June 2014
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Month June 2014

Berwick on the SCOTUS decision

Don Berwick today issued the following statement on the Supreme Court’s decision that companies cannot be required to cover some types of contraceptives: “Today’s abhorrent Supreme Court decision is yet another affront to women’s health. Every woman deserves access to quality reproductive health care, and I hope that Congress will take swift action toward ensuring that contraceptives are available to women, regardless of their employer’s religious affiliation. “This ruling also serves as a reminder that it is past time to decouple health coverage from employment and move to a publicly accountable single payer health care system, similar to Medicare for all.”

Republicans on Supreme Court Impose Religion-based Limits on Contraception

The Charlie Baker Republican-controlled Supreme Court today continued the party’s “war on women” when it voted to allow corporations to impose their religious beliefs on their employees. NYT: The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom. The decision underlined the partisan politics that drive the country’s unelected branch of government. It moves the nation toward a society where religious faith trumps a secular market economy as a fundamental principle of social organization, and makes it harder for women to obtain contraceptives. David provides trenchant legal analysis here but, to me, the take away is in the headline and the danger in allowing five unelected individuals make laws for a society of 314 million, especially in a time of bitter national divisions. Refreshingly, both leading candidates for Attorney General in a settlement established as a Puritan theocracy that would have applauded Charlie Baker the faith-based elements of the GOP’s reasoning once upon a time, have denounced the decision. Maura Healey, who “oversaw the early stages of the Commonwealth’s argument against Hobby Lobby’s claim that an employer should be allowed to […]

Supreme Court royally screws up. But it could have been worse.

Today is the final day of the Supreme Court’s 2013-2014 term, and, as expected, it saw the announcement of two hot-button cases: Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and Harris v. Quinn.  Both were 5-4 decisions with the depressingly predictable conservative vs. liberal alignment, and both were authored by Justice Samuel Alito (more on that below).  Both were conservative “victories,” but neither went as far as it could have. You’ve probably heard of the Hobby Lobby case, which concerns the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide basic contraceptive services as part of a health care plan.  You might not have heard of Harris, which is about public employee unions’ ability to compel non-members to pay certain “agency fees” to the union.  In brief, the Harris decision called into question – but did not squarely overrule – an earlier decision that permitted public employee unions to charge such fees to non-members.  The Court did hold that unions cannot charge such fees to “partial public employees,” such as the home health care aides at issue in that case.  But the case appears to have no immediate application to “full-fledged public employees,” such as teachers.  That’s about as much as I know about this case, which may have […]

Quick reactions to SCOTUS rulings

Word has quickly spread that SCOTUS ruled for Hobby Lobby and also against certain unions collecting representation fees from non-members who nevertheless benefit from union negotiations.  Both rulings from what I understand are “narrowly tailored” in their way, but still have broad implications, none of them good it seems.  So for now I basically have two questions: Can we PLEASE move to a single-payer health system and render the employer involvement in health entirely moot now? Can we PLEASE make SCOTUS the defining issue in Senate and Presidential campaigns?  As a side note, though I understand the President has struck deals to nominate a couple of right-wingers that no Democrat with any pride has any business nominating to the federal bench, once again making me wonder why he doesn’t throw down the gauntlet more often. That’s all I have to say for now.  Feel free to use this as an open thread on any SCOTUS decision handed down this month.

Supreme Court Monday

Well, our reactionary Supreme Court decided to satisfy itself with half a loaf today, opting to merely open the door to eviscerating some basic rights, rather than actually smashing them to bits altogether. In the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court ruled that certain times of corporations (closely held — five or fewer people own half the stock) may refuse to pay for certain medical procedures (those that deal with lady parts). Safely masculine procedures are still protected, and widely held corporations are apparently not as much persons as those controlled by a small group. I’d love to see an enterprising attorney challenge that on the Fourteenth Amendment principle — why are some corporate persons allowed more rights than other corporate persons? In Harris v. Quinn, SCOTUS decided that certain types of unions for part-time workers could not charge agency fees. These fees are payments charged to non-members who nonetheless enjoy the work the union does in representation and negotiation benefits, and are designed to eliminate free riding. Those unions, such as home care workers, will now need to get permission from each individual person to charge them for the benefits they enjoy. “Justice” Scalia wrote an opinion more or […]

Parents prohibited from even discussing a visit home with their son

[Cross-posted from The COFAR Blog] When Stanley and Ellen McDonald tried to share and discuss a COFAR Blog post with their son, Andy, during a visit to his group home on June 22, the residential manager told them to stop, or their visit would be terminated. The post was about Andy’s 47th birthday party, which was held at Carbone’s Restaurant in Hopkinton on June 6, and it quoted Andy’s wish as he blew out the candles on his birthday cake to someday be allowed to visit his boyhood home in Sherborn where his parents still live.   Apparently, even expressing that wish was against the house rules.  Andy and his parents are prohibited by a probate court order and by his residential provider and other authorities from even discussing the prospect of Andy ever visiting his hometown, even under supervision. A probate court judge ruled in 2006 that Andy is sexually dangerous, but Stan McDonald maintains the ruling is based on misinformation and a misinterpretation of a police report from an incident in 1990 in which Andy threatened a neighbor.  Andy has never been charged with a sexual offense; the neighbor has long since moved away, and clinical records indicate Andy has not exhibited aggressive behaviors in more than a decade. Placing restrictions on subjects families can discuss […]

Joke Revue: Iraq to Have Unity Government Before U.S.

A bit of a thin weeks for jokes, fortunately as David noted, we’ve got Jeff Jacoby hard at work channeling the spirit of the Revue. With that, Borowitz: IRAQ TO HAVE UNITY GOVERNMENT BEFORE U.S. BAGHDAD (The Borowitz Report)—In a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the importance of forming a unity government in Iraq but refused to commit to a timetable for creating one in the United States. The sensitive topic of a unity government for the United States came at the end of a thirty-minute meeting, during which Secretary Kerry lectured the Iraqi Prime Minister about the value of a government “where people of different parties put aside their differences, make meaningful compromises, and work together for the good of the nation.” Taking this in, al-Maliki agreed that it was an excellent idea and politely asked Secretary Kerry if the United States had ever considered forming such a government. … Daniel Kurtzman: “I am excited about the World Cup and the U.S. soccer team. But I will admit there are nuances to the game that are lost on me. For example, the United States has won one game, tied […]

Logic fail

In today’s column, Globie Jeff Jacoby cites a single example of a Republican courting black votes (namely, Mississippi incumbent Senator Thad Cochran), and concludes as follows.  Emphasis added. What turned the tide was the exercise by black citizens of their right to vote — a right that is no longer endangered anywhere in America, not even in Mississippi. And that’s all I have to say.

New Documentary on Whitey Bulger Trial Points Fingers at Boston Media

Among other things, award winning documentarian Joe Berlinger’s new film, “United States v. James J. Bulger”, is an indictment of the long running narrative of all things Bulger and our provincial media’s insistence of telling it despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Through interviews, documentation, and trial transcript Berlinger makes the credible case that the system is currently corrupt, the trial was corrupt, and the government did everything possible to prevent the truth from being told. Prosecutors made sure this trial did not veer from the false one bad guy one bad FBI agent story to protect the FBI’s Top Echelon Informant Program. Name another multiple count murder trial where the victims’ families were rooting for the defendant’s attorneys? The CNN produced film does not look kindly on those in the Boston media who have willingly reported as gospel the crap fed to them by the corrupt FBI.  Kevin Cullen, Dick Lehr, Shelly Murphy,….pretty much anyone and everyone who worked for the Boston Globe. No, that’s not right. Pretty much every local scribe, pundit, and pretty boy with a mic who wrote or reported on it.

Capital observations

Time is short this morning, so just a couple of quick observations from today’s Globe’s “Capital” section: The section includes a “roundup” of chit-chat from various observers about the People’s Pledge, including quotes from Globe columnist Joanna Weiss and from my initial response to her column.  Always nice to know that people are reading. In a little feature called “Decoder,” there’s a big graphic of a quote from the SJC’s casino opinion with the words “wholly inconsistent” circled in red, and the item itself is entitled “Wholly inconsistent.”  The “translation,” by Alan Wirzbicki, explains that the Court used that phrase (among others) to deliver a “smackdown” to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s position.  Problem: it didn’t.  The “wholly inconsistent” language appears in a section of the opinion rejecting an argument that Coakley’s office also rejected (the argument was raised by private parties who intervened in the case).  It is true, as Wirzbicki notes, that other, fairly strong language (such as “fundamentally flawed” and “departure from common sense”) was used to describe Coakley’s position, and “smackdown” might fairly be applied there as well.  But reporters pulling short phrases out of court opinions – itself always risky business – ought to take more […]