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John Fitzpatrick

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Star Trek TNG [Jun. 11th, 2014|11:37 pm]
I'm almost at the end of "Star Trek: The Next Generation". I am half-way through season 7, the final season.

ST:TNG can be divided into two groups: seasons 1 and 2, and seasons 3 through 7. All seasons have decent sets and special effects. The first two seasons have poor writing and acting. The second group (seasons 3 through 7) have better writing but they are limited in scope.

The later group of episodes all follow a set of rules, with the result that the episodes are constrained to a narrow band of storytelling. Every episode looks, sounds, and feels like every other episode. (Also, with the exception of a few episodes, one can re-sequence the episodes with no ill effects.)

I suppose that "Star Trek: The Original Series" could be considered just as formulaic. And the episodes can be just as replaceable (with a few exceptions).

Yet I must observe that ST:TOS was a bit bolder with the cinematography, and broader in its writing. The earlier series took more risks with camera angles, lighting effects, and lenses; ST:TNG is conventional and uses "safe" techniques. ST:TOS stories were written for a wide audience, with material that works for a range of ten to sixty. ST:TNG stories focus on a narrow demographic, perhaps 15 to 20 years of age. Some controversy, but nothing radical. Little in the way of social commentary -- or social commentary done with such finesse that I do not see it.

As I complete my journey through ST:TNG, I cannot help but think of it as a chore. Not as harsh as an ordeal, but by no means a joy. I am considering the other "Star Trek" versions, all of which are available on Netflix. Perhaps they will be different.
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Movie review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory [May. 31st, 2014|10:42 pm]
Any review of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" must consider its predecessor "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory". So let's begin.

"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory", the 1971 musical with Gene Wilder was, in short, not that great of a movie. The special effects were obvious. The movie took significant liberties from the book. The first half of the movie (prior to the entry to the factory) was dreary, with the one exception of the song "The Candyman", a catchy tune that saw a bit of popularity. The movie have two great scenes ("Pure Imagination" and "I Want It Now!") and lots of mediocre scenes.

So the re-make (titled "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory") had a very low bar to pass.

It accomplishes the amazing feat of failing.

Technically, the movie is superb. The special effects are smooth and pretty. The movie stays with the book -- although Burton adds a distracting side-story of Wonka's relationship with his father. And the glass elevator is propelled by rockets; any reader will recall that the glass elevator us upheld by a skyhook. (Where, exactly, the other end of the skyhook attaches is never explained.)

But "Charlie" is utterly devoid of charm. "Willy Wonka" was a light bit of fluff and one enjoys it (once past the first half). "Charlie" is a mere exposition in special effects. The acting is a shadow of the over-acting and camp in the earlier work.

Not only do the later versions of Charlie Bucket, Augustus Gloop, Violet Beauregarde, Mike Teevee, and Veruca Salt stand shorter than the originals, the parents are blander. Johnny Depp gives Wonka a maniacal twist, at odds with Dahl's eccentric but harmless Wonka.

In the end, I think Tim Burton, while talented, is not up to the genius of Roald Dahl. Burton knows what frightens adults; Dahl knows not only what frightens children but also what enchants them. (Dahl also knows adults; refer to his short story "Taste".)

I rate this movie one can of spam out of a possible ten.
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Christianity and democracy [May. 26th, 2014|08:41 pm]
What follows is some random and ill-formed thoughts. I'm sure that others have researched this more than I. Please take it for what it is: a collection of ideas that may or may not be right.

Democracy is all about compromise.

The United States is a democracy, and therefore compromise is important. (Okay, technically we are a constitutional republic with democratic elections of officials, but compromise is just as important.)

The New Testament does not teach compromise. Perhaps the closest it comes is Jesus:
"Give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar and give to God that which belongs to God". But even that is far from compromise.

Evangelical Christians quote Paul. Paul was all about total and absolute faith. He had to be, given the time and situation. Evangelical Christians have absorbed this mindset. Their worldview is based on a black-and-white arrangement of good and evil.

They have no notion of compromise. There is no example in the Bible (at least not the parts that they read) and they have no role model. Talk to a hard Christian and they will tell you that they cannot compromise on their core beliefs.

The problem (as I see it) is that the "win all or lose all" mindset for faith can bleed over to other decisions. Unconsciously, hard Christians lose their ability to compromise on any issue. Everything becomes polarized.

Without the notion of compromise, without the idea of a middle ground, hard Christians view events through a filter. Things are either going for them or going against them. They either win in total or lose in total -- there is no third option, no way for them to be content a portion of their objective.

For matters of faith, this is certainly true. For mundane matters, I'm sure hard Christians can compromise. They can agree to disagree on small matters (perhaps the color of parking meters) but on matters of faith -- or anything connected to faith -- they can accept no compromise. School prayer is a matter of faith and they can accept no compromise. Abortion is connected with conception which is connected to the soul and therefore they can accept no compromise.

Any loss is considered a traumatic loss, and leads to claims of persecution (something that does exist in their worldview, with examples in the Bible and in history). Thus we can easily here about "The War on Religion", or "The War on Christmas".

It is interesting that they do not quote the later theologians: Aquinas, Augustine, ... anyone. It's as if they are locked in the first century. This is significant. It means that they are resistant -- possibly immune -- to any expansion or modification of their beliefs. They would most likely consider a modern-day theologian to be a heretic.

Hard Christians, being very social conservatives, can align themselves with the Republican party, which has courted them. They cannot ally with the Democrats -- Democrats have shown that they tolerate other faiths, that they tolerate other ideas and debate, and worst of all they accept compromise. The Republicans are the lesser of the two evils.

But their alliance must be an uncomfortable one. Republicans have compromised. (Fewer of late; consider the "I won't raise taxes even if we get a 10-to-1 reduction is spending" fiasco of the 2012 elections.) Republicans have failed to deliver on socially conservative legislation, promised during election campaigns.

Uncomfortable as it is, hard-core conservative Christians have no other place to go. They are stuck with the Republicans, and the Republicans are stuck with them. I'm pretty sure that the establishment Republicans want the hard-core conservatives on the bus, but not driving the bus.

The hard-core uncompromising Christians do not want a democracy. They want a Christian nation. They will allow democracy for mundane issues (the color of parking meters, and perhaps fuel efficiency standards for automobiles) but any issue related to faith must conform to their beliefs. They allow no debate, they accept no compromise.

I've talked about Christians in this post. Some may think that I have singled them out for treatment. (Perhaps they feel persecuted.) Let me say this: it is only the hard-core evangelical "our way or nothing" Christians that have this mindset. There are people in all faiths (Jewish, Catholic, Islam, etc.) who accept compromises. There are people in all faiths who reject compromises. I know too little about other faiths to comment on them. I have met and talked with a number of uncompromising Christians, and they are consistent in their mindset.

I'm not sure how we as a nation move forward. I'm pretty sure that we need to make trade-offs. I'm pretty sure that we need to listen to many voices. I'm pretty sure that we need to find common ground. I'm pretty sure that we need compromise.
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Thoughts on the VA scandal [May. 24th, 2014|11:15 pm]
The recent VA scandal, in which veterans were wait-listed for medical care and false numbers of veterans and false waiting list times were reported, has started a search for the guilty. Some have accused the guilty (whoever they are) of falsifying reports in order to receive bonuses.

If true, then the guilty should be removed from their positions. The solution is simple and fast.

But before we pick up our torches and pitchforks, I would like to suggest a possible explanation. It may be that the problem was caused by something other than greed.

First, a disclaimer. My ideas are pure speculation. I have talked with no one in the Veterans Administration. I have performed no research. I have only sat and thought.

Here is my idea:

I suspect that the system works in this fashion: Veterans in need of medical care come to an office of the Veterans Administration. They enter a claim by talking with a clerk at the office, and the clerk collects their information and starts a process that assigns them to medical facilities.

I also suspect that the clerks in the office enter information into a computer system. Perhaps a centralized system, which allows for verification of the applicant's status. (Not everyone is allowed to claim services, not even all veterans. The VA wants to provide services to only those veterans who meet the requirements set by Congress.)

Perhaps this computer system is slow. Perhaps it is unreliable. Perhaps it is "down" for long, unplanned periods. Such a system would slow the clerks in their work. Perhaps the system requires thirty minutes to collect and enter information for a veteran. (We've all worked with slow and unreliable computer systems, and this seems a reasonable estimate.) If it takes thirty minutes to enter information for one veteran, then a clerk, in an eight-hour shift, could enter information for sixteen veterans.

Now, an office may have more than one clerk. Perhaps it has three, or ten. Each could handle sixteen veterans in a day. A ten-clerk office could handle one hundred and sixty. (Assuming that the average time is thirty minutes.)

Let's assume that clerks cannot work overtime. Perhaps the office has no budget to pay for extra hours. Perhaps they have to leave to take care of family, or go to a second job. That means that the office can handle a fixed number of veterans. There is an upper bound for the number of veterans that can be attended to in a single day.

What happens if more than that number of veterans show up in a day? A three-clerk office could handle forty-eight veterans. What happens if fifty show up? If sixty?

One cannot simply process their requests faster; the computer will not allow it. Nor can one have the clerks work longer hours. What to do?

A simple solution is to bypass the computer. Instead of entering information into the slow (unreliable) computer, simply write the information on paper with the intention of entering it later. (One may not have time later, which may be part of the problem.)

This would explain the discrepancy in reported numbers. It also explains the behavior in multiple offices -- the slow centralized computer system would affect all offices.

If this is the problem, and not greed, then the simple and fast solution of replacing people will not fix the problem. The proper solution is to improve the computer system. That solution may take time and money; revising a computer system often does.

We should understand the situation before judging.
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Ten most important albums in my life [May. 24th, 2014|10:44 pm]
List the ten most significant albums in your life. (And you know what I mean by 'albums'.)

This is hard. Really hard. (Especially since my albums and even the CD versions are packed, awaiting our upcoming move. So I am working from memory. Perhaps that is good, for this exercise.)

1. Fleetwood Mac - Rumours

2. Electric Light Orchestra - Time

3. The Moody Blues - Days of Future Passed

4. Ladytron - Light and Magic

5. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass - Whipped Cream and Other Delights

6. The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

7. Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here

8. Bananarama - True Confessions

9. Suzanne Vega - Solitude Standing

10. Renaissance - In The Beginning

The albums that were close but didn't make the top ten:

The Bangles - Different Light

Roxette - Crash Boom Bang

Alan Parsons Project - I, Robot

Tom Petty - Damn the Torpedoes

Chicago - Chicago Transit Authority

Patricia Kaas - Madmoiselle Chante...

Texas - White on Blonde

... and that ends the list.
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Musings on Star Trek [May. 18th, 2014|07:00 pm]
I'm a long-time fan of "Star Trek". I've seen the original series lots of times (and I still watch it on MeTV when they show it on Saturday nights).

I missed a number of episodes of "The Next Generation" and I have been watching them on Netflix. Generally one per week, but sometimes I miss a week and sometimes I watch two episodes in one week. I'm now in season 7, the last for TNG.

TNG is quite a different animal than TOS.

Obvious differences: cast size, special effects, and set design. TOS was filmed on a small budget; TNG had a larger budget and it shows.

Now for the not so obvious differences.

Overall, the writing for TOS was tighter and more focussed. Episodes in TOS had one story, one conflict, one thread. Episodes in TNG often had two stories that were often related (sometimes convolutedly). I suspect that this differences was due to the size of the cast. TOS episodes could revolve around Kirk, Spock, and McCoy; TNG had a Picard, Riker, Troy, Worf, Data, Laforge, Berverly Crusher (and sometimes Wesley Crusher). Writing stories for a larger set of characters is harder; splitting the story into two gives you two smaller, simpler stories.

TOS stories typically involved moral decisions, TNG stories were usually mysteries. Both had science fiction elements but they were secondary.

Both TOS and TNG reflect the state of the US in world affairs. In TOS, the Federation was an organization that was matched with the Klingon and Romulan Empires. The NCC-1701 Enterprise was small (in size and power) compared to many alien races (the Metrones, the Melkosians, the Corbomite Maneuver alien, the Domesday device, the giant amoeba, etc.) yet the NCC-1701-D Enterprise is unequalled in the galaxy (except for the Borg and Q) and its Federation is larger than alien races.

TOS was more successful in showing a possible future. Its bridge crew included a Russian, a Japanese, a black woman -- quite a leap forward from the state of the US in 1966. Its use of computers, tricorders, visi-panels, personal communicators, and the transporter were visionary.

In comparison, TNG's futuristic vision is tepid. It keeps the technology from TOS but offers little in advancement. Yes, there is the holodeck, a construct that saw little use (possibly because of budget) and offered few ideas. TOS was bolder in its vision of tech and stories; TNG is closer to 1998 than the 24th century.

TNG does have lots more gizmos and lots more details of those gizmos. Hand-held phases have power-level displays. Computer panels display lots of information. The crew uses "field enhancers" and other portable devices. But these extra devices and details don't help the storytelling. They are the equivalent of Dickens' descriptions added to boost his word count -- and therefore his pay. The gizmos in TNG distract us from the storytelling, perhaps by design. If we're looking at shiny devices we don't notice the storytelling is weak.

TNG's big claim was character development. Here, I think the series fails. While the characters are more crisply defined than those in TOS, they fail to go anywhere. One could take the TNG episodes and play them in any order; with a few exceptions they would make sense. (The same criticism applies to TOS, but TOS made no claim for character development.)

What TNG misses is the arc story. A long, multi-episode (or multi-series) story gives characters a place to go. It gives them a history that can be referenced in later episodes. (Which did happen, occasionally in TNG.) It also makes the episodes order-dependent, which means that new viewers are at a disadvantage.

Later shows did use the arc story, some more effectively than others. "Babylon 5", "Farscape", "Deep Space Nine", "Andromeda", and even "Buffy" built on arc stories. To be fair, TNG preceded all of these shows; arc stories were simply not done at the time.

I'm glad that I watched the entire TNG series. Yet I suspect that I will not be watching it again. There is not enough to draw be back into an episode, and lots of other programs are pulling at me ("Deep Space Nine". "Enterprise", "Once Upon a Time", "Farscape"...).

I do expect that I will continue to re-watch episodes of TOS. They are old friends, and I enjoy they storytelling. II guess that more is not always better.
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Peering into the future: elections and politics [May. 12th, 2014|11:04 pm]
"Elections have consequences" is one of the recent sayings in the political sphere. And we have an election later this year: the "mid term" election which sees the entire House and one third of the Senate under the ballot.

What can we expect in this election? Who will win and who will lose? What can we expect afterwards? Here is my guess:

My first guess is that the Republicans will keep their lead in the House. Not a surprise.

My second guess is that the Republicans will acquire a small lead in the Senate. Also, not a surprise, based on which seats are up for election.

(I also guess that the Democrats will hold the Presidency at least until 2016.)

A split government with the Democrats in the White House and Republicans controlling the House and Senate will pose a challenge for governance. It will be a change for the Republicans, who have safely had control of only the House. They could propose (and pass) any legislation knowing that it would die in the Senate. With control over both houses, the Republicans must be a bit more responsible. (They can still pass one-sided legislation and rely on presidential vetoes, but the "optics" of such maneuvers is quite different.)

I expect that the Republicans will focus on Benghazi. The mechanics here is tricky; they must use it to discredit more than just Barack Obama (who is not up for re-election); I suspect that their primary target will be Hillary Clinton.

Beyond the Benghazi investigation, I think we can count on Republicans to do the following:

- Attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. I think they will fail, given the sentiment in the nation and lobbying from the insurance industry. Also, the Democrats will have lots of material with which to fight: "the Republicans will take away your health care!" and "the Republicans want to return to the bad old days when insurance companies could cancel policies when you need them most!"

- Repeal the Common Core initiative for education. (I suspect Democrats will yield on this issue.)

- Make no changes to immigration policy. (Despite today's ultimatum from the Chamber of Commerce.)

- Advance no jobs bill.

- Prevent the extension of unemployment insurance.

- Prevent an increase to the federal minimum wage.

- Pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bill. This will extend copyright terms and enable off-shoring of jobs.

- Pass the Keystone Pipeline.

- Pass tax cuts to reduce the recent top-income tax bracket of 39%. They will probably try to reduce (or eliminate) taxes on capital gains and dividends.

This is a big list. The Republicans may not get to all of them. They may obsess about Benghazi. They may get bogged down with tax reform. But I think this is how things will play out.

Of course, I could be wrong.
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Science fiction movies - good and bad [May. 11th, 2014|08:56 pm]
A bunch of science fiction movies!

First up is an old Japanese monster movie: "The H-Man"

A Japanese-made movie from 1958, but with none of the standard Japanese monsters. In this film, the monster is a water creature -- a liquid that comes to life from tests of the atomic bomb. Not particularly notable; the film has acting and writing typical for the era. It might be considered for MST3K -- if it has not already been done.

I found one scene worth watching: a car chase. The hero of the movie is chasing after the damsel in distress. It is a traditional "follow that car" scene. What makes it interesting is the background: it gives us an authentic view of a city (Tokyo, perhaps) in Japan in 1958.

Rating: three cans of spam.

Next: "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"

Better than I remember it, yet still not so good. The special effects are obvious. The movie spends a lot of time on long, ponderous shots of space and the big evil monster.

What I found most surprising was the similarity of this movie to "Star Trek: TNG". The music for the opening and closing credits is almost identical. The design of the refitted NCC-1701 Enterprise is much closer to NCC-1701-D than the original Enterprise, mainly in the design of corridors and the engine room.

Still, "The Motion Picture" is a puffed-up re-hash of "The Changeling".

Rating: five cans of spam.

Third: "Thunderbirds: Trapped in the Sky"

Not a movie but a TV episode. (And yes, there was a "Thunderbirds" movie with the Supermarionation.)

The first of the TV episodes. As good as I remember from the 1960s. Which means that it is as bad as I remember it.

The stories from "Thunderbirds" are somewhat elaborate, and mainly designed to show different models of space ships, airplanes, rescue equipment, and episodes often contain explosions. The acting is done all with voices. The technology, considered advanced in 1965, is quite amusing today.

I find most entertaining the work that went into each episode. The design and construction of the models. The imagination for the advanced technology devices: cameras hidden in hats, speakerphones, videophones, and others. The close-up shots of a hand turning pages in a book. The props on a set, from liquor bottles to televisions to statues.

Rating: five cans of spam

Lastly: "Star Wars: A New Hope" (on DVD)

George Lucas re-issued "Star Wars" in theaters with improvements -- or so he thought. The DVD contains this version (at least my DVD does). The VHS tape contains the original theatrical version.

The differences between the versions are legend. Chief among them is the "Han shoots first" scene in the cantina. A close second is the scene between Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt (cut from the original theatrical release).

Lucas added lots in the second version. There are more people and animals (and aliens) in Mos Eisley. There are more storm troopers tracking the droids in the desert of Tatooine. Luke's home has spikey gizmos (possibly 'vaporators). The explosion of the Death Star is grander. Portions of the scenes of the X-wing fighters against the Death Star have been re-done. Some of the dialog has been adjusted. R2-D2 has an additional display on his rotating dome. The list goes on.

These are all nice changes. Technically, they are superb. But they add nothing to the story. They are visually distracting. Dead weight. George Lucas needs to learn than perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. The charm of "Star Wars" was not in the technical prowess, it was in the simplicity of the movie.

Rating: eight cans of spam.

A final thought:

"Star Wars: A New Hope" was successful because it worked with minimal material. In the same way, "Star Trek: TOS" worked with minimal material. The sets and computer consoles of the Enterprise are there, in "just enough" amounts. They support the story, but don't distract us from it.
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The new Cosmos [Apr. 14th, 2014|10:12 pm]
A recent trip to the Book Thing yielded a copy of Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" (the book), which follows the original series closely and has two additional chapters. Lily and I watched the original "Cosmos" on Netflix a few months ago when it was available (it has since disappeared) and we enjoyed it immensely.

I've read one chapter of the book, and I plan to read more as time permits. It's a large book, bigger than the normal hardcover book and suitable for a coffee table. The dust jacket is a bit worn, but then the book is from 1980 or so and most things of that age are a bit worn.

I'm enjoying the new "Cosmos" with Neil deGrasse Tyson. It is different; the two hosts have different styles but both are likable. And while I watch the new "Cosmos", I can only think of... The Affordable Care Act (ACA) or "Obamacare".

The ACA has caused quite a divide within the country. (Or, perhaps, we were divided already and the ACA became a convenient point to proclaim our differences.)

Looking back, I think the Democrats made a tactical error in the design of the ACA. They had a number of options for health care reform, including universal expansion of Medicare and elimination of private insurance, expansion of Medicare along side of private insurance, and the current system of private insurance with Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the impoverished.

The latter system was designed by the Heritage Council, a conservative think-tank that wanted an alternative to government-run medical care. Their plan, endorsed by various conservative groups until actually adopted by the Democrats, blended personal responsibility (everyone buys medical insurance) with market forces (private insurance).

The Democrats adopted the plan, thinking (naively, as it turns out) that Republicans would buy into it. It was designed by a conservative think-tank. It maintained the private market and avoided a government take-over of medical care. It espoused personal responsibility. What was in it that a conservative would not like?

Such a compromise was insufficient for conservatives. The ACA was seen as a victory for the Democrats. Apparently, anything short of stomp-into-the-ground defeat for the Democrats was too much for conservatives to bear, so they had to abandon their plan.

Subsequent arguments from the Republicans have been of "repeal and replace" with few details on the "replace". The most details I have heard is to allow insurance companies to market their products across state lines. This I find an odd proposition from conservatives; it uses the power of the federal government to overrule state regulations. Usually conservatives argue for stronger state powers and a limited government.

(The acrimony of the conservatives is so blind that I suspect a Democrat-sponsored plan to allow insurance across state lines would be roundly condemned as "an overreaching federal bureaucracy forcing its will upon the states".)

Here is where I see the Democrats' mistake: By taking the Republican plan, they have left the conservatives no room to maneuver. The Democrats compromised too far to the right. Had they adopted (and won) a more socialist plan (say, Medicare-for-all) then the Republicans could rally behind their (private market and personal responsibility) plan. By pushing the Heritage Council's plan, the Democrats poisoned it for the Republicans, leaving the Republicans with... nothing. They have no position on which to "fall back".

Of course, this analysis is possible with the clear vision of hindsight. It would be hard to predict that the Republicans would react with such passion.

Yet they keep that anger. After the ACA was passed and during the primaries for the 2012 election, Republican hopefuls uniformly stated that they would be against a budget that decreased spending by $10 for every increase of $1. They had to hold the line on spending, allowing no new spending of any sort. My reaction to that demonstration was: "A 10-to-1 balance of cuts to spending is a fantastic deal, and probably better than anything that will follow. Turning it down will lead to a less desirable result. Take it!"

Republicans kept their passion all the way to the ballot box.

Subsequent budgets have been less favorable. Spending is up. There are a few modest cuts, mostly from spending that was planned to be reduced anyway. Nothing like the 10-to-1 balance at the primary debate has been achieved.

Republicans may be sticking to their principals but they are not getting results. I'm not sure what they want, I hear no vision about our country's future, I see no proposals for addressing the problems of today. Paul Ryan's budget (once again) is a tax cut with increased spending on defense and optimistic projections for the country and therefore tax revenue. As I see it, his plan will increase our nation's debt and provide little for anyone outside the small circle of defense contractors.

So check out "Cosmos". It's a fine show.
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Religion in the Supreme Court [Mar. 27th, 2014|10:14 pm]
The "Hobby Lobby" case went before the Supreme Court this week. For those not following it, the case involves a Christian-owned company suing for exemption from the Affordable Care Act. The plaintiffs claim that the requirements for insurance, which mandate coverage for many things including several forms of birth control, violate their religious beliefs. Much has been argued on both sides of this case. Here's my take:

The conservatives side with Hobby Lobby, partly because they detest the ACA and partly because they hold similar religious beliefs. They argue that the ACA is an undue burden on people of religious beliefs, that it forces them to commit acts they think are morally wrong. (In this case, providing for certain types of birth control through medical insurance.)

The liberals side with the government, partly because they believe in the ACA (and also in government) and partly because they detest exemptions to laws for commercial entities. (Hobby Lobby is a commercial, for-profit enterprise.)

Both sides are driven less by righteousness and more by fear.

Conservatives fear that this case, if won by liberals, will set the country on a path that allows the government to intrude in many ways. The citizenry will be forced to buy broccoli by the government should it choose to do so. This case represents a stand for personal liberty and against tyranny.

Liberals fear that this case, if won by conservatives, will set the country on a path that allows commercial entities to escape government regulation, even long-standing regulation. Companies will be able to discriminate in their hiring and pay, they will be able to avoid food inspections or health inspections, and will be able to turn away minorities as customers.

This is a struggle for power, between government and religion in the form of individual liberties. How far can the government go in mandating individuals take specific actions? How much sway is allotted to religious beliefs?

The argument is a bitter one. Both sides have made their case, and both sides are ignoring the other. No conservative has paused in their argument to acknowledge the concerns of the liberals. Neither has any liberal recognized the fears of the conservatives. (At least not that I have seen or read.) It seems a heads-down, stick-to-your-points shouting match with no attempt at compromise.

With such attitudes on both sides, I see no easy resolution. Even a decision by the Supreme Court will have, I think, little effect on the citizenry. Individuals have made up their minds and are in no mood to discuss it. They want what they want -- and nothing else. Which I find both sad and dangerous. Someone is going to win the case, and someone is going to lose, and the losers will be very unhappy.
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