk to Obama veterans about Clinton’s first few months in office, and one memory stands out: She plainly embraced the role of sidekick. She devoured White House briefing material. 'Hillary Clinton would walk in with the thickest binder on the table,' says a former Obama staffer. She mastered the art of the small gesture, plying Obama aides with personal notes and mementos. One received an official State Department sling for his injured arm, Allen and Parnes report. Day in and day out, she was unfailingly gracious. Among the less glamorous duties of a Cabinet secretary is waiting outside the president’s office when he’s running late. 'No one will judge you if you sit there and answer e-mails on your Blackberry,' says Katie Johnson, Obama’s former personal secretary. 'She did not do it. ... She was very friendly and warm. She talked to people.'"

From Noam Schreiber's TNR piece: "How Hillary Won Over the Skeptical Left/The surprising source of Clinton's invincibility."

I haven't read enough of that to know what the "surprising source" is. I just wanted to flag the sexism in that one paragraph. I'm not going to comb through the whole thing looking for trouble. But that paragraph jumped out as full of sexist detail, and I couldn't resist the opportunity to allude to the great War on Women Battle of 2012 over "binders full of women."

So, first, there's this Tracy-Flick-style image of the over-earnest, over-achieving, straight-A student with her big binder — the thickest binder on the table.

But look at the rest of female-subordinating language: sidekick... the small gesture...  personal notes and mementos... sling for his injured arm... unfailingly gracious... very friendly and warm... talked to people.

These are all intended to be compliments. Why?! The subtext is that Hillary is not feminine enough. She's judged against a female stereotype and found wanting, so it's imagined that her image is bolstered by detecting stereotypically feminine attributes in her, caring for the little people, for the injured, being humble and small, evincing warmth and graciousness.

I'm sure she herself has noticed all this trouble and — as part of her earnest over-achieving — has generated a binder full of feminine-seeming small gestures to be done to push back the not feminine enough perceptions without triggering a too feminine to be President reaction.

Hard choices! Sometimes it's hard to be a woman....

"Well, it’s going to be all war-on-women all the time anyway, at least until the Dems nominate a man and the Republicans nominate a woman."

Writes Instapundit, commenting on my prediction that if Hobby Lobby prediction that if the Court says the corporation gets a religious exemption from the Obamacare contraception mandate, it will "instantly plunge us into war-on-women, election-year politics."

There are 3 comments over there, and 2 of them say what I immediately wanted to say:
Nominating a woman will not help Republicans because she can never be "the right kind of woman." It's the Emily's List syndrome.
Oh, it will be a war on women (or at least one woman) if the Dems nominate a man and the Republicans nominate a woman. Like the war on Sarah Palin.
The third comment, from one "Judge Baylor," is from someone who needs to adopt this rule of thumb: When a statement seems strangely worded, google those words and you may discover an allusion to something.

I'd said: "The internet will never allow you to go back to your summer holiday week as usual, uninvolved, uninformed." Inapt response:
Oh, Althouse, spoken like an earnest high school social studies teacher, circa 1995. From what I have seen of the internet, it serves only to accelerate the dissemination of ignorant dreck to the MSM that then puts a glossy sheen on it.
This makes me want to take a war-on-women shot over the schoolmarm stereotype and the assumption that women aren't funny.

June 29, 2014

Is the Supreme Court going to "deal a fatal blow" to unions tomorrow?

That's how TPM presents Harris v. Quinn:
If agency fees for non-members are ruled to be a violation of free speech, unions fear they would lose funding, become less effective at bargaining for benefits and, in turn, lose members.

A death spiral.
Doesn't this only have to do with public employee unions?
One labor official said such a result would bring about "the possible final destruction of the American labor movement." The official added, "It would cause the death not only of public sector unions and what's left of private sector unions, but also the Democratic Party," suggesting that the demise of unions would make Democrats more reliant on Wall Street money.
Why? What's the causal chain here? This TPM article is written by Sahil Kapur, whose law analysis I've found wanting before. He switches over to discussing only public employee unions. I wonder if it's just that Kapur doesn't care about the details or if he understood the unnamed labor official's reasoning and it's too shameful to spell out, some cycle of spending and favoritism that makes the Democratic Party look bad.

"I call it the evil empire."

"We need to go after them. We cannot allow this to continue. And if we don’t stop it, I don’t see a future for marriage, for love, or for anything."

Drug lord Pablo Escobar created a terrible invasive species problem in Colombia: Hippos.

"He smuggled in elephants, giraffes and other exotic animals, among them four hippos - three females and one male."
When Hacienda Napoles was confiscated in the early 1990s, Escobar's menagerie was dispersed to zoos around the country. But not the hippos. For about two decades, they have wallowed in their soupy lake...

Here, conditions for hippos are idyllic. The river is slow moving and has plenty of shallows, perfect for larger animals which don't actually swim but push themselves off banks, gliding through the water. Moreover, the region never experiences drought, which tends to act as a natural brake on the size of herds in Africa....

Colombian people, [one veterinarian] believes, are more vulnerable than Africans because they see hippos as cuddly, "floppy" animals...

"My father brought a little one home once," an unnamed girl told the paper. "I called him Luna (Moon) because he was very sweet - we fed him with just milk."...
Of course, hippos are deadly. They kill more human beings than any other wild mammal.

But there are 5 animals that kill more people. Try to name them in order, then look here. I thought the "wild" in the phrase "wild mammal" was a clue that dogs killed more people, but domestic dogs are 10th on the linked list.

ADDED: "11 Reasons Hippos Are The Most Awesome Animals Of All Time."

"Worker unions ending at UW Hospital."

The Wisconsin State Journal reports.

See if you can find anything in that article about why the unions are ending. I combed through it, and the closest I came was:
Act 10, introduced by Gov. Scott Walker, banned collective bargaining for public employees, except for public safety workers, for all but an inflationary pay increase. It ended required union dues and automatic dues deductions from paychecks. Unions seeking to recertify must get approval from 51 percent of an employee group.
A commenter there says: "So to recertify they need 51%? What's the problem?"

"The number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed in Wisconsin fell to 140 last year, a drop of more than 50% since 1999."

"At the same time, a state-run malpractice insurance fund — created because of fears that medical malpractice insurance premiums would skyrocket without it — has grown to more than $1.15 billion, a total larger than all the money it has paid out during its entire 39-year history."

"Tea party leader Mark Mayfield suicide: A sign of politics 'beyond the pale'?"

Headline at the Christian Science Monitor.

I'd say what we had here was one man with terrible judgment.
Mr. Mayfield was charged on May 22 with conspiring with three other men to take a photo of Sen. Thad Cochran’s wife, Rose, who is in a nursing home. The photo was used briefly as part of an anti-Cochran ad. Mayfield didn’t take the photo, but allegedly used knowledge of the facility to help a blogger gain access.
That's an awful thing to do and so is killing yourself. You don't get to deflect the blame for what you did onto other people by wreaking a death penalty on yourself. Death is an unfair sentence for this crime, and just because you've made yourself the victim of this unfair sentence doesn't make the criminal case the authorities brought against you unfair. And too bad if Cochran supporters took political advantage of the criminal charges. What did you expect? Stay alive and face the consequences.

"Supremes Saving Worst Decision For Last?" is the big banner headline at HuffPo right now.

Tomorrow is the Court's last day of the term, and the "worst decision" HuffPo is stirring its readers up about right now is Hobby Lobby, the case about whether a for-profit corporation is entitled to relief from the "substantial burden" on religion arguably imposed by the Obamacare regulations about contraceptives.

HuffPo doesn't bother to mention that the case is based on a federal statute — the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — which Congress could amend and to which Congress could have put an exception in the Affordable Care Act.  Except that Congress couldn't do any of those things, and the contraceptive mandate wasn't even something Congress put in the ACA, because Congress only just barely passed the ACA, and an exception from the need to provide religious exemptions would have made the ACA less politically viable, not more.

Which is why — however you feel about birth control, religious objections to it, and for-profit corporations that find a way to be religious — it's not bad for Hobby Lobby to win.

But if it does, the "worst decision" will instantly plunge us into war-on-women, election-year politics.   

Why can't I just plunge into my 4th-of-July swimming pool?, you might ask.

No. The internet will never allow you to go back to your summer holiday week as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

"Arizona Professor Body Slammed By Police During Jaywalking Stop, Now Charged With Assaulting Officer."

An interesting post — with video — at Think Progress, which frames the story as racial profiling. 

There's some meek push-back in the comments:
I'm sure everyone will hate me for saying this, but first of all, she was jaywalking, then she was arguing with the officer, then fighting him, the entire time she was uncooperative and difficult. Even if she is a professor she wasn't acting in a professional manner. This escalated when it didn't have to.

Is meditation innocuous — a way to relax and recenter yourself?

Some Americans experience it as deeply disturbing — one felt he'd "permanently ruined" his mind — as described in this Atlantic article.

Dr. Willoughby Britton observes that Americans look to meditation for "what Americans value": "Does it promote good relationships? Does it reduce cortisol? Does it help me work harder?" 
"But," she cautions, "what about when meditation plays a role in creating an experience that then leads to a breakup, a psychotic break, or an inability to focus at work?"...

Britton.... explains that the Theravadin Buddhist tradition influences how a large portion of Americans practice meditation, but in it, mindfulness is "about vipassana, a specific type of insight … into the three characteristics of experience." These are also known as the three marks of existence: anicca, or impermanence; dukkha, or dissatisfaction; and anatta, or no-self.
These are not things Americans tend to value. Perhaps they should, but why are we appropriating a religious traditions for ends that are not at all the ends for which they were originally adopted? Britton is concerned with the way it harms some unwitting American souls who are expecting modest American life improvements.

But I am asking a few extra questions: 1. Is it wrong to exploit someone else's profound religious tradition for the purpose of achieving the worldly goals of the American tradition? 2. Should we question our worldly goals — good relationships, hard work — and seek greater depths  that might involve impermanence or dissatisfaction and no-self?

"TCCNCCPCC pawn momma run," said Ted Cruz.

“Taxes, credit, commerce, naturalization, coinage, counterfeiting, post office, copyright, courts, piracy, Army, war, Navy, militia, money for militia, Washington, D.C., rules, and necessary and proper."

Cruz was showing off one the mnemonics he'd learned as a teenager studying the Constitution:
When Cruz was in his early teens, in Houston, his parents enrolled him in an after-school program run by Rolland Storey, a retired energy executive who wanted to instill the values of the free market in young people... “They created a spinoff group called the Constitutional Corroborators,” Cruz told me. “And they took five of the students, all of whom had been involved on the free-market side, and we focussed on studying the Constitution. So we’d meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for a couple of hours each night, and study the Constitution, read the Federalist Papers, read the Anti-Federalist Papers, read the debates on ratification. And we memorized a shortened mnemonic version of the Constitution.”...

“Ted was just an amazing speaker at fourteen, by far the most impressive student we ever had,” Winston Elliott III, who became affiliated with Storey’s organization when Cruz was a student.... “Our program is very much committed to private property, free markets, and constitutionally limited government.... We brought in a memorization expert. We wanted them to focus on the words. Ted was just an ideal student, because he just absorbed everything, and he came from a conservative family in the first place.”