Welcome back from your World Cup endurance test. Here’s what you missed:

Michelle Wie won the U.S. (you remember the U.S.; it had a team in the World Cup for a couple of days) Women’s Open. Incidentally, she looked good doing it.

A nice, young woman named Eugenie Bouchard reached the finals at Wimbledon. It’s about time we had an appealing female tennis player without a prissy name. Eugenie is a name that could be right out of Dogpatch. Close enough – she’s from Canada.

LeBron James is now Cleveland’s headache.

Rosie O’Donnell is returning to “The View” – wait. Who cares?

Hobby Lobby and the Supreme Court. Actually, all you missed was the day the high court ruled Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based, arts-and-crafts chain, can deny coverage for certain types of contraception mandated by Obamacare, based on the owners’ religious beliefs. Commentators are still going on and on about the ruling’s ramifications, so maybe you’ve caught up to the rest of us enough to understand that the court’s decision is
a) the greatest affirmation for religious freedom in this country since Thomas Jefferson cut up his Bible, b) the end of individual liberty in this country, c) step 1 in dismantling The Affordable Care Act, d) the furthest thing from the mind of Brazil’s World Cup coach.

"You see, no one, not even a police officer, has the right under the new Georgia law to ask to see someone’s gun-carry permit."

Some things do get lost in all the shouting:

  • This was a statutory case, not a constitutional one, and that will make a difference in which cases the high court decides to hear in the future or how, for example, Congress might address the decision through legislation.
  • The Hobby Lobby family won’t deny contraception coverage outright, just four particular contraceptives it thinks amount to abortion.
  • The ruling applies only to “closely held” companies, those whose shares are held by only a few, usually like-minded, individuals. It doesn’t mean a corporate behemoth publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange will be able to dictate morality to employees.
  • It’s not news that the SCOTUS thinks “corporations are people.” The Roberts court has been down that road before, such as when it ruled that money is “speech” and, therefore, limits on campaign contributions are unconstitutional, opening the door like never before for corporate-backed Super PACs to dictate election outcomes. That’s more troubling than Hobby Lobby.

It is, though, a very intriguing ruling, worthy of all the commentary. But the outcomes waiting down the road are unpredictable.

Biz Bits

I saw a classified ad the other day – monkey grass for sale. Listen, if you have to pay for monkey grass, you don’t have enough friends.

I just received a tote bag for renewing my membership to the Smithsonian. I think every American ought to belong. I especially love Smithsonian magazine, which comes with the membership. Every month, it’s like a museum put to words and in pictures arriving in my mailbox and chronicling the great events in American history, the forgotten minutiae, the heroes and the oddballs. The Smithsonian is America. The tote bag, though, was made in China.

Some far-right extremists on the national scene are distancing themselves from U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, of all people. Dole is very conservative, ran for president twice and served his country in war. Once, he was the GOP’s designated attack dog on Democratic Party proposals. But he would go back to Capitol Hill, quietly wrangle concessions from Democrats, and get things done. Dole is anathema to the tea party-fueled rightists, who prefer noise over reason, rhetoric over discourse, stagnation over achievement.

Those types have shot themselves in the foot twice on the national scene lately, in different ways. House Minority Leader Eric Cantor of Pennsylvania, who is about as intransient a conservative as one can be, lost a runoff, in a major upset, to a novice Republican who has trouble with compound sentences. Those voting in that GOP runoff traded away experience and seniority. Have fun at the shallow end of the pool, fellas.

Mississippi politics are quite different from Pennsylvania’s. The Magnolia State was close to ousting its incumbent U.S. senator, Thad Cochran, who’s known for bringing home the bacon, in favor of another paint-by-numbers type who vowed to slash federal spending. The hitch, you see, is that Mississippi receives far more from federal programs than it sends to Washington. It would be an even poorer state without D.C. So Ol’ Thad made an appeal to sensible independents, who typically don’t vote in primaries, and even Democrats to “cross over” and vote in the GOP primary. Turns out Mississippi voters aren’t stupid after all. They knew the GOP candidate, whoever it might be, would win the general election in November. They knew their only real say in choosing their next U.S. senator would be the GOP primary, and they chose Cochran.

An early test of Georgia’s new gun-carry law could have turned out worse. A man with a sidearm walked into a convenience store in Valdosta. He noticed another man at the counter also with a sidearm. First man asks to see the other’s permit; second man tells the first to shove it. Hands on their guns, a few feet apart, a hot-headed verbal exchange ensues. The police (who I’m sure had better things to do) arrive and defuse the situation. 

This is one of the quirks everyone needs to get used to. You see, no one, not even a police officer, has the right under the new Georgia law to ask to see someone’s gun-carry permit. So we now see the new law actually encourages such confrontations. The next one might end badly.

I want to hear what our state lawmakers have to say then.

Finally, this: Harley Davidson has come out with an electric bike. The climate-change deniers may as well throw in the towel. True, if every biker in the world traded in his gas bike for an electric ride, it wouldn’t be a drop in the tide environmentalists are trying to turn. But the symbolism is huge. Harleys are machismo mechanized, beer guzzling romanticized, long gray hair lionized. Harleys are magnets to biker chicks (who, on close examination, are not as sexy as the models in the ads).

Point being, can you imagine Marlon Brando, James Dean or Steve McQueen on a bike that’s tethered, like a blender, to a wall socket? Of course not. Alan Alda, maybe. But Alan Alda never got the hot chicks, either.

J. Bryant Steele was first published when he was 14 and has made a living stringing words together for 40 years. But the main reason he writes is to avoid housework. He has won 50 or so writing awards. He is a graduate of the Grady School of Journalism (The University of Georgia) and of Education for Ministry (The University of the South). He also publishes poetry and fiction. He is the proud father of two magnificent adult children. He is also very opinionated.