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Suit Challenges Constitutionality of Tax Code Parsonage Allowance

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In a lawsuit filed this week, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is again challenging the constitutionality of the Internal Revenue Code’s parsonage allowance.  The complaint (full text) in Gaylor v. Lew, (WD WI, filed 4/6/ 2016), contends that Section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code–which allows clergy to exclude from taxable income a housing allowance paid as part of their compensation– violates the Establishment Clause.  The suit was brought by two FFRF officers who also received housing allowances.  One of the plaintiffs is an ordained minister who in prior years when employed by a church was able to claim the allowance.  In 2014, the 7th Circuit dismissed a similar suit on standing grounds because plaintiffs had not sought to exclude their FFRF allowances on their federal income tax returns or claim a tax refund. (See prior posting.) This time plaintiffs did file amended returns seeking a refund of taxes paid on their housing allowances. FFRF issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

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Yessource: Live in Springfield, 11/19/87

Here are my latest uploads to YesSource, my Yes rarities youtube page (about which you can read here).  This post is another addition to my series of Yes music posts and a collection of all my Yes-related posts is here.  Yes, of course, is a, if not the, premier progressive rock band, and I am an enormous fan of it.

You can see all of my Yessource uploads here.

My latest YesSource uploads can be found here:

The United Shapes of Arithmetic: An American Flag

Nathan Rudolph, my friend and fellow parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, has started a comic strip which I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated.  With his permission, I will repost them here after he posts them.  I think my readers will appreciate them as much as I do as they are rather insightful with a snarky edge.  Enjoy!

Here are the links to the previously posted strips:

Here is the latest strip:

https://scontent-lga3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/22366786_1327520117354599_8274247563828994579_n.jpg?oh=36d6386cb8d3789943e6b20517d9e95f&oe=5A41D371

Yessource: Live in Omaha, 11/14/87

Here are my latest uploads to YesSource, my Yes rarities youtube page (about which you can read here).  This post is another addition to my series of Yes music posts and a collection of all my Yes-related posts is here.  Yes, of course, is a, if not the, premier progressive rock band, and I am an enormous fan of it.

You can see all of my Yessource uploads here.

My latest YesSource uploads can be found here:

Yes Featuring ARW Playbill for the 10/1/17 Show

Here is another addition to my series of Yes music posts.  I started this series here and a collection of all my Yes-related posts is here.

I saw the progressive rock band Yes (technically Yes featuring Anderson, Rabin, Wakeman) play a show at the at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, PA on October 1, 2017 during the their An Evening of Yes Music and More Tour.  I posted a review and photographs from this show here.  You can also read more about this show here.

The Kimmel Center often produces and distributes an event program at its shows, and the October 1, 2017 ARW concert was no different. I have taken photographs of that program and posted them below as fans may enjoy and be interested in what the band authorized for its show.

 

Way beyond the New Atheist Nonsense

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in First Things which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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Given the intellectual flimsiness of their work, it’s best to look for cultural causes to explain the popularity of the “New Atheists.” And surely one factor is the now-canonical notion in Western high culture that biblical religion is incompatible with modern natural science—an idea rooted in the notion that the “scientific method” is the only way to get at the truth. (William Shakespeare, call your office.)

Yet facts are stubborn things. And the fact is that two Catholic priests, Gregor Mendel, O.S.A., and Georges Lemaitre, were pivotal figures in creating two of the most important scientific enterprises of the twenty-first century: modern genetics, which is giving humanity previously unimaginable powers over the human future; and modern cosmology, which is giving us glimpses of the universe in the first moments of its existence.

Mendel is perhaps the more familiar figure; most high school biology classes explain how the Moravian monk developed gene theory and the theory of inherited characteristics (with its distinction between recessive and dominant traits) from his studies of the humble pea. Lemaitre, a Belgian, was a brilliant mathematician who first articulated the Big Bang theory of the universe’s origins and subsequent expansion. That proposal, ridiculed by some at first, now reigns supreme in astrophysics and seems to have been verified by the astonishing work of the Hubble Space Telescope. Watch for Father Lemaitre’s bold idea to gain even further traction from the findings of the James Webb Space Telescope when it begins orbiting the sun, a million miles from Earth, in a few years.

So unless one wishes to assert that Mendel and Lemaitre were split personalities who said Mass in the morning and did science in the afternoon, thereby dividing their lives into hermetically-sealed containers, the cutting edges of modern science itself would seem to rebut the claim that “believer” and “scientist” are mutually incompatible human types.

St. John Paul II was fascinated by the hard sciences (physics, chemistry, astronomy) throughout his life; for decades, he hosted at Castel Gandolfo a bi-annual seminar of leading figures in those fields, so that he could keep abreast of developments in their disciplines. But for John Paul II, everything eventually pointed to the New Evangelization. So even before he began using that term, he sent a letter to the head of the Vatican Observatory, noting that “those members of the Church who are either themselves active scientists, or in some special cases both scientists and theologians, could serve as a key resource” in bridging the chasm that too often separates modern science and biblical religion. Those scientists and scientist-theologians, the pope continued, “can also provide a much needed ministry to others struggling to integrate science and religion in their own intellectual and spiritual lives.”

John Paul II’s challenge has now been taken up by the Society of Catholic Scientists. From a standing start last year, the Society now has almost 400 members, 80 percent of whom hold a doctorate in the natural sciences, the rest being primarily graduate students. That’s an impressive head count for such a new outfit; it also suggests that membership in such a Catholic organization is not an impediment to being taken seriously in the highly competitive academic world of natural science. SCS’s inaugural conference in April was addressed by scholars from Harvard, Oxford, MIT, Penn, Brown, and the University of Texas at Austin.

The moving force in organizing the Society has been Dr. Stephen Barr, professor of theoretical particle physics at the University of Delaware. Barr’s engaging and accessible articles have long been familiar to readers of First Things, and those looking for something different by way of vacation reading this summer might pick up the recently-published collection of his essays, The Believing Scientist. There, Barr discusses everything from evolution to the mind/soul debate to Big Bang cosmology to science-as-ersatz-religion, while gently skewering a few luminaries who begin to talk nonsense when they venture beyond their remit as scientists.

The Bible teaches that God impressed his intelligibility onto the world through creation by the Word. When that conviction weakens, faith in reason begins to crumble and the result is the intellectual playpen known as post-modernism. In renewing the covenant between faith and reason, the Society of Catholic Scientists serves the good of both—and of our culture.

By George Weigel and published in First Things on June 14, 2017 and can be found here.

 

YOUR CHAKRA IS SHOWING

Check out Faye Cohen’s post to her blog Toughlawyerlady!

ToughLawyerLady

I am not a particularly spiritual person. I consider myself to be a very solid, staid and responsible person. That is probably why I became a lawyer. The legal profession does not lend itself to meandering thoughts, and regular self-examination. The law is a profession of evidence, rules, and having to do things in a certain way.

But lately I seem to be seeing terms which formerly were considered “woo-woo” making their way into mainstream thinking and literature. So if I am reading an article or magazine about architecture and exterior design, there is generally a mention of feng shui or creating good karma, or the importance of surrounding oneself with crystals or harmonious colors. If I am reading a women’s magazine there are always articles about wellness, relaxation, meditation, etc. Although in years past the West Coast in the United States was the origination point for many of the…

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Yessource: YesCon with Steve Howe in Cherry Hill on 7/18/87

Here are my latest uploads to YesSource, my Yes rarities youtube page (about which you can read here).  This post is another addition to my series of Yes music posts and a collection of all my Yes-related posts is here.  Yes, of course, is a, if not the, premier progressive rock band, and I am an enormous fan of it.

You can see all of my Yessource uploads here.

My latest YesSource uploads can be found here:

 

 

Distributism and Large-Scale Industry

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

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Thomas Storck’s recent article about the antagonistic relationship between owners and workers prevalent in capitalist enterprises included the following statement. “The activity of the Mondragon cooperatives in Spain proves that there is no reason why large-scale and highly technical industrial operations cannot be worker owned.” This sentence prompted a reader to respond with a request.

“Please provide a follow up article showing how this system works for Mondragon, their profit, employee take home, growth, etc…”

This response to that request will address two things. I will first provide the information requested, then I will address the case of Mondragon and how it does, and does not, relate to distributism.

Mondragon started as a technical college, founded by Father José María Arizmendiarrieta in 1943. Its first cooperative was established with 5 workers making paraffin heaters in 1955. Today, Mondragon is a cooperative federation comprised of over 250 companies and 74,000 workers operating in the finance, industrial, retail and knowledge sectors. Mondragon’s sales in 2014 were €10,985 million (US $12.48 billion). They put €145 million (US $164 million)  in research and invested €345 million (US $392 million). They have 15 technology centers, 1,676 researchers and have filed 479 patent families.

I don’t have specific information on employee take-home, but each company agrees to set its own wage ratio within an agreed upon range of 3:1 to 9:1. The average is 5:1, meaning that the highest paid person in a given company typically makes no more than five times what the lowest paid person in the same company does. The result of this is that the workers doing non-management jobs at Mondragon typically make 13% more than similar local jobs outside of its structure. Most workers make well above the minimum wage since they are employed in jobs requiring high levels of skill and technical training, Mondragon’s managers do earn less than those outside of its structure, but this is because they agree that Mondragon’s model is better than the typical corporate model.

Only 103 of Mondragon’s 260 companies are cooperatives. This in itself does not make it incompatible with distributism. I don’t have any details about the other 157 companies, like whether they are small, independently owned businesses. The ideal of distributism is that everyone own the capital used to earn his living, but we accept that this ideal may never be fully achieved. Some people may just prefer prefer to be employees, or may have to work as employees for some time before they can become owners. Distributism does not require that every shop be a worker owned cooperative, but those that are not would tend to be small local shops, and I don’t know the extent to which this is the case for those Mondragon companies that are not cooperatives.

The original cooperative established with five members back in 1955 grew to become Fagor Electrodomestics, the largest company in Mondragon’s federation. The Fagor brand is currently present in 100 countries, employs more than 12,000 people in 17 countries and operates 16 factories in 3 continents. Due to mismanagement, it had to declare bankruptcy in October 2013. The economic articles from capitalist pundits seemed to hardly contain their glee at what they perceived as the fall of the greatest example that methods other than their own could work. The Economist declared that “one of the group’s key principles—of solidarity among its 110 constituent co-ops—has found its limit.” Actually, what had reached its limit was the federation’s willingness to extend another loan to prop up Fagor when it had no plans which would resolve its problems.

Before crowing so loudly, capitalist economists should have waited to see the reality of this commitment and how it compares to what happens when the typical capitalist enterprise goes bankrupt. The reality of Mondragon’s commitment to worker solidarity is revealed by what the federation actually did regarding the workers of Fagor. Mondragon’s social mutual, Lagun Aro, proposed a 1.5% raise in contributions from all members at the next General Assembly so it could provide needed unemployment benefits to displaced Fagor worker-owners. They received 80 percent of their salary while Mondragon identified new positions for these workers. Compare this to the layoffs we’ve all seen reported when large capitalist employers go bankrupt or have to restructure to avoid bankruptcy.

This clearly shows the dynamic vibrancy and resilience of the cooperative model even when operating with large-scale, multi-national, highly technical industrial operations. This is why various cooperative organizations, the p2p economic movement and distributists all can validly point to Mondragon as an example of how well the cooperative model truly works.

When it comes to distributism, however, my opinion is that we need to be more carefully nuanced when using Mondragon as an example. It has grown to a size and scale of operation beyond that which distributists actually promote and which goes against the preference for local or even regional economics to the international model touted today. We are not in any way against international trade, but individual corporations employing thousands in multiple countries seems to me to go against our economic model, and Fagor is an example of why. The description of how Mondragon handled the bankruptcy of Fagor should not be taken as a claim that it wasn’t an issue for the federation. The mismanagement of Fagor not only impacted its thousands of employees, but the entire Mondragon organization. The fact that it was able to come up with a solution that maintained its commitment to worker solidarity does not mean that this was an easy solution or that it did not put significant strain on the people or the finances of Mondragon as a whole.

In the past, Fagor might have been held by some to be the shining example of Mondragon’s success because it was the largest company with the most employees, but that is looking at the organization from a strictly capitalist perspective. What happened in the wake of Fagor’s bankruptcy shows that the many smaller cooperatives and the overall commitment to worker solidarity are the mark of Mondragon’s success. They helped to support Fagor with the loans it received before the final straw that resulted in its bankruptcy. They supported the workers displaced when Fagor failed. Democratically based worker solidarity is at the very heart of the cooperative movement, and also at the very heart of the guild structure distributists promote.

It is clear that the cooperative model works and this is why distributists propose this model for large scale operations, particularly those which only make sense at a more regional rather than local level. Of course, cooperatives also work at a local level and we promote that as well. 

I hope this article fulfills the request of our reader.

You can learn more about this issue here.

9th Circuit: Denial of Exemption For Use of Cannabis Does Not Impose Substantial Burden On Religious Exercise

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Oklevueha Native American Church of Hawaii v. Lynch, (9th Cir., April 6, 2016), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a church and its founder were properly denied an exemption from federal laws that prohibit the possession and distribution of cannabis. Under RFRA, denial of an exemption does not impose a “substantial burden” on plaintiffs’ exercise of religion because the primary sacrament of the church is peyote.  Plaintiffs consume cannabis only as a substitute. They do not claim that peyote is unavailable or that cannabis serves a unique religious function.

You can learn more about this issue here.

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