A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Hobby? In the Lobby?

[Although] “the religious right views religion as a fundamental, and indeed essential, part of the human experience, the secular left views it as something more like a hobby.... [For the left, therefore,] “it’s as if a major administrative rule was struck down because it unduly burdened model-train enthusiasts.”
-- Megan McArdle, Bloomberg View blogger
How fitting then that the suit was brought by a place called Hobby Lobby. Were they indeed lobbying for their hobby?  Of course, some viewed the "administrative rule" as one that required people who do not care for model trains to pay for the equipment used by those who do. That is another pair of boots (as the Germans say)!

There is something, who can say what, about this narrow bit of legalistic casuistry by the Supremes that has unhinged the Usual Suspects. Some in NARAL¹ have advocated that people go to Hobby Lobby stores and have sex in the store, so we see that the spirit of rational discourse is alive and well.
¹ Although what the ruling has to do with abortion rights is anybody's guess. Perhaps, if they have enough sex in the stores, some percentage of them will need abortions afterward, and NARAL is simply engaging in a form of product placement.
Another commboxer commented that the ruling has set back something called "progress" by a century and a half, although most people might suppose that it has been set back at most two years, and returned us to the misogynistic and patriarchal milieu of 2012. O! The humanity!

Another comment held that "the Court has allowed religion to interfere with sex, which really is 'a fundamental, and indeed essential, part of the human experience'."

Now a more puckish imagination than TOF's might wonder whether it is rather the contraceptives that are interfering with the sex, given that they are disrupting (sometimes chemically) a fundamental part of human experience. But note that nothing (save perhaps prudence) is interfering with anyone's sex. The ruling regards who is to pay for the insurance coverage of the contraceptive methods that disrupt the natural process. But no one charges over the top from the trenches shouting a mouthful like that.

Among the more overheated reactions are those found on the Coyne blog echo chamber, where many of the kommentaklura regale one another with ever-more over-the-top imaginings. Coyne himself begins the fest by saying:
What they’ve done is not only classified corporations as people...
apparently unaware that the corporate person has been a cornerstone of Western jurisprudence for well over a thousand years. Otherwise, if anyone took it into his head to sue the corporation called University of Chicago, Dr. Coyne would himself be personally liable in any judgment. He goes on to say:
I’m really afraid for America: afraid that, due solely to our Supreme Court, we are becoming a theocracy.
which proves that he needs to lie down with a wet washrag over his face and get a freaking grip. A theocracy? Really?  I do not think Dr. Coyne knows what a theocracy is. Of course, MR, one of his kommentaklura dutifully changes 'becoming' to 'is':
We are living in a theocracy and corporatocracy.
No, MR. We are not.

Another commenter, realthog, prophesied:
"This decision may put Hobby Lobby out of business. Most of its customers are women, many of whom ... will henceforth shop elsewhere."
which stereotypes women. Not all women are the same; not all are obsessed with consequence-free sex. It may be that some women hold the same beliefs as the Hobby Lobby folks! Some may believe that it's nobody else's business. Others may believe that birth control supplies are no more a matter for "health insurance" than auto detailing is a matter for car insurance. Pregnancy, after all, is not a disease, and babies are not "parasitical growths."

However, a few residual voices of sanity have emerged from the general fit of vapors and fainting spells. From the libertarian Cato Institute: The Republic of Gilead Is Not Nigh and from the left-wing New Republic: The Hobby Lobby Decision Was a Victory for Women's Rights.  Both authors are irreligious and both have their particular agendas, but at least neither has become unhinged.

Briefly: Obamacare was decreed by administrative fiat to mandate full coverage of the purchase of contraceptives by women. Twenty different contraceptives were listed. Four of these worked by preventing implantation of an already-fertilized embryo. Biologically, this is already a human being, and therefore these four methods are abortifacients, which even some people who accept contraceptives find repugnant. These are the only four mandated coverages affected by the ruling. The other sixteen are still to be subsidized by your employer -- or by you, if you must buy on one of the government-run exchanges.

Since there already existed a "workaround" for overtly religious organizations -- like the Little Sisters of the Poor, designated by NOW as one of the "Dirty 100" -- the Court saw no reason why the workaround could not be used in this case as well. Namely, the company could opt out of funding insurance coverage for the abortifacient methods -- but the insurance companies could be ordered by their bosses in the government to provide that coverage for free in a separate policy.

So the ruling amounts to nothing. Not only will the other sixteen methods continue to be subsidized, but so will be the other four! All the Court decided was that some people with moral objections could not be forced to pay for those. But since none of them were especially expensive to obtain before, it is a wonder that anyone thought health insurance policies ought to be forced to pay for them. Car insurance doesn't pay for your gas and oil or your tune-ups.


  1. FYI, the 'designated by NOW' link re: the Little Sisters of the Poor is broken

  2. This link works.

    And here's a video of those Dirty Little Sisters forcing their beliefs on the vulnerable elderly.

  3. Keep on clinging tightly to your straw dogs and stereotypes, Kilopapa. It’s the only way you will ever be able to justify your political beliefs. You certainly never will be able to defend them either with reason or with facts.

  4. What has really struck me is the fact that this supposedly terrible ruling consists entirely of insisting that regulations decided by bureaucrats cannot override a law of Congress, if there is reason to think the Congressional statute applicable. The rule of law is apparently the first step to theocracy.

    (It's very noticeable that Coyne rose up shrieking about the content of the decision before he even bothered to read it; his post as it originally stood was wrong on every major interpretive point. That the RFRA already applied to corporations, because everyone already recognized, including the Obama administration, that it applies to non-profit corporations; nor is it at all some surprising idea that corporations can have religious freedom rights, since churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques all are legally corporations; the question was quite deliberately determined on notconstitutional but statutory grounds; etc., etc. Quite remarkably consistent in the wrongness, actually. It's almost as if he didn't draw his conclusions rationally on the basis of evidence!)

  5. Hey Kilo, you wouldn't sometimes happen to go under the pseudonym "John of God" would you? Cause if not, someone is trying their darndest to impersonate you, and are doing a rather good job of it. You might want to put a stop to them.

  6. Meagan McArdle's piece, quoted in the epigraph, is worth reading in its entirety.

    For example, McArdle makes a very general point about how -- aside from deranged ravings -- we got into this predicament:

    1. We have shifted from rules based on negative rights, which can be reconciled in "a perhaps uneasy truce" (you the right not to have me impose my religion on you, and I have the right not to have you impose your religion on me) to rules based on positive rights, which are not so easily reconciled (you have the right to have me pay for your abortifacients, and what became of my right not to pay for abortifacients?).

    2. The boundary between what we do for ourselves, privately, and what the State -- whose resources come exclusively from the exercise of coercive power -- does for us, and therefore also to us -- has been shifting towards the State doing more.

  7. On the right-hand side of the website is this helpful descriptor: "Attacks on reproductive rights keep coming. But NOW is fighting back."

    I was unaware that anyone was attacking anyone's else's "right" to reproduce (said tongue-in-cheekily). The point of NOW and NARAL is to attack our "ability" to reproduce.

  8. ...And certain senators have already introduced a bill to overcome the effects of the Hobby Lobby ruling. The Protect Women's Health From Corporate Interference Act of 2014 aims "to ensure that employers that provide health benefits to their employees cannot deny any specific health benefits, including contraception coverage, to any of their employees or the covered dependents of such employees entitled by Federal law to receive such coverage" and claims that "Birth control is a critical health care service for women. Ninety-nine percent of sexually active women use birth control at least once in their lifetimes, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared it one of the Ten Great Public Health Achievements of the 20th Century."
    Michael Taylor, from the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment, warns that "The bill states that an employer has no right to opt out of a federal mandate for any specific benefit, for any employees or their "covered dependents." In the future this could include RU-486 or elective surgical abortions. Employees themselves, and women and men buying individual coverage, also have no right to object. The Act overrides RFRA and "any other provision of Federal law" that gets in the way. Crippling penalties could be imposed on sponsors and issuers of insurance who provide generous coverage, but object in conscience to a specific "item or service.""

    1. Ninety-nine percent of sexually active women use birth control at least once in their lifetimes

      Oooh, I think I remember that study-- it's when I found out I wasn't sexually active, in spite of having several children!

      Somewhat related, similar "fine print" that makes stuff say other than what is implied:

    2. The Guttmacher "study" was touched on here:

  9. These are the only four mandated coverages affected by the ruling.

    There in nothing in the legal justification for the ruling that limits it to four specific types of birth control. In fact, there is nothing in the legal justification that would prevent, say, a Jehovah's Witness employer from refusing to cover blood products for a hemophiliac employee, nor a Scientologist from refusing to cover medications for mental disorders.

    On the other hand, Hobby Lobby used to cover these sorts of birth control, before the Affordable Care Act. Conscience seems to be a matter of convenience, from time to time.

    Are there over-reactions on both sides? Yes. It is a good precedent to give employers the right to interfere, indirectly, in the doctor-patient relationship, by imposing their conscience into the issue? I don't think so, but some may feel that's acceptable.

    1. Most likely they didn't know their coverage paid for chemical abortions until they were being legally forced to do so; they clearly have no issue with contraception, just killing a human.

      If one objects to "giving employers the right to interfere" in a thing, one should not require that they provide it.

  10. If one objects to "giving employers the right to interfere" in a thing, one should not require that they provide it.

    We agree here.

    I think a central payer model, something similar to the German health care system, would be a better way to combine the strength of America's corporate structure and fairness in the provision of health care. It would avoid all of these fights.

  11. What part of not requiring that I provide the money to kill children do you have trouble understanding?

  12. What part of not requiring that I provide the money to kill children do you have trouble understanding?

    You currently provide money to kill children, just by paying your taxes. Some of your tax money goes to various foreign powers, many of whom kill children for one reason or another. So, drawing the line regarding issues of contraception seems awfully arbitrary, on that particular score.

    Thus, I am confused by your question. Are you advocating that you should not be required to pay taxes as long as they support anything you might consider amoral?

  13. As you decided to change the subject rather than defend your supposed assertion, I fail to believe you are actually confused in the least.

    1. Foxfier,

      I'm sorry that you don't see the obvious connection. However, I'll put this in a different way.

      Every employer who employs women is potentially providing moeny to kill "children" (by this, I presume you are engaging in the usual rhetoric and referring to the unborn). If you pay them a wage, they are free to use the wage to have that abortion.

      Health insurance is another benefit that the employers provides for the employee; to pretend that the employer has a more direct relationship with the decisions of the woman because the access is through insurance, rather than cash, is a highly arbitrary line with no sound moral basis. This is why I find your position confusing. It could only be coherent if you a) hired no women at all, or b) controlled all of their spending after you hire them. Of course, I am assuming you reject a) and b) as legitimate options.

  14. It's very easy to see what you are attempting to do to change the subject; problem being that while I was born at night, it was not last night.

    1. I feel sorry for you, that you are the sort of person who assumes any perceived (by you) deviation from your chosen subject is by deliberate avoidance, as opposed to a simple misunderstanding.

      When I said that a central government offering health care would reduce the level of directness between the employer and the objected-to health care being offered, your response seemed, to me, to be that you would also object to that level of indirectness as well. When I asked for clarification, I received a response that instead came across as condescension.

      So, how should I interpret, in response to a notion of government-provided health care, the notion that "not requiring that I provide the money to kill children"? What does that mean in terms of actual policies and laws you support?

    2. It's like you're going down a checklist in attempt to avoid needing to defend your ridiculous statement on the 29th; the "shift the subject to the person who asked the question" tactic is old and tired, as well.

      The insults really don't help, either. They just make it very clear you're not acting in good faith.

    3. Foxfier,

      A comment on your behavior is not an insult. If you believe you have free will, then you freely chose to assume ill intent, rather than honest error, on my part. I do feel sorry for you, but since I doubt you see it as even a character flaw, much less a character trait that the mere possession of which would be considered insulting, my referring to it would not be an insult.

      By contrast, you have said that I "decided to change the subject rather than defend your supposed assertion", am "attempting ... to change the subject", and now am "not acting in good faith". Based on the standard you have set, should I be entitled to assume that you are not acting in good faith?

      Back to the point: I don't even know which of the various statements I made on the 29th that you find objectionable. If I guess which one, and guess wrongly, my current suspicion is that you will accuse me of changing the subject. So, how about before I defend some statement I'm not even sure you think is wrong, you actually point out which particular statement you feel needs a defense, and why you feel it requires one?

    4. Since you cannot manage the rather simple task of scrolling slightly up, reading the conversation and defending your statement, yet are able to somehow post here at all... I accept that you are admitting your statement is indefensible.

      Not like it was really needed with the constant attempts to talk about anything else, but it's kind of nice to have a stopping point.

    5. Something weird here. I'm getting notifications by email of all responses except the Unabrower's. How is this so?

    6. Did you check your spambox, both mail and blog? (And mail program, if it's on your computer?)

      I've had folks get randomly spam-marked.

    7. Nope. Haven't seen him there, either.

    8. EDIT: seems to be eating my comments... going to try one more time, just in case.

      *shrug* Sorry, then; once we get past the "is it plugged in? Did you check?" stage, I got nothin'.

    9. Foxfier:

      Statements from my comment on July 29 (with some unpacking):

      We agree here.

      I think a central payer model, something similar to the German health care system, would be a better way to combine the strength of America's corporate structure and fairness in the provision of health care.

      It would avoid all of these fights.

      You did not quote nor explicitly disagree with any of these statements. I still don't know which one of these (you have continually used the singular, so I take it there is one in particular) you disagree with.

    10. TheOFloinn,

      1) Perhaps it's because I have my own blogspot account?

      2) If Foxfier can't be any more specific in his next response, I will not respond again. I know you detest these pointless repetitions.

    11. I also have a blogspot account with which I am commenting, and am amused that the-- theoretically-- final response is to attempt at misdirection, after a really bad attempt at misunderstanding. I'm almost tempted to thank you for being so obvious. Even an absolute internet noob will recognize your tactics, and hopefully even when they are deployed a bit more subtly, and in isolation.


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