Category: Law

When do we get back to the Constitution affirming separation of church and state?

Cartoon-Shan-Durango-News

A federal judge Thursday granted a Minnesota auto dealer the right to exclude emergency contraceptives and I.U.D.’s from his company’s employee health plan.

U.S. District Judge Frank Magnuson issued an injunction against the federal government, enabling Hastings Automotive’s primary owner Doug Erickson to remove contraceptives from his company’s plan without facing penalties.

“It’s long been by conviction to run these businesses according to my faith, and I really believe I’m stewarding these businesses and operating them as God would have me operate them,” Erickson told KARE…

Birth control is treated as basic preventive care by the Affordable Care Act, meaning that it must be included without co-insurance in all health plans. But the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case carved out an exception for faith based organizations and private for-profit companies, accommodating the religious beliefs of company owners.

“The very bottom line here is that we believe that the decision to use birth control is between a woman and her doctor, not her boss,” Jennifer Aulwes of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and South Dakota, told KARE.

Birth control is basic health care for women and 99 percent of women have used it at some point in their lives, so today’s ruling is very troubling for us.”

Jeremy Dys – a lawyer who specializes in representing idjits – contends that emergency contraceptives prevent fertilized eggs from attaching to lining of the uterus, causing what he termed a “chemical abortion.”

The makers of the drugs, on the other had, cite research that shows the drugs prevent ovulation and fertilization, essentially keeping a pregnancy from starting…”if a pregnancy is already established emergency contraception will not affect that pregnancy”.

The idjit judge – relying on the conservative idjits in the Supreme Court – said he wasn’t interested in science or the medical findings on contraception. He was just worried about the religious rights of the car dealer.

About right for law and order in America, today. Any religion receiving any level of recognition can impose their precepts over the rights of their employees – according to the distorted views of law currently supreme over our constitution.

Christian sharia being the accepted standard, of course.

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Feds won’t stop Native Americans from growing, selling pot on tribal land

Opening the door for what could be a lucrative and controversial new industry on some Native American reservations, the Justice Department on Thursday will tell U.S. attorneys to not prevent tribes from growing or selling marijuana on the sovereign lands, even in states that ban the practice.

The new guidance, released in a memorandum, will be implemented on a case-by-case basis and tribes must still follow federal guidelines, said Timothy Purdon, the U.S. attorney for North Dakota and the chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues…

The policy comes on the heels of the 2013 Justice Department decision to stop most federal marijuana prosecutions in states that have legalized the possession or sale of pot. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia have all moved to legalize the drug, though the D.C. law may be scaled back by Congress.

Some tribes see marijuana sales as a potential source of revenue, similar to cigarette sales and casino gambling, which have brought a financial boon to reservations across the country. Others, including the Yakama Reservation in Washington state, remain strongly opposed to the sale or use of marijuana on their lands…

Even though Indian nations are recognized as sovereign, Anglo governments, white folks in general have such a long history of telling First Nation folks how to run their lives – there is no doubt that states still backwards enough to have restrictive laws on marijuana will try to continue that restriction on crops and sales on tribal lands.

From my perspective in a so-called tricultural state like New Mexico? Hey, it serves more good than selling fireworks. I have neighbors who make the short trek to the nearest Pueblo on the weekend to fill-up their pickup on cheaper gasoline. I imagine there will be folks doing the same in some states to stockup on weed.

Just watch out for The Man on the way home.

Thanks, Mike

Free Market capitalists in conservative Utah show how it really works

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Click to enlarge

Utah insurance regulators are taking action against Zenefits, a technology startup that helps small businesses manage their human resource needs.

Zenefits offers a free website that helps companies manage payroll, vacation time, health insurance, and so forth.

Zenefits makes money if companies choose to purchase services such as health insurance through the website.

But a Utah regulator says offering free access to its website violates state insurance laws, which make it illegal to offer companies “inducements” to purchase insurance.

Regulators say Zenefits giving away access to its website is unfair to other insurance brokers…

“The Utah Insurance Department has an important responsibility to maintain a fair, competitive insurance business environment for all licensees” — e.g. insurance brokers, wrote commissioner Todd Kiser. “Some of the main purposes of the Utah Insurance Code are to ensure not only that insurance consumers are protected and treated fairly, but that licensees are treated fairly within a financially healthy and adequate insurance market that is not only characterized by innovation, but also by fair conditions of competition for all insurance licensees.”

Kiser says the regulations are also intended to ensure that companies choose insurance for their employees based on the objective merits of the insurance products being offered, instead of taking whatever insurance happens to be available on the Zenefits platform…

Kiser says he could charge Zenefits $97,000 based on the company’s actions. However, he is offering Zenefits the opportunity to settle the charges for a mere $50,000.

Zenefits would also be required to start charging a “fair market value fee” to Utah employers using the Zenefits website.

Kind of warms the cockles of your heart – watching the legislative and regulatory flunkies of Free Enterprise behave like the street corner pimps they really are in practice. And the conservatives and libertarians who prattle about the virtues of the Free Market know damned well the “villains” who compromise their puritan ideology faster than anyone else — are capitalists.

China to introduce deposit insurance — and more!

China is to adopt a deposit insurance scheme to better protect savers and free up interest rates.

The Legislative Affairs Office of China’s State Council published a set of draft regulations containing 23 articles on its website on Sunday to solicit public opinion…

Financial institutions will be required to pay insurance premiums to a special fund and an agency will be set up to manage the money. Domestic banks’ overseas branches and foreign banks’ China branches are exempt.

The fund will pay maximum compensation of 500,000 yuan ($81,500) per depositor if a bank suffers insolvency or bankruptcy.

This covers 99.6% of China’s depositers.

Banks will cover losses more than 500,000 yuan with their own assets, according to the regulations.

The scheme will significantly improve the competitiveness of medium and small-sized banks as the insurance will assure depositors of the safety of their savings, according to the central bank…

Deposit insurance is implemented in 112 economies to protect depositors, in full or in part, from losses caused by a bank’s inability to pay its debts when due…

“With the scheme in place, the government will retreat and leave banks to bear their own risks,” said Guo Tianyong, a banking researcher with the Central University of Finance and Economics.

The deposit insurance scheme is considered a precondition for China to free up deposit rates — the last and most important step of interest rate liberalization, according to Lian Ping, chief economist with the Bank of Communications.

The important paragraph in this post is next-to-last above. The way this proposal is being promulgated – there will not be any possibility of banks treated as Too Big To Fail.

Hmmm. Didn’t we used to have a similar style of management in the United States? Before George W. Bush’s second term, anyway.

Today’s stupid cop trick

banana gun
Quick draw banana!

A man is facing a felony menacing charge after two western Colorado sheriff’s deputies say he pointed a banana at them and they thought it was a gun.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports 27-year-old Nathan Rolf Channing, of Fruitvale, was arrested Sunday.

According to an arrest affidavit, Mesa County deputies Joshua Bunch and Donald Love said they feared for their lives even though they saw that the object was yellow. Bunch wrote in the affidavit that he has seen handguns in many shapes and colors.

He wrote that Love was drawing his service weapon when Channing yelled, “It’s a banana!

The deputies say Channing told them he was doing a trial run for a planned YouTube video and he thought it would “lighten the holiday spirit.”

Think these stalwart coppers would have been charged if they killed the guy threatening them with a banana?

America in the Dark Ages — The cult of kiddie danger

Lenore Skenazy is a public speaker and founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids. Her show “World’s Worst Mom” airs on Discovery/TLC international.

The Richland, WA, school district is phasing out swings on its playgrounds. As the district’s spokesman recently told KEPR TV: “It’s just really a safety issue. Swings have been determined to be the most unsafe of all the playground equipment on a playground.”

Ah yes, those dangling doom machines. All they sow is death and despair.

But while this sounds like yet another example of how liability concerns are killing childhood (seen a see-saw anywhere in the last 20 years? A slide higher than your neck?), it’s deeper than that. Insurance underwriters are merely the high priests of what has become our new American religion: the Cult of Kiddie Danger. It is founded on the unshakable belief that our kids are in constant danger from everyone and everything.

The devout pray like this: “Oh Lord, show me the way my child is in deathly danger from __________, that I may cast it out.” And then they fill in the blank with anything we might have hitherto considered allowing our children to eat, watch, visit, touch, or do, e.g., “Sleep over at a friend’s,” “Microwave the macaroni in a plastic dish,” or even, “Play outside, unsupervised…”

What’s more, this is a state religion, so the teachings are enforced by the cops and courts. Those who step outside the orthodoxy face punishment swift and merciless…

We think we are enlightened in this quest to keep kids completely safe. Actually, we have entered a new Dark Ages, fearing evil all around us.

If we want the right to raise our kids rationally, even optimistically, it’s time to call the Cult of Kiddie Danger what it is: mass hysteria aided and abetted by the authorities. But as earlier holy books so succinctly instructed us, there is a better way to live.

“Fear not.”

Bravo!

Lenore Skenazy makes her case with the thoroughness of a pedant. With the heart of a warrior. Which, of course, she must be, every day.

We have added another brick to the wall of state religions. All are considered innocent until proven guilty – unless you are charged with possession of kiddy porn, accused of rape, admit to being an atheist…regardless of charge. More dangerous than someone who cuts those little labels off pillow cases that say “Do Not Remove”. Carrier of an evil more dangerous than the Interwebitubes.

This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine,The Weekly Wonk.

Microsoft campus defended by autonomous robot guards


look, mom – a new kind of Dalek

With proprietary secrets and employees to protect, Microsoft turns to special robot guards to keep its Silicon Valley campus safe…

While it sounds high-tech and interesting, these drones are not reminiscent of RoboCop. They are five feet tall and weigh 300 pounds. Equipment includes cameras, sensors, alarms, and rudimentary artificial intelligence, but no weapons. Their primary function is to patrol large areas like parking lots and alert human security guards to any danger or intrusion.

The system was built and designed by Knightscope, a company located in Mountain View, California. Knightscope markets the robots as data machines that demand to be noticed and yet offer a non-intimidating presence. The company kept the robots in development for several years as engineers perfected a discerning camera.

The resulting high-definition cameras read license plates and distinguish between a harmless employee gathering and something sinister, like an attempted break-in. Other specific equipment includes microphones, weather sensors, loud alarms, and Wi-Fi connectivity to alert human security enforcement. In addition to scanning for intruders, the robots can detect explosives, possible natural disasters, and other emergencies…

As of now, Microsoft has five drones monitoring the campus. Once aware of a possible disturbance, the K5 will either sound its alarm or contact a human. If people attempt to mess with it, it will first sound a warning and then work up to a piercing alarm if the behavior continues…

Purchasing the robots is a cost-savings venture allowing Microsoft to hire fewer security guards. Competitively priced, Knightscope indicates that any company can deploy several robots and make crime prevention much easier.

Still sounds like this is a project designed to evolve into Robocop. Or Daleks.

Thanks, Mike

Secular victory in Federal Court

A federal district court in Oregon has declared Secular Humanism a religion, paving the way for the non-theistic community to obtain the same legal rights as groups such as Christianity.

On Thursday, October 30, Senior District Judge Ancer Haggerty issued a ruling on American Humanist Association v. United States, a case that was brought by the American Humanist Association (AHA) and Jason Holden, a federal prisoner. Holden pushed for the lawsuit because he wanted Humanism — which the AHA defines as “an ethical and life-affirming philosophy free of belief in any gods and other supernatural forces” — recognized as a religion so that his prison would allow for the creation of a Humanist study group. Haggerty sided with the plaintiffs in his decision, citing existing legal precedent and arguing that denying Humanists the same rights as groups such as Christianity would be highly suspect under the Establishment Clause in the U.S. Constitution, which declares that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

“The court finds that Secular Humanism is a religion for Establishment Clause purposes,” the ruling read.

I’m not certain a democratic nation in the 21st Century needs such tortured reasoning. But, I’ll take it.

The decision highlights the unusual position of the Humanist community, which has tried for years to obtain the same legal rights as more traditional religious groups while simultaneously rebuking the existence of a god or gods. But while some Humanists may chafe at being called a “religion,” others feel that the larger pursuit of equal rights trumps legal classifications.

RTFA for a bit more discussion. There will be lots more around the Web, certainly punctuated by whining from any of the dozens of flavors of traditional religion kept in business by their freedom from taxation.

Thanks, Mike

Arizona coppers wake up pastor at 2 AM to see if he had Ebola


Shift change for Tucson Police Department

A Tucson Pastor, Michael Petzer, who returned from Zambia in early September, was awakened by two Tucson police officers pounding on his door at 2 AM. They wanted to know if he had Ebola.

It turns out that a woman from his congregation went to the hospital with self-described “possible Ebola symptoms” and she shared with doctors that her Pastor had been to Africa.

The hospital called the cops, and TPD sent out two officers to check it out.

The officers did a welfare check on Petzer after a request from UAMC, said Sgt. Chris Widmer, a Tucson Police Department spokesman. Officials with UAMC confirmed that was true, and said they followed protocol. The hospital did not contact the Pima County Health Department.

“The only way we could figure out if it was a real contact to be concerned about was to find out the travel history. That is why the police were sent out,” said Dr. Andreas Theodorou, chief medical officer at UA Medical Center. “The health department doesn’t have the capacity to do that.”…

“When a patient comes to the ER and has a fever and West African contact, it triggers the process, and we have to take it seriously,” he said.

Well, of course Zambia is not near the infected areas of Africa, and the good pastor was well beyond the 21 day period.

“I think this is hysteria, and a zero understanding of geography,” said Petzer, explaining that Zambia is in south-central Africa, about 2,500 miles away from the affected areas in West Africa…

“I traveled from a noninfected country to one (United States) where there are people in quarantine,” Petzer said. “I think this is an issue of public ignorance and not an issue of public health. People hear Africa, and everyone thinks ‘Ebola.’ Most Americans do not have a clue that Africa is a large continent and not a country. People have to stop the hysteria of it all.”

Please mail me a penny postcard when you bump into local officials, police or ignorant bumpkins who will admit they don’t know bupkis about geography, public health or civil liberties. Especially after they screw up like this.

Yes, that obviously includes hospital administrators.