Supreme Court rescues one particular religious liberty

Joan Walsh at Salon.com asks:

How did it happen that the only issue on which religious liberty trumps existing employment law, for the court’s conservative majority, is the issue that pertains to women’s freedom and sexuality? 

US Supreme CourtIt’s a good question.

And it’s odd, too — or at least coincidental? — that the majority was all-male.

And all 3 female justices disagreed.

No doubt the prestige of being on the U.S. Supreme Court is nice, but there’s some chance the workplace environment stinks. The New York Times has a front page story, “Birth Control Deepens Divide Among Justices” — subhead “Female Minority Angry”.  It has — yow! — 2,476 online comments, now closed. Thar’s too many, of course, but always remember the Times’ comments are moderated (12 moderators, some of them part time). Trolls are bounced, and the readers vote for the best comments. The Times comments are different from the articles and often a welcome and thoughtful sidebar.

Thomas Friedman out of context…

Thomas FriedmanTom Friedman is confident. Neither the military autocrats in Egypt nor the Sunni insurgents in Syria/Iraq can survive for long

…because they cannot deliver for young Arabs and Muslims what they need most: the education, freedom and jobs to realize their full potential and the ability to participate as equal citizens in their political life.

Does anyone doubt that the same words apply also to young Americans?

 

Why we know so very little

It’s one thing for an ordinary person to be wrong. It’s quite another for a public figure to be just spectacularly, famously wrong. On-the-record. And with disastrous results. Like the people who brought us the 2003 Iraq War.

kristolwolfowitz

Remember Dick Cheney?

  • “And he [Saddam Hussein] is actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time.” (March, 2002)
  • “I think it will go relatively quickly. Weeks rather than months.” (March, 2003)
  • “My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” (March, 2003)
  • I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.” (July, 2005)

Dick and daughter Liz are back, opinionizing in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal. Well, not surprising. It’s Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal.

There is no penalty for getting things wrong. 

And the famously wrong Bill Kristol (we “could have terrifically good effects throughout the Middle East.” September 18, 2002) and the equally thick Paul Wolfowiitz (“We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” March 27, 2003) are back, too. They’re on the supposedly serious Sunday morning TV shows, discussing — believe it or not — what to do about Iraq’s current descent into sectarian violence. It’s very much like having the captain of the Exon Valdez offer advice on how to clean up oil spills. Except, to be fair, grounding an oil tanker is only a very small blunder compared to the colossal moral, military, planning and policy blunders advocated – insisted on! – by these wrong-way neocon blunderers.

The lesson? There is no penalty — in large swaths of our news media — for getting things wrong. Even calamitously wrong.

In real life, people do fail. They get fired. They’re effectively discredited. They lose reputation. After a big blunder, they never work in the same field again.

That’s real life. If you screw up, you will probably experience accountability. That captain of the Exon Valdez? He never captained another oil tanker. Probably he never expected to. And indeed he never got the chance.

Meet the Press and This Week weirdly operate with entirely different rules — the incompetents never need to leave. Observe, the incredible shrinking news.

 

Wisconsin State Journal gets gay!

Wisconsin State Journal, June 8, 2014The Wisconsin State Journal offers a nice editorial celebrating the sudden ability of same-sex partners to marry in Wisconsin. The news pages, too, had extensive and upbeat coverage of couples seizing the moment to marry, including this really heart-warming photo of Todd Kinsman and Ravi Manghnani outside the Madison City-County Building. And, of course, other pictures…

So, way to go, Wisconsin State Journal.

And, while we’re at it, let’s jump into the Way Back Machine and revisit the State Journal’s editorial stance eight years ago. Hey, that too was pretty good. In 2006, when conservatives had gleefully glommed onto “traditional” marriage as another cynically exploitable wedge issue, the State Journal actually got it right. In a strong editorial they argued against amending the Wisconsin constitution to prohibit same sex marriage.

Of course, that argument was lost later that year, as the people of Wisconsin approved the constitutional amendment (59%-41%) banning same-sex marriage. (Or even anything like it, no matter what it was called.)

That was a day for shame and regret. A solid majority of Wisconsinites voted to harm a harmless minority of fellow citizens. We might just as well have voted that Mormons shouldn’t marry, or left-handers. It was simple prejudice, inflamed by [some] preachers and [some] political interests. And now eight years later the fever is breaking.

But let’s not feel too good about this yet. The celebration has broken out only because of a court ruling, and by a federal judge, appointed by Jimmy Carter. Meanwhile our state remains entirely under the control of people who do not blink when they need to harm the harmless for their own political purposes. Look what they’ve done refusing Medicaid for the poor. Look what they did to teachers. Look what they did to voters (well, you know, “those” voters). Wisconsin’s Attorney General remains committed to wasting our money defending this deeply regrettable worse than pointless clause in our constitution.

The Wisconsin State Journal earned the right to crow a little about forbidden marriages breaking out now in Wisconsin. They earned the right when they spoke out in 2006. We’d love to say that sort of thing more often.

Now they didn’t manage to name the bad guys in this saga. That’s not the way we’d have played it. But just looking forward is OK for a day. And they get completely carried away when they say

Gay marriage isn’t going away because the public is committed to fairness.

You’d hope. But the public isn’t “committed to fairness” in any permanent way. It wasn’t so committed in 2006, and it remains divided. See the May 21st Marquette Law School Poll where support for gay marriage varies by which set of questions is posed (i.e., posed to the same people). We’d like to think this battle for progress is over. It seems, however, that nothing is ever really over.

 

Antarctic Ice Collapse: The Untold Story

Sometimes, the untold story is literally untold. It’s not reported. Doubtless many Americans live in a place — either physically or emotionally — where certain information will not likely penetrate. If you’re reading the Stinkvillle Weekend Advertiser and hearing occasional TV news, god only knows what you know.

For that matter, if you read our local daily or read on-line at Madison.com, carefully, you may discover this listicle“10 Things to Know: This Week’s Takeaways” from the Associated Press, including at #5…

5. NASA SPOTS WORRISOME MELTING OF ICE SHEET IN WESTERN ANTARCTIC

Two new studies show that the ice sheet is starting a slow collapse in an unstoppable way. Alarmed scientists said Monday that means an even higher rise in sea levels than they had feared. Scientists say that over hundreds of years, the ice melt that has started could eventually add 4 to 12 feet to current sea levels.

(The AP’s #1 “Thing to Know” was a tragic mine fire in Turkey. Is their list in any kind of order? Why is the eventual loss of many of the world’s great cities #5? The New York Times editors put it on page 1 above the fold, which is where it belonged, we think.)

Still, the week’s Antarctic Ice news wasn’t completely unreported in Madison, so that’s good. You could make a [weak] argument that Madison’s doing better than the mythical Stinkville. We hope it appeared also in the Wisconsin State Journal‘s print edition, but we don’t know. We just don’t see that anymore except for the Sunday giveaways over at Metcalf’s Sentry.

There’s no law that says adults living in an ostensible democracy need to inform themselves, and in fact many of us don’t. Less than half of us can name the three branches of government. About half of Americans can name one of their U.S. Senators; only a quarter can name both. Is this the best we can do?

Sure, it’s hard to keep up. It’s not just global warming; there’s also what’s up with the Kardashians, but it’s possible to follow both. What’s really grounds for pessimism is how many of us just really don’t want to know about certain important facts. Denialism is becoming a lifestyle. We remember when “denialism” wasn’t even in the lexicon, much less becoming a well-defined market. Now there are media outlets cashing in by ignoring certain facts or by sabotaging the facts when they cannot be ignored. It’s not just Fox News.

Polls show that climate concern goes up and down. Lately it’s down.

Gallop - environment trend It’s a particular problem among the usual suspects:

Americans are less worried about climate change than the residents of any other high-income country…. When you look at the details of these polls, you see that American exceptionalism on the climate stems almost entirely from Republicans. Democrats and independents don’t look so different from people in Japan, Australia, Canada and across Europe.

Toles - GOP Skates off the edge on climate change

Climate spurs debate — some thoughtful, some pretty frustrating

Antarctic Ice SheetThe Western Antarctic ice sheet has begun to collapse. There’s no scenario for reversal and the whole western sheet will be lost. It IS going to happen. This was the conclusion of two separate studies soon to be published in the journals Science and Geophysical Research Letters and reported lots of places but of course not everywhere (see below).

“it shook me a little bit”

Richard B. Alley, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University said he found the new papers compelling. Though he had long feared the possibility of ice-sheet collapse, when he learned of the new findings, “it shook me a little bit,” Dr. Alley said.

On the left (well, really the “center”) there’s a debate about how to communicate to the public. Basically the question is: should news about unfolding climate change emphasize urgency or actual somewhat-nerdy detail? (See: Climate Hawk vs. Serious People for example.)

  • Serious Person“: If you read the studies, this ice sheet “collapse” will be a slow-moving affair, in human terms, not really occurring rapidly until 200 years from now, or even later, at which point we’re on our way to seeing sea levels rise 10 feet or more.
  • Climate Hawk“:  Ya, sure, but we should still have “COLLAPSE!” in the headline just to get attention. If we’re going to avoid the worst of climate calamities, we must act now, now, NOW… within the next 15 years. Telling people that the real shit storm will arrive long after they’re dead is an ineffective motivator (for most of us) to do something NOW.

These are both reasonable arguments, and here at The Daily Tissue we weaselly endorse both, simultaneously.

But meanwhile what’s happening on the right?

Well, it’s unchanged. It’s now a very dumb discussion where facts don’t matter. Climate change is to be ignored, minimized or derided. It’s a foolish orthodoxy. In the week just past Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio (R-FL) reversed himself and said what “conservatives” (at least for now) simply must, must say,

“I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.”

Republican candidates believe (or know?) that they cannot say anything else if they hope to be nominated. So Rubio says it, even though he’s from a state where parts of two major cities and all of the Everglades will drown in the future.

But it’s not just the craven politicians angling to a Republican base. It’s more extensive than that.

Jonathan Chait in his Daily Intelligencer column does a point-by-point takedown of two conservative, millionaire star-pundits — George Will and Charles Krauthammer who will never run for office.

Krauthammer and Will are (or used to be) as good as it gets in the world of conservative movement punditry, and yet there they are on Fox News just grasping for ways to cast doubt on an established scientific consensus, even on the whole scientific field of climate science. WHY? Would they be drummed out of the movement if they broke with Rush Limbaugh?  Would they lose their well-paid pundit gigs? How long can this bubble-think go on?

Remember “Bagdad Bob”?

Bagdad Bob was DOUBTLESS. THE. ONLY. amusing figure in the 2003 Irag war. As Iraqi information minister, “Bob” became hilariously famous for saying things like “There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!” as U.S. tanks were rolling by, on camera, in the background behind him. He was a figure of rich satire at a terrible moment. This is what Krauthammer and Will are doing, positioning themselves as American Bagdad Bobs denying climate change, even as — in the background — California’s fire season lasts 75 days longer than a decade ago, rain events become stronger and more frequent in the northeast, and on and on.  

Are we really doomed to do almost nothing at the highest levels of government because of a gridlock where one side enjoys its bubble of misinformation and magical thinking? That’s where the smart money would be wagering for now. Even though it cannot last.

***

 

This-Week-in-Racism update

Frank Bruni, in his NY Times column, discusses racism and wealth.

…[David] Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, just did the impossible. He wrested the racist-of-the-moment mantle from Cliven Bundy,

Interestingly, Mr. Sterling was just about to receive an honor from the NAACP… and not even for the first time.

…at a transcendently awkward news conference on Monday [Leon Jenkins, president of the N.A.A.C.P. Los Angeles chapter] was rationalizing the latest lifetime achievement award — which the N.A.A.C.P. has now rescinded — and its coddling of Sterling over time.

Turns out… if you give sizable donations to a routinely needy nonprofit, they in turn will speak well of you. They may even give you an award. This turns out to be true even if you are a known douchebag. This is the power of money, most particularly when a tiny few have piles of it and most others don’t. It seems almost corrupting, doesn’t it?

Ha. We kid. Of course it’s corrupting. Now the president of the L.A. NAACP has resigned (which is sort of a real penalty) and Sterling may be forced to sell the Clippers for some whopping number of millions (which isn’t a real penalty, is it).

Cliven Bundy departs, Fox News soldiers on

cliven bundyOut in Nevada, the Cliven Bundy fever blister seems to have lanced itself after Cliven, his own self, began speculating on how Negroes might’ve been better off as slaves picking cotton. The man should not do unrehearsed news conferences.  Well, actually, no news conferences of any kind. Sure, Sean Hannity/Fox News delighted in his act for a couple of weeks, propelling him from unknown Nevada cattle rancher to conservative folk hero. But alas, the man was an unvetted amateur. All of a sudden he’s out there on some crappy little stage making racist remarks? In front of the cameras?! Good grief, the movement has been developing much better code words for years. Didn’t Cliven ever watch Fox News to see how it’s done? It’s dog whistles, Cliven, you don’t just blurt it out plain-like.

Now, Hannity and Fox have galloped back to New York. Sean’s slammin’ Cliven for his “ignorant, racist, repugnant, despicable” remarks. And Cliven’s daughter is slammin’ Sean back on her Facebook page. It’s high school. Or middle school. This ginned-up bubble of Fox News nonsense was bound to blow up — and yes, it could’ve easily blown up violently — but as reported, the Bundy Ranch was percolating with oddballs, conspiracy nuts, and religious weirdos….Good ol’ Cliven, speaking daily to God (and hearing Him), was apparently first among equals. Read the whole weird thing.

It’s unsurprising that Fox can whip up ready-to-consume controversies. P.T Barnum wrote the recipe in the 1800′s. But somehow Fox still enjoys some little shred of influence among what we might call “relatively normal people” and that needs to end. We’ve got about a dozen years to deal with global warming before it’s too late.

Folk hero in-the-making

CEO Mary Junk‘s frankly absurd bonus of $700,000 for [yet again] refinancing an $800 million debt has led a long-time employee at Lee Enterprises’ most storied newspaper Lee’s St. Louis operation to quit in protest. Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan (as passed along at Jim Romenesko) recounts the story of resigning carpenter Scott Bujnak:

Workers have suffered while the big bosses have prospered. Pensions were long ago frozen. Mandatory unpaid furloughs were introduced. Layoffs were the worst. Families were ravaged. Yet, it was the small things that got to Bujnak…

Who will play Bujnak in the movie version? Too soon to say. But for now there’s a folk song developing, which begins

Scott Bujnak

Scott Bujnak

“Twas the straw that broke the camel’s back”… 

Sez disgusted lead carpenter Scott Bujnak…

Another bonus for old Mary Junck…

Somep’n, somep’n…

Rhymes with clunk…

It’s a work-in-progress

People respect honest work, and Ms. Junck collecting outsize bonuses for simply doing another refinancing is neither honest nor fair. It’s demoralizing to everyone below her in the organization. That Ms. Junk has continued to accept these awards-fer-doing-nuthin’-special is nice for her, but is in every other way bad for morale and bad for business. In fact, we’ll go further. The only way we can understand these bonuses for Junk and her chief financial officer is that they aren’t planning for the enterprise to survive, at least not with them at the helm, and they are instead looting in plain sight taking profits, now, while they still can.

Lee executive bonuses draw criticism

You can readily see why Lee newspaper executives dislike having unionized employees. They’re so outspoken. Unreasonable, too.

The head of the union that represents reporters and other workers at the [Lee-owned] St. Louis Post-Dispatch says employees of Lee Enterprises – rather than its chief executives – deserved bonuses…

…employees hadn’t had a raise since June 6, 2008. Since then, employee costs have increased “for the worst company health insurance we’ve ever had.” Sorkin went on to point out that retiree health and life insurance were gone, pensions frozen, and for new employees there are no pensions.

A bitter, unsuccessful strike finished off the newspaper unions here in Madison over 30 years ago, so there’s less outspoken grumbling.