Friday, June 27, 2014

Who Will Decide Hobby Lobby / Conestoga Wood and Why It Matters

Like 99.999999999% of Americans, I am no expert regarding the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS).  But, as the saying goes, I know enough about SCOTUS to be dangerous.  It is a time honored tradition to try and guess what the SCOTUS will do and I will be partaking in that tradition today.  In fact, I am going to try to diving who will write the opinion in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby aka Hobby Lobby / Conestoga Wood (Hobby Lobby), for who writes the opinion will determine if the decision is (based on your ideology) is good, bad or ugly.

So here we go, starting with the one I think will be the author of the opinion.

Justice Anthony Kennedy: When it comes down to it, Hobby Lobby is about social issues, specifically, the ability of employees to have access to contraceptives through their employer provided health plans.  Except with respect to the matters of abortions and voting rights, Justice Kennedy tends to be on the moderate/liberal side of social issues.  Take for instance his authorship of the opinions in Romer v. EvansLawrence v. Texas and United States v. Windsor.  Both decisions expanded equality under the law to gays and lesbians.  If Justice Kennedy writes the opinion, which I believe he will, look for the court to decide that corporations, even privately held family owned ones, do not have religious liberty, reversing the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.  The decision would be 5 - 4.

Justice Antonin Scalia / Justice Clarence Thomas
: In my view, these two justices are almost interchangable.  Based on their history of supporting the concept of "corporate personhood", either Justice would easily vote to give all corporations religious liberty and the ability to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against its employees.  Either would affirm the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.  The decision would be 5 - 4.

Chief Justice John Roberts: His potential authorship is what scares the hell out of me.  Seeing how much he loves to "split the baby" when it comes to decisions, his authorship could only spell ugliness.  Take for instance his authorship of the ACA decision where he upheld the ACA but struck down the provision requiring States to expand Medicaid, thus overturning the "power of the purse" legal concept.  This has left millions of Americans in States that refused to expand Medicaid without affordable medical care.  If the Chief Justice is the author, look for him to declare that non-publicly traded wholly family owned corporations have religious liberty while publicly traded and/or non-wholly family owned corporations do not.  It would be a 6 - 3 decision with Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito in dissent.

Again, this is all speculation.  Who will be the author of the Hobby Lobby decision is anyone's guess, but it is very important as to who will write it.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Casey Kasem: The Voice of My Youth

The voice I so desired to hear every Sunday morning as I was growing up is no more.  Casey Kasem, the long time host of the venerable American Top 40 has past away according to CNN.

Like tens of millions growing up in the 1980s, Mr. Kasem was like the voice of God to me.  His was the definitive voice to know where are favorite songs stood in the rankings.  We listened to Mr. Kasem on our radios and Walkmans, waiting with baited breath to find out if our song had made it to number one.  We held back the tears as he did the vaunted Long Distance Dedication and we penned our own, hoping that maybe, just maybe, we would hear them.

But the voice of my youth has been silent for many years and now may Casey Kasem rest in peace.  That is my long distance dedication.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mental Illness: The Media's Deadly Selective Silence

On Sunday, one of the YouTubers that I subscribe to posted his weekly video, but it wasn't his regular super cheery video.  Calum McSwiggan (Cal) decided it was time to be serious and let us all in on a big secret: He had attempted suicide a few months back.  He expressed that when he was going through the thought process of making the video, he wondered if it wasn't showing weakness by telling the world (or at least his followers on YouTube) that he had tried to kill himself.  To me, Cal showed immense bravery.

As I wrote a couple of months back, I am bi-polar and have been for most of my almost 45 years.  So I understand Cal's daily struggle with suicidal thoughts and send him the biggest mental hug I can.  But his video got me thinking: Why is the media so selectively silent regarding mental illness?  Think about it.  When is the only time the media is even one bit concerned about those who have a mental illness?  That's right.  The only time they show any interest or concern is after a mass shooting, as if only the mentally ill can mow down scores of people with firearms.

This selective silence is deadly because we all know that the media shapes major issues and discussions regarding national policy.  Do you think that if the media weren't so silent, that it presented mental illness in a way that isn't connected to firearm violence that our nation's leaders would be able to continue to give a flying fuck about our nation's horrid track record regarding taking care of those with mental illnesses?  Of course not.

It is time for us to wake up the media and get them talking about mental illnesses without the cover story of firearm violence.  Its the only way to end this deadly selective silence.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Arizona & Mississippi: A Tale of Two States and Anti-Gay Religious Bigotry

As most of you know, Arizona's SB1062 was vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer after passage by the Republican dominated Arizona Legislature.  What a lot of you might not know, thanks to our feckless media, is that Mississippi's legislature not only passed a bill almost identical to Arizona's vetoed SB1062, but that Mississippi's Republican Governor Phil Bryant signed it into law last week.

That's right, Mississippi now has legalized religiously based discrimination towards gays and lesbians (and anyone else they don't like).  Now, Mississippi has never been a hotbed of equality towards gays as it doesn't have an employment non-discrimination law nor does it have a housing non-discrimination law.  But this law codifies such discrimination toward gays and lesbians in all aspects of their lives in the state of Mississippi.

But why did Governor Brewer veto such legislation while Governor Bryant signed such legislation into law?  The short answer?  We gays and lesbians, with the help of our allies as well as state and national business interests, were able to shine a powerful spotlight on Arizona.  That spotlight forced Governor Brewer to put the needs of the state above religious bigotry.  It was fairly easy to shine that spotlight on Arizona as it has a recent history of discriminatory laws, such as the infamous "living while brown law", SB1070.

Mississippi was able to fly under the media wire and not be forced into the spotlight because it has no major league sports team, isn't vying to be the home of a new Tesla factory and a host of other high tech companies.  We gays and lesbians had no chance to stop the legislation, even though we all knew about it, even if the so called "liberal" MSM was asleep at the wheel.  We had no allies to bring to bear and assert political pressure.  As much as we wanted to prevent such legislation, let alone it becoming law, it just was never going to be.

Hopefully the courts will be able to strike down this religiously based bigotry law.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Someone Was Paying Attention (Hint: It Wasn't The NSA)

As we all know, there are two cases coming before the Supreme Court (Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp v. Sebelius) that argue the novel (if not insane) concept that corporations/businesses have religious liberties.  Both Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood ground their arguments in the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA aka Obamacare) places a non-acceptable burden on the religious liberties of these two corporations.

A coalition of organizations* were paying attention though and have filed an amicus brief asking the Court to rule whether or not the RFRA is even constitutional.  In my view, this is a very welcome game changer.  Let us hope the Supreme Court takes the brief seriously and considers the constitutionality of the RFRA.

I want to thank Lyle Denniston over at the SCOTUSBlog for writing up an easy to read article regarding this amicus brief.

*The coalition that filed the amicus brief is made up of the following organizations:

1.  Freedom From Religion Foundation

2.  BishopAccountability.org

3.  Children's Healthcare Is A Legal Duty, Inc (CHILD, Inc)

4.  Child Protection Project

5.  Foundation To Abolish Child Sex Abuse

6.  Survivors For Justice

7.  Survivors Network Of Those Abused By Priests