Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Seen on the street

Seen at New Hope, PA. 

Only in Florida

The Court of Appeals reinstated Florida's law that makes it illegal for doctors to talk to their patients about guns (previously struck down by a lower court).

From an OpEd in today's NYT:
In Florida, in 2011, a law was signed that made it illegal for doctors to ask patients if they owned a gun. If doctors violate this law, they can be disciplined, leading to fines, citations and even a loss of their license.

A lower court struck down the law in 2012. But last week, a panel of judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld it. In their ruling, the judges declared that the law regulates physician conduct “to protect patient privacy and curtail abuses of the physician-patient relationship.” The clear assertion of the judges is that there is no legitimate health reason to be asking about gun ownership.

Almost 20,000 people committed suicide in the United States with firearms in 2011. More than 11,000 were killed by firearms that year, and more than 200 were killed in accidents with guns. In 2009, almost 7,400 children were hospitalized because of injuries related to guns.
Doctors who ask about guns aren’t doing so because they’re nosy. They’re doing so because the vast majority of those deaths and injuries are preventable.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Race or Class?

The NY Times has an article about Americans' poor math skills: "Why Do Americans Stink at Math?"

In the comments, Steve Sailer, a "conservative race demagogue" quotes essentially the upper half of the table here.  (The table is for Massachusetts, while Sailer quotes figures for the whole of the US.)

The figures are for the mathematics scores on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests.  PISA tests are conducted all around the world.  In 2012, students in Shanghai, China, topped the world with an average score of 613.   Singapore came in second at 573.   The United States scored an average of 481, way down on the list. 

Massachusetts average 514

U.S. average 481

OECD average 494

Female 509

Male 518

White 530

Black 458

Hispanic 446

Asian 569

Percentage of students in enrolled schools
    eligible for free or reduced-price lunch
Less than 10 percent 583

10 to 24.9 percent 514

25 to 49.9 percent 493

50 to 74.9 percent 465

75 percent or more 457

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Don't try to decipher the lyrics - they are nonsense words.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014


Had circumstances been just a little bit different, Sarah Palin could have become an accidental president of these United States. We need to remember that. We can forget the Alamo, but that Sarah Palin was widely (?) considered presidential material by a sizable (?) chunk of the nation, and remains so to this day, needs to be tattooed on our national psyche from now until the distant day when the Yellowstone caldera ends all further need for writing stuff down. We need to remember it because, Christ Almighty, she is still around, and is still getting fawning attention, and there is still a large segment of one of the two dominant political parties in the United States that say golly gee, we wish we could be governed by someone the likes of that. She is the downright moron the prophet H.L. Mencken famously foretold, which given past White House residencies is saying something....... She represents the id that has overtaken the party and swallowed it up whole, the id that has given us the Scott Walkers and the Chris McDaniels and the All of Texas.  She is the painted clown at the entrance to the great conservative roller coaster, the one that grins and points out a finger and says you must be no smarter than this to enter. -- Hunter on
 (H.L. Mencken : “As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”)

Sunday, July 06, 2014

With Supremes like this, who needs law school?

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act 1993,  (RFRA) says the following (highlighting added)

(a) Findings
The Congress finds that—
(1) the framers of the Constitution, recognizing free exercise of religion as an unalienable right, secured its protection in the First Amendment to the Constitution;
(2) laws “neutral” toward religion may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise;
(3) governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification;
(4) in Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990) the Supreme Court virtually eliminated the requirement that the government justify burdens on religious exercise imposed by laws neutral toward religion; and
(5) the compelling interest test as set forth in prior Federal court rulings is a workable test for striking sensible balances between religious liberty and competing prior governmental interests.
(b) Purposes
The purposes of this chapter are—
(1) to restore the compelling interest test as set forth in Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963) and Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972) and to guarantee its application in all cases where free exercise of religion is substantially burdened; and
(2) to provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government.
  Justice Alito, et. al.,  in Burwell v Hobby Lobby:

First, nothing in the text of RFRA as originally enacted suggested that the statutory phrase “exercise of religion under the First Amendment” was meant to be tied to this Court’s pre-Smith interpretation of that Amendment.
On this understanding of our pre-Smith cases, RFRA did more than merely restore the balancing test used in the Sherbert line of cases; it provided even broader protection for religious liberty than was available under those decisions.

The dissent notes:
Despite these authoritative indications, the Court sees RFRA as a bold initiative departing from, rather than restoring, pre-Smith jurisprudence.
The general worthlessness of Ivy League law degrees may be taken to have been demonstrated.  (John Yoo, of the torture memos fame, is Harvard/Yale.  David J. Barron of the execution without trial memos fame, is Harvard/Harvard.) 

The Indian Rupee Sign

For future reference:
₹ is the HTML code for the symbol for the Indian Rupee ₹.

From Vietnam, an artifact

Vishnu stone head from Oc Eo culture, dated back 4,000-3,500 years.  
The news-item is from the newspaper of the Vietnam Communist Party.
With those dates, this artifact would totally revolutionize history.  I have to assume it is mislabeled, and should be more like 2500-2000 years old.  

Secularism in these United States is a joke

I was unaware of these numbers, from 2012:
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) received $69,377,785 (a little over 31% of total revenues) from government contracts and grants in 2010, up from $58,327,207 (40% of revenues) in 2009, per their latest financial statement.

Also controlled by the bishops, Catholic Charities USA, the umbrella organization for all the diocesan Catholic Charities, received $2.90 billion (62% of revenues) from the government in 2010 and $2.64 billion (69%) in 2009; Catholic Relief Services received $517 million (56%) in 2010 from the government and $361 million (61%) in 2009, according to Forbes list of the 200 largest U.S. charities.
As the author of the diary points out:
The USCCB are busting their collective butts to elect plutocrats and their proxies this election year under the pretense of “religious liberty” while they use our money to proselytize and bring harm to women and the LGBT community. They wield their standard anti-abortion, anti-gay campaigns to energize the state-wide contests as well.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Religionists run amuck

Two things say it all, and what an auspicious day to note it.

Supreme Court splits on gender lines in first post-Hobby Lobby case on contraception

From Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissent:
Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word. Not so today. After expressly relying on the availability of the religious-nonprofit accommodation to hold that the contraceptive coverage requirement violates RFRA as applied to closely held for-profit corporations, the Court now, as the dissent in Hobby Lobby feared it might, see ante, at 29–30 (GINSBURG, J., dissenting), retreats from that position. That action evinces disregard for even the newest of this Court’s precedents and undermines confidence in this institution.
A comment on
This SCOTUS will rule any arbitrary way they 
want. They are voting as right wing Catholic moralists, not as the institution to protect the tradition and values of  American law.
 There's more, though.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Corporate Veil has been pierced.

As "Man from Wasichustan" points out on

If Hobby Lobby's owners can give their Corporation religion, their religion gives Hobby Lobby's owners--and any other owner, shareholder, officer, whatever--liability for the actions of the corporation.  Mr. Papantonio, who happens to be one of America's preeminent trial lawyers, sees it as an opportunity to sue owners for the company's negligence.

Some other people, it turns out, agree with his assessment and expand on what it means....
 Quoting Alex Park at (emphasis added):
Basically, what you need to know is that if you and some friends start a company that makes a lot of money, you'll be rich, but if it incurs a lot of debt and fails, you won't be left to pay its bills. The Supreme Court affirmed this arrangement in a 2001 case, Cedric Kushner Promotions vs. Don King:
linguistically speaking, the employee and the corporation are different “persons,” even where the employee is the corporation’s sole owner. After all, incorporation’s basic purpose is to create a distinct legal entity, with legal rights, obligations, powers, and privileges different from those of the natural individuals who created it, who own it, or whom it employs.
That separation is what legal and business scholars call the "corporate veil," and it's fundamental to the entire operation. Now, thanks to the Hobby Lobby case, it's in question. By letting Hobby Lobby's owners assert their personal religious rights over an entire corporation, the Supreme Court has poked a major hole in the veil. In other words, if a company is not truly separate from its owners, the owners could be made responsible for its debts and other burdens.
Incidentally, this also holds for that falsehood taught in the MBA finance classes at the U. Maryland and other fine business schools - that dividends are "double-taxed".   They aren't - the corporation is a distinct legal entity from the owners. 

"If religious shareholders can do it, why can’t creditors and government regulators pierce the corporate veil in the other direction?" Burt Neuborne, a law professor at New York University, asked in an email.

That's a question raised by 44 other law professors, who filed a friends-of-the-court brief that implored the Court to reject Hobby Lobby's argument and hold the veil in place. Here's what they argued:
Allowing a corporation, through either shareholder vote or board resolution, to take on and assert the religious beliefs of its shareholders in order to avoid having to comply with a generally-applicable law with a secular purpose is fundamentally at odds with the entire concept of incorporation. Creating such an unprecedented and idiosyncratic tear in the corporate veil would also carry with it unintended consequences, many of which are not easily foreseen.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Hobby-Lobby, past public distrust of Catholics

If I remember history correctly, there was considerable distrust of Catholicism amongst the American public back in the 1950s and John F. Kennedy had to make a strong speech that he would not be bound by the Catholic Church's doctrines in his presidential decisions, before people would trust him.

Well, if the Detroit Free Press is to be believed, the Catholic Church is indeed worthy of distrust, they have smuggled their religious doctrine into public policy -- via the Supreme Court justices.

There is nothing particularly conservative about Monday’s Supreme Court ruling excusing closely held corporations from a federal mandate to provide female employees with insurance coverage for certain forms of contraception.

Flying under the false colors of religious liberty, the five Catholics in the majority insisted they were acting to protect the constitutional rights of two closely held corporations owned and operated by Christian families.
 I'll pose my thoughts as questions:

I'm curious as to what happens to a corporation's exemptions based on religious belief, when:
1. The corporation changes ownership, or

2. The owners convert to a different religious belief.

Also, suppose some of the owners of the corporation that have claimed an exemption from providing contraception coverage, are discovered to be using birth control. Are they merely sinning against their religious beliefs, and are accountable only to their God for their hypocrisy, or have they committed a public fraud?

I don't see, following the Supreme Court decision, how we can avoid having a periodic audit of corporate owners' religious beliefs by the government. And what is more offensive to the First Amendment - such audits, or everyone uniformly having to follow public policy?