1. ajroach42:

    Attention everyone in Georgia, one of the best bands in the universe is playing an exclusive show at my record store on Sunday. 

    You want to be there. Come buy a ticket. 

     

  2. image

    Understanding the current growth of ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) in the Middle East requires an exceptional amount of context, as every dilemma in the Middle East does. But comprehending the growth in size and power of the scariest militia you’ve never heard of is derivative of understanding the tumultuous history of the region and essential to understanding the direction the region is moving. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (frequently referred to in American media as ISIS, with Levant being changed to Syria) is an al-Qaeda spin-off group attempting to establish an Islamic caliphate encompassing virtually the whole of the Middle East. They’ve been readily denounced by al-Qaeda and its regional chapters for indiscriminate and often heinous violence in both Iraq and Syria. What exactly do you have to do for the perpetrators of 9/11 and the 7/7 London bombings to say you went too far, you might ask? You could crucify entire towns of non-Muslims in Syria, to start. Or massacre Shiite leaders and their followers inside their mosques. Both of which ISIL have done. But what exactly is the goal and intention of this group, and why are they so insistent on seizing total power, even at great expense to their own sympathizers?

    The first key is identifying the ethno-religious groups vying for power regionally and particularly within the central Middle-Eastern states. These groups are the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. As a point of reference, think of the Sunnis and Shiites as Catholics and Protestants, with similar understandings of text interpretation to a large degree, but severe disagreement on institutional structures, and the Kurds as being a reformist group with a wildly different interpretation of both texts and institutional settings from the Sunnis and Shiites. Differences in belief led to internal warfare in the early Muslim community immediately following the death of Muhammad. These conflicts have been entrenched and exacerbated in the millennium since. This divide can be seen geographically; the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, and Oman) as well as North Africa is predominately Sunni, while Iran is the only nation with an overwhelming Shiite majority.

    However in the middle of this tense divide are three states in which Shiite and Sunni populations overlap: Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This is where foreign meddling in Middle Eastern affairs for over a hundred years — coincidentally around the time that global demand for petroleum skyrocketed due to the invention of auto and plane travel — comes into play. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War, the victorious British and French divided the former territories of the Turks as the spoils of war between themselves, with Britain holding Palestine and Iraq and France given control of Lebanon and Syria. The problem is, the boundaries for these ‘nations’ were created out of whole cloth as nothing more than a means of British and French colonial bureaucratic administration, and in no way accounted for the deep ethno-religious divides that already existed. While the Ottoman Turks understood the delicate nature of these fundamental distinctions and took great care to balance the power between local Sunni and Shiite groups, the British and French were more than happy to propagate strong-handed leaders capable of establishing unrivaled control.

    The effect of this has been systematic instability and warfare, the only answer to which, from the western perspective, has been the installation of hardline dictators who caudle and bribe rival religious leaders into complacency and crush dissent with an iron fist. This is precisely the case with Bashar al-Assad and his family in Syria, and prior to 2003 in Iraq, Saddam Hussein. We all remember Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian regime, but what’s important to know about it is how demographically misrepresentative of Iraqi society Hussein’s Baath Party was. While Iraq has a Shiite majority concentrated in the center and east of the country near the border within Iran, Saddam was a Sunni. Saddam’s loyal Baath Party integrated important Shiite leaders in the country, despite Shiites still being repressed under Saddam, though not quite to the extent that the Kurds were (Saddam gained international attention and sanctions for using mustard gas on them in an attempt to ethnically cleanse the oil rich land they control). Syria is the opposite. Bashar al-Assad is an Alawite, a sub-group of Shiite Islam, who form a sizeable minority within Syria, while the majority is Sunni. Long story short, the US invasion in 2003 completely dismantled this fragile socio-political structure by not only toppling Saddam, but dismantling the Baath Party, eliminating most of the primary Sunni leaders from inclusion in the new regime and alienating their followers, while enabling the Shiite majority to establish a regime that persecuted and distanced the Sunnis and became quite friendly with neighbor and inevitable ally Iran. When a severe drought hit Syria in the late 2000’s, rural Sunnis migrated to Damascus and Aleppo seeking employment and aide from the Assad regime, both of which were systematically dismissed, leading first to protests and eventually armed resistance, creating the regionally encompassing civil war we see now.

    ISIL is simply exploiting this regional collapse in stability and growth of sectarian resentment to institute their long term goals. In the next segment, we’ll discuss the regional context of ISIL and the Syrian/Iraqi civil wars and identify ISIL’s wealthy allies in the Gulf who are making their unprecedented power grab possible.

     

  3. image

    I was watching Hannity a few minutes ago (I know, I have a slight Fox-based rage addiction) and I noticed, as he threw his little foam football like a douche leading up to the commercial break, that Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run was playing in the background.

    What what what? So you, Sean Hannity, the anti-liberal, misogynistic, ultra-nationalist culture warrior apparently have no problem blaring liberal icon Bruce Springsteen’s music on your show? Lack of cognitive dissonance much?

    “In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream
    At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines
    Sprung from cages out on highway 9,
    Chrome wheeled, fuel injected,and steppin’ out over the line
    h-Oh, Baby this town rips the bones from your back
    It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
    We gotta get out while we’re young
    `Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run”

    Sounds like a commie criticising the deindustrialisation of the early years of globalisation and lamenting the decline of unions and workers rights to me.

    Or take Paul Ryan for instance, who when on the Republican presidential ticket in 2012 noted Rage Against The Machine as one of his favourite bands and key influences. What the fuck band were you listening to?
    “Transmission third world war third round
    A decade of the weapon of sound above ground
    No shelter if you’re lookin’ for shade
    I lick shots at the brutal charade
    As the polls close like a casket
    On truth devoured
    A Silent play in the shadow of power
    A spectacle monopolized
    The camera’s eyes on choice disguised
    Was it cast for the mass who burn and toil?
    Or for the vultures who thirst for blood and oil?
    Yes a spectacle monopolized
    They hold the reins and stole your eyes
    Or the fistagons
    The bullets and bombs
    Who stuff the banks
    Who staff the party ranks
    More for Gore or the son of a drug lord
    None of the above fuck it cut the cord”

    So you’re expecting me to not be bothered by the flag waving, Ayn Rand loving conservative professing a love for the most anti-American and anti-capitalist band imaginable?
    (When asked about the connection, RATMs Tom Morello said ‘Paul Ryan Is the Embodiment of the Machine Our Music Rages Against’)

    This is by no means an exclusively American issue either. Both Tony Blair and David Cameron were unrepentantly shit on by Thom Yorke of Radiohead for asking the famously anti-social band to play at various political galas they were holding. In fact, Yorke went so far as to threaten to, “sue the shit” out of Cameron. And still, the Prime Minister seemed blindsided by that…

    So my point is that if you’re going to go around acting like the left is perpetuating the downfall of American society and culture, you don’t get to go around listening to our awesome music or watching our awesome movies and tv shows. You get stuck with Nickelback and Kirk Cameron.

     

  4. Self-declared (and unrecognized!) republics are not a new thing. In fact, most people I meet are more prone to know about some short-lived, unrecognized kingdoms in their high school history classes than one in the modern era. What is so bewildering to me is that political geography is growingly an unrecognized discipline and skill by the current generations. With some dabble in political geography, you can find out for yourself where all those countries lie, the ones talked about in the news; and you can learn that there are numerous more countries which are not even recognized by the world’s leading, governing bodies.

    One such example of a self-declared republic came about in the wake of the fall of the Sovient Union. In 1990, the Ossetian ethnic group of Georgia, a country which borders Russia to the South, declared a self-autonomous republic. In August 2008, Georgia and Russia went to war, which was fed upon growing regional tensions, and not surprisingly had to do with the Republic of South Ossetia (commonly referred to as South Ossetia).

    A little further to the South, sandwiched in between Armenia and Azerbaijan, is the self-recognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (commonly referred to Armenians by its historical name Artsakh), or literally the Black Garden Republic.

    ——RANT ALERT—– SKIP THIS SECTION IF YOU WISH

    Now, before I continue, I must admit that I am Armenian. Ask anyone who knows me for more than three minutes; I am Armenian. I am unapologetically proud. That being said, I do not fully recognize the authority of Artsakh (please, no one tell my dad I said that!). I shed a small tear as I beat out these keystrokes, something akin to the beating war drums my people spent centuries using while maintain our freedom. However, I sometimes have to question the means of achieving freedom, and with that, I would like to rid any question of validity or bias one might accuse me of. What is both ironic and beautiful at the same time is that one of my best friends is Azeri (that will make sense soon). Now off to this unknown region!

    ——END OF RANT——

    Artsakh is a region that has historically been Armenian. Armenians are a people with a recognized and continued culture and history extending 3,500 years. Armenia, as a modern day country, was the first absorbed satellite state of the Soviet Union. Josef Stalin, the bastard, discontinued what Lenin so innovatively strived for; republics based on ethnicity, all contributing to the larger confederation; that is, one country for one nation of people. Stalin (may he forever stir in his grave!) took regions of these ethnic countries and redefined nearby boundaries so these regions would be part of other countries. It is speculated that he did this to wring control from these nations and keep them manageable from Moscow, as they would spend time arguing amongst themselves over the right to control land. As Stalin continued this practice with Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh and placed it in Azerbaijan, the Armenians and Azeris had something to fight over in the 1980’s as the eminent dissolution of the USSR was in sight.

    In 1991 a referendum was held, and it was voted upon; Nagorno-Karabakh would succeed from Azerbaijan, forming a new republic. So the story unfolds, the USSR dissolves, and former republics are recognized by the UN; all except for a handful of small, hyper-regionalized, self-declared republics, unaligned with any former Soviet national boundaries.

    What followed was a devastating war between Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and Azerbaijan, from 1991 to 1994. The war left refugees from both Azeri and Armenian sides. To this day, occasional snipers and patrols from both sides duke out their might for control and international recognition. I could delve deeper into the emerging history of this conflict, but that is not my intent.

    Self-declared, and unrecognized, republics (or countries) are not a new thing. They have been around perhaps as long as civilizations began emerging. On the other hand, in the last two centuries, we see a new phenomenon in the wake of the fallen commercial and exploitive empires; we see renewed nationalism,  and exploited ethnic groups fighting for historical territory, often by whatever means necessary. They almost always go against their deep-rooted, religious philosophies; they often form from brutal conflicts; and they are almost always unrecognized by the global community at large.

    I mentioned before that I was not in full faith with Artsakh Republic, and that is because of the innocent casualties at the hands of my brothers and sisters who involved themselves with the fight for independence. It raises the questions; what is freedom? Can freedom be historically motivated and justifiable? And can we live in the global community without our all of our national markers?

    There are many more questions that come to my mind when I learn about these unique political and geographical phenomena, and I’ll be taking you on more journeys through them. Together we can raise more questions, and answer them.

    Thank you sincerely.

     

  5. Open Internet, or Network Neutrality, are both vague yet appealing titles. What do they mean? Open Internet (or Network Neutrality) simply refers to accessible internet without usage restrictions. People already pay hefty fees for their current, slow internet connections, and many ISPs are looking to change that. Ironically, I have so far only heard combative news regarding Open Internet on the internet, and not in televised media. If you google “Network Neutrality”, you can quickly see countless articles screaming “Save the Internet!” and I am here to provide you with a clear indication as to why.

    There are telecommunication companies, such as Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T, who are seeking to block access to certain services unless a customer pays an additional fee. That means they are seeking to dictate what you can or cannot have access to with your cellular or digital internet. Want to surf Youtube? That’s alright, you just have to pay an additional $9.99. Want Netflix or Hulu? Unfortunately, you must purchase one service for both platforms for a convenient $19.99.

    No, no thank you. That sucks, and you suck.

    Although I do agree, we as consumers must, well, consume a service, we demand quality services for appropriate payments. The oligarchic control of our capital is too much, and we risk losing so much more if we lose this fight. Currently the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is determining legislation regarding what ISPs (Internet Service Providers) have access to do, and that is why us, the common users, must vocalize our opinions in this falling democratic system. So what does an ISP do? An ISP sets you up with an internet connection; that’s it. Some ISPs offer various speed packages (the ability to surf the internet, upload/download files, etc., faster), yet this initially came around as a combative measure for illegal downloading and has never truly been regarded as overstepping any great liberty.

    So we’re back to the initial interest of ISPs. What do many of them want to do? They want to charge you based on your typical internet usage, and manage what you have access to. That means you can game online and have access to your ISPs’ services, yet if you want Youtube, Netflix or Hulu, certain email services, or even Skype, you’ll have to pay your ISP to unlock access. That means that http://www.google.com/ would be inaccessible unless you pay your ISP for Google services.

    So to bring it all together, why is this important, and why are many people calling it an infringement of freedom? The internet is regarded by many to be the single, greatest technological advancement of times. In regards to economic competition, open internet helps stimulate competition amongst ISPs, and incidents of unfair internet packaging would cripple such competition, thus, the internet remains open and competitive; although prices slowly rise over the years, quality does as well because of this competition (Anyone remember those Comcast superfast commercials? I loved them).

    The internet helps spread ideas. We have seen regimes fall because of open internet communication and accessible information. An open internet stimulates the innovation of ideas, and assists in global and cross-cultural communication.

    These accesses stimulate both entrepreneurial and scientific innovation. The freedom to have access to this source- the internet- goes hand-in-hand with the privilege to maintain open internet communication. What is so beautiful to me is that the internet has saved countless lives, both through direct interpersonal communication, and through the disbursement of ideas which lead to new social and scientific breakthroughs. This is why I fight; to maintain the internet for the advantage of the common person.

    As the consumer, we do owe credit to the ISP. After all, without the ISP, where would our internet be? Yet does this mean that we are forever at the mercy growing profit margins? No, and next time I’ll be talking about Gig City, the growing Silicon Valley right in the good ol’ South. You can go ahead and spoil it for yourself, however I’ll give you a tidbit now; Chattanooga, TN is expanding our perceptions to what an ISP is, and is giving us the new community-driven, publicly funded ISP, all with speeds up to 50x faster.

    I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

    Thanks

     
  6. ISIL Volume I: The Scariest Terror Group You’ve Never Heard Of

    image

    Understanding the current growth of ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) in the Middle East requires an exceptional amount of context, as every dilemma in the Middle East does. But comprehending the growth in size and power of the scariest militia you’ve never heard of is derivative of understanding the tumultuous history of the region and essential to understanding the direction the region is moving. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (frequently referred to in American media as ISIS, with Levant being changed to Syria) is an al-Qaeda spin-off group attempting to establish an Islamic caliphate encompassing virtually the whole of the Middle East. They’ve been readily denounced by al-Qaeda and its regional chapters for indiscriminate and often heinous violence in both Iraq and Syria. What exactly do you have to do for the perpetrators of 9/11 and the 7/7 London bombings to say you went too far, you might ask? You could crucify entire towns of non-Muslims in Syria, to start. Or massacre Shiite leaders and their followers inside their mosques. Both of which ISIL have done. But what exactly is the goal and intention of this group, and why are they so insistent on seizing total power, even at great expense to their own sympathizers?

    The first key is identifying the ethno-religious groups vying for power regionally and particularly within the central Middle-Eastern states. These groups are the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. As a point of reference, think of the Sunnis and Shiites as Catholics and Protestants, with similar understandings of text interpretation to a large degree, but severe disagreement on institutional structures, and the Kurds as being a reformist group with a wildly different interpretation of both texts and institutional settings from the Sunnis and Shiites. Differences in belief led to internal warfare in the early Muslim community immediately following the death of Muhammad. These conflicts have been entrenched and exacerbated in the millennium since. This divide can be seen geographically; the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, and Oman) as well as North Africa is predominately Sunni, while Iran is the only nation with an overwhelming Shiite majority.

    However in the middle of this tense divide are three states in which Shiite and Sunni populations overlap: Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This is where foreign meddling in Middle Eastern affairs for over a hundred years — coincidentally around the time that global demand for petroleum skyrocketed due to the invention of auto and plane travel — comes into play. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War, the victorious British and French divided the former territories of the Turks as the spoils of war between themselves, with Britain holding Palestine and Iraq and France given control of Lebanon and Syria. The problem is, the boundaries for these ‘nations’ were created out of whole cloth as nothing more than a means of British and French colonial bureaucratic administration, and in no way accounted for the deep ethno-religious divides that already existed. While the Ottoman Turks understood the delicate nature of these fundamental distinctions and took great care to balance the power between local Sunni and Shiite groups, the British and French were more than happy to propagate strong-handed leaders capable of establishing unrivaled control.

    The effect of this has been systematic instability and warfare, the only answer to which, from the western perspective, has been the installation of hardline dictators who caudle and bribe rival religious leaders into complacency and crush dissent with an iron fist. This is precisely the case with Bashar al-Assad and his family in Syria, and prior to 2003 in Iraq, Saddam Hussein. We all remember Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian regime, but what’s important to know about it is how demographically misrepresentative of Iraqi society Hussein’s Baath Party was. While Iraq has a Shiite majority concentrated in the center and east of the country near the border within Iran, Saddam was a Sunni. Saddam’s loyal Baath Party integrated important Shiite leaders in the country, despite Shiites still being repressed under Saddam, though not quite to the extent that the Kurds were (Saddam gained international attention and sanctions for using mustard gas on them in an attempt to ethnically cleanse the oil rich land they control). Syria is the opposite. Bashar al-Assad is an Alawite, a sub-group of Shiite Islam, who form a sizeable minority within Syria, while the majority is Sunni. Long story short, the US invasion in 2003 completely dismantled this fragile socio-political structure by not only toppling Saddam, but dismantling the Baath Party, eliminating most of the primary Sunni leaders from inclusion in the new regime and alienating their followers, while enabling the Shiite majority to establish a regime that persecuted and distanced the Sunnis and became quite friendly with neighbor and inevitable ally Iran. When a severe drought hit Syria in the late 2000’s, rural Sunnis migrated to Damascus and Aleppo seeking employment and aide from the Assad regime, both of which were systematically dismissed, leading first to protests and eventually armed resistance, creating the regionally encompassing civil war we see now.

    ISIL is simply exploiting this regional collapse in stability and growth of sectarian resentment to institute their long term goals. In the next segment, we’ll discuss the regional context of ISIL and the Syrian/Iraqi civil wars and identify ISIL’s wealthy allies in the Gulf who are making their unprecedented power grab possible.

    http://ift.tt/1w11nvu
     
  7. Know Your Enemy

    image

    I was watching Hannity a few minutes ago (I know, I have a slight Fox-based rage addiction) and I noticed, as he threw his little foam football like a douche leading up to the commercial break, that Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run was playing in the background.

    What what what? So you, Sean Hannity, the anti-liberal, misogynistic, ultra-nationalist culture warrior apparently have no problem blaring liberal icon Bruce Springsteen’s music on your show? Lack of cognitive dissonance much?

    “In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream
    At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines
    Sprung from cages out on highway 9,
    Chrome wheeled, fuel injected,and steppin’ out over the line
    h-Oh, Baby this town rips the bones from your back
    It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
    We gotta get out while we’re young
    `Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run”

    Sounds like a commie criticising the deindustrialisation of the early years of globalisation and lamenting the decline of unions and workers rights to me.

    Or take Paul Ryan for instance, who when on the Republican presidential ticket in 2012 noted Rage Against The Machine as one of his favourite bands and key influences. What the fuck band were you listening to?
    “Transmission third world war third round
    A decade of the weapon of sound above ground
    No shelter if you’re lookin’ for shade
    I lick shots at the brutal charade
    As the polls close like a casket
    On truth devoured
    A Silent play in the shadow of power
    A spectacle monopolized
    The camera’s eyes on choice disguised
    Was it cast for the mass who burn and toil?
    Or for the vultures who thirst for blood and oil?
    Yes a spectacle monopolized
    They hold the reins and stole your eyes
    Or the fistagons
    The bullets and bombs
    Who stuff the banks
    Who staff the party ranks
    More for Gore or the son of a drug lord
    None of the above fuck it cut the cord”

    So you’re expecting me to not be bothered by the flag waving, Ayn Rand loving conservative professing a love for the most anti-American and anti-capitalist band imaginable?
    (When asked about the connection, RATMs Tom Morello said ‘Paul Ryan Is the Embodiment of the Machine Our Music Rages Against’)

    This is by no means an exclusively American issue either. Both Tony Blair and David Cameron were unrepentantly shit on by Thom Yorke of Radiohead for asking the famously anti-social band to play at various political galas they were holding. In fact, Yorke went so far as to threaten to, “sue the shit” out of Cameron. And still, the Prime Minister seemed blindsided by that…

    So my point is that if you’re going to go around acting like the left is perpetuating the downfall of American society and culture, you don’t get to go around listening to our awesome music or watching our awesome movies and tv shows. You get stuck with Nickelback and Kirk Cameron.

    http://ift.tt/1w11neX
     

  8. image

    The Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby ruling issued by the Supreme Court on Tuesday is quite possibly the biggest unintentional precedent setting Pandora’s Box of confusion ever issued by the Roberts Court, which says a lot coming from the same court that brought you Citizens United and McCutcheon vs FEC. Essentially, Hobby Lobby was suing the Department of Health and Human Services over requirements in the Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’) that require health insurance to be purchased for all full time workers at firms with over 50 employees, including birth control. Hobby Lobby claims that purchasing insurance policies that cover birth control and the Morning-After pill violates their pro-life, Christian beliefs, and that they should be exempted from having to pay for those services and have their employees make copays or pay out of pocket for those products or services.

    Let’s put aside some of the staggeringly obvious flaws in Hobby Lobby’s logic for a moment, like the fact that Hobby Lobby’s employee 401(k) fund is invested in multiple pharmaceutical companies that produce various types of the pills they so vociferously object to. Or the fact that they made no opposition to continuing to pay for Viagra and Cialis in male employees’ health plans. Because apparently God gets really upset about women removing the eggs He gave them, but isn’t nearly as bothered by men fixing their old, decrepit penises after God has decided they shouldn’t be able to get hard-ons anymore. Let’s instead try to comprehend the magnitude of the precedent they’ve created.

    While Alito, who penned the majority opinion, was clear to establish in the ruling that this applies only to the birth control requirement in Obamacare and no other medical treatments would be affected, the precedent they’ve set is quite clear: there is now a constitutional basis for an individual or a group to individually nullify law on the grounds of sincerely held religious beliefs. Ironically, earlier this year, states like Georgia and Arizona introduced bills aimed at ‘enabling religious freedom’, which were heavily criticized as enabling rampant discrimination of LGBT people and other groups, and quickly tucked under the rug. It seems they must have seen the writing on the wall in the Hobby Lobby case, because they’ve gotten exactly what they wanted.

    What exactly would the religious nullification of law look like? The obvious extreme examples that come to mind — being obligated to stone adulterers to death, for instance, or being allowed to own slaves, would obviously violate other constitutional and statutory laws and could never be reasonably justified, even under the ruling. However, let’s say a man was beating his wife who he had discovered to be committing infidelity, and she called the police. The responding officer, in speaking to the husband, discovers that he intends to stone her to death in accordance with biblical law. Now let’s assume the officer is equally pious on this issue. Obviously the husband has committed a litany of violent crimes and will eventually be apprehended and convicted, and any attempts to use Hobby Lobby as precedent will be overruled. But what about the cop; can he now legally refuse to intervene in stopping what is in fact a crime because he sympathizes with the aggressor?

    There are of course much more practical examples, especially regarding medicine. Parents can already choose not to vaccinate their children (to destructive results as epidemics of Measles, Mumps and Rubella would suggest), but can employers now restrict their employees from accessing vaccines because of ‘sincerely held beliefs’? Can Jehovah’s Witnesses block access to their employees’ blood transfusions? Or can Scientologists restrict access to psychiatric drugs for people with schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder? All of these questions are as of yet unanswered, but like Hobby Lobby did, will they will shoot first and ask questions later so to speak; they’ll simply act in accordance with their ‘religious laws’, which as noted earlier, they’re pretty willing to negotiate with when it benefits them in some tangible way, and hope they win in court.

    At its root, this really boils down to how decrepit and self-defeating the American healthcare system is, even in the wake of the ACA. If we had a single payer healthcare system, we wouldn’t depend on employers to provide their employees with healthcare and be vulnerable to their delicate sensibilities concerning what violates their beliefs. But while we’re on the subject of nullifying laws on the basis of ‘sincerely held beliefs’, I’d like to reassert my sincerely held belief that the US war machine sows death and destruction in every place it touches and that I am in gross violation of my First Amendment rights by funding it. So paying any Federal taxes (half of which goes to defense) is not something I’m going do anymore. As Jon Stewart once said in an epic takedown of Rush Limbaugh, “To the people who are upset about their hard-earned tax money going to things they don’t like: welcome to the fucking club. Reimburse me for the Iraq war and oil subsidies, and diaphragms are on me!”

     

  9. image

    The Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby ruling issued by the Supreme Court on Tuesday is quite possibly the biggest unintentional precedent setting Pandora’s Box of confusion ever issued by the Roberts Court, which says a lot coming from the same court that brought you Citizens United and McCutcheon vs FEC. Essentially, Hobby Lobby was suing the Department of Health and Human Services over requirements in the Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’) that require health insurance to be purchased for all full time workers at firms with over 50 employees, policies that as a requirement provide numerous birth control options. Hobby Lobby claims that purchasing insurance policies that cover birth control and the Morning-After pill violates their pro-life, Christian beliefs, and that they should be exempted from having to pay for those services and have their employees make copays or pay out of pocket for those products or services.

    Let’s put aside some of the staggeringly obvious flaws in Hobby Lobby’s logic for a moment, like the fact that Hobby Lobby’s employee 401(k) fund is invested in multiple pharmaceutical companies that produce various types of the pills they so vociferously object to. Or the fact that they made no opposition to continuing to pay for Viagra and Cialis in male employees’ health plans. Because apparently God gets really upset about women removing the eggs He gave them, but isn’t nearly as bothered by men fixing their old, decrepit penises after God has decided they shouldn’t be able to get hard-ons anymore. Let’s instead try to comprehend the magnitude of the precedent they’ve created.

    While Alito, who penned the majority opinion, was clear to establish in the ruling that this applies only to the birth control requirement in Obamacare and no other medical treatments would be affected, the precedent they’ve set is quite clear: there is now a constitutional basis for an individual or a group to individually nullify law on the grounds of sincerely held religious beliefs. Ironically, earlier this year, states like Georgia and Arizona introduced bills aimed at ‘enabling religious freedom’, which were heavily criticized as enabling rampant discrimination of LGBT people and other groups, and quickly tucked under the rug. It seems they must have seen the writing on the wall in the Hobby Lobby case, because they’ve gotten exactly what they wanted.

    What exactly would the religious nullification of law look like? The obvious extreme examples that come to mind — being obligated to stone adulterers to death, for instance, or being allowed to own slaves, would obviously violate other constitutional and statutory laws and could never be reasonably justified, even under the ruling. However, let’s say a man was beating his wife who he had discovered to be committing infidelity, and she called the police. The responding officer, in speaking to the husband, discovers that he intends to stone her to death in accordance with biblical law. Now let’s assume the officer is equally pious on this issue. Obviously the husband has committed a litany of violent crimes and will eventually be apprehended and convicted, and any attempts to use Hobby Lobby as precedent will be overruled. But what about the cop; can he now legally refuse to intervene in stopping what is in fact a crime because he sympathizes with the aggressor?

    There are of course much more practical examples, especially regarding medicine. Parents can already choose not to vaccinate their children (to destructive results as epidemics of Measles, Mumps and Rubella would suggest), but can employers now restrict their employees from accessing vaccines because of ‘sincerely held beliefs’? Can Jehovah’s Witnesses block access to their employees’ blood transfusions? Or can Scientologists restrict access to psychiatric drugs for people with schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder? All of these questions are as of yet unanswered, but like Hobby Lobby did, will they will shoot first and ask questions later so to speak; they’ll simply act in accordance with their ‘religious laws’, which as noted earlier, they’re pretty willing to negotiate with when it benefits them in some tangible way, and hope they win in court.

    At its root, this really boils down to how decrepit and self-defeating the American healthcare system is, even in the wake of the ACA. If we had a single payer healthcare system, we wouldn’t depend on employers to provide their employees with healthcare and be vulnerable to their delicate sensibilities concerning what violates their beliefs. But while we’re on the subject of nullifying laws on the basis of ‘sincerely held beliefs’, I’d like to reassert my sincerely held belief that the US Department of Defense is the wholly owned subsidiary of the American Military Industrial Complex, that every war in the last fifty years was driven by colonial desires of resource exploitation and profit extraction, at the cost of permanently destabilizing the world’s most volatile region, and that my First Amendment rights by paying for it in any way. So paying any Federal taxes (half of which goes to defense) is not something I’m going do anymore. As Jon Stewart once said in an epic takedown of Rush Limbaugh, “To the people who are upset about their hard-earned tax money going to things they don’t like: welcome to the fucking club. Reimburse me for the Iraq war and oil subsidies, and diaphragms are on me!”

     

  10. Today, Rebellion Games’ Sniper Elite III gave me the opportunity to assassinate history’s most reviled villain in what was, no doubt, the most painful way possible.

    Cringeworthy imagery aside, the game is actually quite a bit of fun, and allows for flexibility by adapting to your play style. In my brief time with the game, I’ve set traps, blown up trucks, and stealthily killed dozens of virtual Nazis.

    Taking place during the North Africa conflict of World War II, the game sticks the player in a variety of locales and terrains, forcing them to adapt accordingly. Recommended for fans of Splinter Cell, Metal Gear Solid, and anyone who hates Hitler, Sniper Elite III is out now for the Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.