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Time, Place, and Manner

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Planned Parenthood Needs to Chillax About Hobby Lobby

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As soon as the Supreme Court reached its decision in Hobby Lobby vs. The Crushing Ennui That Accompanies Spending Time At Hobby Lobby, Planned Parenthood released this image on their Facebook page:


Your boss can decide if you have access to birth control coverage! Now as far as we know, Planned Parenthood has some sort of expertise when it comes to birth control, so if they say this is the case, it must actually be the case, right?

Of course not. It's a knee-jerk reaction to a hot-button issue, which basically tells you right away that it's completely wrong and without any basis in fact or reasoning. In fact, Planned Parenthood doesn't seem to have gotten as far as the first paragraph of the majority opinion.

We must decide in these cases whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), 107 Stat. 1488,42 U. S. C. §2000bb et seq., permits the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to demand that three closely held corporations provide health-insurance coverage for methods of contraception that violate the sincerely held religious beliefs of the companies’ owners. We hold that the regulations that impose this obligation violate RFRA, which prohibits the Federal Government from taking any action that substantially burdens the exercise of religion unless that action constitutes the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest.

And then a little further into the opinion:

For all these reasons, we hold that a federal regulation’s restriction on the activities of a for-profit closely held corporation must comply with RFRA.

Emphasis added. But only kinda added. The bold was added, but the court keeps saying "closely held" over and over again, making it very clear that the opinion applies only to closely held corporations.

Might it be a precedent that will allow the decision to later apply to all corporations, slippery slope style? Probably not. It makes some sense (to some people, we can think of at least 5) that a closely held corporation could have a sincerely held religious belief. It makes absolutely no sense to say that a widely held corporation can have the same sort of belief. If the decision will apply anywhere else, it's most likely going to extend to sole-proprietorships, and maybe some partnerships.

So, can "your boss" decide if you can have birth control coverage?

Probably not. If you work for Hobby Lobby they can make some decisions, but most employers will still have to provide it.


But wait, there's still more wrong with the Planned Parenthood message!

Even Hobby Lobby can't decide if you can have access to birth control coverage. What Hobby Lobby can decide is if Hobby Lobby is going to provide it. That's not the end of the access question because there's thing you may have heard about in the news called THE OBAMACARE. Or you know, the health care exchange marketplace communism Obamacare. If you work for a Hobby Lobby and want birth control to be covered, you can just buy a different plan on an exchange.

But buying it on the exchange could be cost-prohibitive. The exchanges work by giving people discounts, but you don't qualify for a discount if you're already getting coverage from work. Hobby Lobby isn't exactly paying upper-middle class wages. By not getting it from their employer, aren't employees effectively cost-prohibited from obtaining birth control?

Excellent question! Let's see what the government has to say about it:

Whether you qualify for lower costs based on your income will depend on the coverage the employer offers. You won't be able to get lower costs if your job-based coverage is considered affordable and meets minimum value.

Meets the minimum value. We suspect it'll be about two more minutes before some interpretive guidance comes down saying that plans without birth control aren't minimally acceptable and that if you have such a plan you will quality for lower costs. Just a guess, but we think it's a pretty damn good one.


But wait, there's still more!

Not my boss's business.

Your reproductive health decisions are you own business, not your boss's. And that's exactly the position Hobby Lobby has taken. You want birth control? Not their business. By demanding that employers provide it, they're making it quite literally their boss's business.

Georgetown law prof asks: But what about the wimmin?

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Obama recently rolled out the My Brother's Keeper initiative aimed at helping minority boys and young men. The goal is basically to get them education, employed, and out of trouble -- and if they're in trouble, to get them back on the right track. So naturally, Georgetown Law pof Paul Butler is asking, "But what about the wimmin?" Here's a bit from an article he wrote for CNN:

There's a myth that girls of color are doing better than boys. But that's not supported by the facts. Indeed the White House website attempts to justify MBK's exclusion of females by stating that "boys of color are too often born into poverty and live with a single parent."

But don't African-American girls live in the same single-parent households as African-American boys? Don't Latina girls attend the same failing schools as Latino boys? Isn't a teenage girl on a reservation in California as afraid of being a victim of rape as a teenage boy in Chicago is afraid of being a victim of gun violence?

It would actually be quite surprising if the odds of a girl being raped on an Indian reservation was the same as a boy being shot in Chicago, and we're sure the stats are out there somewhere, but we're not going to look into that particular one because frankly, it'd take too much time, not to mention problems with rapes being under-reported --  gunshots on the other hand tend to draw police attention.

But what we will look at are the more easily comparable stats. Is is a myth that girls of color are doing better than boys of color?

Black women are twice as likely to get a 4 year college degree than black men. [Dep't Ed] The numbers are similarly skewed for Hispanic and Native Americans and at all levels of education except when it comes to blacks getting master's degrees (black women get 71%) and Hispanics getting PhDs (Latinas only get 55%). Nowhere on the spectrum are girls of color not doing better than boys.

According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, black males are about 30% more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than black females. [NCJRS]

Black men are 50% more likely to have been arrested than black women. They're six times as likely to have been charged in federal court. [BJS]

The black unemployment rate for men is 30% higher than for women, though Hispanic men are doing slightly better than Hispanic women overall. For youth the numbers are much worse. Black men aged 16-19 have a 42.8% unemployment rate, while it's 27.5% for women. At age 20-24 it's 25.5% for black men, 18.5% for black women. Hispanic youth were at a virtual tie at these ages. [BLS]

But don't African-American girls live in the same single-parent households as African-American boys?

It would appear not. That won't stop a Georgetown law profess though, and why should it? You see, law school teach you to think like a lawyer, and what does that mean? Cheat To Win. Your loyalty is to your client, to your cause, not to some higher notions of truth or justice. All that matters is winning the argument.

PS: There's this little thing called the White House Council on Women and Girls, but no corresponding op-ed from Paul Butler demanding that men and boys be included. And they shouldn't be. Including boys in programs designed to help girls is like giving them a mastectomy to cure prostate cancer. Doesn't mean there shouldn't also be prostate cancer treatments, but we shouldn't have the Paul Butlers of the world complaining that the woman in the next exam room isn't all getting a finger up her rectum.

Obamacare Secretly Changing Your Party Affiliation

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If you get insurance through Covered California (an Obamacare health care exchangemaroo), be prepared to have your party registration automatically switched over to Democrat for you. At least, that's what an ABC news story alleges:

A local couple called 10News concerned after they received an envelope from the state's Obamacare website, Covered California. Inside was a letter discussing voter registration and a registration card pre-marked with an "x" in the box next to Democratic Party.

The ABC story goes on to explain that the couple didn't want to be identified, and that the couple attempted to contact the California Secretary of State office, which investigates voting fraud, but "could not get a hold of anyone."


So yeah, we're gonna go ahead and file this item under the heading That Happened.

Come on, ABC. First rule of journalism is you have to name your sources. Well, maybe not the first rule, but it's in like the top 10 rules. A source needs a really good reason to not go on the record. And when they have a good reason, you disclose it to the reader so they know.

Second rule of journalism is that if you've just got one piece of evidence, and that evidence is really shaky, you go looking for more evidence. That's actually maybe the first rule. We don't really know, we're not journalists. But, we do know that anyone could just get an unmarked form, mark it, and then call ABC and claim it was pre-marked. There's no way for ABC to know the difference. Now, it's a judgment call whether or not to run the allegation, but if you do run it you certainly don't say, "Inside was a [...] registration card pre-marked with an 'x' in the box next to Democratic Party." What you do say is "The couples alleges that the card was pre-marked with an 'x'..."

The third rule of journalism is that if there are 4 million other voter registration mailings being sent out by Covered California, you go find someone else with a pre-marked card.

The fourth rule of journalism is if someone says they called the Secretary of State and no one there is answering the phones, you get damned suspicious of the story. But hey, it's the start of Spring, so maybe?

The fifth rule of journalism is you call the Secretary of State yourself and tell us what they had to say.

The sixth rule of journalism is that when you talk to Covered California and learn that the mailings come not from them but directly from the Secretary of State, you think hm... I SHOULD CALL THE SECRETARY OF STATE.

The seventh rule of journalism is Preston Phillips, you should stop doing journalism, because...

The eighth rule of journalism is That Happened.

Things White People Like: The Death Penalty?

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Yesterday, writer Jamelle Bouie wrote about a Pew survey and why he thinks so many more white people support the death penalty. Spoiler: It's racism. Now before jumping in, let's go ahead and make one thing perfectly clear, there are racial disparities when it comes not just to the death penalty, but to criminal punishment in general. And also, those disparities are bad.

That said, Bouie is completely wrong when it comes to why white people like the death penalty so much. Or, to be more exact, his argument is without meaningful support. He could in fact be right, but he certainly hasn't made his case.

He first lays out the Pew data:

Overall, 55 percent of Americans support capital punishment, and 37 percent are opposed. Among whites, however, support for the death penalty jumps to 63 percent, compared to 40 percent for Hispanics and 36 percent for blacks.

So far so good, but Bouie is concerned with the why, not just the what. To begin his explanation for why white people like the death penalty, he first reminds us of its racist historical use:

Before we get into why whites are so supportive of the death penalty, it’s important to remember this: There’s no separating capital punishment from its role, in part, as a tool of racial control.

There's a bit of internal inconsistency in this statement's logic. It's that "in part" bit. That phrase implies there's another part, and if there is that other part, then a sufficiently sophisticated mind actually can separate one part from the other part. That's kinda what it means for there to be parts. And what is that other part? Capital punishment's use as a tool of crime control. And you know why it's so easy to mentally separate these two parts? Because capital punishment predates racially diverse civilization. Ancient Greece didn't exactly have a lot of black people in it, but you could be sentenced to death for the crime of giving funeral rights to a traitor, or corrupting the youth with your weirdo philosophy.

So, there is in fact some separating capital punishment from its role as a tool of racial control. And duh, the Pew data bears it out. 36% of blacks support it. If you were to ask about things with more direct ties to racism, such as segregation or lynching, we suspect the number of black supporters would be considerably lower. We think it's safe to say that the black supporters of the death penalty probably do a bit of separating.


Bouie concludes his article with this:

It sounds glib, but if you needed a one-word answer to why whites are so supportive of the death penalty, “racism” isn’t a bad choice.

And for no particular reason, these seems to us a good place to introduce some other statistics, and we decided on the racial breakdown of people who've been executed since 1976. No surprise, blacks are grossly over-represented, making up 34% of those executed, about twice their percentage in the population.

That disparity is alarming for sure, but it should also set off a red flag as it relates to Bouie's argument. What about the other people? 56% of those executed were white. So, in Bouie's interpretation of America, white people aren't only using the death penalty for racial control, but are so hell bent on keeping the blacks in line that they'll kill 5 white people just to kill 3 black people. We're either really bad at being racist, or still working through some fodder left over from the Clone War.

We think Bouie's argument has some holes in it now, but it's not quite sunk. Maybe white people don't realize how many other whites are executed. Or maybe they're just happy with the disparity because it both kills the criminals who need killing, and also keep the blacks in line. If only there was a way to corroborate Bouie's theory.

And thankfully there is! Great thing about America is that it's racist to just about everyone, and it's got a lot of different races to be racist against. So let's look at Asians. They were abused in the construction of the continental railroad, their home countries have been exploited by colonial trade, and there was that slight incident where we imprisoned every single Japanese person in the country. Asians make up about 5% of the American population, but are an even tinier number of those executed.

Of course, most of the death penalty states are in the South, which has a smaller Asian population. In Alabama, they're only 1.2% of the population, but also only 0.5% of current death row inmates. In Texas, Asians are 4.2% of the population and 1.3% of death row inmates. And looking at California where Asians are 13.9% of the population, and where you'd expect a history of racism against Asians to have its strongest lingering effect, they're only 3.4% of death row inmates.


What can we conclude from all this? That if white people favor capital punishment because they're racist, then they suck at racism. And that Bouie sucks at talking about race and the death penalty, because he also quotes another interesting figure from the Pew study: 64% of white protestants support the death penalty. Now we haven't read our Bibles in a while, but we're pretty sure there's some stuff in there about justice, and morals, and eyeballs and some other such things, and that maybe the reason why white protestants are so much in favor of the death penalty isn't because of racism, but because they have a different take on criminal justice generally.

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