Liberals’ Hobby Lobby Doublethink
I’m particularly fond of the Game of Thrones reference. Read Jonah’s entire column here.
Abortion-rights protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court building on Monday holding signs that read “Birth Control: Not My Boss’s Business.”
“The notion that denying a subsidy for a product is equivalent to banning that product is one of the odder tenets of contemporary liberalism.”
Much to their chagrin, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito agreed in his ruling in the Hobby Lobby case.
Of course, that’s not how supporters of the government’s contraception mandate see it. They actually believe that birth control is their boss’s business, and they want the federal government to force employers to agree.
More on that later, but it’s first worth noting how we got here.
First, contrary to a lot of lazy punditry, there is no Obamacare contraception mandate. As my National Review colleague Ramesh Ponnuru notes, even President Obama’s liberal rubber-stamp Congress of 2009–10 never addressed — or even debated — the question of whether companies can be forced to provide contraceptive coverage. Department of Health and Human Services bureaucrats simply asserted that they could impose such a requirement. Indeed, “several pro-life Democrats,” Ponnuru adds, “who provided the law’s narrow margin of victory in the House have said they would have voted against the law had it included the mandate.”
“If I like to dress up as a character from Game of Thrones on weekends, pretending to fight snow zombies and treating my mutt like she’s a mystical direwolf, that’s none of my employer’s business. But if I ask my employer to pay for my trip to a Game of Thrones fan convention, I am asking him to make it his business.”
Moreover, Hobby Lobby never objected to covering birth control per se. It already covers 16 kinds of birth control for its employees. But it objected to paying for what it considers to be abortifacients, which don’t prevent a pregnancy but terminate one. The pro-abortion-rights lobby can argue that “abortion” and “birth control” are synonymous terms, but that doesn’t make it true. Read the rest of this entry »
Perceived Widespread Corruption in U.S. Government on the Rise, Americans Less Satisfied With Freedom
WASHINGTON, D.C. — For Gallup.com, Jon Clifton reports: Fewer Americans are satisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives compared with seven years ago — dropping 12 percentage points from 91% in 2006 to 79% in 2013. In that same period, the percentage of Americans dissatisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives more than doubled, from 9% to 21%.
Gallup asks people in more than 120 countries each year whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives. In 2006, the U.S. ranked among the highest in the world for people reporting satisfaction with their level of freedom. After seven years and a 12-point decline, the U.S. no longer makes the top quartile worldwide.
Of the countries where Gallup asked residents about satisfaction with their freedom in 2006 and 2013 (108 in total), only 10 countries had declines as large or larger than the decrease seen in the U.S. Read the rest of this entry »
[Below, ReasonTV talks with FIRE about challenges to free speech on college campuses]
“Universities’ stubborn refusal to relinquish their speech codes must not be tolerated,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff during a press conference.
An OU student’s rights organization, OU Students Defending Students, ran afoul of university administrators because he created T-shirts for the organization that featured a risque phrase “We help get you off”
For now, suits have been filed against Ohio University, Iowa State University, Chicago State University, and Citrus College in California. These universities have all trampled students’ free speech rights, according to FIRE. Read the rest of this entry »
For Breitbart.com, Matthew Boyle reports: Conservative election integrity organization True The Vote filed suit in federal court Tuesday against Mississippi’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and the Mississippi Republican Party, asking a judge for an immediate injunction against them so that the election material from the state’s June 24 GOP primary runoff can be inspected.
“What must withstand the test of time is the integrity of the process by which we elect our representatives and establish our government. No candidate or party should ever be allowed to twist election laws or subvert voters’ rights in the interest of political ambition.”
— True the Vote president Catherine Engelbrecht
The lawsuit comes as allegations that Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-MS) campaign and his allies engaged in voter fraud to win last Tuesday’s runoff against conservative state Sen. Chris McDaniel. Cochran bested McDaniel by fewer than 7,000 votes but did so with an overwhelming turnout from liberal Democrats in the black community.
“True the Vote has been inundated with reports from voters across Mississippi who are outraged to see the integrity of this election being undermined so that politicos can get back to business as usual. Enough is enough.”
“All we are asking is that the MS State Republican Party follow the law; allow their designated county representatives to inspect the poll books and ballots, give them the review time they are permitted by law, and allow them to uphold their responsibility to MS voters,” True the Vote president Catherine Engelbrecht said in a statement about the suit. “True the Vote has been inundated with reports from voters across Mississippi who are outraged to see the integrity of this election being undermined so that politicos can get back to business as usual. Enough is enough.”
True The Vote wants the federal judge to order the state party and Secretary of State’s office to allow independent verification of the election results to ensure there were no “illegal votes.” Such votes could come as fraudulently cast absentee ballots—the runoff saw a massive spike in absentees over the primary a few weeks earlier—or by Democrats who voted in the June 24 GOP primary runoff after having voted in the June 3 Democratic primary. Read the rest of this entry »
For Techdirt, Mike Masnick reports: The other shoe just dropped when it comes to how the federal government illegally spies on Americans. Last summer, the details of the NSA‘s“backdoor searches” were revealed. This involved big collections ofcontent and metadata (so, no, not “just metadata” as meaningless as that phrase is) that were collected under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA). This is part of the program that the infamous PRISM effort operates under, and which allows the NSA to collect all sorts of content, including communications to, from or about a “target” — where a “target” can be incredibly loosely defined (i.e., it can include groups or machines or just about anything). The “backdoor searches” were a special loophole added in 2011 allowing the NSA to make use of “US person names and identifiers as query terms.” In the past, it had been limited (as per the NSA’s mandate) to only non-US persons.
“…the CIA is doing these kinds of warrantless fishing expeditions into the communications of Americans as well, but at least the CIA tracks how often it’s doing so. Of course, when it comes to metadata searches, the CIA doesn’t bother.”
This morning, James Clapper finally responded to a request from Senator Ron Wyden concerning the number of such backdoor searches using US identifiers that were done by various government agencies. And, surprisingly, it’sredaction free. The big reveal is… that it’s not just the NSA doing these searches, but the CIA and FBI as well. This is especially concerning with regards to the FBI. This means that the FBI, who does surveillance on Americans, is spying on Americans communications that were collected by the NSA and that they’re doing so without anything resembling a warrant. Oh, and let’s make this even worse: the FBI isn’t even tracking how often it does this. It’s just doing it willy nilly:
The FBI does not track how many queries it conducts using U.S. person identifiers. The FBI is responsible for identifying and countering threats to the homeland, such as terrorism pilots and espionage, inside the U.S. Unlike other IC agencies, because of its domestic mission, the FBI routinely deals with information about US persons and is expected to look for domestic connections to threats emanating from abroad, including threats involving Section 702 non-US. person targets. To fulfill its mission and avoid missing connections within the information lawfully in its possession, the FBI does not distinguish between U.S. and non- U.S. persons for purposes of querying Section 702 collection. It should be noted that the FBI does not receive all of Section 702 collection; rather, the FBI only requests and receives a small percentage of total Section 702 collection and only for those selectors in which the FBI has an investigative interest. Read the rest of this entry »
Vintage Sci-Fi Movie Poster: The WEIRDEST Visitor the Earth Has Ever Seen! ‘The Man From Planet X’, 1951Posted: July 1, 2014
Description from Internet Movie Database:
“As a mysterious planet hurls itself toward earth, an enigmatic extraterrestrial scout arrives on a remote Scottish island with unknown intentions.”
Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers have joined pro-democracy protests on the streets of the Chinese territory in a massive show of defiance against Beijing’s vision for the city’s political future.
Pro-democracy protests on July 1 — the anniversary of the 1997 handover of the former British colony to China — are an annual event in the territory.
But public anger over a recently published Chinese “white paper” declaring Beijing’s “comprehensive jurisdiction” over the territory, released amid a campaign by pro-democracy activists calling for universal suffrage, has brought huge crowds out onto the streets this year.
Marchers gathered in Victoria Park in the city’s center before setting out along the protest route, where they faced heavy rain showers as the day wore on.
Posters of the cover of the controversial Beijing “white paper,” which stressed that Hong Kong does not have “full autonomy”…
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— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) July 1, 2014
For over 50 years, an anchor on the Sunset Strip since it’s opening in 1964, the Whisky A Go-Go has played host to rock ‘n’ roll’s most important bands, from the Doors, Janis Joplin, and Led Zeppelin. Johnny Rivers led the house band. Photo by Julian Wasser
Hong Kong: For CNN, Wilfred Chan and Euan McKirdy report: Nearly 800,000 Hong Kongers have done something China’s 1.3 billion people can only dream of: cast a ballot to demand a democratic government.
In an unofficial referendum organized by pro-democracy activists and denounced by Chinese authorities, 787,767 people in the city of more than seven million have called for the right to directly elect their next leader.
But Beijing has insisted Hong Kong politics stays in line with Chinese rule, paving the way for a showdown in the city.
Who are the activists?
Occupy Central is a pro-democracy group founded in 2013. Their goal is to allow the Hong Kong public to elect its next leader without strings attached.
If the Hong Kong government doesn’t eventually give the public more voting rights, Occupy Central has threatened to “occupy” Central district, the city’s financial hub, with a sit-in that would disrupt businesses and block traffic.
How is Hong Kong governed now?
Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, with its own executive, legislature, and judiciary.
A former British colony, the city was returned to Chinese control in 1997. But before the handover, China and the United Kingdom signed an agreement giving Hong Kong a “high degree of autonomy” for 50 years after its return to China. This enshrined a principle known as “one country, two systems” in a constitutional document called the Basic Law. Read the rest of this entry »
Images via NASA.
For Popular Mechanics, Niko Vercelletto writes: Since it reached the orbit of Saturn 10 years ago today, the Cassini spacecraft has captured mind-blowing images and collected invaluable data about the ringed planet and its multitude of moons.
Launched from Earth in 1997, the probe was originally approved for a four-year mission, but that mission has now been extended three times. Good thing, too. With so much time spent in orbit of the sixth planet, Cassini has studied not only the gorgeous gas giant but also moons such as Titan, with its great hydrocarbon lakes, and Enceladus, with its jets of ice. Read the rest of this entry »
For The Daily Caller, Patrick Howley writes: Ex-Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner spoke at a 2010 government conference where Lerner’s underling Nikole Flax announced the new IRS program scrutinizing groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Both Lerner and Flax experienced “computer crashes” that led to the permanent deletion of their emails, according to the IRS, which said it cannot hand over their emails to congressional investigators on two House committees.
“The IRS began flagging tea party applications in February 2010, the month of the Washington conference.”
Both Lerner and Flax briefed fellow government bureaucrats on the new targeting at the conference, where Lerner appeared at a workshop called “Will the IRS Come Knocking?”
“Flax made 31 visits to the White House between July 12, 2010 and May 8, 2013, according to White House visitor logs.”
Flax announced the new program scrutinizing groups at the Washington Non-Profit Legal & Tax Conference at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. from February 18-19, 2010. At the time, Flax worked under Lerner in the Exempt Organizations office. Read the rest of this entry »
Chelsea Clinton, from her $10.5 million perch on Gramercy Park, declares that she finds it impossible to care about money. Bill and Hillary Clinton, shuttling between their multimillion-dollar homes — Chappaqua, Washington, the $200,000-a-month rental in the Hamptons — denounce the wicked rich and protest that they are not “truly well off.” A professor of poverty and left-wing activist at the University of North Carolina School of Law is paid $200,000 per annum to teach a single class; anti-inequality crusader Elizabeth Warren was paid $350,000 per annum to teach a single class and thinks deeply about the plight of the little guy in her $1.7 million Cambridge mansion. The city of Bell, Calif., was nearly bankrupted by the very generous salaries its political class secured for themselves: nearly $800,000 per annum for the chief executive of the modest Los Angeles suburb, on his way to collecting a $1 million annual pension. (Several Bell leaders were later charged with misappropriating millions of dollars’ worth of public money for their own benefit.) Philadelphia was paying the feckless chief executive of its violent and defective government schools some $350,000 a year before the mayor got around to firing her, but not before the city wrote her a check for nearly $1 million to make her go away — and then she filed for unemployment benefits. A Philadelphia police lieutenant on an $87,000 annual salary takes home nearly $200,000 after nearly a hundred grand in “overtime” kicks in. The head of the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federal enterprise, was paid nearly $6 million in 2013; the agency’s chief financial officer and chief lawyer were paid $2.1 and $1.9 million, respectively, that same year. The school superintendent in Lubbock, Texas, is paid nearly a quarter-million dollars a year.
“The very fact that Uber is in the judgment of many consumers a better product is what provides the motive for destroying it. That is economic, intellectual, and moral perversion, but that is how politics operates. Its mandate is to stand between consumers and producers until it gets its cut.”
Consider a separate but not entirely unrelated economic development under way at the same time: A number of innovative technology firms, including Uber, Lyft, and AirBNB, are under attack from entrenched, politically connected economic interests. Uber and Lyft threaten the privileges of politically protected taxi cartels and the unions attached to them, while AirBNB subverts the traditional hotel arrangement. Each of those services takes something that it is perfectly legal to do for free — allowing a traveler to use your home temporarily, giving somebody a lift to the airport — and allows people to do them for money. (Here one is reminded of George Carlin’s argument for the legalization of prostitution: “Selling is legal. F****** is legal. Why isn’t selling f****** legal?” There are a great many reasons for that, none of which apply to charging a fee for car service.) Which is to say, these services allow ordinary people to generate revenue by making the most out of otherwise underutilized assets, a possibility that is of non-trivial concern as participation in the work force plunges. Read the rest of this entry »