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Since the English translation of Thomas Piketty's book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, became a best-seller, the national conversation about economic inequality has returned to its proper focus: ratios.
In a country as broad and regionally diverse as ours, emphasizing absolute income metrics has less relevance than zeroing in on relative ones, such as the CEO-to-median-worker pay ratio. (This blog has talked about it multiple times in the past year or so.) Absolute income metrics, such as a $100,000 salary, become nearly meaningless when one contrasts cost-of-living indexes in, say, New York and South Bend.
Reading the commentary around Piketty's book last week, and especially conservative analyses from open-minded free-marketers (e.g., Pascal Emmanuel-Gobry), I wondered if anyone had yet proposed tying corporate tax rates to CEO/Worker pay ratio.
That is to say, the tax rate would not be based in any way on an absolute number, such as a corporation's profits, but rather based on how the corporation distributes those profits within its corporation.
Today Molly Redden at Mother Jones reports that Hobby Lobby holds mutual funds that invest in the manufacturers of the same pharmaceuticals and devices to which the company claims religious objection.
Everyone knows the power granted by Justice Kennedy’s middle position on the Supreme Court. Indeed Paul Clement, the advocate for the plaintiffs in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, seemed to direct most of his arguments toward the concerns he imagines Kennedy to have about the case.
But even in Clement's most hopeful fantasies, he could not have imagined the gift that Kennedy would present him during questioning of the Solicitor General. Kennedy introduced the idea that, by the logic of the government’s case -- in some future scenario, at the calamitous bottom of a slippery slope -- for-profit corporations could be forced to “pay for abortions.”
And here we are. After years of debate, protest, and litigation about the "HHS mandate" and its levels of exemption, accommodation, or non-accommodation under the Affordable Care Act, Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius and the related Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius are having their day in the Supreme Court.
Since the controversy about (and subsequent veto of) Arizona's SB 1062, a pointed debate in newspapers and blogs has ensued about civil rights vs. religious liberty. Ross Douthat's New York Times column expressed frustration that religious dissenters are not being permitted to "negotiate terms of surrender" in a culture "war."
What makes this response particularly instructive is that such bills have been seen, in the past, as a way for religious conservatives to negotiate surrender — to accept same-sex marriage’s inevitability while carving out protections for dissent. But now, apparently, the official line is that you bigots don’t get to negotiate anymore.
But is this best construed as a war, or does a less threatening metaphor suffice? Perhaps we're not fighting an apocalyptic war of religion vs. secularism, but instead tinkering with our delicate balance of Constitutional rights.
The small but dedicated world of Jewish-Christian relations is busy this morning trying to figure out what's going on. The Times of Israel reported yesterday that the Pope's trip to Israel has been canceled due to a labor dispute.
A source at the [foreign] ministry confirmed to The Times of Israel on Thursday that the pontiff’s trip was cancelled because Foreign Ministry workers are currently on strike and are unable to make the necessary arrangements for the high-profile visit.
The cancellation is likely to cause “large, measurable economic damage, with all the lost tourist revenue that would have accompanied the visit,” the source said.
The strike within Israel's diplomatic service would also endanger a visit from British PM David Cameron.
But a few hours ago, the Jerusalem Post countered yesterday's news:
Well-educated Catholics know a thing or two about why the Great Schism, separating the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity, occurred in the eleventh century. But most of us know just that -- only a thing or two. I'll include myself in that group: when students ask me, I say something about the filioque and papal authority.
A recent piece by historian George Demacopoulos posted on the blog of the Greek Archdiocese of North America shows the importance of contextualizing the split in the fuller contexts of canon law and the Crusades. He asks: "[H]ow exactly did it come to pass that the Orthodox Church forbid sacramental union (baptisms, marriages, the Eucharist, etc.) with Western Christians in the first place?"
Sociologists and pollsters in the United States have noted that attitudes toward homosexuality have changed more rapidly than on any other major topic in the history of social science. The chart of overall change in the populace is stunning enough, and the generational change is even more dramatic (see below). But now, when I teach on this topic, I won’t bother using charts anymore. I’m just going to show a photograph of Michael Sam.
UPDATE: event to be rescheduled due to weather and campus closing on February 3.
In the past month, several major news outlets have raised the question of whether Pope Francis is having an effect on political figures in the United States. Kathleen Hennessey's A1 story in the Los Angeles Times reported on how and why President Obama, for example, had come to quote the Pope.
In an anticipated moment for ecumenism with the eastern churches, Pope Francis will meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during his three-day trip in late May. He made the announcement today, the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's meeting with Patriarch Athenagoras.
Visits to Bethlehem in the West Bank and Amman, Jordan, had already been revealed. The announcement of his plans in Jerusalem was what many were anticipating. A few weeks ago Israeli officials were concerned that Pope Francis might not celebrate Mass in Jerusalem during his trip. Now in today's reports there seems to be ambiguity about the function of the meeting at the Holy Sepulchre.