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The Hobby Lobby Decision Is Not A Disaster

I’m not going to go over the minutiae of the decision because you can get that everywhere else. I want to go through a few points I find interesting.

As you know, SCOTUS decided that "closely held" (meaning privately owned) for profit corporations don’t have to offer contraception if doing so goes against their "sincerely held beliefs". This actually changes nothing (not even for employees of Hobby Lobby) so if your hair was on fire, you can calm down now. The court specifically referred to the "exception" that HHS gave to certain religious organizations. I had to do some searching to make sure I remembered the outcome of that correctly (I did). Basically, the company is no longer paying for contraceptive care. It is specifically excluded from coverage under the plan documents but the insurance companies have agreed to absorb the costs. Nothing changes and everyone has access to contraception. I found all of this to be boring and of little relevance.

Here’s what I thought was interesting; I didn’t count, but it felt to me that the decision used the words "corporate personhood" more than it did "religious beliefs". Roberts and his cabal had an agenda here. They were really looking to take the next step in cementing corporations into personhood status. They played the religious right for rubes so that they could, once again, advance the interests of their corporate masters.

Why do I say that? Because they explicitly gave the Jahovah’s Witnesses and the Christian Scientists the middle finger in this part of the decision;

This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs.

They don’t give two shits about anyone’s religious beliefs. If they did care about "sincerely held religious beliefs", they wouldn’t have explicitly crapped on other religions.

This tells me that something bigger, badder, and uglier than what we’ve seen thus far is in the corporate personhood horizon for us.

This was not about religion and it was not about Hobby Lobby. This was about Monsanto, GE, Boeing, Goldman Sachs and Pfizer.

The other part of the decision that I found interesting was this;

The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients.

It’s interesting because it acknowledges that those forms of contraception are not abortifacients. The court basically said that they don’t care about the facts or the science. If an employer is living in a fucking fantasyland where the morning after pill has any effect at all on a fertilized egg, they can do that and the Supreme Court won’t do a damned thing to correct that lie.

Believe it or not, this was exactly what I expected they would do.     

 

     

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Harris v Quinn Is Going To Be A Shitty SCOTUS Decision I Welcome

So unions and many democrats are freaking out about today’s impending Harris v Quinn decision from the Supreme Court. Let me give you a little bit of detail about the case before I get to my point. This case is about public sector unions, which ultimately means it will be about all unions. The plaintiff, Pamela Harris has a son who needs ongoing medical care, which she provides for him. In order for her to be able to do this, she receives Medicaid funds and is therefore considered a home health care worker, employed by the state of Illinois. At some point, home health care workers voted to unionize so they’re represented by SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana. Since the majority of them voted to unionize, they are all members of the union and must therefore pay union dues. Back in 1977, the Supreme Court issued a decision on union dues (I’m not going to do a deep dive into this case, but it’s Abood v Detroit Board of Education is you want to look it up). The court basically said that all public workers who are represented by the union must pay the fees associated with bargaining for them minus the cost of political activity.

So this twit shill Harris sued because she doesn’t want to pay her fair share. Why do I call her a twit? Before the union, wages in IL for a state employed home health care worker was $7.00 per hour. The union negotiated that salary up to $11.65 per hour now, with a scheduled increase to $13.00 per hour in December. Calling her a twit is clearly more flattering than she deserves, but I digress.

So now the court is basically going to redecide union dues. Remember, this was already decided so we’re looking at a major act of judicial activism here. Anyway the unions are freaking out because if the court decides that the twit doesn’t have to pay her fair share, they’re basically only get dues from their members on a voluntary basis. Unions represent both members and nonmembers so if people are allowed to opt out of paying their dues, they basically get all of the work that a union does to negotiate their wages for free. This is referred to as freeloading. I refer to it as twittery because if the union falls apart, the twit’s wages start to go back down immediately. Nonetheless, people are stupid and short sided and significant percentage of them will choose to get something for nothing, until it all falls apart and they’re left with nothing.

Unions are freaking out because this could effectively end unions. Democrats are freaking out because unions are the still biggest known (remember, our elections are mostly funded in the dark now) contributors to the democratic party.

I’m not freaking out. Not because I think the decision will be the right one, and not because I don’t think this will end unions. It will likely be the wrong decision and if it is, it will end unions. I’m not freaking out because when history repeats, the results always come out the way they did the first time around. Since a large percentage of humans are dullards who aren’t interested in history, (cause what could history possibly have to do with them?) we repeat history over and over again. Most people don’t realize that they have weekends off because of unions. They don’t realize that without unions, they would be working fourteen hour days side by side with their kids. Some dipshits believe they’re above exploitation because they’re "educated". Never mind the fact that the libertarian Paypal founder (Peter Thiel) and douchebag is trying to build a slave labor barge full of dirt cheap foreign software developers far enough off the coast of San Francisco, that he’s not subject to compliance with US labor laws. But that’s not going to affect "educated" people cause, free market!

Things are definitely going to go to shit for workers if unions disappear. But they’re slowly going to shit now as unions are shrinking. Disappearing them is just going to bring us to the end game of worker misery a little faster. So here’s how it’s going to go; unions disappear, workers’ already flat wages start to drop precipitously, democrats turn to corporations for money.

Democrats will definitely get that money. They’re getting it now. They’ve been getting it in ever increasing amounts since Bill Clinton put up the "for rent" sign at democratic national headquarters. That’s why it’s been harder and harder to tell democrats apart from republicans over the past couple of decades. Once the democratic party becomes 100% reliant on corporations to fund them (as republicans have been for four decades), their constituency will shrink dramatically to include only; GE, Verizon, Goldman Sachs, Lockheed Martin, Monsanto, and Pfizer. Notice how you’re conspicuously missing from that list? That’s because your only lobbyist, unions will be gone. Unions are your lobbyist whether you belong to one or not. Study after study shows that wages go up across the board in places where unions are strong.

Once they’re dismantled, you go back to being completely powerless. There will be no need for libertarian douchebag billionaires to invest in building slave barges because software developers in San Francisco city limits can look forward to being treated to the same conditions that a Bangladeshi garment workers enjoy now, but with a view of the Golden Gate bridge.

So why am I not worried about this decision going wrong? Because history repeats in the same way over and over again. We the people have been slowly losing our power and our voices since about 1980. It’s clear which way the pendulum of history is headed. We have about the same level of income inequality that we had in the 1920s. Thanks to the Supreme Court and decisions like McCutcheon v FEC and Citizen’s United, the government serves corporations almost exclusively (as they did in the 1920s). We are slowly digressing back to a time when conditions for the average American were miserable. I say we should speed that process up.

Americans are increasingly becoming aware that something is horribly wrong in America. This is why we’re seeing both parties fracture into different factions. Republicans have their teabaggers and their libertarians pushing up against the corporatists. Democrats have their Clinton, Booker corporatists vs the Warren, Grayson, Sanders populists. Right now, we’re at the stage of "horribly wrong" where people can be manipulated to act against their own self interest. Libertarians are clinging on to their unicorns harder than ever, and teabaggers have been duped into becoming foot soldiers for the Koch brothers. Democrats are actually excited about the possibility of Hillary Clinton saving the day, despite the quarter million dollar speaking fees she’s getting from Goldman Sachs.

This shitty decision from the Supreme Court is going to wake up the liberals. More and more of us have moved away from the democratic party and vehemently supported "socialist" candidates like Bill de Blasio and Elizabeth Warren. More and more of us are organizing to amend the constitution, whether it’s with Move To Amend, Wolf PAC, or Rootstrikers.

If you’ve been following me, you know that my opinion is that a constitutional amendment to get money out of politics is the only remedy we have left for our ailing government. I don’t know how many Elizabeth Warrens we can afford to support when our wages are going down. Remember that 94% of the time, the congressional candidate with the most money wins. Warren and de Blasio (I know he’s a mayor, but it’s not different) were the candidates with the most money. They weren’t the exceptions to the money statistic, they were the rule. The only amazing thing is that Warren managed to raise enough money from us, to defeat her bank backed opponent (de Blasio was a slightly different scenario that I won’t go into).

More liberals need to wake up and get to the conclusion I came to. The support I’m seeing for Hillary tells me that we still have a way to go on the path to "the awakening". Why do I focus on liberals? Because liberals always have been, and always will be the only ones who affect change. It doesn’t matter where in the world, or what period of history you look at, change is always brought about by liberals. Conservatives, by definition conserve. They don’t like change and they don’t rock the boat. The devil they know is just fine because "that’s just how it is". If conservatives had their way, the United States would be part of the UK. That’s just a fact. Liberals always have been, and always will be the activists. 

The evisceration of unions is going to remove the thin veil that the democratic party still wears. Remember Obama bailed out Wall Street, appointed a Monsanto executive to a high level position at the FDA, and failed to put on his picketing shoes to help labor in Wisconsin. But that’s all okay for some democrats, cause he gave us the Affordable Care Act. Don’t get me wrong, I’m marginally satisfied with the ACA as a stop gap, but I want more. I want food that isn’t going to poison me, water that isn’t flammable, and a bank that doesn’t have its hand in my pocket at all times. As long as money determines our elections, we’re not going to get any better than Obama, and as long as democrats throw us some crumbs every decade or so, liberals aren’t going to wake up to that fact. I’m very clear on the reality that I’m never going to get these things as long as money is the primary driver and motivator for our political system.

I need more liberals to wake the fuck up and join me, because we are our only hope. Because I know that things need to get shitty enough to activate the activists, I’m okay with this incredibly shitty decision from the Supreme Court. We’re already on the road to shitty so let’s get there already so that we can turn this sinking ship around.                     

 


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Again With The Training Of The Iraqi Military?

Yep. We’re going to try this again. President Obama just announced that he’s going to deploy 300 special forces to Iraq. Not to fight, but to train Iraqi troops again.

Here’s the deal; I’m relieved that he’s not talking air strikes or boots on the ground and I sincerely hope he sticks to this position but I don’t see what the point of training the Iraqi military is. The problem isn’t that Iraqi troops are untrainably stupid or cowardly. There’s a reason why they’re not "trained" and more training isn’t the answer. The problem is that a Sunni troop isn’t going to take up arms against a Sunni group. The same is true of the Shia and the Kurdish Muslims. They’re not going to take up arms against their own, no matter how batshit extremist a package "their own" comes in.

The "Iraqi military" is a fiction because Iraq is a fiction. This is a country that literally isn’t a country. These are not a united people with a common vision of governance. Britain arbitrarily drew a border around three vastly different groups of people and said, "Poof! You’re a country". The only way "poof" works, is with a brutal dictator who can effectively keep their boot on the whole country’s throat which is what Saddam did.

Without Saddam, there’s nothing cobbling this not-a-country together. There’s no country for a military to fight for. Iraq needs to have a civil war now, and all we can do is sit back and hope that the group that takes power doesn’t destabilize all of Iraq’s neighbors. The best outcome that we can hope for, is that the Sunni, Shia, and Kurds draw borders they can all live with and split up into three different countries. And they need to get there on their own because anything we do to help will delegitimize the outcome. We’ve seen how this movie turned out when we installed the Shah in Iran.

There’s nothing remotely resembling a guarantee that they will split up the country. In my opinion, it’s actually more likely that batshit radical groups stake out their territories and create mini dictatorships (warlords)  a la Afghanistan. But we can’t do anything. There’s no victory here for the western world (notice that I didn’t limit the situation to the US).

The west was fucked the minute we killed Saddam, and lots of people told you this was going to happen in 2002. Every single expert on the middle east opposed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The reasons they gave weren’t, "War is bad….oh look, there’s some yummy granola". That wasn’t what they said. They plainly stated that eliminating Saddam would destabilize the region and lead to a civil war between the three flavors of Muslims that make up a made up country. Don’t believe me? Go look for yourself. Limit your searching to a period from September 12, 2001 to March of 2003 (when we went in) so that you don’t get the taint of revisionist history. Do your own research. I’m not going to provide you with links, lest I be accused of selectively dishing up materials that prove my point. But I will give you this little nugget from a peacenick who was right about what would happen until he was wrong;

 

 

The ones that warned us not to do what Bush did were right. And none of them had or have a quick fix now that the damage has been done. I don’t know what the answer is because people who are smarter than me haven’t told me, and I’m not going to come up with a rectally generated solution, just so that I can stake out an opinion. To state it plainly; we’re fucked and there’s nothing we can do that isn’t going to fuck ourselves worse unless we plan on having troops in Iraq until the end of time. And if you think you have a solution, I first want to hear you explain the current situation accurately. Because if you don’t have a grasp on what’s happening right now and how we got here, I’m not going to put much faith in your ill informed hypothesis. I’m pretty well informed, and I don’t have a hypothesis.           

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SOFA: No, Not The Kind You Sit On, But The Kind You Leave Iraq With

So it’s Sunday morning and all hell has broken loose in Iraq so I’m positive that everyone who got everything wrong in regard to the invasion of Iraq will be on television to share more of their pearls of wisdom with the American people. I’m also positive that the chaos will be President Obama’s fault and that somehow the Sunday morning talk shows will be full of republicans discussing Iraq while managing to never utter the word "Bush". Yes, it will be an amazing thing to behold. So amazing that I don’t plan on watching. It’s going to be too predictable and infuriating.

I just wanted to write a quick post to clear up a couple of things that I’m positive will be fabricated for you by Fox, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bill Kristol, Wolfowitz, and everyone else who is directly responsible for this shit storm. Everyone but Bush. He’s going to remain in his undisclosed location, quietly fucking up his brother’s aspirations to run for president.

I imagine that an accusation about Obama "getting out too soon" will be made. Because we all know that a decade and two trillion dollars just isn’t enough to get the job done. If we stayed in Iraq for 1,000 more years, what is happening now would be happening 1,002 years from now. The smart people who were right about what would happen if we invaded Iraq are telling me so, and I believe them because that’s how credibility works. When you’re been correct in the past, you’ve earned some. When you’ve been tragically misguided and never acknowledge that you’re wrong, you get none

Let’s be very clear about the circumstances of our departure. The timing had exactly nothing to do with President Obama. Bush had signed a "Status of forces agreement" (SOFA) in December of 2008, right before he slinked out of the white house in shame, and with record low approval ratings. That agreement mandated that US troops leave Iraq by January 1, 2012 unless the Iraqi government negotiated a new agreement to extend that deadline. Obama did his damndest to prolong that ill-conceived nightmare of a war but mercifully, he didn’t succeed.

So on October, 2011 when Obama announced that the US would be leaving Iraq by January 1, 2012, he wasn’t actually announcing an accomplishment he had made. He was simply letting us know that the US was going to abide by the agreement that Bush had made.

Why do I tell you this? Because the drumbeat of revisionism is about to start again, and it’s going to come from the same people that created this nightmare in the first place. People who genuinely need to revise history because they simply can’t see how very wrong they were. The invasion of Iraq should never have happened, and the minute we killed Saddam, the civil war that is now starting became an inevitability. We literally could not have stayed long enough to ever prevent what is happening now from happening. It was always going to happen sometime after we left. Say what you will about Saddam, but he managed the unmanageable task of ruling three different groups of people that should never have been forced into one country. Joe Biden was right about splitting Iraq into three different countries, and that’s going to become obvious to the world in a few years. But he’s never going to get credit for getting it right because that’s not how the right wing rolls. When they fuck things up and make the world a harder place for people to live in, they just revise history a la the mythology of Saint Ronnie.

Fortunately, we have the internet now to record the actual events of the time. And since we know the internet is forever, I just want to make sure that my little corner was preserved for posterity with the facts.        

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Hey SCOTUS, We Have The Appearance Of Corruption

Something very interesting, but not at all surprising happened last week that I can’t allow to go unnoticed. It has to do with the sweet, doe eyed belief by the far right wing of the Supreme Court, that money can’t possibly corrupt our political system.

Vance McAllister, the republican who won a congressional seat in special election in Louisiana last November made news last week, for the second time in his short and legislatively empty tenure. You may remember him from a few months ago, when he was caught on tape making out with a married staffer (naturally, he is also married). Being the class act that he is, he decided to finish out his term while at the same time firing the staffer for doing exactly what he did. Remember?

Anyway, he’s back in the news and it’s worse than the last time he was in the news. He made some fascinating admissions during a speech to the Northeast Chapter of Louisiana CPAs when he told a story about a vote he cast. From the article;

McAllister said he voted on legislation related to the Bureau of Land Management though he did not identify the bill. McAllister said a colleague on the House floor told him that he would receive a $1,200 contribution from Heritage Foundation if he voted against the bill.

“I played dumb and asked him, ‘How would you vote?’” McAllister said. “He told me, ‘Vote no and you will get a $1,200 check from the Heritage Foundation. If you vote yes, you will get a $1,000 check from some environmental impact group.’”

McAllister said he voted against the bill but did not receive a $1,200 contribution from Heritage Foundation. Federal law prohibits public officials, including members of Congress, from directly or indirectly seeking, accepting or agreeing to receive anything of value in return for the performance of any official act such as voting.

McAllister said he was not surprised he did not receive a contribution from Heritage Foundation since the group and Gov. Bobby Jindal were “upset with me,” referring to Jindal’s call for McAllister’s resignation. Jindal asked McAllister to resign after The Ouachita Citizen and its sister newspapers exposed McAllister’s extramarital affair with a member of his congressional staff.

Isn’t the lack of corruption and the lack of the appearance of corruption comforting? But don’t get the wrong idea that you may be seeing some corruption here because a spokesman for Heritage stepped up to clear this right up for us (from the article);    

Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C. It conducts research of issues and legislation before the Congress. Heritage Foundation does not make political contributions in any manner, according to James Weidman, spokesman for Heritage Foundation.

Weidman said McAllister did not receive a $1,200 contribution from Heritage “because we would never do anything like that.” “If he (McAllister) is wondering why he didn’t receive a check from the Heritage Foundation, which does not make political expenditures of any kind, it is because we do not do it,” Weidman said.


“The Heritage Foundation is a think tank and does research and education, but does not get involved with political bills at all.” “He was just badly misinformed,” Weidman added.

Me thinks the lady doth protest too much. But don’t you worry because I’m positive that this is all a misunderstanding, and that SCOTUS’s sunny optimism was well founded and not all a product of the perks they themselves get from the very same benefactors who are so generous with congress.

Nope, nothing to see here. Move along.

Or, you can help by joining Wolf PAC and changing the system.    

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Never Served In A War Zone? Then STFU

So the republican ‘shit on anyone you need to in order to fuck Obama’ train just keeps on-a-rollin. It’s not the lunatic fringe that the mainstream republicans can claim isn’t their problem (or creation). No, this time it’s the mainstream republicans. This time, it’s Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl who served in Afghanistan, where he has been held captive in an Afghani prison for the past 5 years. They’re going after him with a vengeance because they’re positive that he’s a deserter whose desertion caused the death of anywhere between six and eight thousand fellow soldiers, depending who you’re talking to, and how high their propensity for hyperbole and straight up bullshit is. I’m not going to get into whether he’s a deserter or not. Why? Because I don’t know, and I’m not a jackass. As a nonjackass, I recognize that we don’t have all of the information we need to make that determination and that there has been no investigation into the matter. 

If he’s guilty of anything, we have military courts for that. And for everyone who is concerned that he may get away with something, let me assure you that we have plenty of prisons here in the US. No need to leave him with the Afghanis. We are the United States of America. We don’t just abandon our own because we think they might be deserters. We have a court system to determine if someone is guilty of anything. That court system is one of the things that separates us from barbaric societies made up of angry lynch mobs. We don’t do honor killings and we don’t stone people to death. We are a civilized society and since I want to keep it that way, I felt compelled to remind some of you of that.

At this point, we don’t know if he deserted or his mental health status at the time. What if he cracked under pressure like the 167 vets that committed suicide last year (by the way, that number is going up by about 15% each year)? Or like the fifty thousand that were homeless for some or all of last year (that number has tripled since 2011)? Does that matter to you at all? Because let me tell you that if it doesn’t, I find you despicable and I don’t ever want to hear you utter anything resembling "support the troops" ever again. If you don’t care that Bergdahl might have cracked under pressure, then you don’t care about any of the soldiers that are suffering as a result of what they did for us. If you have no use or empathy for soldiers that came back broken after volunteering to fight for you, then I have no use for you. I feel dirty just knowing that you people exist.

I have no fucking idea what being in the middle of a combat situation does to a person, and unless you’ve been there, neither do you.

And by the way, for the purposes of this post, I’m giving you your assumption that he did in fact desert even though we simply don’t have enough information to make that determination yet. And I’m giving you that, despite knowing better. Four words; Pat Tillman, Jessica Lynch.  

Smart people wait for information. Reasoned people know they can’t possibly judge a person in a traumatic situation they’ve never, ever been in. Only the dim witted and the despicable forge ahead with their judgments because that’s the only time of the day they will ever feel good about themselves.

I just want to throw a little cold water in your face by reminding you that you have nothing to feel good about. You’re disgusting.    

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