Open Thread: Happy Canada Day!

Best not-quite-yet-belated wishes to our Canadian readers! You guys are waaaay too discrete about your holidays, but I guess that’s part of the national culture…

Tuesday Evening Open Thread


In case you haven’t yet been told why the idiots among your FB relatives & acquaintances are sniggering about the First Lady, again.

Apart from waiting for the US/Belguim overtime to end, what’s on the agenda for the evening?

2015, half way there, we’ll make it I swear

My daughter was quite excited that the year 2014 was having its half-birthday this morning. She is arguing that we need to get cupcakes tonight to celebrate. 


Open thread.

The Hobby Lobbyists’ War on Women, Continued

Charles P. Pierce, at Esquire, on the history of the RFRA and the revenge of ‘Little Nino’ Scalia:

Back in the early 1990‘s, [Al] Smith and another man were denied unemployment benefits by the state of Oregon because they had tested positive for the active ingredient in peyote, which has been a sacrament in various Native American religions since before bread and wine became sacramental in Christianity. Smith pursued his case all the way up to the Nine Wise Souls then sitting on the Most High Bench, who ruled against him. Not yet short-timing his day job, Justice Antonin Scalia who, of a Sunday, takes bread and wine instead of peyote as part of his own religious rituals, wrote the majority opinion in the case…

Almost everyone from the religious right to the ACLU popped their corks over this and, in purported response, the Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993. (And yes, you are still entitled to ask, “Restoration? Where’s it been?”) Bill Clinton, just beginning to triangulate himself toward re-election, signed the thing. Since then, a gradual slippage regarding that act has been quietly underway. The RFRA is no longer about peyote. It has become a Trojan Horse, sliding the country toward a de facto kind of established religion, which today’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby makes eminently clear. Religious freedom exists in the realm of medicine only to those religions that the Court finds acceptable—and, I would argue, only to those religions to which the members of the Court belong. Much will be written, and rightly so, about the boneheaded social subtext of the following nut paragraph in the 5-4 decision read today by Justice Samuel Alito. It is so obviously discriminatory toward ladies and their ladyparts that no explanation seems necessary…

Kat Stoeffel, at NYMag:

There’s some irony here. When the ACA rolled out, right-wing commenters claimed that Democratic women wanted daddy Obama to cover their “slut pills” and reproductive rights advocates went to great pains to explain that, no, they merely wanted the insurance industry regulated to have a more up-to-date, gender equitable definition of “preventative care.” (For 62 percent of American women, it currently includes contraception.) The ruling amounts to a punt: putting the responsibility for birth control back in the hands of the government while maintaining serious yardage with regards to religious expression, not to mention the status of women’s individual sexual and reproductive lives. It’s still a political battleground, distinct from the many other places religious beliefs could intersect with health care…

Justice Ginsburg takes on all the underlying issues at stake in this exception to the RFRA. “The exercise of religion is characteristic of natural persons, not artificial legal entities,” she wrote. Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act “trains on women’s well being, not on the exercise of religion, and any effect it has on such exercise is incidental.” There’s also this: “Accommodations to religious beliefs or observances, the court has clarified, must not significantly impinge on the interests of third parties.” Her dissent includes a subtle reminder to question the protection of religious expression when the “third parties” all happen to be members of the same group, which has been historically discriminated against. In 1966, she points out, the owner of a restaurant chain “refused to serve black patrons based on his religious beliefs opposing integration.” Then, the court upheld the Civil Rights Act, unanimously; today it was split along gender lines.

(As a feminist, I also found it laudable that Stoeffel’s piece appeared in NYMag‘s “Daily Intelligencer” general-news blog, and was not relegated to its ladyblog “The Cut”, which is where most reproductive-news stories end up.)

Erik Loomis, at LGM:

The absurdity of the Hobby Lobby decision (only contraceptives are exempted for religious beliefs because of sluts) is obviously part of the Republican war on women, but it is also very much a war on the poor. An IUD costs about a month’s worth of wages at the minimum wage. If an executive can’t get birth control because her employer gets too hot and bothered thinking of her having sexy time, she can afford it on her own. A Hobby Lobby floor worker? Probably not. For women workers at closely held corporations, this decision will be devastating. Read more

Monday Evening Open Thread: More Rich-People Problems

If (when) America goes full-metal police state, there will still be “good people” critiquing the shine on the jackboots and making sure that doors are only kicked down in compliance with all local noise ordinances. News report from Joe Coscarelli at NYMag:

Today’s Wall Street Journal features hilarious, practically parodic complaints from neighbors of Fed chair Janet Yellen, who just don’t understand why she needs such fat and sloppy security guards. This is a Georgetown gated community, crotchety residents say, and there are rules here (50 pages of them, including a two-pet maximum). And Yellen’s massive security detail, with their visible fast food, giant, leaky vehicles, and “doughnut bellies” are just an eyesore.

According to one neighbor — who was granted anonymity “because she is worried about federal-government reprisals” — “we have this group, overweight, wearing the most ridiculous blue uniforms with the most ridiculous blue caps, and they have guns that are visible.” Meanwhile, their vehicles idle for “approximately 22 minutes daily,” according to an official complaint, and then pull out “speedily … all the while spilling fluid onto the street, which has now left a permanent stain,” against the neighborhood’s explicit “no car fluid stain” rule (seriously)…

From the WSJ article:

The neighbors now want the FBI, an independent consultant, or the Fed’s inspector general to evaluate “what appears to be an excessive level of [Federal Reserve] security” on Ms. Yellen’s street at “enormous government cost to taxpayers.”…

On June 5, homeowners formed a committee to develop a standardized lease that would bar security operations from renting Hillandale homes. Others argued that too many rules could damage property values in the community, where sale prices can surpass $3 million.

Nonsense, says Mr. Shawn, who is on the new committee. “We need to put in proper safeguards. How are we going to feel if somebody leases to the Taliban?”

(Mildly surprised that the Taliban could pass the security check?)

Apart from agreeing that Home Owners Associations are the worst, what’s on the agenda for the evening?