Sunday, February 12, 2012

Headlines - Sunday February 12

Mother Jones: Soaking the Poor, State by State

Since this week has been all about the godsbothering, a historical sidebar I've been saving, from Kevin M. Kruse at the NYTimes:

... The concept of "one nation under God" has a noble lineage, originating in Abraham Lincoln's hope at Gettysburg that "this nation, under God, shall not perish from the earth." After Lincoln, however, the phrase disappeared from political discourse for decades. But it re-emerged in the mid-20th century, under a much different guise: corporate leaders and conservative clergymen deployed it to discredit Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.

During the Great Depression, the prestige of big business sank along with stock prices. Corporate leaders worked frantically to restore their public image and simultaneously roll back the "creeping socialism" of the welfare state. Notably, the American Liberty League, financed by corporations like DuPont and General Motors, made an aggressive case for capitalism. Most, however, dismissed its efforts as self-interested propaganda. (A Democratic Party official joked that the organization should have been called "the American Cellophane League" because "first, it's a DuPont product and, second, you can see right through it.")

Realizing that they needed to rely on others, these businessmen took a new tack: using generous financing to enlist sympathetic clergymen as their champions. After all, according to one tycoon, polls showed that, "of all the groups in America, ministers had more to do with molding public opinion" than any other…

If you read the whole thing (it's not very long!), there are two obvious conclusions to be drawn:

(a) the GOPers haven't had a new idea in at least fifty years; and

(b) the genuinely religious among us prefer to keep our faith separate from the machinery of government, because trying to combine the two is bad for both endeavors.

So… back in the Reality-Based Community, what's on the agenda for the evening?


Jill: No, not everyone can be rich.


Putting the burden of proof on the repugs

Kevin Drum on why he's so hard-nosed on contraception: freakazoids are using this as a political bomb, so they lose the default position.

Now, having said all that, it's also true that I'm normally fairly sympathetic to granting religious exemptions to public policy. You can make a case-not a great one, but a case-that allowing an exemption to the new contraceptive policy wouldn't actually work a huge hardship on the women affected. And the Catholic Church's objection to contraception, wrongheaded though I think it is, is plainly of long standing. This is no made-up issue.

So why am I really feeling so hard-nosed about this? The answer goes back a few years, to the controversy over pharmacists who refused to fill prescriptions for the morning-after pill. I was appalled: If you're a pharmacist, then you fill people's prescriptions. That's the job, full stop. If you object to filling prescriptions, then you need to find another occupation.

But of course, the entire right-wing outrage machine went into high gear over this. And it was at that point that my position shifted: if this was the direction things were going, then it was obvious that there would be no end to religious exemption arguments. The whole affair was, I thought, way over the top, and yet it got the the full-throated support of virtually every conservative pundit and talking head anyway. This was, in plain terms, simply a war on contraception.

So I changed my mind. Instead of believing as a default that we should take religious exemptions seriously and put the burden of proof on the rest of us to explain why they shouldn't be allowed, I now believe that neutral public policy comes first and the burden of proof is now up to churches to provide convincing arguments that (a) An important matter of conscience is being violated, and (b) The public policy in question isn't important enough to be applied across the board. On the matter of contraception, I don't think they've made a convincing case for either one.

Refusing to allow freakazoids to exert control over women's bodies is not "hard-nosed."  Yanking tax-exempt status from any freakazoid who dared to criticize public policy - that would be hard-nosed.

And this fake hysteria is just the beginning. Digby:

Whether or not the Bishops accept this accommodation, I do think this has put birth control permanently on the sex police menu and it's not going to go away. From this point on, contraception will be "controversial" in health care politics. How can it not? It's "evil." So, in that sense they win regardless. It's moved the ball a little bit, drawn attention to the issue and reinforced the Bishops' authority. And that's why they did it.

28 states already have a policy requiring contraceptive coverage, with 20 of them providing an exemption for religious institutions, has received some attention, as has the fact that the nation's largest Catholic university, DePaul, provides contraceptive coverage to its employees.

The ACLU highlights just one story from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, one story that demonstrates the plight of hundreds of voters in the state.

South Dakota is trying to prevent Eileen Janis — and hundreds of other citizens — from voting.
Eileen grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and does suicide prevention work. She registered to vote for the first time in 1984. "I always vote because my mom told me to,"
she says.

But when she went to cast her ballot in the historic 2008 election, she found that she had been illegally removed from the voter rolls. Though she had been convicted of a felony, her sentence to probation meant that she had not lost the right to cast a ballot. "I went [to vote] with my son who had just turned 18. As soon as I tried to vote I was told no because I was a felon."

South Dakota has a long and shameful history of disenfranchising Native Americans, so Ms. Janis's story is far from unique. The ACLU sued on behalf of Janis and other disenfranchised South Dakotans and won. Which, of course, isn't the end of the story. Here at Daily Kos, robbinsdale radical alerted us to the South Dakota legislature's efforts to deny the franchise to those with criminal convictions, even those who were never sentenced to jail time. Native Americans are disproportionately represented in the South Dakota criminal system, and this effort would hit them particularly hard.

The ACLU tells how to take action:

Tell the DOJ to protect the right to vote in South Dakota and across the nation. And urge Congress to pass the Democracy Restoration Act, which would let Eileen—and all Americans with past convictions who are living in their communities—vote in federal elections.
The Great Charles Pierce (that's his legal name now) argues that, on the contraception accommodation:
The Church has claimed — and the president has tacitly accepted — the right to deny even its employees of other faiths the health-care services of which it doesn't approve on strictly doctrinal grounds. That is not an issue of "religious liberty." That's the enshrinement of religious thuggery in the secular law.
Bob Cesca: The Face of Insanity

A liberal, a moderate, and a conservative walks into the bar at CPAC.

"What'll it be, Mitt?," asks the Bartender.



Steven Benen — who is doing some of his best work for MaddowBlog — debunks Romney's cavalcade of lies in his CPAC speech yesterday:

1. Romney claimed, "We are the only people on the earth that put our hand over our heart during the playing of the national anthem. It was FDR who asked us to do that, in honor of the blood that was being shed by our sons and daughters in far-off places."

This is both untrue and rather strange.

2. Romney argued in a speech, "You know, like his colleagues in the faculty lounge, who think they know better, President Obama demonizes and denigrates almost every sector of our economy."

Asked to back that up, the Romney campaign pointed to President Obama's criticism of Wall Street recklessness, insurance company abuses, and oil companies. If those three represent "almost every sector of our economy," then Romney doesn't understand the private sector as well as he thinks he does.

3. Romney claimed, "Just this last week, this same administration said that in churches and the institutions they run, such as schools and let's say adoption agencies, hospitals, that they have to provide for their employees, free of charge, contraceptives, morning-after pills — in other words abortive pills and the like at no cost."

That's not even close to being an accurate description of the policy.

4. Romney argued, "More Americans have lost their jobs during President Obama's term than during any other President in modern history."

That only makes sense if Romney holds the job losses from early 2009 — before Obama could even begin governing in earnest — against him. If you blame the president for job losses that occurred 11 days after his inauguration, then Romney's claim is sort of true. If you're willing to be fair, then Romney's being deliberately misleading.

5. Romney once again insisted this week, "This is a president who began his presidency by apologizing for America."

That's a lie. It never happened.

More here.


Andy Borowitz: "Now that we all agree contraception is a bad idea, let's take a harder look at electricity and soap."


Nicholas Kristoff finds the answer to a question that has been raised by a number of people:

... I wondered what other religiously affiliated organizations do in this situation. Christian Science traditionally opposed medical care. Does The Christian Science Monitor deny health insurance to employees?

"We offer a standard health insurance package," John Yemma, the editor, told me.

That makes sense. After all, do we really want to make accommodations across the range of faith? What if organizations affiliated with Jehovah's Witnesses insisted on health insurance that did not cover blood transfusions? What if ultraconservative Muslim or Jewish organizations objected to health care except at sex-segregated clinics?


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