Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Consumer Outreach

(with due credit to and


HOME: Hello?

CALLER: Hello! I am calling to let you know that you are currently inside a residence which we will be bombing shortly. Please rouse yourselves and evacuate immediately! The bomb will be landing in five minutes.

HOME: Oh... no, no thank you.

CALLER: Sorry, sir?

HOME: We're not interested. We would like to cancel the bombing, please.

CALLER: Cancel the bombing? Sir, this is some of the finest bombing in the world. You won't find bombs better anywhere in the area, I can assure you.

HOME: Yes, I'm sure it's excellent bombing but we're just not interested.

CALLER: Can you tell me what it is about our bombs that doesn't appeal to you? Is it the heat? The shrapnel? The speed of delivery? Because I assure you, in... four minutes thirty seconds you'll be able to appreciate just how, ah ah, top-of-the-line we are in all of those regards.

HOME: We would just like to cancel, please. Can you cancel this bombing?

CALLER: Well, sir, my job... really, my job is to warn you to flee your home before we destroy it. But I also need to know how we could keep you as a target.

HOME: Right, I understand, but....

CALLER: You've been a target of ours for... gosh, your whole life, is that right?

HOME: Yes, that's right.

CALLER: Well, after such a long and productive relationship, I just don't see why...

HOME: I'm sorry...

CALLER: If you could just let me know what it is about this bombing that doesn't interest you.

HOME: I'm sorry...

CALLER: Because I'm, I'm... look...

HOME: Are you able to cancel this bombing?

CALLER: Sir... I just... it's just hard for me to understand why you would decline our bombing when I know for a fact that this is the best bombing you're going to find anywhere. Not just in the area - this is world-class bombing and I would be able to offer... an extra one hundred... no, I'm sorry, an extra two-hundred thirty kilograms of munitions. Delivered to your door, and also through your door, and foundation. That's... I'm sorry, but you're just not going to get that offer anywhere else locally.

HOME: Are you able to cancel this bombing?

CALLER: Sir...

HOME: You are, yes?

CALLER: Sir, try to see this from my perspective. I'm doing you a service, and I want that service to be as effective as possible for other targets in the future. I feel as though you may think I'm bullying you, but I'm just trying to assure that our collateral damage is satisfied with their treatment. We need to know why what we're launching isn't appealing.

HOME: Well, possibly you can hire a squad to determine that for you. I don't feel I'm under any obligation to explain...

CALLER: No, no, but....

HOME: Well!

CALLER: Sir, I understand you have a wife and three children?

HOME: ... Yes?

CALLER: Well, is the problem with any of them? I mean, does your daughter... Dema object to the bombing campaign for any reason?

HOME: No. No. That's not...

CALLER: Well, if you could just tell me what we can do to improve the experience of being bombed by us... that's what I need.

HOME: And I need to know if you can cancel this bombing.

CALLER: Well, listen. I, I....

HOME: You can cancel the bombing, correct?


HOME: Correct?

CALLER: Well. No.

HOME: You cannot cancel the bombing?

CALLER: I, ah, well, no, I can't. But that's all the more reason why it's important that I assure that you are satisfied with the experience.

HOME: ...


HOME: How much time do we have now?

CALLER: One minute forty seconds sir.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bonus Rights for the Faithful: Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc

I've read many responses to Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., including one by Amy Davidson of The New Yorker which raised the point "... the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—whose Constitutionality, frankly, seems dubious if it means what Alito says it does..."
I'd like to pick up this issue. I'm sure others around the web have already made the point I'm making here - and they could hardly do so with less legitimacy than a legal ignoramus like myself (that is, I am ignorant of law - I have not yet been declared Ignorant in a legal sense) - but I haven't read one yet, and if I haven't, maybe you haven't, dear reader, in which case, hi.
It seems that the Hobby Lobby ruling has granted the devout another level of 'bonus rights.'  By protecting the religious against the burden of accommodating a socially- and scientifically-accepted financial obligation which conflicts with their sincerely-held religious beliefs, the SCOTUS has codified that the faithful have, by virtue of their faith, an avenue of appeal to the government unavailable to the faithless.
Atheists and agnostics cannot refuse to pay for insurance which supplies contraception (though I intend to speculate wildly as to what further implications this ruling, and the litigation which will inevitably follow, may have, we should be reminded that that is all this judgement says). Only the faithful can. As to how courts will determine the sincerity of an (corporate or human) individual's faith, I can't say.
Let's say four people would like to not pay for their employee's birth control-providing insurance.
One is an atheist cheapskate, who would simply rather not. 
The second is a person of religious faith, but they do not argue that the teachings of their faith prohibit birth control; they would just rather not. 
The third is an atheist who really, truly believes that birth control is wrong, but obviously not for religious reasons. 
The fourth is a devout member of a religion which objects to birth control.
Of course only the fourth man (or woman, just kidding, man) is granted the right to refuse to pay for that insurance by this decision. This is a Bonus Right awarded to those in a particular group of religions.

How will the government of the United States legislate whether a particular law is harmful to a particular religion? They will not, according to the majority opinion in this case. Instead, they will defer to the beliefs of the faithful litigants, as the SCOTUS deferred to Hobby Lobby's "religious belief" that these four birth control options cause abortions. They do not, in fact, cause abortions, but the courts accept that their belief that they do is sufficient to argue that harm is being done to the corporate person of Hobby Lobby.
This is by far the most bonkers. Could I (were I 'sincerely' religious) argue that my closely-held corporation should be allowed to dump garbage in the river, not because there is anything in my religious text against clean water, but because I believe that to not dump garbage is murder? Failing to pollute the river is not murder, and it can be shown to not be, but I believe it is. By the rationale of this ruling I should be deferred to, at least that far.
The government of the United States has always treated religion as a special subject, worthy of extra protections. Speaking as a fan of America but without any deep historical/legal knowledge, I'd say that the goal is that you're free to do as you please unless there's a law against it, and the only things you can't make laws against are religions and guns. (and other stuff but yknow snappy snappy) (the Church of the Gun would be so protected they wouldn't even need all their guns that shoot little crosses but they would keep them anyway) Consequently, religions have always enjoyed 'bonus rights' insofar as they don't need to worry about being made subject to laws, while other groups and behaviors may be legislated.
This ruling, however, gives religious INDIVIDUALS bonus rights - and those rights are defined by the religious individual, according to their own religious beliefs. Purely by virtue of being a person (whether that's a person or a, ahem, "person") of faith, you now have more rights than I do. You can excuse yourself from a shared, legally enforced social contract, and I cannot.
The moral is: join a religion, or enjoy diminished citizenship. Weak tea.