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Contraceptives And Religious Freedom

English: Picture Of Ortho Tri-Cyclen oral cont...

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I have weighed in a few times on Facebook regarding the suddenly controversial contraceptive mandate and wasn’t going to go into it here.

After all, it’s the same old story of politicians on the right scrambling for a wedge issue to bash Obama with.

However, having read the magnificent piece by elder-statesman of the press Bill Moyers on Salon.com, I have to say —

Exactly:

Freedom of religion is freedom from religion

As Moyers details, Obama has responded brilliantly to the feigned outrage of the right by being — well — reasonable.

Now, Obama says insurance companies (not employers) will provide this coverage to those who want it for free. No employer will have sully their “conscience” by offering contraceptives to women in their health care plans.

This, of course, hasn’t satisfied the Catholic bishops, but the Republicans are mistaken if they think they have found in them a steadfast ally or a way to bring Catholic voters into their fold en mass:

But here’s what Republicans don’t get, or won’t tell you. And what Obama manifestly does get. First, the war’s already lost: 98 percent of Catholic women of child-bearing age have used contraceptives. Second, on many major issues, the bishops are on Obama’s side — not least on extending unemployment benefits, which they call “a moral obligation.” Truth to tell, on economic issues, the bishops are often to the left of some leading Democrats, even if both sides are loathe to admit it. Furthermore — and shhh, don’t repeat this, even if the president already has — the Catholic Church funded Obama’s first community organizing, back in Chicago.

Just to point out how deeply felt this principle of contraceptives and religious freedom is to the earnest members of the GOP, they recently held a press conference — with humorous results.

From Talking Points Memo:

GOPers Only Enraged By Birth Control Rule When Obama’s Pushing It

The lawmakers called a press conference rolling out the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act,” sponsored by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), a House version of the Roy Blunt bill. It’s aimed at making sure no objecting employer has to cover contraception in their health care plan (although it goes beyond that and lets them omit other services too).

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), a GOP leadership member, warned that the mandate will “reach in and manipulate the conscience of Americans.” He accused the President of “trampling precious First Amendment rights.”

After about 10 of them took turns issuing similar missives against the mandate, while dismissing Obama’s religious accommodation as a gimmick, I put the question to them: Would any of you refuse to support a presidential candidate who enacted a similar mandate?

You see, when GOP front-runner (who oddly keeps trailing at the ballot box) Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts he instituted RomneyCare, which mandates that ALL employers provide contraceptives as part of their employee plans.

If you couldn’t guess, none of these principled defenders of religious freedoms wanted to take a stand against Mitt, whose plan (following Obama’s recent modification) is now “worse” than the administration’s contraception provisions.

After pointing out that Republicans have already really lost this battle, and in a larger sense, the culture wars, Moyers brings it home:

So here we are once again, arguing over how to honor religious liberty without it becoming the liberty to impose on others moral beliefs they don’t share. Our practical solution is the one Barack Obama embraced the other day: protect freedom of religion — and freedom from religion. Can’t get more American than that.

Exactly.

-Chris

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February 17, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Government As A Corporation? Nope.

I’ve heard this meme over the past three decades, and the emptiness of it never diminishes.

Paul Krugman apparently agrees:

America Isn’t a Corporation

If business and the free market really could meet all of our needs, government wouldn’t exist.

It is because government steps in to moderate the excesses of the market and set the rules and create a level playing field that capitalism can thrive.

Unfortunately, the idea that government should be run like a government is part of the conventional wisdom — of people who don’t think too hard about it.

Krugman remarks:

But there’s a deeper problem in the whole notion that what this nation needs is a successful businessman as president: America is not, in fact, a corporation. Making good economic policy isn’t at all like maximizing corporate profits. And businessmen — even great businessmen — do not, in general, have any special insights into what it takes to achieve economic recovery.

Why isn’t a national economy like a corporation? For one thing, there’s no simple bottom line. For another, the economy is vastly more complex than even the largest private company.

In fact, running government as a business has some terrible consequences:

Consider what happens when a business engages in ruthless cost-cutting. From the point of view of the firm’s owners (though not its workers), the more costs that are cut, the better. Any dollars taken off the cost side of the balance sheet are added to the bottom line.

But the story is very different when a government slashes spending in the face of a depressed economy. Look at Greece, Spain, and Ireland, all of which have adopted harsh austerity policies. In each case, unemployment soared, because cuts in government spending mainly hit domestic producers. And, in each case, the reduction in budget deficits was much less than expected, because tax receipts fell as output and employment collapsed.

Currently, it is Willard MittGordon Gekko” Romney who is claiming that his extensive portfolio of firing people makes him uniquely qualified for the presidency.

Poppycock.

He’s even tried to compare his actions at the now-infamous Bain with Obama’s bailout of the automobile industry.

Like many observers, I was somewhat startled by his latest defense of his record at Bain — namely, that he did the same thing the Obama administration did when it bailed out the auto industry, laying off workers in the process. One might think that Mr. Romney would rather not talk about a highly successful policy that just about everyone in the Republican Party, including him, denounced at the time.

But what really struck me was how Mr. Romney characterized President Obama’s actions: “He did it to try to save the business.” No, he didn’t; he did it to save the industry, and thereby to save jobs that would otherwise have been lost, deepening America’s slump. Does Mr. Romney understand the distinction?

In an era when huge private corporations have led to the largest economic calamity in our lifetime, you would think politicians would be leery of drawing comparisons.

The major problem with this mindset is that it misses the real issue:

We’re in the mess we’re in BECAUSE government got too cosy with business and let corporations remove regulations and determine government policies.

It failed.

And if we are to learn from the example of Europe, cutting spending and jobs to save “the bottom line” is a self-inflicted wound to our economy and the stability of the nation.

-Chris

January 13, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Caused The Deficit?

English: Former President George W. Bush looks...

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a nice, handy reminder at Visualizing Economics.

Originally published in July of 2009 in the New York Times, the graphic is a great illustration of how laissez-faire and trickle-down economics led to catastrophe yet again.

In summary, for policies alone, and not owing to economic downturns ($770 billion) and not even including Bush on policies he implemented but Obama later supported ($417 billion):

George W. Bush: $673 Billion
Barack Obama: $201 Billion

-Chris

January 12, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lies About Jobs

map for us unemployment numbers

Image via Wikipedia

I am not the biggest fan of Barack Obama.

My leanings are more progressive, and his seem to be deeply rooted in the corporate boardroom.

That said, you have to give the man his due when it comes to the stimulus and job creation.

I am convinced by arguments by Paul Krugman and other Keynesians that the stimulus was much too small to have optimal effect, but the small package Obama was able to push through did create jobs.

This is, of course, the reality being mocked by the current meme being rolled out by the pack of jackals running for the presidential nomination on the Republican side.

Both Mitt Romney and Gingrich have calculated the number of jobs lost in the American economy from the date of President Obama’s inauguration and repeating that Obama’s policies have resulted in 1.9  million lost jobs.

In GOP-land, this proves that the stimulus was a complete failure.

Paul Krugman brings the inconvenient facts:

Start with the Obama record. It’s true that 1.9 million fewer Americans have jobs now than when Mr. Obama took office. But the president inherited an economy in free fall, and can’t be held responsible for job losses during his first few months, before any of his own policies had time to take effect. So how much of that Obama job loss took place in, say, the first half of 2009?

The answer is: more than all of it. The economy lost 3.1 million jobs between January 2009 and June 2009 and has since gained 1.2 million jobs. That’s not enough, but it’s nothing like Mr. Romney’s portrait of job destruction.

The Economist points out that even if you used the Romney-Gingrich metric, if the economy continues to grow at the current pace (and the jobs report was actually better than expected at the time of this response) the argument will be weak by the time election day rolls around:

A lot can happen over the next year, but for the moment the current recovery looks likely to continue. On Friday, the Bureau of Labour Statistics will report the latest employment data, for the month of December. The consensus forecast is for a gain of 170,000 private-sector jobs and a loss of 20,000 public-sector jobs, for a net gain of 150,000. (In the year to November, the economy added an average of 133,000 net jobs and 157,000 private-sector jobs per month, so this would represent a slight acceleration.) If we extrapolate those changes out through the election, then Mr Obama’s opponent will only be able to claim net job losses during the Obama presidency of just 55,000. What’s more, the net figure will entail government job losses of 833,000 combined with net private-sector job creation of 788,000. Given steady improvement in state and local finances, continued loss of 20,000 government jobs per month seems too high, so there is a decent chance that the Republican nominee will be unable to claim any net job loss during the Obama presidency at the time voters go to the polls.

This is what is on offer from the modern right-wing — solutions to problems that don’t exist and a willful ignorance of real problems and what can fix them.

Unfortunately, the person likely to receive the GOP nod is a serial liar who has spent a career destroying jobs for profit.

Krugman again:

The point is that Mr. Romney’s claims about being a job creator would be nonsense even if he were being honest about the numbers, which he isn’t.

At this point, some readers may ask whether it isn’t equally wrong to say that Mr. Romney destroyed jobs. Yes, it is. The real complaint about Mr. Romney and his colleagues isn’t that they destroyed jobs, but that they destroyed good jobs.

When the dust settled after the companies that Bain restructured were downsized — or, as happened all too often, went bankrupt — total U.S. employment was probably about the same as it would have been in any case. But the jobs that were lost paid more and had better benefits than the jobs that replaced them. Mr. Romney and those like him didn’t destroy jobs, but they did enrich themselves while helping to destroy the American middle class.

And that reality is, of course, what all the blather and misdirection about job-creating businessmen and job-destroying Democrats is meant to obscure.

We are living in scary times, where it is obvious that the real lessons of the utter and absolute failure of trickle-down economics that are plain to most literate people will never be recognized by a sizeable portion of the American populace.

So you get candidates like Romney, Paul, Gingrich, and Santorum who willfully lie and distort readily-available facts on a level and scale so blatant and egregious that it beggars the imagination.

And on the other side, we have Obama.

Sigh.

-Chris

January 9, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“PolitiFact” Panders, Loses All Credibility

The Tower of Lies

Here’s a  fact.

Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced a plan to eliminate Medicare as we know it, and replace it with a voucher system to purchase private insurance.

This is indisputable. It is the essence, the core of the Ryan Plan.

Yes, he still wants to call the new plan “Medicare”,  but in fact it is not the same system at all.

Enter PolitiFact.

PolitiFact is a website run by the St. Petersburg Times that purports to distill the truth from political rhetoric.

The site acknowledges that the Ryan plan replaces the current Medicare system with a voucher scheme, but then puts a semantic twist on their delivery. Referring to Democrats:

• They used harsh terms such as “end” and “kill” when the program would still exist, although in a privatized system.

Democrats, slowly standing from their normal posture of fetal cowering, challenged Ryan on the plan and ran several ads stating that Republicans are seeking to end Medicare as we know it.

Admittedly, some were hyperbolic — exuberance born of the realization that the GOP had handed them a gift, but exaggerations aside, the core of their argument was sound.

 Unfortunately, PolitiFact has gotten trapped in the wrong-headed media notion that balance means criticizing both political parties in equal proportion — regardless of whether one side is telling the truth less often, and in more material ways.

In many instances, they have consistently bent over backwards to nitpick  semantics when the essential truth of Democrat’s claims is undeniably true.

The nail in PolitiFact’s coffin is their “Lie Of the Year 2011”:

A complicated and wonky subject with life-or-death consequences, health care is fertile ground for falsehoods. The Democratic attack about “ending Medicare” was a pervasive line in 2011 that preyed on seniors’ worries about whether they could afford health care.

Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly dismantles this piece of hackery:

It’s unnerving that we have to explain this again, but since PolitiFact appears to be struggling with the relevant details, let’s set the record straight.

Medicare is a single-payer health care system offering guaranteed benefits to seniors. The House Republican budget plan intended to privatize the existing system and replace it with something very different — a voucher scheme. It would still be called “Medicare,” but it wouldn’t be Medicare.

It seems foolish to have to parse the meaning of the word “end,” but if there’s a program, and it’s replaced with a different program, proponents brought an end to the original program. That’s what the verb means.

I’ve been trying to think of the best analogy for this. How about this one: imagine someone owns a Ferrari. It’s expensive and drives beautifully, and the owner desperately wants to keep his car intact. Now imagine I took the car away, removed the metallic badge off the trunk that says “Ferrari,” I stuck it on a golf cart, and I handed the owner the keys.

“Where’s my Ferrari?” the owner would ask.

“It’s right here,” I’d respond. “This has four wheels, a steering wheel, and pedals, and it says ‘Ferrari’ right there on the back.”

By PolitiFact’s reasoning, I haven’t actually replaced the car — and if you disagree, you’re a pants-on-fire liar.

As Benen notes, this is a straight up semantics quibble. If this is the lie of the year, where has Politifact been?

Paul Krugman joins in, and shares my conclusion:

The answer is, of course, obvious: the people at PolitiFact are terrified of being considered partisan if they acknowledge the clear fact that there’s a lot more lying on one side of the political divide than on the other. So they’ve bent over backwards to appear “balanced” — and in the process made themselves useless and irrelevant.

Way to go, guys.

Exactly. Not a shred of credibility left.

Chris Mooney piles on:

PolitiFact’s move is especially remarkable when you survey some of the clear falsehoods that were almost lie of the year:

  • The economic stimulus created “zero jobs.” — The National Republican Senatorial Committee and other Republicans
  • Scientists are “questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. … (It is) more and more being put into question.” — Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry
  • President Obama “went around the world and apologized for America.” — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney
  • The vaccine to prevent HPV can cause mental retardation. — Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann

Notably, all of these big lies were uttered by Republicans. In fact, with the exception of the Bachmann example, they were uttered repeatedly by Republicans (albeit in varying forms).

All of this is a shame, because in the current heated political environment, a real straight shooter is needed to sift fact from fiction.

There appears to be an opening for that service.

-Chris

December 22, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Values Summit” and Right Wing Boogeymen

Newt Gingrich

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It appears that the new boogeyman being pushed by the irrational right is the institution of Sharia Law. In America. Really.

This is almost as hilarious as the meme last year that Obama was going to secretly ban recreational fishing.

Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post describes how this terrible crime was revealed to attendees of the conservative “Value Voter Summit by no less a luminary than Newt Gingrich.

“Sharia as the new red menace?” quotes the twice divorced value voter on this important issue:

“We should have a federal law that says sharia law cannot be recognized by any court in the United States,” Gingrich declared, to a standing ovation.

We should also have a law barring witchcraft and wizardry in sports betting.

Later in the article, Gingrich asserts that “Stealth jihadis use political, cultural, societal, religious, intellectual tools; violent jihadis use violence”.

Gingrich’s very presence at a value voter summit (after cheating on two wives and leaving them when they were gravely ill) makes the whole thing more of an outrageous parody than it already is. However, listening to these people reveals a whole lot of their mindset.
Like an annual car show, the conservatives roll out their new models of boogeymen to scare the masses with — the better to distract from their pitiful legislative record.
Right Wing Watch also covered the event, which was sponsored by the Family Research Council:

Muslims Replace Immigrants as a Top Target
While previous conferences have portrayed unchecked illegal immigration as the most dire threat to America, this year’s speakers picked up on the right-wing generated furor over a proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan – the inaccurately dubbed “Ground Zero Mosque” – to make repeated bitter denunciations of Islam. Immigration was not completely ignored: Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, in a list of complaints, denounced the White House for being an administration “whose idea of a rogue state is Arizona,” and the Heritage Foundation sponsored a workshop on “The Real Cost of Illegal Immigration.” But the real energy was in attacking Islam, which was a primary focus of remarks by Bill Bennett and Gary Bauer.

The ridiculous new Sharia law canard joins a warehouse full of other gossamer constructs of the right, bolstered only by the hordes of mindless low-information voters — keeping them alive a la Tinkerbell through their expressed fears and nightmares.

Others we have seen:

  • Death Panels
  • FEMA Concentration Camps
  • Socialist Takeover
  • Black Helicopters/UN rule
  • Obama The Manchurian Candidate
  • Door-to-Door Gun Confiscations
  • The North American Union
  • Chemtrails

Clearly, the current anti-Islam trope is working for the right, and they are now able to float the bats–t crazy idea that there is a movement to institute Sharia Law in America.

What’s next? Are the big bad atheists going to outlaw Christianity?

Forced sterilization?

-Chris

September 21, 2010 Posted by | Politics, Religion, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment