How Long Until Blue Cross Becomes Blue Crucifix?

It looks like Arizona House Bill 2625 is getting some Tumblr attention, and while the sourcing that indicates this law just passed seems to be wrong (it was in fact enacted 2 years ago), the content of it remains disconcerting, perhaps not least of all because it was adopted two years ago without being caught up nationally by news agencies.

People are rightfully upset about the weird language which seems to indicate women of “religious objection” companies would have to submit proof from their doctors if they want to be covered for prescribed contraceptives being used for non-contraceptive reasons (acne and hormone control appear to be the common examples):

A health care services organization, employer or other entity offering the plan may state religious beliefs in its affidavit and may require the enrollee to first pay for the prescription and then submit a claim to the health care services organization along with evidence that the prescription is not for a purpose covered by the objection.

Things get jumbled up here, in that there’s a lot of weird language where “corporation” is being used. So far as I can tell, though, “corporation” is meant to be the insurance provider, not the company employing the women. The very next section makes it clear that an employer still doesn’t get to ask for your medical information.

Quick, knee jerk block: I still think this entire exemption on contraceptives is the stinkiest of cow dung. But before I get into the real nasty bits, I’m trying to get in a fact check on the “your employer can fire you for using contraceptives if he finds out you’re using them for birth control” stuff. So far as I can tell, this is between the employee, her doctor, and the insurance company (because the government shouldn’t interfere with a doctor and patient’s private health decisions; that’s the insurance industry’s racket). An employer insisting on medical records is still off the table, and violates all the same privacy laws it did before.

All that said, the thing I’m far more concerned about is this bit of the law:

Notwithstanding subsection Y of this section, a contract does not fail to meet the requirements of subsection Y of this section if the contract’s failure to provide coverage of specific items or services required under subsection Y of this section is because providing or paying for coverage of the specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs of the employer, hospital service corporation, medical service corporation, hospital, medical, dental and optometric service corporation or other entity offering the plan or is because the coverage is contrary to the religious beliefs of the purchaser of the coverage.

Emphasis mine, because folks, remember how I pointed out above that “corporation” was being used to mean the insurance companies? Given that, if I’m reading this right, two years ago, Arizona effectively declared that insurance providers themselves can claim a religious objection to providing contraceptive coverage.

Since the only requirement that needs to be met to get that exemption under this law is that “a written affidavit shall be filed with the corporation stating the objection,” all they have to do to get that objection is write a note.

To themselves.

And just in case we forgot, this law passed two years before the Hobby Lobby case. Who needs doors opened, when state legislators are willing to burn down the whole damn building for you?

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Selling Women Online

It’s probably incredibly understated to say that I’m really not an American Football guy. I’m not much of a traditional sports fan in general. So I definitely don’t follow much of the media surrounding sports, either. It was only via Rebecca Eisenberg on Upworthy that I ran across Katie Nolan’s recent discussion of the place of women in sports and sports media:

It’s worth a watch, and a lot of thinking and talking and thumbs ups. Then I Googled Nolan to see what responses might be out there to her piece, and I found myself fairly disheartened by the headlines:

 photo GoogleSearch_zpseec26c23.png

I mean, you have to get to the third article in the list before the headline is about the primary content of the video, and not “Don’t boycott the NFL!” which, you know, seems to spectacularly miss the point.

I was wholly prepared to start taking people to task for headlines which so clearly buried the lead in something that looked like nothing so much as corporate shilling. Except that clicking through, I saw that both of those articles pretty evenly move from the “no boycott” into the larger commentary on women in sports / sports media.

And then I realized my Google search is ordered by “relevance,” which in Google terms largely relates to how many people link to / click links to the articles in question. A realization which was, honestly, even more depressing.

Because that means those first two articles got more attention than any of the others with headlines that directly address the feminist concerns of the video. While I’m not especially keen on manipulative headlines that feed web hits, it’s an even more sobering realization that, apparently, the very mention of feminism and/or sexism in relation to sports media is a whole lot less interesting than “This lady says it’s okay to keep watching our sports!”

Which pretty much makes Nolan’s point for her, I think. When you have to sideline the very topic of sidelining women, the double-secret probation becomes rather painfully clear.

And yes, that’s exactly why I titled this blog post the way that I did.

Non-Binary Digital Debates

I have to give a lot of thumbs up to the points John Scalzi raises in his recent essay on the Amazon-Hachette public negotiation troubles. My favorite quote:

This is where many people decide to opine that the cost of eBooks should reflect the cost of production in some way that allows them to say that whatever price point they prefer is the naturally correct one. This is where I say: You know what, if you’ve ever paid more than twenty cents for a soda at a fast food restaurant, or have ever bought bottled water at a store, then I feel perfectly justified in considering your cost of production position vis a vis publishing as entirely hypocritical. Please stop making the cost of production argument for books and apparently nothing else in your daily consumer life. I think less of you when you do.

It’s one of the things at the heart of digital pricing: the specter of production costs, and the impact these sorts of arguments have on the perceived value of content itself. I won’t for one second pretend there’s not a discussion to be had about the value of content. It’s just that sometimes “lower production costs” winds up as a stand in for “this didn’t cost you anything to make,” which is both not true and tends to overshadow any other discussions.

Favorite sound bite notwithstanding, the biggest reason I’m linking Scalzi’s post when I’ve not really pointed at anything else I’ve seen on these sorts of negotiations is because the essay as a whole actually sounds like an opening for discussion. Just about everything else I see seems to declare that either the publisher or Amazon is Evil and Trying to Screw Us, and by comparison the other party is Totally On Our Side.

Scalzi rather directly makes the point that BOTH Amazon and any given publisher (1) are not evil, but (2) are on their own sides. If you want to have a debate about which position is best for authors and/or readers, I think that’s vitally important. The binary ideology here is a trap, and winds up shutting down real discussion in favor of one spin or another. That in turn retards real progress that helps the people at either end of the production chain, instead of just the corporations in the middle.

Wasn’t This Resolved in the 80’s?

Some days, media melts my brain. Like when an author does his level best to effectively say that engaging with tabletop RPG games is questionable conduct:

[Judge Clark Allen Peterson] has posted game-related messages under his own name thousands of times, accompanied by a depiction of Orcus, a character described as a bloated, 15-foot-tall demon with ram-like horns, bat wings and a long tail with a poisonous tip […].

Peterson chats casually with other game enthusiasts, punctuating many posts with smiley emoticons. He offers lengthy advice on game rules and design elements, and he has plugged products from Seattle-based Legendary Games, a publishing venture he founded.

I had the hardest time finding a representative quote for the article, since by and large it’s a long, fairly haphazard compilation of facts which are essentially this judge has a hobby we find nonstandard. Litigants who are upset with the results of their cases contend “[t]his activity shows a level of immaturity,” because “[h]ad this judge been doing his job instead of playing games, his mind somewhere else, he would probably have done the right thing along the line.”

Was he rolling dice while on the bench? Did I miss the part where judges don’t get to be human beings when they aren’t presiding over a case?

With the title “Kootenai County judge’s job, fantasy game hobby blur together,” it’s fairly clear what the angle is here. That it’s an angle which wasn’t particularly compelling 30 years ago doesn’t seem to hinder anyone. After exceptionally brief stops to note that the judge has had financial and marital problems during the same period (because, really, that kind of thing is incidental when it comes to the impact on a person, right?), the author plows right in developing a case for just how obsessively this monster game has taken over Peterson’s life:

Peterson has posted more than 2,860 times on Paizo’s forum over the past nine years. Since he joined the bench, about 370 of his Paizo comments were posted between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on days that state records show him at work

Literally thousands of posts about this game! It’s clearly taken over his entire life! Big numbers = concern!

Or, we could maybe do a little math, and realize that, over nine years, that turns into an average of 0.87 posts per day. According to the article, Peterson joined the bench in March, 2010, which turns that disturbing 370 into 0.4 posts per workday. Message board posts, mind you, which are often only a few sentences long. So, you know, about how long it takes most people to check the weather on a work break each day OH MY GOD THE NATION IS ADDICTED TO WEATHER!

Yeah, so maybe we stop waving the Demon Games Have Corrupted Justice signs, shall we? I mean, would this painfully overlong article even exist if the judge had been playing fantasy football instead?

(via EN World)

Should I Ask If Kid President Is an Unpaid ‘Acting Intern’?

I subscribed to Upworthy‘s RSS feed a while ago when friends kept linking me there to see things I thought were worth seeing. It seemed only reasonable to, in turn, pop on over to SoulPancake when I realized I’d seen their logo on a lot of the Upworthy video links I’d liked.

While I was looking for SoulPancake’s RSS feed, however, I happened on the news section which is currently topped with this:

We are looking for smart, friendly, hard-working people to help us around the SoulPancake office. Interns must be students, currently enrolled in a degree-granting program at an accredited university. Interns should be able to commit to a minimum of 10 hours per week, and up to 20 hours, for a minimum of 3 months. Internships are unpaid, but spaces are limited.

Emphasis mine. Look, I’m not harping directly on unpaid internships, mind you. However, there are very specific legal guidelines regarding what those have to entail. You can download a pdf of the full regulations here or hit the Department of Labor’s fact sheet online here, but for now we’ll just use the compact list:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Numbers 3 and, especially, 4 are the most relevant here. Pointing to only the elements in the responsibilities lists which seem most noteworthy:

  • Business Development interns have to do brand and advertisement research and set up meetings / calls.
  • Community Engagement interns are supposed to not only moderate, but initiate conversation threads on the site and on YouTube.
  • Graphic Design interns will “conceptualize and design graphics,” as well as “[p]hotograph and illustrate for various projects.”
  • UI Interns will be “Designing real-world phone apps and websites that will be used by thousands.”
  • Marketing interns are tasked with building contact lists, developing content lists, creating marketing materials, and if none of that is explicit enough for you, they get a separate line item which literally says “create original content.”
  • I just … look: whether you agree with the law or not, I think it’s pretty explicit. When you have people performing your primary business for you, you simply no longer get to pretend you don’t have a business relationship with an unpaid intern.

    Trying to do so is especially uncomfortable if you’re the kind of business which is building its brand around pep talks to teachers and students with taglines like “What are you teaching the world?”

    Cold Read Relationship Advice

    Another day, another bit of filler pretending to be content. While that’s probably true of me, it’s especially true of Yahoo! I ran across this one t’other day:

    How to tell if your honey’s being dishonest.

    Is your girlfriend playing with her hair? Forget split ends: she might be lying! Did your boyfriend just compliment you? OMG: lying! is totally something you should suspect, and not the hours you spent trying to look amazing. Oh, and any change in the speed of your significant’s other’s response may be “a hint that something is up.” Forget about dragging after a bad day or excitement for what you’e about to do: lying! is the answer.

    I. Hate. This. Nonsense.

    Seriously, these sorts of articles seem to be far less about offering people advice for having reasonable, adult, responsible relationships, and far more about notching up the paranoia to increase sales in relationship-fixing literature.

    “Is someone playing with her hair? No? Wringing hands? No? Hmmm. Sweating? Really? Okay: Now someone must have answered questions more slowly or quickly than you remember, yes? Ah! I knew it. The spirits talked to me … er, I mean, the studies. Yes. The studies.”

    Argh. This kind of article, which just sort of throws everything at the wall, feels way too much like “Did someone in the audience lose a relative who’s name starts with D or P?” It’s basically the relationship version of a psychic cold reading. And it has about the same level of credibility.

    Step 5: Cover Our Corporate Asses

    I’m making very small steps to try to rein in the eating out / eating poorly. Certainly, making one’s own food is a good step, but I’m tired and lazy and we said very small, remember? So: lower-calorie, frozen meals. Little boxes, little boxes and all that. On the continuum of healthy choices, it’s a compromise I’m willing to make.

    Discussions about the level of my personal healthy decisions notwithstanding, what I find especially amusing / annoying about the meals this time around is that they all seem to have a “step five” that looks something like this:

    Check that product is cooked thoroughly. Internal temperature needs to reach 165°F as measured by a food thermometer in several places.

    Emphasis mine.

    Here’s the thing: small, portable boxed meals are popular because they’re a convenience. Quick. Easy. Everything you need all in one box. The kind of person who is likely to own and regularly use a food thermometer strikes me as the kind of person who is least likely to make regular use of frozen entrees as a meal option.

    And let’s not pretend anyone who wrote those instructions isn’t fully aware of that fact. I recognize that thoroughly cooking food is important. That careless cooking can lead to food-borne illnesses of various stripes. But it just seems like an annoyingly transparent CYA choice to put insincere “instructions” on packaging like this.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think there’s some Easy Mac calling my name.