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Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 05:34 PM PDT

Hobby Lobby and sincerely held beliefs

by JSc

With human beings, it's pretty easy to tell if they're "sincerely" religious:  Do they observe the appropriate holy days and days of rest in the proscribed manner?  Do they tithe, if it's required?  Do they adopt the appropriate type of dress, if it's required?  Do they embrace or avoid particular food, drink and behavior, as proscribed by their avowed system of beliefs?  Have they gone through rituals required to demonstrate sincere belief in their particular religion?

But here's the question....  How does a corporation or business--which is a legal entity that only exists on paper--demonstrate that they have "sincerely" held religious beliefs?  I have yet to hear of a corporation being baptized, confirmed, given communion, or married.  Likewise, I haven't ever heard of a corporation or company being circumcised, or standing shiva.  Somehow, I also doubt that any corporation or company (mind you, they only exist as a piece of paper) has ever prayed toward Mecca.

So...how might a piece of paper demonstrate a "sincerely held" belief?

Discuss

Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 09:27 PM PDT

The fallout continues...

by JSc

Not so long ago--a little over a decade, in fact--US military intervention was viewed very differently than it's seen today.  The US had been the "good guys" for almost a century, beginning with critical roles in winning both the first and second World Wars.

We made missteps, sure.  Dirty as some of them were, the proxy wars during the Cold War could be rationalized (at least in the US, and perhaps by many allies) as part of standing against the perceived threat of communism.  Vietnam certainly couldn't be called a victory, but Korea wasn't a defeat.  The Cold War died with a whimper rather than a bang that could have scoured human life from the Earth.  Over the course of 40+ years, we showed that we were a rational country that could and did act with restraint.  

Bosnia and the first Iraq war were both powerful examples of how effectively the US could assemble a coalition for good.  Somalia worked out poorly and left a non-trivial fraction of Americans feeling snake-bit, but the country had good intentions and humanitarian goals in becoming involved.  

All of that, as we know, was before September 11th.  

Before the US engaged in two wars of choice--one to "get the bad guy", and the other to "get the guy my daddy should have got."  Before the US government attempted to con the United Nations into supporting the invasion of Iraq.  Before the American populace watched almost 7,000 citizen-soldiers die, with more than 50,000 wounded--most of them fighting a war in a country that had no connection whatsoever to September 11th.  Before we and the world were shown time and time again that America's belief in the sanctity of basic human rights only applied to American humans.  Before a high-school dropout let the world know he had access to some of the most powerful tools available to the US intelligence community, and could use them on anyone, anywhere, on a whim.  Before our allies were publicly notified that the US can and does spy on them as a matter of course.

I'll be amazed if any nation in the world follows America's lead into a war nowadays.  Some of our traditional allies were burned by supporting the invasion of Iraq, others' reticence has been retroactively justified many times over.  Our country's treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay has been poor enough that we can't ignore the possibility that they'll become terrorists due to their treatment.

Suppose we could hit the rewind button.  Suppose we imagine a world where the September 11th attacks happened, but that the US reacted in the rational, reasonable manner that kept bombs from dropping during the Cold War.  Suppose the US invaded Afghanistan and actually committed the resources needed to catch Bin Laden at Tora Bora.

Suppose that the US never pursued a vendetta against Saddam Hussein.

Where might we be?

Certainly, almost 7,000 fewer dead American citizen-soldiers, and about 50,000 fewer wounded.  Hundreds of billions of dollars subtracted from our national debt and annual deficit.  

Most likely, a national willingness to continue the humanitarian interventions of the Clinton era--including direct intervention during the Arab Spring, of which the civil war in Syria is the latest chapter.  

Would we have become involved in Syria before the latest chemical weapons attacks?  Not necessarily, but you could definitely justify answering "yes".  The US pulled NATO into Bosnia without either side of that war using chemical weapons, intervened in Somalia when neither side was using chemical weapons, and assembled a coalition to push Iraq out of Kuwait without anyone involved using chemical weapons.

My thinking?  

September 11th changed everything...but not in the way most folks thought at the time.

Discuss

I imagine that we all appreciate the input of front-pagers, but I've noticed that the rec list has recently been dominated by diaries written by front-pagers.  Since these diaries will likely (perhaps inevitably?) reach front-page status, it seems unlikely that they need the promotion associated with rec-list status.  

Might there perhaps be a way to exempt or block such diaries from the rec list?  It would seem likely that blocking posts which will find the front page regardless of up-recs might encourage posts by and up-recs of folks who might otherwise be overlooked.

Just an observation about recent trends....

Discuss

Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 06:58 PM PDT

On the NSA Debacle and Impeachment....

by JSc

Most of the folks here at DKos are Dems, liberals or progressives.  Most of us can agree that there is a substantial group of team R that claims they want to impeach the President.

Frankly, though arguments about Obamacare have always been a joke, recent revelations about the NSA and administration's disregard for the Constitution give Republicans the ammunition they need to levy a case for impeachment.  

How and whether or not they use it will fill volumes about who truly owns the Republican party.

More below the fold....

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If we are to believe the news we see, the vast majority of Republicans are against the idea of introducing the chained CPI for Social Security benefits.  Nearly every Democrat and independent seems to share that sentiment.  

To be frank, unless the President floated this as a way to polarize the public against the idea of a chained CPI, he's screwed the pooch so to speak.  If taking chained CPI off the table was the original goal, well, the President deserves whatever the equivalent of the Nobel Prize is in psychology and sociology to add to his Nobel Peace Prize.

Regardless, what are our goals and paths forward as Democrats and Progressives in the face of the current situation?  How do we ensure that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the VA not only do not suffer from the current situation, but that we in fact do a better job of ensuring the government's already-promised socioeconomic obligations are honored?

I of course have my opinions, but I'm really starting this with the hope of encouraging discussion.  It's late in my time zone, and I'll hopefully be able to check back in the next day or so.  In the meantime, the floor is yours.

Discuss

It's a truism that money drives politics and has turned the American democracy into something far different than government of, by and for the people.  But an interesting question remains:  exactly how badly has the influence of money corrupted the idea of "one person, one vote"?

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Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 08:03 PM PST

Economic Sabotage

by JSc

Yesterday, ExpatGirl initiated a discussion (http://www.dailykos.com/...) about whether economic sabotage was Osama Bin Laden's underlying goal back in 2001.  Participation has been vigorous--especially considering how rapidly the "recent diaries" list has scrolled by over the past week--with many agreeing that economic sabotage was likely a big part of Bin Laden's overarching purpose leading up to that September.

Other questions have arisen in that discussion.  Specifically, does economic sabotage constitute terrorism and/or a declaration of war?  If so, what does this mean as far as Republican refusal to raise the debt limit as required by current outlays and obligations?

My own feeling is that economic warfare is as "war-like" as any other sort--the "cold war" was an economic war of defense spending between the USA and the USSR.  One could argue that Osama Bin Laden waged a similar economic war by drawing the USA into a battle within Afghanistan, the so-called "graveyard of empires".  The USSR made a similar choice in the 1980's, trying to subjugate Afghanistan.  It's now common knowledge that the USA supplied Bin Laden and the Afghan resistance with both funds and weaponry.

It seems inconsistent to me that our nation would use economic warfare against other countries to great success, but not acknowledge economic warfare when used against our nation by citizens.  If a foreigner like Bin Laden uses an economic attack, he's clearly a terrorist.  At the same time, if our own politicians attempt to undermine the economic viability of the nation in general--and of the government in particular--we somehow dismiss it as "politics" or "differences of opinion".

The 14th amendment states that, "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned."  All Representatives and Senators have taken an oath of office that they will "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that [they] will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that [they] take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that [they] will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which [they are] about to enter: So help [them] God."

Short version?  Increasing the debt limit is Constitutionally required to ensure the "validity of the public debt of the United States", and every person in the House and Senate has sworn to uphold the Constitution.  QED, failure to uphold the Constitution in this case--by refusing to increase the debt limit as required by prior spending obligations--violates both those individuals' oath of office and qualifies as waging "economic warfare" against the government and people of the United States.

All that said, do I imagine in my wildest dreams that the host of Republicans in the House and Senate who have tried to undermine the Constitution will be called upon to explain their explicitly treasonous votes over the past 4, 8 or 12 years?  Not f'in likely....  

I mean, really....  Given how the banks, the banksters, the lawyers, and the politicians have walked away from any sort of responsibility over the past 4 - 8 years, I'd be an idiot to think anyone would ever be brought to justice, unless they're poor and not-quite-white.

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Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 07:35 PM PDT

Voting by mail, and the war on the USPS

by JSc

In reading Kos's piece on the "least worst" way to implement voter ID requirements, I noticed that he--like many other Kossacks--mentions the wildly-successful vote-by-mail programs in some of our western states.

We can certainly argue back and forth whether vote-by-mail reduces fraud (e.g. little Timmy filling out great-grandma Maude's ballot), but it seems that there's a far more important elephant lurking in the room:  What happens to these vote-by-mail programs if the Republicans successfully shut down the US Postal Service?

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Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 09:34 PM PDT

Job creators? OK--prove it.

by JSc

Maybe I'm missing something, but every time I hear team Red complaining about a return to pre-Bush income tax levels on "job creators", I find myself thinking about two questions.  

The first, more often than not, is wondering how many people making more than $250k in a year actually run small businesses or objectively contribute to the number of people with jobs (excluding themselves, of course....)  

The second question basically cuts to what I think is the core of the issue:  Why is this  an either/or situation?  I don't buy that team Red are at all honest in how they present their concerns, but I wonder why team Blue (and especially the bluest of team Blue) doesn't call team Red out by presenting an option that would reward true "job creators" while simultaneously making non-job-creating high-income individuals pay a fair share of taxes.

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Apologies if I've missed a diary on the subject--DK4 apparently has much greater capabilities than the prior version, but I'll be the first to admit that I haven't read every diary posted on this or any other topic.

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In reading various news articles and diaries about the anti-union budget proposal and pro-union protests in Wisconsin, I've occasionally seen mention that Walker's push to eliminate collective bargaining by public workers' unions includes a clause that those workers could no longer collectively bargain for raises greater than the rate of inflation.

That said, I have yet to see any news outlet or Kossack address what this would mean in real world terms:  That teachers and most other public servants in Wisconsin (or any other state which approved similar legislation) would break even, AT BEST, from this point forward.  They'd be condemned to trying to justify why their incomes should not be reduced in real terms (e.g., inflation-adjusted terms).  

In a time when progressives, liberals and conservatives all decry the quality of schooling and the shortage of teachers and dedicated public servants, it seems beyond ludicrous to talk about paying them less in the short and long term, drying up the pool of qualified and motivated individuals.

Then again, that might just be my pro-union upbringing in Wisconsin, and my pro-union thoughts....

Discuss

I recently read McJoan's post about a Republican candidate in Wisconsin advocating oil drilling in Lake Michigan, and couldn't help but wonder what that candidate is thinking....

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Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 01:01 PM PDT

So Rove is gone...or is he?

by JSc

I have to admit it:  Even though Karl Rove is out of the White House as of the end of this month, I can't help but be somewhat skeptical regarding whether he has been forced out.  Rove has demonstrated his political acumen time after time in guiding Bush to the Governorship of Texas, then to the Presidency.  Since 2000, Rove has further illustrated his ability to manipulate hearts, minds and the media to keep his clearly-incompetent tool from being blocked by Congress or outright removed from power.  

Rove need not have an office in the White House to "advise" the President.  Further, there's really nothing I've seen to suggest that Rove will not simply attach himself to some other politician's retinue, eventually guiding said misguided soul to a position where Rove can again play his political games.

Like a significant fraction of Nixon's crew--whose boss was actually impeached--I suspect that we haven't seen or heard the last of Rove....

EDIT:  Classic error on my part.  As pointed out in comments, Nixon was never actually impeached.  

Discuss
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