Hobby Lobby Questions

Here is what I want to know:

1.  How can 5 supposedly intelligent legal minds actually write a decision saying that it’s OK if the Hobby Lobby plaintiffs get the science wrong on contraception.  Why is it  enough that Hobby Lobby’s owners believe that the morning after pill and IUD’s cause abortions, even though people with multiple college degrees say otherwise.  Why does belief get to triumph over science?  Ignorance, willful or otherwise, now has the SCOTUS stamp of approval.  Facts no longer matter to the right-wing majority on the Supreme Court.

2.  I haven’t read the decision yet, but the news stories I’ve read  say that this decision was narrow, applying only to closely held corporations and only with regards to birth control.  I get the closely held corporation part – that’s easy to understand when you consider that this is the Citizen’s United crowd.  But why only contraception – a subject guaranteed to get conservative Christians all riled up?  What about businesses owned by Christian Scientists, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses? Why doesn’t this decision give them the right to deny certain healthcare benefits to their employees?  Why is this Supreme Court only interested in allowing employers to restrict female employee’s access to contraception?  Excuse me, but as a woman, I feel picked on!

Could it be they recognize a can of worms when they see it?  Then why this decision?

Can anyone out there enlighten me?

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Bully for you, Governor Christie!!!

Chris Christie was my favorite Republican  – he seemed genuinely interested in bipartisanship; and to be so popular in a traditionally Democrat state had to be a good thing, right?  Sure, I was troubled by his typically Republican bashing of public employees – especially teachers; and his right-wing views on abortion even though he was not constantly advocating for draconian restrictions on the procedure.  And some of his tirades against those who displeased him occasionally seemed abusive.  But if the Democrats continue to be unable to get their act together and lose the White House after Obama,  I thought Chris Christie would be the easiest to stomach of the entire Republican pack.

Until Bridge-gate.

Bridge-gate is only marginally about what Governor Christie knew and when he knew it. Far more important is what it says about the kind of operation he runs, the tone he allows to be set and the people he chooses to help him execute his vision for the state of New Jersey. Somehow, Bridget Ann Kelly thought it was OK to use her political power to punish people perceived to be political enemies of Governor Christie’s. Ms. Kelly had been on the Governor’s staff for 3 years. The governor was impressed enough with her work to promote her in April 2013. She knew his work style, she knew what was important to him, and she knew what she could get away with. A deputy chief of staff is not a clerk. They are involved in high level planning and policy making decisions. They have an extremely high level of access to the boss; and they have the authority to make decisions in the bosses name. Her decision to order the closing of those lanes was petty, childish, unempathetic and uninsightful. It demonstrated an inability to consider the possible consequences to her boss. She was a bully. But, as a very experienced political staffer, she must have thought she could get away with it.  Either that, or she was following instructions from someone higher than her.

Her colleague at the Port Authority, David Wildstein, doesn’t fare much better. At his level, he shouldn’t be a yes man. The public has a right to expect to be equally served by public servants like Mr. Wildstein. He could have stopped this simply by refusing to do it. But he was a Christie political appointee and childhood friend or acquaintance, depending on who you talk to, of the Governor’s.  So he did nothing. Not even a wimpy “are you sure you really want to do this?” He went along with it, like a lamb led to slaughter. Maybe because he knew it was futile; maybe because he knew the Governor expected payback of some kind for the promotion.

I find it hard to believe that Governor Christie knew nothing about Ms. Kelly’s actions. But even if he was so grossly uninformed, it is still not good for him. He had a deputy chief of staff who had no problem lying to him about an issue that could derail his political future. Are we to believe the Governor had no idea that his deputy was so ethically challenged? He’s either a bad judge of character or he was just fine with Ms. Kelly, just the way she was.

Those of you who are waiting for Ms. Kelly to “straighten everything out” are in for a long wait. She’s going to lay low. She has a career as a political staffer to protect and if she allows herself to be thrown under the bus by this boss, chances are she’ll get another job with another politician once Bridge-gate blows over. The only deal breaker I can see is if she is criminally charged.

One thing Chris Christie cannot get around is his past behavior. He’s bullied before – we have all seen it. He’s been accused before of retaliating against those who publicly disagree with him. The second thing he cannot get around is that we are known by the company we keep. Is he just a smart, no BS guy who doesn’t know a bully when he sees one? Or is he a smart, no BS kind of guy who bullies to remind everyone that he’s top dog and figures he can get more done if his staff behaves the same way?

The third thing he cannot get around is the timetable. This played out over an extended period of time. Three of his close political appointees resigned their positions over the last 3 months as a direct result of Bridge-gate. Are we to accept his word that these people did not tell him the truth about why they were leaving? And that he accepted their reasons? Isn’t Chris Christie too good a politician for that?

So what is it? Is Chris Christie a gifted, articulate, plain-spoken politician with aspirations to the highest office of the land who bullies his underlings to make a point or is he an affable buffoon who doesn’t know what is happening in his own office?

For those of you who think this scandal compares in any way to the faux Obama scandals desperately drummed up by congressional Republicans, consider the following points.  The IRS scandal was started in a regional IRS office by overzealous local agents not under the direct supervision of the President; and a close investigation proved that just as many left leaning as right leaning non-profit groups were targeted. The investigation fizzled because no one in the Obama administration did anything wrong. And it can be convincingly argued that no one in the IRS did anything wrong. The same is true for Benghazi.  No dereliction of duty linked to anyone on the President’s staff.  If there were anything at all to pin on the President in either of those “scandals” I really think the Republicans in Congress would be getting somewhere in their efforts to impeach the President. The fact that they are not speaks volumes.

Getting back to the Governor, this is only the beginning of the investigation and scandal.  The New Jersey legislature is now involved as is the US Attorney General’s office.  After his marathon press conference, where his willingness to answer questions was praised by many, Chris Christie seems to be lying low.  We’ll have to wait and see what unfolds.

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Healthcare.gov Woes!

I’m a big supporter of the ACA, even though it wasn’t my first choice.  I want single payer but I’m settling for the ACA as a first step in the right direction.  I’ve argued with friends on behalf of the law, been to classes on the details of the law and how to implement it, defended it when naysayers complain that it is expensive, will drive up costs long term, and is too big brotherish.  In short, in my own corner of the world, I’ve stuck my neck out to support this law.

I really needed a smooth rollout for healthcare.gov.  I didn’t get it.  Sigh.  I didn’t even get a slightly rocky rollout. Double sigh.  I got a disasterous rollout that doesn’t seem to be getting any better.  So now, instead of just defending the law, I have to deal with being ridiculed for supporting a law whose infrastructure does not work.  Gaaah!

It doesn’t matter how great the ACA is if the website doesn’t work!

I’m aggrevated that the folks who showed such mastery over social networking, online fundraising and grass roots organization in the last 2 elections couldn’t build a better website for their signature accomplishment.  The Obama administration knew what statistics counted in the last election -they knew they were going to win by a good bit when everyone else was projecting a close, uncallable race.  So what happened with the website?

I’m aggrevated that once again, I’m supporting President Obama without good follow through from the President and his team.  Left hung out to dry yet again.  Yet still I soldier on because I believe in the possible outcome.

It would be nice if the calvary would show up, though.

So please, guys, fix the dang website!

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Fixing It for the Rest of Us

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for our country.  The partial shutdown of our government has been at various times annoying, frustrating, tiring and anger inducing.  I believe most Congressional Republicans know they are fighting a loosing battle but are so fearful of loosing their support from wealthy backers and their conservative constituents at home that they are willing to gamble with the well-being of our country, its citizens and our international reputation.

Today the Republican shrillfest shifted from fevered cries about defunding Obamacare to yet another of the party’s holy grails:  entitlement reform.  If they can’t screw Obama over the ACA, why not screw the middle class, right?  And Paul Ryan is leading the charge.  No surprise there!  The surprise is that they think their tea party base will let go of Obamacare and support a path that could reduce their hard-earned social security and medicare benefits.

If I hear one more Republican politician or partisan talking head say that the middle class needs to share the pain and accept cuts to programs to keep the USA from going over the fiscal cliff I think my head will spin, exorcist style.  Where have these people been for the last 30 years?  Since the Reagan presidency, the middle class has taken way more than its fair share of pain.  Its time for the folks who reaped the lion’s share of the benefit from trickle down economics to pay us back.  We’ve been robbed, with our government’s blessing.

Here is what we need to do to make it right:

  1. Pass a financial transaction tax on investment transactions.  This is a small tax; about half of one percent; and it would be paid by brokers and investment firms; not individual investors.
  2. Extend the FICA portion of the payroll tax to 100% of income; not just earned income.  That takes care of Social Security and it’s the least Wall Street can do after wrecking our economy to make a quick few million bucks.
  3. Phase out the capital gains tax rate starting with incomes of $250,000 per year.  Let’s not kid ourselves; the wealthy have not been using their capital gains to invest in business here in the USA.  Why should we continue to give it a favored tax rate?

If we do these things, the “pain” goes where it belongs and we can leave Social Security and Medicare alone.  For many of us in the endangered middle, it’s the only pension we have.  While the top 2% were raking it in, we lived through layoffs, wage cuts, stock market crashes, bursting housing bubbles, and out of control health care and college costs.  Our 401K’s are just not where they should be – if we have one at all.

Why, you ask, am I bothering to put these ideas out there when we cannot even pass a continuing resolution to fund our government?  When Republicans are beholden not to the people of this country but to wealthy donors and will not raise taxes – even to keep our children fed and educated, our roads and bridges repaired and our veterans cared for?

Because I know this won’t last forever.  We’ll make it through – and when we do, we have to be ready with a slate of policies and programs designed to repair our country and our people.  There are things we can do to help ourselves if we have the will and they have nothing to do with shutting down our government or defaulting on our debt.

It’s time for the middle class to rise again.

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When Politicians have Temper Tantrums….

Congress reached a new low this week, with the Tea Party Republicans stubbornly shutting down the government over the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare to the uninitiated.  Only 10% of Americans have a favorable impression of congress right now; and I think we can safely assume that 10% consists of the Tea Party majority we’ve all heard so much about.

Except it isn’t really a majority, is it?  In what representative government ever does a 10% constituency get to dictate to the rest of us?  Sure, they are louder, angrier, more stubborn and single-minded than the average voter; but we’re not supposed to have rule by bully here.

We’re supposed to have a constitutional republic.  You know how it works – we elect Senators and Representatives who propose, debate and pass legislation.  Our President, also elected, signs the proposed legislation and it becomes law.  Sometimes, citizens request a legal review of laws that are controversial – so we have a Supreme Court to assist us.  The ACA has been through this entire process.  It’s been debated, voted on, passed, signed and upheld by the Supreme Court.  It’s a law – whether 10% of us like it or not.  And it’s time to implement that law.

But wait!  What about that 10% that approves of this Congress?  Aren’t they important, too?  What about what they think?  They’ve got about 30-40 congressmen on their side, led by Ted Cruz.  That’s out of 435 Representatives.  As they love to tell us, they were elected, too.  They are winners, too.  That means they get their way.   That means they can dig their heels in and drag this country through the mud if they want to.  They can do crazy things like vote 40+ times to repeal the ACA and if that doesn’t work, they can try to tie defunding  the ACA to a continuing resolution to fund our government.  And they have been perfectly clear:  the only continuing resolution they will vote in favor of is one that defunds the ACA.  Consequences  be damned.

Oh, and by the way….it’s everyone else’s fault, especially Barack Obama’s, that they were “forced” into shutting down our government.  After all, anyone who won’t dance to their tune is an obstructionist who refuses to negotiate.

But please don’t think that the Tea Party deserves 100% of the credit for this spectacle.  They had every reason to think their fellow non-Tea Republicans could be browbeaten and threatened into going along with them.  Congressional Republicans have been caving to the Tea Party since 2008.  No wonder they think they get to rule the roost!

This government shutdown is the culmination of a 7 year Republican temper tantrum.  They just have not been able to wrap their brains around a guy like Barack Obama being elected President.  They’ve tried every childish, disrespectful, petty, mean-spirited tactic they could think of to discredit him and his presidency and it’s led to the worst Congress in my lifetime and arguably, in the last century.

It’s time to put all of them in a fence encased sandbox and not let them out until they agree to stop this nonsense.

Hold the line, Democrats.  The sane citizens of this country are counting on you.

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Pope Francis Speaks!

So Pope Francis  acknowledged in an interview published last week that the Catholic church needs to end the obsession with abortion, contraception and gays because it’s hurting the overall mission of the church. Good for him! The world is astounded and proclaim what a great, new, modern Pope he is!

It’s what he isn’t saying that merits attention. He’s not saying contraception and abortion are a woman’s personal, private decision – between her and God; and he’s not saying it’s OK to be gay. In fact, he reaffirms the church’s teaching on all 3 matters. He’s just saying he doesn’t think we should be talking about these things so much. Because God loves us, even if we take the pill, terminate a pregnancy or marry our same-sex lover.

He also goes on to say that the church should find situations where women can lead and have real influence on the direction the church takes. Just as long as it’s not in the priesthood. Because women don’t belong there. Never mind that all the influential, direction changing leadership positions in the Catholic church have ordination as a prerequisite. But at least he’s opening a dialogue. I think.

Frankly, I’m not so desperate to go back to the church that I’m going to seize on these comments and delude myself into thinking that anything has changed. Because it hasn’t, really. The church’s teachings about the role of women are the reason I left; so I’m still as alienated from the church as I was before Pope Francis gave this interview. The message has not changed – my brothers are blessed by God and can choose any path in life they want.  I am blessed by God to have as many children as God chooses to give me, and die in the process  if necessary.  And then I can follow my own path, if I’m not too old or worn out, or dead.

Thanks, Pope Francis; but I’m much happier as a Methodist – they treat me with respect. I’m a person, as important as the eggs I may carry, more than a mother, encouraged to seek my path hand in hand with God and my husband, and I can have any role in the church I aspire to – even Pastor.  I’ll take that over what you offer any day.

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Shavasanot!

I can’t take shavasanaat the end of my yoga practice. 

If this were the first time it happened or it were an unusual event for me, it would not warrant a blog post.  But I never take shavasana after practice; at least not for more than 30 seconds or so.  I do a modified star pose with my knees drawn up or I go into child’s pose or a supported forward bend, with my forehead resting on a bunch of pillows.

I don’t think deep relaxation is impossible or difficult for me – I go to sleep in shavasana nearly every night, in bed.  It seems appropriate at the end of the day, when my last waking thought is about ending the current day – it’s a time of closure and review; acceptance and sometimes revelation. I have solved many problems while in shavasana, right before I fall asleep.

But in the morning, when I normally practice yoga, I have a whole day ahead of me that is usually full and I have a limited time to practice, if I want to leave my house on time.  Unfortunately, I am expected elsewhere Monday through Friday at 8 AM! I can’t be too relaxed or I wouldn’t make it out the door.

So I’m wondering if a delayed shavasana is as effective and beneficial as a shavasana done immediately after practice?

Are there any other shavasana-challenged yoga practitioners out there?

And for those of you who love ending your practice with shavasana, what do you love most about it? Maybe there is something I can learn from you.

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