Hobby Lobby v Common Sense

(Regarding the recent Supreme Court ruling about Hobby Lobby getting special treatment.)
 
1: If it’s really about religious convictions, why do they build their business on cheap products from China?
 
1a: If the test is “sincerely held beliefs”, shouldn’t the SCOTUS be asking questions to actually establish the sincerity of that belief, or otherwise looking for consistency? Much as a human can only get away with things like faith healing or conscientious objector status if they can demonstrate that they really believe in it? 
 
2: The argument that it’s the employer’s money, therefore they have somehow sullied themselves if it is spent on contraception, is dumb. If the employer still has say over what the employee does with their pay or benefits, then surely the employer is beholden to the employee’s preferences, since it was the employee that originally did the work to earn that money and then pass it on to the employer. And, for that matter, the employer shouldn’t be allowed to do what they want with the money that customers provide—so the customer should be allowed to circumscribe allowable uses.
 
So apparently what we really need is a questionnaire with each shopping transaction, so that the customer may delineate what things the money they just spent may and may not be used for by the business they are shopping at. There is no logical reason why the employer —> employee transaction remains encumbered by the giver’s morality, but no other economic transaction does. 
 
2a: Doubly so since their actual argument is that if they contract with a service, and pay employees, who then pay the service (the insurance company), who then pays the health care provider or pharmacy, that violates their principles. You know, just like how if they tip the waitress and she gives her tips to her brother who spends them on booze, they are morally culpable for promoting drunkeness. Or how when they patronize a business that spends its money to buy products from manufacturers which support a society that promotes abortion, they are directly culpable for promoting abortion. Oh, wait…
 
3: Why don’t the employees get any religious freedom to spend their paychecks how they want? 
 
4: But, ultimately, Hobby Lobby wasn’t ever forced to do this, even before the lawsuit. They always had the option to not provide subsidized health insurance to their employees, and pay the modest penalty. If they really have such strong religious convictions, it should’ve been a small price to pay. Or, if they feel like that violates their desire to “take care of” their employees, they could bump everyone’s paychecks by the amount they’re no longer spending on subsidized healthcare (and still pay that no-insurance penalty). Added bonus: then they get to be martyrs for the Christian cause, because of the onerous penalty the big mean secular government is forcing them to pay. 
 
(I’m not saying it’s a great option, but let’s distinguish between the government actually forcing things—with guns and prisons and the like—and government merely coercing with incentives and modest financial penalties. A penalty of the magnitude that Hobby Lobby faced (starting next year—don’t forget that they weren’t paying anything right now), on the scale of a business the size of Hobby Lobby, is coercive, not unavoidable. A big enough financial cost could count as “forcing”, but not this one. )
 
That would’ve made for a much stronger argument: they could give their employees enough money to buy insurance, pay the penalty for not providing/subsidizing it (which is $0 right now, right?), and launch their lawsuit to argue that so long as they are giving their employees the means to get insurance, they should not be penalized for choosing to not provide it directly, since providing it would force them to support something they consider immoral. That might almost be a sensible argument. It doesn’t answer the question of why the employer’s owner’s morality trumps not only the employees’ morality, but also societal norms as expressed in both behavior and what we support our government doing, but at least it would be consistent with the owners’ stated beliefs. 
 
Unless the real belief at issue here is controlling women. My suggestion wouldn’t let them do that. 

I Visited the Dark Side, So You Don’t Have To

I’ve strayed. I thought I had learned my lesson in grade school when I picked up a cool Tente space truck. Or maybe in middle school when I got some Tyco Super Blocks as a present. I certainly “knew” that the clone bricks just aren’t worth it—sure, you might get some cool shapes you can’t find in Lego, but at what cost?

I’d keep seeing these Mega Bloks Halo sets, with their many different curves and gorgeous shimmery purples. And there was that big puzzle-piece dome. Of course I knew I shouldn’t. But Nnenn did. And then I saw this Silent Running-esque ship using the Mega Bloks domes. And Jang (of Jangbricks) started buying and reviewing Mega Bloks sets. And I started looking a little too closely when I was in the store. I’d pick a box up, turn it over and check out its pieces. Look at the little window where you could see some actual pieces shimmering. 

And then one day I thought “well, it can’t hurt to look”, and checked a price. 

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“Change This Law!” “OK” “You’re Not Allowed to Change It!”

GOP members of the House are planning to sue President Obama for his decision to delay enforcement of the employer mandate in the ACA for a year. 

I don’t understand this. I don’t see how it makes sense on legal, political, or governmental grounds. 

Legally, doesn’t one have to have standing to sue? Wouldn’t you have to be a business owner who was somehow harmed by this change, or maybe a private insurer harmed by the lessened requirements? And then, what are they suing for? Monetary damages? An injunction? Reinstatement of the requirement? And why sue? If he’s done something outside of the bounds of the President’s authority, isn’t that sufficient grounds to impeach Obama? Surely, if lying about having an affair (something that has absolutely nothing to do with governance), is good enough to justify impeachment, violating the Constitution and usurping legislative authority would be sufficient cause?

Politically, there are two obvious problems with this.

First, the GOP is suing to reinstate something they don’t want, which is part of something else they really don’t want. I’m not sure the political calculus on this. Maybe they want the ACA to be as onerous as possible, so they can point at it and say “see? look at how awful the Dems’ ideas are!” But that’s quite a balancing act: they’re counting on people to blame the party that enacted the law but was willing to recognize a problem and modify it, and not blame the party that reinstated the problem part of the law that they’re busy pointing at and telling us is horrible.  

Second, one of the big arguments of the GOP is that “activist judges” are ruining America by overreaching the judicial role and imposing their will on the other branches of government. So they need to thread the needle of arguing that a judge should overrule the President, who enacted a clearly populist measure which hasn’t been challenged by the people in any significant numbers, in order to re-enact a very unpopular measure, while arguing that in this case it’s not “judicial activism” even though the people’s representatives had previously tried to enact exactly the same measure, claiming that it was what people wanted.  

Governmentally, their argument is about the balance of power between the branches of government. As previously mentioned, they need to argue that a judge intervening in this case is different from a judge intervening in other cases. There clearly are differences, of course, but that doesn’t make it an easy explanation, and it’s not clear that the differences are germane. They also need to make an argument that this particular executive order is somehow illegal, while continuing their argument that executive orders in general are just fine (because otherwise W’s record comes up, and/or they hamstring a future GOP President with a Dem congress. Not to mention, they need to do all this without anyone bringing up the “unitary executive” theory that they only recently supported. And they need to explain how an executive order that modifies a law is different than a signing statement that modifies a law. And, finally, they need to explain why neither enacting a law to overrule the executive order—something that has been done in the past—nor impeachment are possible solutions to this problem. 

How I Met Your Spoilers

Seriously, spoilers ahead. If you haven’t watched the last episode of How I Met Your Mother, and have any intention of watching the show, just skip this post. Or, better yet, go watch the show and then come back. 

Yes, the whole show. Oh, sure, there were some bad episodes, and season 7 as a whole is a bit weak—but how many shows make it 9 years without a few duds? And, in the context of the rest of the show, season 7 is still better than most seasons of most shows—you usually have to go to serious drama to do better than that. I’ll still be here in 76 hours. 

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We’re not all equally gifted

Not everyone is beautiful

This came across my feed, and I think it says it well. But I want to expand on it, because its not just beauty that we have troubles with.

We have a strange relationship with differences in our society:

Attractiveness we all see and recognize (though we may disagree on the details), but there’s a concerted effort to pretend we don’t, and that “everyone is beautiful”.

Intelligence we really, really want to be unimportant outside of a few “intellectual” endeavors like solving math problems, so we downplay it, trying to give everyone the same education (by the same methods) and characterizing a dozen different things as “types” of intelligence just so that we can say that everyone is good at one of them (even if we all still aren’t).

Physical abilities, particularly athleticism? Oh, there we make no pretense and laud those with greater gifts. Nobody claims that everyone is equally strong, just “in different ways”.

Oh, and we pretend that not only is “hard work” an entirely innate trait, when in reality it is very much learnable, but we misattribute all sorts of other things (luck, connections, smarts) to it.

The trick is, we need to recognize that your worth as a person is not dependent on your capabilities, but on your behaviors.

Whose Perspective?

A quick thought that popped to mind the other day. One place a typical discussion between someone who supports abortion rights and someone who doesn’t often goes is something like this [assuming some communicating is occurring, and it's not just a shouting match]:

Abortion-rights supporter: Why should women have less freedom than men? We let men decide what they’re going to do about their health and their bodies; it’s discrimination to tell women what they’re allowed to do.

Abortion opponent: This isn’t about discrimination against women—the situations aren’t the same. Since you can’t disentangle the mother and the fetus, there’s another person affected by these decisions. It would be immoral to not consider the fetus when deciding what is right.

Try this on for size:

Why should a person not be afforded the same considerations and protections as everyone else, just because they can’t speak for themselves?

Since you can’t disentangle the fetus and the mother, there’s another person affected by these decisions. It would be immoral to not consider the woman when deciding what is right.


If the reason abortion should be restricted or banned is because it affects another person besides the woman—the fetus—then surely the reason abortion should be legal and accessible is because it affects another person besides the fetus: the mother.

Lego Color Guide

Just a quickie, here. Caitlin wanted to use my Legos for a knitting project, and needed some guidance on what colors existed and what to call them in order to buy more. So I put together a plate with examples of most of the colors I have. She suggested that I take a photo for reference, which is an excellent idea, because I sometimes have to do some digging and comparing to figure out the more obscure colors myself.

So, here it is. It’s mostly for me to reference in the future, but I thought I’d share in case anyone else would find it useful. Continue reading