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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

NY Times The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor Hobby Lobby Is Only the Beginning By PAUL HORWITZ JULY 1, 2014

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor
Hobby Lobby Is Only the Beginning



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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — THE United States Constitution speaks of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over “cases” and “controversies.” But when social controversies do come before the court, its powers are limited. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which concerned the dispute over the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, the court may have decided the case. The larger controversy, however, won’t be settled so easily.

By a 5-to-4 vote, the court on Monday held that the mandate, which requires employers to provide health insurance coverage for contraception, could not be applied to closely held for-profit corporations with religious objections to some forms of contraception. Religious groups described the mandate as part of a war on religious freedom. Supporters of the mandate countered that a victory for the plaintiffs would allow large corporations, under the cover of religious freedom, not just to impede women’s exercise of their reproductive rights but also to defy civil rights statutes with impunity.

Amid this heated talk, it was easy to lose sight of the fact that this was a statutory case, not a case decided under the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of religion. The statute in question, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, states that the government “shall not substantially burden” the exercise of religion without satisfying a demanding legal test.

It is worth noting that the act was championed by President Bill Clinton and passed in 1993, with near unanimity, by a Democrat-controlled Congress. The act was drafted in response to a controversial 1990 Supreme Court decision that made it easier — far too easy, according to critics of all political stripes — for the government to burden the exercise of religion.

The decision in Hobby Lobby was no shock to anyone familiar with the heavy weight that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act places on religious accommodation. The fate of the case was sealed 21 years ago — not by a slim majority of the court, but by virtually every member of Congress. In a dissenting opinion on Monday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that the court’s ruling in Hobby Lobby was one of “startling breadth,” but the statute itself is deliberately broad.

So why all the shouting? If the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is clearly written, and the product of a democratic process, what explains the apocalyptic rhetoric surrounding this case? In truth, the sources of the controversy lie outside the issue of the contraceptive mandate itself. And that should be great cause for concern — to both sides of the debate.

The first source of controversy is the collapse of a national consensus on a key element of religious liberty: accommodation. Throughout American history, there has been widespread agreement that in our religiously diverse and widely devout country, it is good for the government to accommodate religious exercise. We have disagreed about particular accommodations (may a Muslim police officer wear a beard, despite police department policy?), and especially about whether religious accommodations should be ordered by judges or crafted by legislators. But we have generally agreed that our nation benefits when we help rather than burden those with religious obligations. That consensus seems, quite suddenly, to have evaporated.

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A second source of controversy is that many people view the Hobby Lobby case as concerning not just reproductive rights but also, indirectly, rights for gays and lesbians. Advocates for same-sex marriage have long insisted that their own marriages need not threaten anyone else’s, but citizens with religious objections to same-sex marriage wonder whether that is entirely true: Will a small-business owner be sued, for instance, for declining to provide services to a same-sex couple? Conversely, and understandably, gay and lesbian couples wonder why they do not deserve the same protections from discrimination granted to racial and other minorities. For both sides, Hobby Lobby was merely a prelude to this dawning conflict. Continue reading the main story

The third source of controversy is a change in our views of the marketplace itself. The marketplace was once seen as place to put aside our culture wars and engage in the great American tradition of buying and selling. The shopping mall has even been called the “American agora.” But today the market itself has become a site of cultural conflict. Hobby Lobby is one of many companies that seek to express faith commitments at work as well as at home and that don’t see the workplace as a thing apart from religion. Many companies preach and practice values, religious and otherwise, that are unrelated to market considerations. CVS, for example, recently announced that it would stop selling tobacco products, regardless of how that decision might affect its bottom line.

A country that cannot even agree on the idea of religious accommodation, let alone on what terms, is unlikely to agree on what to do next. A country in which many states cannot manage to pass basic anti-discrimination laws covering sexual orientation is one whose culture wars may be beyond the point of compromise. And a nation whose marketplace itself is viewed, for better or worse, as a place to fight both those battles rather than to escape from them is still less likely to find surcease from struggle.

Expect many more Hobby Lobbies.

Paul Horwitz, a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law, is the author of “First Amendment Institutions.”

A version of this op-ed appears in print on July 2, 2014, on page A25 of the New York edition with the headline: Hobby Lobby Is Only the Beginning. Order Reprints|Today's Paper|Subscribe

PsyBlog: Why Jerks Don’t Know They’re Jerks

Why Jerks Don’t Know They’re Jerks  
How assertive should you be?

Many people are very poor at judging how assertive they should be in business negotiations, a new study finds, which may make them look like jerks or pushovers.

The research, which is published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, examined one of the basic challenges of assertiveness at work and in life (Ames & Wazlawek, 2014).

Lead author Professor Daniel Ames explains:

“Finding the middle ground between being pushy and being a pushover is a basic challenge in social life and the workplace.

We’ve now found that the challenge is compounded by the fact that people often don’t know how others see their assertiveness.”

In one of four studies they carried out, MBA students engaged in mock business negotiations.

Afterwards, each rated their own and the other person’s assertiveness.

They were also asked to guess what the other person in the negotiation had said about them.

It turned out that participants’ self-awareness was remarkably low:

57% of people seen by others as under-assertive thought they’d been appropriately assertive or even over-assertive.
56% of people who were seen as over-assertive actually thought they’d been appropriately assertive or even under-assertive.

Ames concluded:

“Most people can think of someone who is a jerk or a pushover and largely clueless about how they’re seen.

Sadly, our results suggest that, often enough, that clueless jerk or pushover is us.”
Line crossing illusion

There was another nice finding from the study for those who did actually get their level of assertiveness right.

When Ames and Wazlawek looked at the people who were rated by others as having the ideal level of assertiveness, these people were convinced they’d been pushing too hard!

This was a pattern that emerged across multiple studies: many people thought they’d crossed the line in negotiation, when in fact they hadn’t, it was an illusion.

Feeling they’d crossed the line was particularly dangerous for negotiators because then they started trying to repair the damage they thought they had done.

This tended to lead to worse deals for both parties involved.

As so often in life, we frequently operate in the dark, without a good read on how we are perceived by others.

To avoid being seen as a jerk, or even a pushover, it’s vital to get some feedback from others — or better still some training — that will enable you to better see how you are coming across.

Image credit: Dave Appleby

PsyBlog: Could Playing Immoral Video Games Promote Good Behaviour in The Real World? (Can Doing Bad Things Make You Good? WT?)

Could Playing Immoral Video Games Promote Good Behaviour in The Real World?  
Could violent video games make you a more caring person, at least initially?

Breaking your moral code in a virtual environment may counter-intuitively encourage more sensitivity to these kinds of violations in the real world, a new study finds.

The study, which is published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, suggests violent video games make their players feel guilty for their moral indiscretions (Grizzard et al., 2014).

Matthew Grizzard, who led the study, said:

“Rather than leading players to become less moral, this research suggests that violent video-game play may actually lead to increased moral sensitivity.

This may, as it does in real life, provoke players to engage in voluntary behavior that benefits others.”

Participants in the study played a first-person shooter video game in one of two conditions:

“…participants in the guilt condition played as a terrorist soldier, while participants in the control condition played as a UN soldier.

The game itself informed participants of their character’s motivations to ensure that the experimenter did not bias result.” (Grizzard et al., 2014).

The researchers expected that people would feel guilty when playing the game as a terrorist, but not when they played as a peacekeeper.

Grizzard said:

“…an American who played a violent game ‘as a terrorist’ would likely consider his avatar’s unjust and violent behavior — violations of the fairness/reciprocity and harm/care domains — to be more immoral than when he or she performed the same acts in the role of a ‘UN peacekeeper.’”

Afterwards players were given tests of their moral feelings and how guilty they felt.

Grizzard explained the results:

“We found that after a subject played a violent video game, they felt guilt and that guilt was associated with greater sensitivity toward the two particular domains they violated — those of care/harm and fairness/reciprocity.”

This is not the first study to reach these conclusions.

Several studies have found that immoral virtual behaviours elicit real-world feelings of guilt — how long this guilt lasts, though, is not clear.

These studies can’t tell us what the long-term effects of these types of games are.

It may be that…

“…guilt resulting from playing as an immoral character may habituate from repeated exposures.

Under these conditions, we might expect that repeated play would not lead a gamer to become more sensitive to fairness or become more caring overall…” (Grizzard et al., 2014)

So while playing Grand Theft Auto — a game attacked for glamourising violence — may make you feel guilty the first couple of times, you may soon get used to to it.

Image credit: Steven Andrew Red Fortress: History and Illusion in the Kremlin Author: Catherine Merridale

Today's selection -- from Red Fortress by Catherine Merridale. In 1812, Napoleon invaded Moscow, only to find the city abandoned, and then set on fire by Moscow's leaders -- a brilliant and completely unexpected defensive move. A six-day blaze then destroyed the city along with any food and treasure that might have been used to supply the French troops. At this pivotal moment Napoleon delayed -- one of the most disastrous decisions of his career with the Russian winter approaching -- and thus sealed the doom of his army:

"[As Napoleon's Grand Armée approached], Moscow was now almost defenceless. [Moscow city leader Fedor] Rostopchin still averred that it would stand, but even as he spoke, the order had been given to pack and evacuate the city's historic treasures. Jewels, icons and gold from the Kremlin were carted south and east to the Volga and Vladimir; other items, including parts of the Chudov Monastery archive, were interred underneath the Kremlin walls. But there was very little time. On 13 September, as some of his aides were preparing to engage with the French again, [Russian military leader Prince Mikhail] Kutuzov announced his decision to abandon the old capital. 'Moscow is not the whole of Russia,' he explained. 'To save Russia we need an army; to save the army we must give up the idea of defending Moscow.' ...

"Among [Rostopchin's] final acts was an order to withdraw the fire-brigade and sink the city's fleet of fire-boats. He also had the prison-gates unlocked, and the upshot was a night of looting, the scale of which remains unknowable. ...

"For the soldiers in the Grande Armée, however, those residences still seemed good enough. Many officers were so confident about the pleasures ahead that they had packed their bags with evening dress. ...

"Here at last was a cause in which exhausted soldiers could believe, a reward equal to the price in blood and effort and months on the road. Napoleon, no stranger to the capture of great cities, paused to await the usual delegation. It was only after a long interval, when no-one turned up with the city's keys, with bread and salt, that the depth of Moscow's silence started to impinge. ... The throne was still in place, he found, and even the Kremlin's innumerable clocks were ticking. 'The city is as big as Paris,' the emperor wrote is wife. It seemed 'provided with everything'.

"That very night, however, the picture changed. While Napoleon rested in the Kremlin, surrounded by the flower of his army, his sentries on the high brick walls noticed a new glow in the Moscow dark. There had been several small fires since the French arrived, and each had been blamed on the carelessness of troops. This time, by almost all accounts, the blaze was being set deliberately, a co-ordinated campaign of arson that made the best use of an equinoctial wind. ... In the space of an hour or less, the blaze turned to a steady roar, punctuated by explosions and the clatter of collapsing masonry and metal roofs. The French emperor and his aides were in acutest peril, for there were still explosives in the Kremlin arsenal, and they themselves had recently brought a battery of artillery into the fortress stationing it, for safety, under the palace windows. For a whole night and through the next morning, the future of Napoleon's campaign, and his very life, depended on the vagaries of airborne sparks.

"For some hours, the emperor stayed in his palace suite, pacing the wooden floors and watching through each window as he passed. The longed-for treasure shrivelled up before his eyes; he cursed the Russians for their barbarism. Despite entreaties from his aides, however, he refused to make an early move. By the night of 15 September, as one of his officers recalled, the firestorm was so bright outside that it was possible to read by its light without the need for oil lamps. But the next day was the worst of all. Even Napoleon could not hold out when the Krernin arsenal finally caught fire. A decision was taken to withdraw, to make for the Petrovsky Palace on the Petersburg road. By this time, however, the citadel, as Ségur wrote, was 'besieged by an ocean of fire'. ...

"The French elite escaped that day, helped by a local man who knew the routes, but thousands of others remained trapped, condemned to the most cruel death. ... After six days of fire, the worst Moscow had ever seen, strings of pitiful figures, as insubstantial as ghosts, emerged into the wreckage of their city. Even when the smoke had cleared, the ruins stank of rot and soot and death; the stench was nauseating several miles away. There was scarcely a green leaf anywhere, hardly a tree to punctuate the horizon. A bitter economics ruled. Anyone could snatch a fine snuffbox or set of silver spoons, but food of any kind was almost unobtainable. In the fields beyond Moscow, groups of French troops built their campfires out of mahogany furniture and gilded window-frames. When it was time to eat, however, their only hope was rotten horseflesh.

"Napoleon moved back to the [Kremlin] on 18 September. His mood had soured, and two days later, his bulletin announced that 'Moscow, one of the most beautiful and wealthy cities of the world, exists no more.' Despite that loss, however, the Corsican persisted with a doomed attempt to build some kind of life among the ruins. Though almost none of the local population supported it, a Moscow government was decreed, with orders to collect the corpses and maintain the peace. Theatrical performances were commissioned, and concerts, featuring an Italian soloist with piano accompaniment, were held in the Kremlin palace to help pass the nights.The decision to indulge in makeshift luxury, bizarre enough at any time, turned out to be one of the most disastrous of Napoleon's entire career. As the milder days of autumn faded, so did the last options for the French. Napoleon could surely not have hoped to feed and lodge his army in this city through the winter. There was almost no fodder for the vast stable of horses, either. A retreat was inevitable, and the sooner it began, as Napoleon himself later conceded, the better his army's chances would have been. For now, however, the general sulked, spending long hours over his food and settling his stout frame along a damask-covered chaise, novel in hand, throughout the heavy interval of afternoon."

Red Fortress: History and Illusion in the Kremlin
Author: Catherine Merridale

Publisher: Metropolitan Books a Henry Hold and Company, LLC
Copyright 2013 by Catherine Merridale
Pages: 210 - 214
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