SCOTUS Hobby Lobby Decision: A One-Way Ticket to Socialized Medicine?

After lauding the Supreme Court’s decision last week to protect digital privacy rights, it’s quite ironic that today they’ve dealt an insurmountable blow to individual rights while favoring corporate intransigence.  From the Chicago Tribune, here’s the story…

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that business owners can object on religious grounds to a provision of President Obama’s healthcare law that requires companies to provide health insurance that covers birth control.

The court held on a 5-4 vote on ideological lines that such companies can seek an exemption from the so-called birth control mandate of the healthcare law. The decision means employees of those companies will have to obtain certain forms of birth control from other sources.

In a majority opinion by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, the court said the ruling applies only to the birth control mandate and does not mean companies would necessarily succeed if they made similar claims to other insurance requirements, such as vaccinations and drug transfusions.

In the majority opinion, Alito indicated that employees could still be able to obtain the birth control coverage via an accommodation to the mandate that the Obama administration has already introduced for religious-affiliated nonprofits. The accommodation allows health insurance companies to provide the coverage without the employer being involved in the process.

Under the accommodation, eligible non-profits must provide a “self certification”, described by one lower court judge as a “permission slip” authorizing insurance companies to provide the coverage. The accommodation is itself the subject of a separate legal challenge.

The Chicago Tribune also posted text of the full SCOTUS decision, which is definitely worth a read if you want a thorough understanding of the case.  One of the first things to notice?  This case was decided not just by a 5 to 4 majority, but 5 MEN ruling in favor of corporate rights, while all 3 of the court’s women were in dissent.  The irony is striking… 5 men that will never have to endure a situation seemingly ignore the input of women that have both a legal and personal understanding of the full range of women’s health needs (i.e. the medical FACT that some “birth control pills” are taken for other uses, and not just Contraception).  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes the dissenting opinion here (it starts on page 60), and at the least, the way she refutes the narrow minds of her male colleagues is truly EPIC.  A dissent that will go down in history for sure.

Directly from Justice Ginsburg’s dissent…

After assuming the existence of compelling government
interests, the Court holds that the contraceptive coverage
requirement fails to satisfy RFRA’s least restrictive means
test. But the Government has shown that there is no less
restrictive, equally effective means that would both (1)
religious objections to providing insurance coverage for certain contraceptives (which they believe cause abortions); and (2) carry out the objective of
the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirement, to ensure
that women employees receive, at no cost to them, the
preventive care needed to safeguard their health and well
being. A “least restrictive means” cannot require employees to relinquish benefits accorded them by federal law in
order to ensure that their commercial employers can
adhere unreservedly to their religious tenets. See supra,
at 7–8, 27.25

Then let the government pay (rather than the employees
who do not share their employer’s faith), the Court suggests. “The most straightforward [alternative],” the Court
asserts, “would be for the Government to assume the cost
of providing . . . contraceptives . . . to any women who are
unable to obtain them under their health-insurance policies due to their employers’ religious objections.” Ante, at

As quoted from the majority opinion, the precedent set here may broaden “religious freedom” for non-people, but it also potentially broadens the reach of the Affordable Care Act.  The Court essentially endorses government healthcare over that of the private employer, which sows the seeds to eliminate private insurers entirely.  Can any company that suddenly “finds religion” and wants to alter or lessen their health plans just pass the buck on to Uncle Sam?  In any instance where companies decide to provide “separate but unequal” care that violates the ACA, will the government then step in and quietly take on more of the healthcare system?  The opinion of these Conservative justices is so short-sighted, that it leaves any and all of these possibilities on the table.  As shameful as today’s decision is, it may have some very real inroads to waving corporate responsibilities for healthcare entirely, leaving government to then create a public option to get people covered.  Only time will tell.


Supreme Court Upholds Right to ‘Digital Privacy’

In a landmark ruling this week, the United States Supreme Court has taken a bold step to protect ‘digital privacy’ rights in the United States.  Here’s the story from the New York Times

In a sweeping victory for privacy rights in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest.

While the decision will offer protection to the 12 million people arrested every year, many for minor crimes, its impact will most likely be much broader. The ruling almost certainly also applies to searches of tablet and laptop computers, and its reasoning may apply to searches of homes and businesses and of information held by third parties like phone companies.

“This is a bold opinion,” said Orin S. Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University. “It is the first computer-search case, and it says we are in a new digital age. You can’t apply the old rules anymore.”

With so much of our lives taking place through these small, electronic devices, it’s not surprising that the Justices issued a unanimous ruling on this.  In the 21st century, we already place far more value on intellectual capital than almost any other pursuit.  But the only way to protect this new economic engine is by strengthening our ‘digital privacy’ rights.  The Supreme Court has succeeded this week in protecting all Americans. Let’s hope for more common-sense conclusions on other issues.

Houston’s New Area Code: 346

With such prosperous growth as has been seen in contemporary Houston, it makes sense that eventually we would have to start running out of stuff as well. Being a flat (and endangered) prairie the region still has plenty of land to use and misuse.  With the subtropical climate and proximity to the Gulf, the region is once again blessed with rainfall after a scorching drought.  So with so many people moving to town, what has Houston run out of?

The answer is surprisingly simple… telephone numbers.  The region’s three existing area codes have almost been totally exhausted, and it’s time to expand.  Here’s more from Fox 26 news

Beginning in July, 346 will join the existing club of southeast Texas area codes 713, 281, and 832.The fourth area code for Houston and nearby surrounding cities and counties will overlay existing area codes 713, 281 and 832 in Harris, Fort Bend, Waller, Austin, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Liberty, Chambers, Galveston, and Brazoria counties.

Based upon projections that there will be no more numbers available to assign to the 713, 281, and 832 area codes by Sept. 30, the North American Number Planning Administrator assigned the 346 area code.

The 346 area code will not require any reprogramming changes to existing equipment because an area code overlay with 10-digit dialing for local calls already exists in the affected area, according to a statement released by the Public Utility Commission of Texas.

To actually run out of an area code takes a lot number combinations… roughly 8 million of them.  That means Houston and its environs to have now spun through nearly 24 million numbers.
So don’t get alarmed when you start seeing 346 pop up on the phone or around the office, it’s just the new kid on the block.  One has to wonder though… how long before the new code gets its first rap shout-out?

How ‘The People’s Filibuster’ Changed Texas Politics

Everyday on this planet, people experience a defining moment in their life… a marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, starting college, a new job… these events are significant to that individual, and the close family and friends around them.  Then there are even rarer occasions where we experience a defining moment as a collective, like the tragedy of 9-11 or Barack Obama’s election in 2008.  Once the moment happens, things as we know them are different.

That defining moment in recent Texas politics was not an election or a tragedy, but was generated from one state legislator taking a stand.  One year ago, State Senator Wendy Davis stood on the floor of the Senate for 11 hours in an epic filibuster against SB 5… a bill to severely limit access to women’s healthcare.  In a pair of pink Mizuno sneakers, she stood and talked while the world watched the dastardly GOP senators did everything they could to take her down.  That in fact is how Davis’ filibuster ended… claiming that she had failed to stand up properly 2 hours short of running out the clock on Texas’ legislative session.  But rather than give up, Texas’ Democratic Senators unleashed a slew of tactics to keep the delay going.  Finally at the end of the night, with 15 minutes left on the clock, one insult to Senator Leticia Van de Putte unleashed a fire from the gallery… Hundreds of women’s rights supporters cheered, and stomped and clapped until the Legislative Session ran out.  Davis’ original Filibuster was completed by the people of Texas.  To the Republican plans to harm women’s rights, the people said NO.

Like typical Texas Republicans, Governor Perry called a Special Session and they passed their heinous bill anyway.  But even as the GOP won a fierce battle, they simultaneously started a war with Texas voters on both sides, flooded Democratic coffers with new money sources, and elevated Senators Davis and Van de Putte to national stardom.  That’s the main way that Texas politics has changed since June 25th, 2013. Democrats now have real press power.  Gone are the days when a Democratic candidate would be wholly ignored by statewide media, or when someone like Rick Perry could laugh off the notion of a general election debate.  Republicans may still control Texas politics, but the sense of Absolute Monarchy has been “Magna-Carted” off to the ol’ dusty trail.  Now, at the very least in Texas, Democrats MUST be heard.

So the question remains… can Democrats use that bully pulpit effectively?  On this front, the results have so far been mixed.  Certainly not an indictment of Top-Tier candidates, but a clear sign that they’re still much newer to the statewide game than their GOP counterparts.  Much to the dismay of her supporters, Davis has run into trouble about how to immortalize this moment’s history herself, running away from the abortion issue almost as fast as her opponent runs from all the legal cases he files and then forgets about in public.  (By the way… whatever happened to the safe, legal and rare argument that BOTH parties used to support? Seems pretty reasonable to me.)

Ultimately, this new position of strength for Democrats must be utilized for one primary directive… turning out voters.  That is more important than anything the Davis or Van de Putte could yell from the rooftops.  Has Texas changed enough to swing some statewide offices blue?  Check the Senate clock… it’s still tickin’.



Remember Sussudio: Phil Collins Donates Alamo Treasures To Texas

What do a legendary British pop singer and over 26 million proud Lone Star State dwellers have in common?  A deep love of a defining moment in Texas History. From the Houston Chronicle (via the AP), check out what happened this week in San– San Antonio!

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Remember the Alamo? Phil Collins sure does.

The British 1980s music icon was at the 1836 Battle of the Alamo and Texas Revolutionary shrine in downtown San Antonio on Thursday, announcing the donation of his collection of related artifacts — one so vast it’s considered the world’s largest such private collection.

Collins, the 63-year-old Genesis singer-drummer, joked he’d spent “all the money that I made from music” on 200-plus pieces related to the battle where 1,500 Mexican troops laid siege to 200 Texans. He said he wanted to ensure the collection was better cared-for in the future.

“Some people would buy Ferraris, some people would buy houses, I bought old bits of metal and old bits of paper,” Collins said. “It’s at my home, in my basement in Switzerland. I look at it every day, but no one else was enjoying it.”

Collins has been an Alamo aficionado since growing up in London and watching actor Fess Parker portray Davy Crockett in a 1950s Disney miniseries.

“I’ve had a love affair with this place since I was about 5 years old,” said Collins, who sweated in a button-down shirt and spectacles before a cheering crowd of dignitaries and tourists who gathered in front of the Alamo for the occasion. “It was something that I used to go and play in the garden with my soldiers.”

Collins said his favorite artifact was also his first, purchased for him in the 1990s by his then-wife: a receipt for the sale of the saddle of John W. Smith, an Alamo messenger who rode through Mexican lines and pleaded for reinforcements before the battle.

The collection also includes a rifle owned by Crockett, his leather shot pouch and a pair of powder horns Crockett is believed to have given to a Mexican officer before his death — as well as muskets and musket balls that belonged to Mexican soldiers.

It’s not everyday that that someone so devoted to a cause gives a lifetime’s work of collection and acquisition back to the people.  Equally amazing is the reminder at just how profound and special Texas history truly is… this extraordinary state has fans all over the globe, whether they are from here or not.

The Alamo site is beloved by most all Texans, and Collins’ extraordinary gift this week should serve as a clarion call for us to once again “Remember the Alamo” and establish a firm plan for its future.  Recent debates about how to improve the historical site have become quite heated in its home city.  Some want to restore the site to its original 1836 landscape, which is hard to do in the epicenter of the 7th most populous city in the United States.  Either way, it’s a debate worth having, and hopefully Texans can come to an agreement soon.  As we move farther in time from the fateful, the Alamo’s significance as a world treasure will only continue to grow.

Texoblogosphere: Week of June 23rd

The Texas Progressive Alliance managed to tear itself away from watching the World Cup just long enough to bring you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff sets a standard for success for Democrats in the fall elections.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos is not in the least bit surprised to learn Texas Republican politicians are playing red meat politics with the Texas/Mexico border crisis. The Texas GOP: Now it’s IMMIGEDDON.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson on the Texas corporate toll road headed for a state bailout, I Hate To Say I Told You So…But.

Bay Area Houston has a picture of the face of the Texas Tea Party.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has a roundup of news from the Rio Grande “boarder”.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme knows that the Texas Republicans are anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic. And, they lie about it.

Neil at All People Have Value speculated about the meaning of a Texas license plate he saw with both the Don’t Tread On Me Flag & the word “Glock” on the plate. All People Have Value is part of

It’s a scenario that is almost unimaginable as a parent. The joyous day comes when your twin babies are born, and after welcoming them into the world, and caring for the young ones every minute, a court invalidates your biological rights to your precious kids. It may sound like a nightmare scenario, but Texas Leftist has discovered one Fort Worth gay couple that is enduring that pain right now.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Texas Election Law Blog criticizes a state law that allows for elections featuring unopposed candidates to be cancelled.

Offcite declares that now is the time to save the ecosystems ringing our city.

TransGriot reviews the next steps in the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance fight.

Denise Romano documents the cost of lies about the Affordable Care Act.

Lone Star Q examines a bizarre pro-diversity campaign by the Metroplex Republicans that nobody else seems to know anything about.

Happy Pride Houston!!  

BIG: Utah Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down in Appeals Court

Some very big news today out of Denver, as the state of Utah is dealt another huge blow to its ban on same-sex marriage in an unusually broad ruling.  Here’s the scoop from LGBTQnation

 A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that states must allow gay couples to marry, finding the Constitution protects same-sex relationships and putting a remarkable legal winning streak across the country one step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The three-judge panel in Denver ruled 2-1 that states cannot deprive people of the fundamental right to marry simply because they want to be wedded to someone of the same sex.

The judges added they don’t want to brand as intolerant those who oppose gay marriage, but they said there is no reasonable objection to the practice.

“It is wholly illogical to believe that state recognition of love and commitment of same-sex couples will alter the most intimate and personal decisions of opposite-sex couples,” the judges wrote, addressing arguments that the ruling could undermine traditional marriage.

The decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld a lower court ruling that struck down Utah’s gay marriage ban. It becomes law in the six states covered by the 10th Circuit: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. But the panel immediately put the ruling on hold pending an appeal.

The Utah attorney general’s office will appeal the decision but is still assessing whether it will go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court or ask the entire 10th Circuit to review the ruling, spokeswoman Missy Larsen said.

So why is this ruling by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals the strongest yet to favor nation-wide marriage equality?  Well for one thing, it affects the court’s entire jurisdiction.  If that temporary hold were to be lifted, same-sex marriages could immediately commence in each state.  The other big thing the 10th Circuit did in their ruling?  They drew battle lines between religious recognition of marriages, and the obligation of states to treat their citizens equally.  Even in the 2013 Supreme Court ruling striking down California’s ban, the Justices still tried desperately to skirt around this particular issue.

The 10th Circuit Court also threw down “the gauntlet”, finally posing marriage and family as a right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.  If as expected, this ruling is then appealed up to the Supreme Court, they will be forced to make a final decision on which is more important… the rights of the state, or the rights of the individual?

With similar cases heading to other Circuit courts, it will be very interesting to see how long the Supreme Court can hold off on the issue.  Make no mistake, marriage equality is winning, and fast.  This ruling, more than any one’s we’ve seen yet since 2013, is sure to have major national implications.