Monday, June 30, 2014

This is why we can't have nice things. This. Is fucking why.

And, surprisingly, it's not "Short Time" Sam Alito's Himalayan-massif-like mountain of stupid that is the Hobby Lobby v. Burwell decision.

And, yet, it is, but not for the reason that most of my friends are furious about it.

Yes, it privileges one sect of Christianity over others, including other non-fundie Christian sects, thus violating the Establishment Clause. Yes, it's a remarkable dick-slap in the face of women and especially women not born to the two-yacht family. Yes, it's hypocritical, given the business' owners support of other contraceptive manufacturers. Yes, yes, yes...

But you know what the REALLY insidious thing about this gelatinous mass of fucktardry is?

That it equates ignorant credulity with intelligent reason.

Here's the deal. One of the main points that the Jesus-pesterers who own this outfit objected to was that several of the forms of birth control purchaseable under the ACA were, in their opinion, "abortifacients" - they popped little blastocyst-Americans out of their proto-mommy's womb like teensy pry-bars and thus made Baby Jesus cry or something.

The facts were completely in opposition. These things - including the "Plan B" pill and a couple of IUD's - prevented implantation rather than "aborted" an actual fertilized zygote. Doctors and researchers from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists noted "...there is a scientific distinction between a contraceptive and an abortifacient and the scientific record demonstrates that none of the FDA-approved contraceptives covered by the Mandate are abortifacients."

Pretty straightforward, right? You can get to fight this because you don't want to pay for your employee's birth control (and good luck with that, given both the case law and popular opinion...) but not because you don't like the idea of funding her post-hootchie time abortion...because what you're paying for is NOT abortion. You just BELIEVE it is.

Now Sam Alito comes along and makes his bid for the imperial crown of Emperor-for-Life of the Stupids:

"It is not for the Court to say that the religious beliefs of the plaintiffs are mistaken or unreasonable."

Got that? Your "belief" may be completely in opposition to cold, hard, established fact. You may believe that dogs are ducks. You may believe that the Sun is a giant heat-lamp in God's bathroom. You may believe that women are life-support systems for a womb. And...if you really, really, really believe that, then Sam Alito's Supreme Court, the highest seat of legal opinion in our nation, isn't going to tell you you're as full of shit as a three-day-old-diaper and to knock it the hell off and grow another brain cell.

Now. What's interesting to me about this is that on the comment thread about this on my Facebook page, one of the wingtards opined: "Labeling the people who disagree with you "stupid" is as bad as labeling the people who disagree with you "immoral"." Which is basically what Short-Time Sam is saying. You want to believe something impossible? Something ridiculous? And, more importantly, you want to make people who are dependent on you, who may not believe in that stupid ridiculous belief act in line with your stupid belief? Fine. We, the highest court in the land, are not going to tell you that you are a fucking idiot and that you need to smarten up, stop doing stupid things, and stop trying to make smarter people around you do those stupid fucking things.

No. We're going to tell you to go ahead and go Full On Stupid, because Jesus tells you to.

I have NO problem labeling that "stupid". It IS stupid. When my ignorant opinion is accorded the same weight as your fact? That's stupid.

That's one reason we can't have nice things; because a pantsload of our fellow citizens are doing Full Stupid because they believe Jesus (or whatever the heck they worship; God, Allah, Zoroaster, Mammon, Ayn Rand, who the hell knows...) tells them so.

As Ruth Ginsberg said in her dissent: "Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah's Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations..?"

Based on Emperor Sam of the Stupids, yes, apparently.

So that's all very idiotic and depressing but, no. Here's the thing that really depresses me. Here's the real reason that the rest of us can't have good things:
Okay, this is the last point: What are the costs? What are the consequences of this, other than just that it’s an oppressive system and it sucks to live in a small town where Wal-Mart is the only retailer, and it sucks to be a farmer who’s having your livelihood crushed. What are the costs?

The costs are the end of democracy, the costs are the end of liberty. The real issue with Wal-Mart is not that it sucks to live in a small town, it’s that the Walton family now controls as much wealth as 41.5 percent of all Americans. One family with as much wealth as 130 million Americans. Now, who’s gonna get listened to when they show up on Capitol Hill? Or in the State House? Or the Town Hall? Is it Mrs. Smith? Or is it going to be the Walton family?

Of course.

And all this accumulation continues still. This accumulation of wealth and power is getting worse and worse and worse. So, the cost is the loss of our democracy and the loss of our liberties.
So: this is how the great populist period of the 20th Century ends; not with a bang. Not even with a whimper, but with the sound of a cash drawer closing on the nation we grew up in.

What's infuriating to me is that this isn't a surprise, this isn't a black swan. We've been here before, been under the boot of the plutocrats and the malefactors of great wealth. We know that that's bad, for us, anyway, and we know how to change that, and we're choosing not to, we're choosing instead to slide restively but quitely into the New Feudalism, the New Gilded Age, rather than to fight...because there IS nowhere to fight. The popular press is owned by the same people who own everything else, and there is no other path to public attention; the failure of Occupy proved that. If you cannot gain the licking of the lickspittle press you will be drowned out, turned away, ridiculed, and emasculated. You cannot hope to gain the attention, let alone the furor, of the huge unmoving slorg that is the American Public.

The gates are high, and the gatekeepers are all paid to keep us out.

And the alternative is what the People gave the Bourbons and the Romanovs. And we know how those ended; with Men on Horseback, ruin, and merciless hatred.

It's late, and I'm tired, and unhappy, and dispirited. I wish I could see another end to this story, a happy, sunshiny ending full of rainbows and sparkle ponies. But I can't and I don't. All I can do is rail at the blind stupidity of people like the Walton clan and Short-Time Sam Alito, Emperor-for-Life of the Stupid People, and the owners of the Hobby Lobby and the Teabaggers who love them. They are dragging us down to a damnation of their own making in the name of Freedom! and salvation and though I will be safely in my dirt bed by the time their promises are fullfilled all I can see is the yawning Pit and the fire and the hell that await my children.


Syrbal/Labrys said...

What absolutely slays me, beyond the obvious stupidity, is that a bunch of MALES decided that the religious freedom of the EMPLOYEES -- women employees in this case -- count for nothing at ALL.

Well, hey, let's try that one on, shall we? What if my wild pagan ways tell me climate change (or wtf-ever) could be stopped by an appropriate sacrifice? If women's health and choice can be slaughtered for Hobby Lobby's religious gratification; why can't I cut some throats to please presumably bloodthirsty angry-placate-me-or-else gods of MY choice? Or more simply, WHY can't religious exceptions apply to taxes -- why should Quakers pay taxes that pay for wars, for instance?

This ruling is not only ass-backwards stupid, but also going full on dark ages SAVAGE if you REALLY analyze the possibilities. I don't know whether the Alito-led cabal of morons has gone insane, or whether they are merely venal corporate ass-kissers; or is it all just to spite that black man in their White House?

FDChief said...

Well, not much different from what us guys have been doing throughout history but, yeah, that's pretty irritating.

Your example isn't quite spot-on; presumably the opinion dosn't allow me to commit an unarguable crime because my God says I can. In fact, several of the observers who ripped this opinion noted that the courts have already slammed several other similar "religious" exemptions to the law, such as Quakers claiming an exemption from paying taxes to fund warfare (Adams v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 3rd U.S. Circuit, 1999) So this decision is stupid - in that it privileges uninformed prejudice so long as it's "belief" - and it's also poorly crafted as law, as it shoves a wedge firmly into the door that the bulk of the RFRA cases have shut concerning your and my "religious" exemption from obeying the law.

Ael said...

Actually, I think the Harris case will cause more long term damage. Unions are fundamental to combating the Gilded age.

Hobby Lobby is legally unsound and SCOTUS will need to spend a lot of time trying to square the circle in terms of precedent implication. It will rank up there with Bush v Gore for legal amusement.

BTW. I believe that the church objects to the destruction of a body with a soul attached. The problem is that nobody knows when the soul gets attached. The earliest moment when a soul *might* get attached is at fertilization (i.e. the moment a zygote is created from two gametes). Implantation takes place later and is irrelevant to the legal issue at hand.

Clearly, the court is not using words like "abortifacients" in the same technical sense as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. They are not technical experts and technical truths do not matter to them. I am used to that.

In my field of computing science it is transparently obvious that software is simply a subset of mathematics. All programs are simply mathematical expressions. Since math is not patentable, there should be no software patents.

Alas, software patents exist.

syrbal/Labrys said...

Oh, I know the Court of Douchbags crafted this specifically to apply to women wanting birth control. I 'get' that....but what I sarcastically suggest is that this court is made of hypocrites because WOMEN can die as barbaric a death as any sacrifice to any (other)god due to pregnancy related complications.

The ruling denies the religious (not to mention physical) freedom of every woman working for the patriarchal asshats. I tell you, if wishes were horses for me to ride? Alito and his entire cohort of jerks would drop dead of some sort of blockage and their entire family lines would go with them. Having them in my gene pool gives me hives.

FDChief said...

"BTW. I believe that the church objects to the destruction of a body with a soul attached. The problem is that nobody knows when the soul gets attached.

Which is why, IMO, the Framers made the sensible decision to make it very clear that the legal framework for this country - while admittedly containing a large component of Christian ideas and ideals - was officially secular. The notion of attempting to legislate "souls" or refine the concept of "soul" in criminal or civil court is ridiculous. What are you going to do, call God as a witness? And, short of that, who is to determine whether the statement of "God's Vicar on Earth" is the Word of God or the word of a man using God to accomplish his human purposes?

The simple answer is that when you and I step outside of our homes and our temples we become citizens of a republic, not a theocracy. I may be a Sikh but I cannot - or at least should not - be able to use that to violate the uniform regulations of my nation's Army. I may be a Skyclad Jain but I may not use that to caper naked through schoolyards. My right to my religious peculiarity ends at the tip of your nose. Or the inside of your wallet.

There's a wonderful line in Robert Bolt's play about private faith and public policy where More replies when asked how he thinks "the world" interprets his refusal to sign the legislation making Henry VIII head of the Church of England: "The world may construe according to its wits; this court must construe according to the law."

And that is, or should have been, the case here. The law demands that a corporate entity doing business in the public square do business in accordance with the public law. The plaintiffs wished to have it both ways - their private morality while in the public marketplace. Sam Alito gave them that, foolishly in my mind. Because, as you point out; there is no way to legislate the soul. And, just as there is no way to determine when someone had one, there can be no agreement WHETHER someone has one. And from there it is not that great a step to "Kill them all, God will recognize his own."

Ael said...

In Canada, we don't separate church and state, we simply guarantee freedom of religion. This allows us to fund religious schools to the same tune that we fund public schools. There are historical reasons for this and it can get complicated but we typically work through the issues.

This does mean that Sikh Mounties can (and do) wear a turban with their scarlet uniforms.

The recent election in Quebec absolutely slaughtered the PQ who favoured a secular charter to outlaw large religious symbols worn by civil servants. (Aimed at hijabs, but also scooping up large crosses and kippahs.)

A big factor in our moderation is how we select supreme court judges. Our Prime Minister gets to choose from a number of (fairly) long lists (depending on region). Various law societies work to put names on those lists. Those societies tend to value legal competence over ideology. Thus, the prime minister doesn't really have the opportunity to choose a flaming ideologue.

Also, Parliament is supreme, it can pass a law over-riding the supreme court's interpretation of the constitution. The override must be renewed every 5 years, and typically there is a huge electoral price to be paid (Supreme court judges tend to have higher trustworthiness than Prime Ministers).

It is so nice to be able to see the mistakes made by the (older) democracy to our south. It enables "tuning".

FDChief said...

I think the difference is as much cultural as political. I don't get the sense that Canadian politics has as much of the zero-sum mentality as American, so there's less of an issue with the mixture of religion into politics. Here it's much more "I win - you lose" and the Christian fundies are the strongest proponents of that attitude. Anything that lets a non-Christian identity into the public square is seen as a loss for "Christianity" so public prayer is fine if it's Christian prayer, a cross is fine but not a hijab or a turban or a kippah.

That's why I think we end up having to keep ALL those symbols and those affiliations away from things that broadcast the national identity, because of the Christian Right's insistence that the U.S. is "a Christian nation". If we don't keep our politics secular we end up with sectarian conflict in the form of the Christian fundies trying to beat up everyone else...

Syrbal/Labrys said...

You sort of said it all when you said "zero sum", Chief. If I had to sum up in a single phrase the problem with American "reasoning" that would be it.

It is like we are allergic to thought.

FDChief said...

And, I note with a certain sour unsurprise, we're all talking about the fucking God-botherers and their nonsense, rather than what I called out as the real reason that we can't have nice things - the feudalization of our "republic". Which, I'm sure, suits the new monarchy down to the ground. They love to have us diddling around about Jesus and guns and homos whilst they loot the public purse and prepare our peasant future for us...

We are so, so, so, soooooo fucked.

Syrbal/Labrys said...

I've talked for years on various blogs, about the serfification of the American labor force, Chief. And I hate to admit it, but I really was sort of blind for a history buff. I know serfs in feudal society were the bottom rung...above them the nobles (corporate thugs in our era) and the Church! I really just hoped that my one-time religion-blindness was a sign that we were beyond that.

But we are not, the bit is in the teeth of the religious horses(asses) now -- they've written to Obama asking for the right to religiously discriminate against gays and lesbians now. Telling him to show "deference to religious prerogatives".

Holy shit does THAT phrase scare me. What's next, Jew-baiting and witch burning?

Ael said...

I hear you Chief.

A fundamental problem is the two party system. It makes for very stable, easily capturable politics.

A viable third party would change all the dynamics.

Alas, I have no idea how one might be established.

FDChief said...

Ael: In a "first-past-the-post" electoral system such as the U.S. has it can't, period. Such a system will always evolve into two parties. Good explanation of why here:

Lisa said...

Have you viewed the film, "Idiocracy"? If not, you should (or the short story, "The Marching Morons," by Kornbluth.)

I enjoy your superior eloquence when ruminating over the great stupid in their terms, a chore I cannot brook:

When my ignorant opinion is accorded the same weight as your fact? That's stupid.

You cannot hope to gain the attention, let alone the furor, of the huge unmoving slorg that is the American Public.

Ael said...

Sorry Chief, only two parties under first past the post is not a mathematical certainty.

In Canada, we had a two party parliament with our first past the post system for the first half century of our existence. However, for as long as I have been alive we have had a functioning 3 party system (and until very recently it was a 4 party system).

FDChief said...

But you have a parlimentary system, though, right? Meaning that you don't elect your chief executive, they are nominated by the party (or parties) that has the majority in the legislature. That's a massive difference.

And my understanding is that in practice you DO have "two parties" - that power just swaps between the Liberals and the Conservatives until recently, when something called the "New Democratic" party replaced the Liberals. But still...basically two parties.

Ael said...

Yes we have a parlimentry system. We have two "major" parties, except that the major parties can (and do) suffer major setbacks caused by the impact of the "minor" parties. For example, in the mid 90's, the conservative party was reduced to 2 seats. 2! It had to merge with an upstart western right wing party before it became competitive. The liberals were badly damaged in the last election (the NDP became the official opposition) but are set to make a major comeback next year.

Third parties magnify electoral swings and change the electoral calculus from a left/right one dimensional thing into a two dimensional surface. This greatly complicates things like negative advertising as you may end up paying to elect the third guy. It also complicates gerrymandering.

Finally, while the NDP has never had a prime minister, it has had a tremendous impact on policy as the major parties have often scooped up their planks to try and draw NDP voters to them to "make it over the hump".