alexkaufmann: (Stanley Cup)
I understand the gut reaction calling for an end to Syrian immigration but it's the wrong reaction.

America has always been about taking in the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free." And most of these Syrian refugees are yearning to be free from the hell ISIS (and Assad) has made of Syria.

Are there terrorists who will try to infiltrate into the US among the refugees? Absolutely. Will continuing Syrian immigration eventually cost lives in the US? No way to be sure, but I'd bet yes.

But that's who Americans are (or should be). It's the basis of the country, our guiding philosophy. We have lived by it and, when necessary, have died for it. None of that should change.

But if that's not enough for you to put aside your fear of Syrian immigrants, the vast majority of whom just want to live in a place without the daily fear of being murdered, think about it this way.

ISIS wants us to cut off Syrian immigration. They want these people to be stuck in the hell they have created. And they want to be able to say to Muslims all around the world that America HATES Muslims. They want a clash of civilizations.

I can think of no better way to tell ISIS to go fuck themselves than by making it clear that we do not hate all Muslims, we hate the medieval barbarism of ISIS. The best way to do that is to continue to allow Syrian refugees to come here and make it clear that our core values as a nation will not be changed by their threats.

Hobby Lobby

Jul. 2nd, 2014 08:51 pm
alexkaufmann: (Stanley Cup)
Watching the reaction to the Hobby Lobby decision, it seems as if the people with the strongest opinions are the ones who have the most tenuous grasp of the facts. Some of the hyperbole has crossed the line from ridiculous to downright absurd. I think some facts are called for.

There are 20 forms of contraceptive covered by the ACA. Hobby Lobby has an issue with four (4) of them. Sixteen forms prevent conception, the four in question are designed to prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. If you believe (as the owners of Hobby Lobby do) that life begins at conception (a belief protected by the First Amendment, whether you like it or not), paying for those four drugs violates your conscience. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (passed almost unanimously by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton) prevents the government from coercing people (like the owners of Hobby Lobby) into violating their religious beliefs.

The RFRA was passed in response to Employment Division v. Smith (1990) where Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, found that states could deny unemployment benefits to people fired for the use of peyote, despite it being part of a religious ritual. Scalia wrote that while states could accommodate otherwise illegal acts done in pursuit of religious beliefs, they were not required to do so. The Congress (with both houses controlled by the Democrats) passed the RFRA to change that. Scalia, as part of the majority in the Hobby Lobby case, was actually following the law that had been passed to change the results of his previous decision.

So, the female employees at Hobby Lobby are not being denied coverage for birth control and Scalia (and the other four members of the majority) is not making things up as he goes. If an employee of Hobby Lobby wants access to Plan B, she can buy it herself. Employees of Hobby Lobby are not being denied access to Plan B. The court has simply said Hobby Lobby cannot be forced to pay for it. No one is saying an employee will be fired for using it.

Alternatively, if this really were about the employees' access to the four (of 20) birth control methods, there are ways to achieve that. Current federal law requires insurance companies to cover those four types of birth control for religious non-profits without requiring the company to pay for them. The insurance companies are not allowed to bill the non-profit for that coverage. President Obama (he of the pen and phone) can issue an executive order requiring the same thing for companies like Hobby Lobby. Executive order is how the non-profits got their exemption. The majority decision, written by Justice Alito, even mentions that possibility.

Technically, if he so chose, President Obama could even issue an executive order requiring the government to pay for those drugs.

It's not like President Obama is shy about using executive orders. So why are none of these things happening?

In a word-- politics.

The Democrats are looking at an electoral defeat worthy of the Washington Generals (the team that plays the Harlem Globetrotters) in November. They are desperate to energize their base-- the very people whose happy ignorance of the above-mentioned facts allows them to see the Hobby Lobby decision as a repeal of the 19th Amendment and the greatest threat to women in the history of humanity.

Without these voters, the Democratic Party will lose the Senate in November. Using an executive order to change the result of the Hobby Lobby decision would mean losing this as an issue in November. Keeping the status quo means fundraising opportunities and a GOTV effort.

If this really were about access to birth control, President Obama could use his pen and phone to make it so tonight. That he doesn't, shows this for the naked, desperate political maneuvering it really is.

Anyone who thinks the Democrats see the Hobby Lobby decision as anything other than a political opportunity is deluding themselves.
alexkaufmann: (Stanley Cup)
So, just for shits and giggles, I decided to check out what health insurance would cost me on New York's exchange. Besides the absurdity of having to give the government an obscene amount of information to get to see prices (seriously? who makes you sign up to see what something costs?), I was unable to finish the process due to an error message informing me that the monthly income I entered means that my annual income exceeds the maximum allowable parameter of $9,999,999,999.99.

Yes, you read that right. The New York State Health Exchange website thinks I make $10 billion a year.

Needless to say, this was news to me.

There's really just no excuse for a website set up for the purpose of purchasing something to be unable to perform basic arithmetic.
alexkaufmann: (Stanley Cup)
After a week on Twitter’s #Zimmerman and the facebook posts of some of my friends (no names), I now understand the problem is that the loudest voices (on both sides) are coming from the people with the lowest amount of accurate information.

The airtime given to these low-information loudmouths is a serious problem and there’s no cogent argument for saying we’re better off because of it.

Therefore, as a public service to myself, I’m going list the most egregious examples of the dumbassery I’ve seen. I’m also going to borrow from comedian Jeff Foxworthy:

If you think Zimmerman isn't white because he's Hispanic, you might be part of the problem.

If you think Zimmerman is Mexican, you might be part of the problem.

If you think the DOJ should charge Zimmerman because a petition reached a certain number of signatures (as opposed to there being, you know, evidence), you might be part of the problem.

If you think threatening Zimmerman, his family and/or the jurors involved is an appropriate reaction to the verdict, you might be part of the problem.

If you think Zimmerman used a Stand Your Ground defense, you might be part of the problem.

If you don’t know that Obama was a cosponsor of Illinois SYG civil suit shield law (the law in Florida will likely shield Zimmerman from a civil suit too), you might be part of the problem.

If you don’t know that Zimmerman has the same Caucasian background that Obama does (one parent), you might be part of the problem.

If you don’t know who Roderick Scott is, you might be part of the problem.

If you don’t know who Marissa Alexander is, you might be part of the problem.

If you don’t know who Sherman Ware is, you might be part of the problem.

If you think Trayvon was dangerous because he smoked pot, you might be part of the problem.

If you’re willing to throw out the prohibition on double jeopardy or change the rules of evidence just to convict Zimmerman, you might be part of the problem.

If you don’t understand that the burden of proof rests with the prosecution or that defendants have the right to not testify and the right to not have that held against them, you might be part of the problem.

If you don’t understand what constitutes “reasonable doubt,” you might be part of the problem.

If you don’t understand what “self-defense” is or when the law says it’s appropriate to use, you might be part of the problem.

If you don’t understand the difference between “self-defense” and Stand Your Ground, you might be part of the problem.

If you don’t get that “not guilty” does not equal “innocent,” you might be part of the problem.

If you think the only way to have reached a “not guilty” verdict was racism, you might be part of the problem.

If you think the “not guilty” verdict was a victory for white people, you might be part of the problem.

If you think Zimmerman was “ordered” to “stay in his car,” you might be part of the problem.

If you think Zimmerman was “stalking” according to Florida law, you might be part of the problem.

If you think Zimmerman went out that night looking to kill a black man, you might be part of the problem.

If you think Zimmerman was on duty for neighborhood watch that night, you might be part of the problem.

If you think putting Zimmerman in prison will help right past injustices, you might be part of the problem.

If you think the biggest danger to African-American teens is someone like Zimmerman, you might be part of the problem.

If you think Trayvon and Emmett Till have anything in common except their race, you might be part of the problem.

If you think it’s illegal to have a 6-person jury, you might be part of the problem.

If you think the media has no agenda in its coverage, you might be part of the problem.

If you think I’ve missed anything, you can leave it in a comment. However, with this issue being so contentious (especially among those who have the least amount of accurate information), I’m going to be very quick to ban comments that are little more than name calling or insisting on things already shown to be not in evidence. I'll also be quick to ban those who come looking for race war.

Make your point like an intelligent human being and it'll be left alone. Act like a race-baiting troll who's skirting the line on inciting violence and genocide, and you'll be gone (and reported).

I slogged through ridiculous bullshit for a week on social media and I’m done.
alexkaufmann: (Stanley Cup)
Let's try a little thought experiment:

Eighteen year old has sex with a fourteen year old girl.

Girl's parents complain, 18 year old is arrested and charged with statutory rape under Florida law.

Anyone have a problem with this (aside from the glaring need for a "Romeo and Juliet" law in Florida)?

Here's where things go sideways.

An online petition with tens of thousands of signatures demands no prosecution for the 18 year old and the ACLU has put in its two cents as well.

Why?

Because the 18 year old is named Kaitlyn and the relationship is a lesbian one.

Florida's statutory rape law makes no distinction on gender-- an 18 year old having sex with a 14 year old is guilty of statutory rape regardless of the gender of either party. The mind boggles at the mental gymnastics required to turn a gender-neutral prosecution of a state's statutory rape law into an anti-lesbian witch hunt.

But still, the professional victims are out in full force, demanding Kaitlyn's prosecution be dropped. How can someone claim to support equal protection under the law AND support special treatment for lesbians under the statutory rape law?

Here's a question that needs no answer: would there be tens of thousands of signatures and an ACLU intervention if Kaitlyn had been Keith?

The argument for dropping Kaitlyn's prosecution (lesbians deserve special treatment under the statutory rape laws) flies directly in the face of the argument for marriage equality (gays and lesbians deserve the same right to equal protection under the law).

As someone who supports marriage equality, the response to this case is troubling. With equal rights come equal responsibilities, and one of those legal responsibilities is not to have sex with a 14 year old if you're an 18 year old.

Kaitlyn broke the law and is being prosecuted; not as a lesbian but as an 18 year old who had sex with a 14 year old. Would those who signed the petition to drop the charges have signed if Kaitlyn had been Keith?

It's a hypocritical double-standard and it does gays and lesbians no favors. It is handing ammunition to the anti-gay bigots everywhere in the fight over marriage equality. Those opposed to marriage equality can point to this case and say "see... they don't want equal protection, they want special treatment."

And, unfortunately, in this case, they'd be right.

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Alexander Kaufmann

November 2015

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