Nel's New Day

February 18, 2012

Buchanan Is History

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:25 PM
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It’s official. MSNBC has fired Pat Buchanan. And the uproar on blogs is amazing—several defending his right to spread falsehoods in his raging bigotry. According to some, the First Amendment protects any person from losing a job no matter what that person says. Even some MSNBC employees tried to defend Buchanan, including Joe Scarborough on The Morning Joe Show. There seems to be confusion about employer/employee contracts vs. the control of free speech.

Yet Fox is not completely opposed to Buchanan forced out of his position. In an interview on The Mike Gallagher Show, Fox News host Chris Wallace defended the decision, criticizing Buchanan for saying “some very incendiary things about Israel, about Jews, about Blacks, about other minorities,” and disputing Buchanan’s assertion that he was “blacklisted.” Wallace compared Buchanan to Glenn Beck, describing the former Fox superstar “irresponsible.”

Buchanan himself wrote that liberals try to eliminate debate as they try to silence and censor dissent while pretending to support the freedom of speech piece in the First Amendment.

I’ve written before about Buchanan’s egregious statements, including those in his recently published book. In this pro-white tome, he says, “Mexico is moving north. Ethnically, linguistically, and culturally, the verdict of 1848 is being overturned. Will this Mexican nation within a nation advance the goals of the Constitution—to ‘insure domestic tranquility’ and ‘make us a more perfect union’? Or has our passivity in the face of this invasion imperiled our union?”

Buchanan states that “49 of every 50 muggings and murders inNew York are the work of minorities,” a statistic that “might explain why black folks have trouble getting a cab. Every New York cabbie must know the odds, should he pick up a man of color at night.”

Before his book, Buchanan has been spreading vicious falsehoods for years. Three years ago, he claimed that the U.S. “has been a country built, basically, by white folks.” He missed the work of the Latinos, who lived in many areas far before the white folks moved in, and the blacks, who did much of the work after they were dragged across the ocean to be slaves. Not to mention the Asian-Americans who slaved to develop the country.

Test scores in schools are lower because of minorities, according to Buchanan. “[T]he decline in academic test scores here at home and in international competition is likely to continue, as more and more of the children taking those tests will be African-American and Hispanic.

Jerry Sandusky’s child abuse atrocities are caused by “homosexual marriage,” Buchanan said. In an appearance on a right-wing radio show, he talked about the North American Man Boy Love Association that had marched in the New York gay pride parade, causing Sandusky, in combination with gay marriage, to abuse young boys.

Buchanan claimed that the U.S. Jewish population dropped during the 1990s because Jews aborted all their babies. He quotes a non-existent study to support his position that the proliferation of Jewish abortions “is a result of the collective decision of Jews themselves. From Betty Friedan to Gloria Steinem in the 1970s to Ruth Bader Ginsburg today, Jewish women have led the battle for abortion rights. The community followed.”

When Anders Breivik murdered 77 people including 69 teens in Norway, Buchanan said he “may have been right.” His justification for Breivik’s actions was the need to stop the “Islamic world that is growing in numbers and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries.”

Buchanan attacked California’s 9th Circuit Judge Vaughn Walker for his ruling of Proposition 8 as unconstitutional, calling him a “judicial tyrant.” Buchanan’s supported his statement by saying that “through history, all the great religions have condemned homosexuality and all the great nations have proscribed or punished it. None ever placed homosexual liaisons on the same plane as traditional marriage, which is the bedrock institution of any healthy society.”

All President Obama’s achievements are because of affirmative action from his Nobel Peace Prize to his Ivy League scholarships, law review editorships, and prime-time speaking slots at national conventions, Buchanan said. “He did not earn” any of these, Buchanan claims.

Poland and the United Kingdom deserved all the atrocities that happened in World War II because they would not engage in diplomacy with Germany. “Why did Warsaw not negotiate with Berlin, which was hinting at an offer of compensatory territory in Slovakia?” he asked. “Because the Poles had a war guarantee from Britain that, should Germany attack ,Britain and her empire would come to Poland’s rescue.”

Buchanan also defended convicted Nazi war criminal Ivan Demjanjuk, who he compared to Jesus Christ, because Holocaust survivors “disremembered”  these atrocities. “This so-called ‘Holocaust Survivor Syndrome’ involves ‘group fantasies of martyrdom and heroics.’ Reportedly, half of the 20,000 survivor testimonies in Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem are considered ‘unreliable,’ not to be used in trials[…]The problem is: Diesel engines do not emit enough carbon monoxide to kill anybody.”

Buchanan called Adolf Hitler a man of “great courage, a soldier’s soldier in the Great War, a leader steeped in the history of Europe, who possessed oratorical powers that could awe even those who despised him[…]His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path.”

The same people who complain about the toxic media are now trying to defend Buchanan’s lies that he uses to justify his vicious bigotry and hatred. People need to be educated, not inflamed, by the media if they are ever able to more forward. People deserve reasonable dialog, not inflammatory falsehoods.

February 17, 2012

Payroll Tax Cut Extended

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:48 PM

Congress passed the payroll tax cut bill today for the rest of 2012 with a whimper rather than the storm and fury shown in December when the Republicans fought it down to two months. Largely the whole thing was a yawn. Parties in the House were split in its 293-132 vote: 91 Republicans and 41 Democrats opposed the bill. The Senate vote was 60-36, with fewer Republicans because the 60-vote majority was not required for passage. And they did it in less than two weeks.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was his usual nasty self, like a middle-school kid who lost a fight: “According to the White House, when he signs this bill, he’s finished. For those of you who haven’t noticed, the president checked out last Labor Day and has been unengaged in leading our country ever since. It has been one nonstop campaign trip after another. So he can campaign all he wants, but the Republicans are going to stay focused on jobs.” That probably translates into more bills preventing birth control and abortion the way it did when they promised jobs a year ago.

Republicans were upset because the payroll tax wasn’t “paid for.” Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) said that the bill would starve Social Security.

Democrats opposed the requirement of federal workers starting employment after 2012 to contribute more to their federal retirement package. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said, “Nobody is targeted in this bill other than federal employees. That’s not how you want to treat our employees, America’s employees.” Federal unemployment benefits were dropped from 99 to 63 weeks, and unemployment recipients were prevented from accessing their benefits in casinos, liquor stores, and strip clubs.

There are a few other losses for Democrats, including some health care cuts, but largely the passing of this bill means a victory for anyone making less than $106,800. The Republicans see it as a failure, yet it’s the first bi-partisan success since Republicans took over the House and controlled the filibuster in the Senate 13 and a half months ago.

Mostly politicians, especially the Republican presidential candidates, are very quiet about the bill that President Obama has promised to immediately sign. The media has short pieces about the passing of the bill with almost no commentary. It’s as if people are waiting to find what someone else says about the law.

Hopefully, the bi-partisan success will continue, but it’s like watching a venomous snake lose after striking too many times: the poison will return, and the snake will strike again.

February 16, 2012

Hypocrisy of Catholic Politicians

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:53 PM
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Catholic leaders oppose birth control on religious grounds and claim that President Obama has declared a “war on religion” by forcing them to participate in this. Both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are Catholics and carry the banner for the Catholic bishops who want to control women’s reproductive rights. Foster Friess, the main donor to the Super PAC backing Rick Santorum’s presidential bid, describes the candidate’s approach toward birth control: “On this contraceptive thing, my gosh, it’s so inexpensive. You know, back in my days, they used Baer Aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

Determined to castigate President Obama for giving free birth control to women, House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) called a hearing this morning to investigate the Obama administration’s new regulation requiring employers and insurers to provide contraception coverage to their employees. Who testified? The first panel of witnesses was composed of male religious leaders opposing the rule. Ranking committee member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) asked Issa to include a female witness at the hearing, but Issa refused because the hearing wasn’t about reproductive rights and contraception but instead how the administration’s actions relate to freedom of religion and conscience. He also refused to allow the testimony of a female college student because she lacks “the appropriate credentials” to testify before his committee. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) walked out of the hearing in protest of his decision.

Yet conservative and Catholic politicians fail to follow the Catholic Church policies in many important ways.

Preventive war: The U.S. Conference of Bishops and the Pope have denounced “preventive war,” which George W. Bush started with his attacks on Iraq and Republican presidential candidates, except Ron Paul, want to continue with an attack despite no real and present threat of an Iranian assault on the U.S. In opposition to the Catholic policy, the hawkish Santorum wants to ride the rocket down on Isfahan himself.

Israeli withdrawal: Catholic bishops demand that Israelis leave the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967; Rick Santorum denies that Palestinians exist.

Immigrant persecution: After Arizona passed its restrictive laws regarding immigrants, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops tore into the state’s position, and Cardinal Roger Mahony characterized Arizona’s S.B. 1070 as “the country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant law,” saying it is based on “totally flawed reasoning: that immigrants come to our country to rob, plunder, and consume public resources.” Santorum, however, is a believer of “anchor babies” and opposes any services to children of illegal immigrants despite the fact that these children are legal citizens according to the Constitution.

The bishops also hold the position that illegal immigrants should not be treated as criminals and that their contribution to this country be recognized. In fact, many Catholic priests provide sanctuary for these people. Santorum wants them all out of the nation.

Health care for all: The Conference of Catholic Bishops requires that health care be provided to all Americans, but Santorum opposes universal health care.

Executions: Santorum largely supports executions while the Catholic Church opposes the death penalty for criminals in most situations.

Minimum wage: Santorum has always voted against the minimum wages, but the U.S. Conference of Bishops urges an increase of the federal minimum wage for the working poor.

Welfare: The bishops also support welfare for all needy families, saying, “We reiterate our call for a minimum national welfare benefit that will permit children and their parents to live in dignity. A decent society will not balance its budget on the backs of poor children.” Santorum is a vocal opponent of welfare.

Union support: While the U.S. bishops declare that “the basic rights of workers must be respected–the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions…,” Santorum has reversed his support of unions in the 1990s has turned to opposing them, starting with eliminating all public employee unions.

Conservatives do not truly believe in freedom of religion over law; they believe in Christian control of the country over all other religions and secular beliefs. This is proved by the proliferating laws against Sharia law at the same time that conservatives fight birth control, same-sex marriage and other LGBT rights, abortion, and the teaching of creationism and climate change because of  “Christian” law. Religion is the same argument preventing interracial marriage until the Supreme Court declared that one class could not be discriminated against—despite Christian beliefs.

All the candidates have made some of the following statements: No religion but Christianity will suffice. U.S. law should follow God’s law. Anything that’s immoral by religious standards should be outlawed. Courts that get in the way should be abolished. Freedom means obeying morality. In their war on women—in fact, all people—all four of the candidates oppose insurance covering birth control, breast cancer screening, coverage for maternity and newborn care, women under 26 on their parents’ insurance, and screening for diabetes. All four candidatesfavor continuing higher insurance costs for women than for men.

Under a theocracy, people in the United States will lose the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. On the other hand, with the Catholics running things, there might not be preventive wars, executions, and persecution of immigrants. People could receive welfare, if necessary, and universal health care. All workers could freely belong to unions, and the minimum wage might be increased. And the Palestinians could return to the land that they had before 1967. If only Catholic candidates actually listened to everything that their church preaches rather than just picking the political hot spots!

February 15, 2012

Loving Gives Hope to Same-Sex Marriage

When Richard and Mildred Loving married over a half-century ago, they were arrested in their home state of Virginia and sent to jail. After a trial, the judge released them on a suspended sentence under the condition that they leave the state for 25 years and not return together. He did this because Richard was designated “white” by the state because he was over 99 percent Anglo and Mildred was classified as “Nigra” because she was half black and half Native American.

After five years of miserable exile in Washington, D.C., Mildred wrote Robert Kennedy asking whether the civil rights legislation might help them. He said it would not and that they should contact the ACLU. This action led to five years of court battles, resulting in the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimously ruling in Loving v.Virginia that interracial couples could legally marry any place in this nation, overturning the law in 16 states. Alabama didn’t remove its anti-miscegenation law from the books until 2000.

Yesterday, on Valentine’s Day, HBO showed director Nancy Buirski’s 78-minute documentary, The Loving Story, about the couple’s journey from banishment in Virginia to legalized interracial marriage across the country.  The story of their nine years’ together between the marriage and the court ruling is made even more compelling because of the rare photographs by Life photographer Grey Villet and archival footage by filmmaker Hope Ryden which were stored in a closet for almost 40 years. These show such simple activities as the couple holding hands and Mildred putting socks and patent leather shoes on their daughter, Peggy, while Richard loads the fireplace with wood. At the same time, they are forced to live their lives in secret, but their love shines in the photographs and films.

What struck me most about this documentary is the parallel to the nation’s fight over same-sex marriage. The Lovings were arrested at 2:00 am when the sheriff broke into their home, something that some older gays and lesbians have experienced. The couple was legally married in Washington, D.C., but in Virginia they went to jail because they were married in another U.S. jurisdiction. They had no rights such as receiving each other’s Social Security and inheriting the other’s property without a will if one of them died.

The court and the state law used God and the Bible to justify making the Lovings’  marriage illegal. According to the judge, God showed that he didn’t want interracial marriage because he put each race on a different planet. In the Supreme Court argument against Loving, the Virginia attorney general said the reason for preventing interracial marriage was the children. They deserved a stable home, and interracial couples could not provide this because of the stresses on them. They weren’t allowed to marry because society didn’t want them to be together. Audiotapes of the Supreme Court arguments show that the attorney general also justified the state’s anti-miscegenation statutes in the same way that they have the right to prohibit incest, polygamy, and underage marriage.

The two young ACLU lawyers who took on the Lovings’ case, Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop, were very young. Cohen had been out of law school only three years, and Hischkkop only two—not even long enough to argue in front of the Supreme Court without partnership with another qualified lawyer. Their arguments came from the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments—rights “retained by the people” that do not expressly appear in the Bill of Rights (Ninth Amendment) and due process and equal protection under the law (Fourteenth Amendment). As one of the Justices pointed out,Virginia refused to give a class of people their equal rights. In the same way the United States refuses rights for another class of people, gays and lesbians.

The oral arguments included the question of how the state would be damaged by interracial marriage and what the couple would lose without the opportunity to be married inVirginia. The state could provide no compelling reason, whereas the Lovings’ losses included their inability to be near their family.

Gays and lesbians have much more to lose if they cannot be married, such as potential loss of couple’s home from medical expenses of one partner caring for another gravely ill one; costs of supporting two households, travel, or emigration out of the U.S. for an American citizen unable to legally marry a non-U.S. citizen; higher cost of purchasing private insurance for partner and children if the employer is not one of 18 percent that offer domestic partner benefits; payment of higher taxes because domestic partner benefits are taxed as additional compensation; legal costs associated with obtaining domestic partner documents to gain some of the power of attorney, health care decision-making, and inheritance rights granted through legal marriage; higher health costs associated with lack of insurance and preventative care because 20 percent of same-sex couples have a member who is uninsured compared to 10 percent of married opposite-sex couples; inheritance taxes because unmarried couples cannot inherit an unlimited amount from the deceased without incurring an estate tax; and over 1000 other issues.

The Lovings did not want to hear the oral arguments before the Supreme Court. Cohen asked Richard if he had anything to tell the court. All he said was “Tell the court that I love my wife, and it is unfair that I can’t live with her inVirginia.” People in same-sex relationships agree. They love their partners and restrictive laws that prevent their legal marriage in the United States are unfair.

The bottom line is that the Constitution was written, in part, to protect the minority. It does not allow the majority to vote away the rights of the minority, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wants to do by vetoing the same-sex marriage bill passed by the legislation and sending it to voters to decide. As the Rev. Al Sharpton said on The Bill Maher Show, if people are allowed to vote on human rights, he’ll be sitting at the back of the bus again. Symbolically, the LGBT community is still there.

In its ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court wrote, “Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

A year before she died, on the fortieth anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia decision, Mildred Loving said, “Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the ‘wrong kind of person’ for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights. I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

February 14, 2012

Virginia Republicans Promise to Penetrate Women

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:06 PM
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Not satisfied with taking away birth control from women, the Republicans—the ones who want small government—want to penetrate women. In their vaginas. The Virginia House has passed a bill, 63-36, that will force women to endure a “transvaginal ultrasound” before having a legal abortion. No exceptions for rape or incest. No exceptions if the woman’s medical provider believes that this procedure is a bad idea. No exceptions. House member Todd Gilbert referred to abortion as a matter of “lifestyle convenience.”

Virginia was one of the first states that sued against “ObamaCare” using the argument that government cannot force people to purchase health insurance. Yet this is the same state that will force women having a legal procedure to be penetrated without their consent, the state that will dictate medical procedures. This is the state that refuses to require young women to have a vaccination against HPV because the conservatives stated the state has no business mandating a vaccine against a virus that can cause cervical cancer.

The bill now goes to the Senate which plans to pass it. Gov. Bob McDonnell has said that he will sign it. Remember that name because he is on the short list for vice-president of the United States.

Virginia is also on the verge of passing a personhood law, declaring that human rights begin from the instant that a sperm hits the egg. That bill passed the house, 66-32. This is the same bill that people in Mississippi rejected, the bill that could make birth control illegal. In the Virginia senate, Bill Stanley won passage of a measure that would permit wrongful death civil lawsuits against those who kill a fetus.

Sonograms show fetal images, but Virginia insists on literally penetrating women’s vaginas. That’s how little the conservatives in that state think of women. If this passes, other conservatively-controlled states will surely follow Virginia’s example, and a conservative Congress and president could follow suit. Vote in the next election against people who are willing to abuse women in this way. And tell everyone you know to vote against these people.

February 13, 2012

GOP Determined to Move Women Back a Century

During the past half century, the United States has been involved in a number of wars. First there was the War on Poverty. We lost that one. Then there was the War on Drugs. That seems to be in flux. Bush declared War on Terrorism and simply increased the problem. Conservatives accuse President Obama of a “war on religion” and “class warfare.” The war I’m watching right now is a subset of the culture war, the war on women.

For the past few days, the media has been filled with the “war on birth control” and the customary “war on abortion” as conservatives work diligently to control women’s personal behavior. The “war on women” is clearly exemplified by a Dallas (TX) school district that separated fifth-grade boys and girls: boys went to see the exciting movie Red Tails about the Tuskegee Airmen, black pilots trained in segregation during World War II by white officers. Meanwhile the girls stayed at school to see Akeelah and the Bee, the story of an 11-year-old girl competing in a national spelling bee.

There’s a huge irony in this segregation because the “boys’ movie” is about segregation, about blacks separated from the whites when they flew during the war. World War II was also a time of sex discrimination. One of the airmen depicted in the movie, 94-year-old Herbert Carter, told about his wife of almost 70 years, Mildred Carter, who was barred by the military but flew privately for decades. “My wife would turn flip-flops. She thought that all human beings were equal, regardless of sex, race, creed or color. She would take great offense to young women being denied this [opportunity.]”

School district spokesman Jon Dahlander said that the theater couldn’t hold all the students and that they thought that boys would enjoy the movie more than girls. The $57,000 cost of buses and movie tickets for the 5,700 boys came from federal Title I money, designed to educate low-income students, because of huge cuts to education by the state of Texas. Use of federal funding in sex discrimination violated Title IX, a law passed over 40 years ago, that prevents federal funding from going to schools that practice gender-based discrimination.

That case is in only one school district. Rick Santorum’s belief in sexual discrimination is on a much larger scale. This man who wants to represent the entire United States opposes birth control for all women because, in his mind, it leads to immorality. Women shouldn’t be allowed to be the president of the United States, according to one of Santorum’s staffers. Earlier this year, Jamie Johnson, the Iowa coalitions director Jamie Johnson, sent Santorum an email explaining that a female president would harm children’s lives. “The question then comes, ‘Is it God’s highest desire, that is, his biblically expressed will, … to have a woman rule the institutions of the family, the church, and the state?’ ” Johnson’s email said. Johnson is still a staff member.

Santorum’s demonstration of sex discrimination is furthered by his belief that military women should not serve in combat situations. The Pentagon announced last week that it would allow women service members to be permanently assigned to a battalion “as radio operators, medics, tank mechanics and other critical jobs” in an easing of the prohibition of women in combat situations.

The Pentagon had explained that it is formalizing situations that already exist because women have “temporary” assignments, not only to these areas but also to infantry foot patrols where they have engaged in direct combat. The women who are exposed to combat on these temporary assignments are prevented from receiving the same promotions as men get. Three-quarters of Americans believe that women should be allowed to engage in direct combat, and even 62 percent of the Republicans agree with this. U.S. partners in the battlefield–including Canada, Israel, France, and Germany—have women serving in combat roles.

Santorum is concerned that “emotions” would weaken the mission: “I do have concerns about women in frontline combat. I think that can be a very compromising situation where — where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interests of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved. And I think that’s probably — you know, it already happens, of course, with the camaraderie of men in combat. But it’s — but it’s — I think it would be even more unique if women were in combat. And I think that’s probably not in the best interests of men, women or the mission.” [Following Santorum’s speech patterns is like wandering in a maze.]

Later Santorum backpedalled, as he does with all his stupid comments, and said that he just meant that men were naturally protective, resulting in problems during combat. But with all concern about protective men around, Santorum may believe that women should not vote, inherit or own property, have custody of their children after a divorce, gain higher education, hold professional jobs, keep any of their own salary, etc.

Right now Rick Santorum is leading in the national polls of the Republican voters. Even if he doesn’t become the nominee, however, all the Republican presidential candidates seem determined to set this nation back at least a century.

February 12, 2012

Obama Changes Birth Control Rule

Besieged by mostly male Catholics for his recent mandate that their schools, hospitals, and charities must provide insurance that gives free birth control to their employees, President Obama move the requirement last Friday to insurance companies, mandating that they provide free contraception to any women contacting their providers. Companies should be delighted to provide the medication because the alternative—pregnancy—costs them far more money. Catholic leaders are still screaming about it because they don’t want women to have any contraception.

President Obama’s new policy contains the following:

  • Contraception will be available to women at no additional cost beginning August 1, 2012.
  • Insurance companies will reach out directly to employees of religious organizations who object to coverage contraception. The contraception will then be provided to the employee at no additional cost.
  • Religious organizations who object are not involved in providing or paying for contraception in any way. Since contraception helps save on overall health care spending, it is a benefit that comes at no net cost, meaning that religious organizations are not subsidizing it any way by merely providing health care coverage for their employees.
  • Churches and organizations that primarily employ and serve members of their own faith would still be excluded from coverage under the plan.

Enraged by the possibility of women getting birth control—or maybe just pushing for conservative votes—Sen. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) has proposed an amendment to the Affordable Care Act allowing any employer or insurance company to “exclude any health service, no matter how essential, from coverage if they morally object to it.” If this were passed, an insurer or an employer could claim a moral or religious objection to covering HIV/AIDS screenings, Type 2 Diabetes treatments, cancer tests, or anything else they deem inappropriate or the result of an “unhealthy” or “immoral” lifestyle. A health plan could also refuse to cover mental health care on the grounds that psychiatric problems should be treated with prayer. Lung cancer might not be covered even if the cause were second-hand smoke. Insurance companies could make a fortune because they wouldn’t have to pay for anything!

Rick Santorum, who stated that the requirement of free birth control for women will lead to people’s beheading in this country, has said that no insurance plan should pay for birth control because it’s so cheap.  In reality, a woman who wants oral contraceptives must pay from $35 to $250 for the provider visit; the medication costs between $15 and $50 a month, depending on medical coverage. Without insurance coverage for contraception, women may pay over $850 the first year of their prescription. Contraceptive patches cost from $15 to $80 dollars per month, possibly costing a woman over $1,200 dollars in the first year. That may be peanuts to Santorum, but for women at the poverty line, it’s unaffordable. For Santorum this may be a small part of his personal budget.

Bishops and conservatives pointing their fingers at President Obama and his so-called “war on religion” ignore the fact that the mandate to require most employers to cover contraception for women went into law over a decade ago and peacefully stayed there during all eight years of George W. Bush’s two terms. In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that companies violated the sex anti-discrimination Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act if they provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn’t provide birth control. For the past 12 years that ruling has applied to all employers with 15 or more employees.

To gain birth control access for women, reproductive rights groups and employees sued employers who were not in compliance. In 2001’s Erickson v. Bartell Drug Co., a federal court ruled with EEOC. Other court decisions echoed Erickson while others disagreed, but, with no U.S. Supreme Court ruling, 90 percent of employer-based plans offered birth control. Judy Waxman, the vice president for health and reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center said, “It has been in active use all this time. [President Obama’s] policy is only new in the sense that it covers employers with less than 15 employees and with no copay for the individual. The basic rule has been in place since 2000.”

Not even religious employers were exempt from the impact of the EEOC decision. Title VII allows religious institutions to discriminate on religious grounds, but it doesn’t allow them to discriminate on the basis of sex. DePaul University, the largest Roman Catholic university inAmerica, added birth control coverage to its plans after receiving an EEOC complaint several years ago.

New York began requiring prescription contraception coverage in 2002 after Catholics groups sued and lost in the state’s highest court. The Supreme Court refused to take on the case. To avoid covering contraception, Catholic institutions in New York would have to drop all prescription drug coverage—including Viagra.

Letters to the editor in my part of the country have said it better than I can. Barbara Scarff Minckler writes, “I find it ironic that the old men who run the Catholic Church, neither husbands nor fathers, who didn’t have the decency to control the pedophiles in their own ranks, think they should have something to say about the most private of women’s concerns, i.e., their reproductive health.” (Meanwhile the Catholic Church is also trying to prevent groups such as Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests from stopping pedophilia.)

Lisa Cannon adds, “Are we really still talking about making birth control available to everyone? Which decade is this? If the people who run Catholic hospitals and universities feel so strongly about denying access to birth control to their employees, then they should refuse to accept federal funds.” She goes on to explain that most Catholics are not opposed to birth control and finishes, “So unless we decide we also want to allow every religion to ignore the laws of our country because they don’t agree with them, this is a non-issue. If prominent Republicans defend this, then I expect to see them defend the rights of Native American to take peyote at religious ceremonies as well.”

Cannon’s last comments refers to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s statement in writing for the majority decision in Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith: “We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that  the State is free to regulate.” People whose religious beliefs oppose war are also still forced to pay for war.

Janie Malloy finishes her letter by stating, “Respecting employers’ religious beliefs does not require allowing them to make health care and reproduction decisions for us.” Amen.

February 10, 2012

Obama Leads to Beheading, Santorum Says

Just when you think that Republican presidential candidates can’t say anything crazier, they do! Ecstatic with his three-state win last Tuesday, Rick Santorum, in his railing against President Obama’s “war on religion” (the conservatives’ phrase) moved from comparisons of the Holocaust to that of the French Revolution. The president wants women to have free birth control. The Republicans don’t want him to be re-elected so they have to rely on fear.

In his speech in Plano (TX),  Santorum gave this ringing cry against the administration: “They are taking faith and crushing it. Why? Why? When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is the French Revolution. What’s left is the government that gives you right, what’s left are no unalienable rights, what’s left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. What’s left in France became the guillotine. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re a long way from that, but if we do and follow the path of President Obama and his overt hostility to faith in America, then we are headed down that road.”

First, the statement is a bit incoherent. But more important, if one assumes that Santorum thinks that providing free birth control leads to beheading people, then he has the same misguided view of history that all the Republican candidates seem to have. Faith had nothing to do with the French Revolution. The revolution began because of unfair taxation and a wide separation between the rich and the poor while the wealthy lived lavishly and the poor starved. After France spiraled economically downward, the king wanted to tax previously exempt nobility, who then refused to be taxed.

The French assembly, composed of Three Estates (the clergy, the nobility, and the public), voted. What a surprise to find out that the public lost! Unwilling to accept the vote that continued to exempt taxes by the nobility, the public took the situation into their own hands. While Paris citizens stormed the Bastille, the peasants and farmers attacked the manors of their feudal landlords. Labors and workers, deep in poverty, joined the fight. Santorum must have missed that day in his world history class—or he may have been exempt for that in his curriculum.

The Revolutionaries, inspired by the American Revolution, wrote and signed the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen:

  • Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
  • The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
  • The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.
  • Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.

Santorum has publicly stated that he has the right to legislate private lives by making contraception illegal and bases his position on his personal religious beliefs. His policy that violates the Constitutional separation of Church and State while violating the religious freedom of non-Christians. His goal to institute religious law across the land sounds like Islamic law in Middle Eastern countries. In Iran, religious law is the law; Santorum would try to do the same thing in the United States if he had any power.

No traditional Christian group, starting in this country with the Puritans, has ever promoted democracy and the rights of man. Religious law promotes obedience and lack of tolerance toward non-believers. Our nation has a history of Christian law that has endorsed racism, anti-Semitism, denial of women’s rights, and the slaughtering of the country’s natives to take over the land. Outspoken religious people who have fought for tolerance and human rights have frequently been expelled by the religious establishment.

Over 50 years ago, people feared that John F. Kennedy would impose his Catholic faith on the country if he were elected president. Now the conservatives cheer Santorum when he promises to force all people in this country to follow his Catholic beliefs. We have come to a very frightening turning point in the condition of the United States.

February 9, 2012

Anti-Komen Information Continues to Emerge

Komen Race for the Cure—who would know how much more information would come out from under the rocks!? It’s worth another blog after the one a few days ago. To summarize the situation, Komen decided to defund Planned Parenthood because it was under “investigation” by a legislator and, after a great protest across the country, recanted its decision. The funding was less than $700,000 out of Komen’s budget, less than the organization paid to lobby against the new health care law, and not used for anything except cancer detection. Karen Handel, who some people hold responsible for the decision, has resigned. Komen indicated that it still might defund Planned Parenthood because it doesn’t provide mammograms.

First, the word “cure” that Komen thinks it owns and sues anyone else using the term. Now, of those categories being researched, which sounds like it is actually focused on curing breast cancer? A breakdown of research spending from 1982-2010: treatment, 22 percent; early detection, 15 percent; etiology, 8 percent; prevention, 10 percent; model systems, 3 percent; survivorship, 9 percent; and biology, 33 percent. How many of these categories contribute to the “cure”? Treatment and early detection don’t help the cure. That leaves 53 percent of research funding, and Komen spends only 15 percent for research, down from a decade below. The math comes out to less than 8 cents of every dollar donated to Komen that’s spent on the “cure.”

Remember the “pinkwashing,” in which corporations promise to donate money if you buy pink stuff? These donations are for only a limited time: if you buy pink after that, the corporation takes all the money. Plus they may increase the price to pay for the pink and then not lower it after the end of the donation time.

Back to prevention instead of the cure. Scientific studies show that good health habits can inhibit cancer. Komen fails to mention getting enough Vitamin D, and eating healthy without sugar because the organization promotes pink cupcakes and greasy fried chicken. As a major player in the cancer industry, Komen would collapse if a cancer cure was developed.

Until 2008, Komen could not provide unlimited funds for lobbying. This changed when they founded the Advocacy Alliance, a 504(c)4 non-profit. At that time the staff was largely Democrat under staffer Jennifer Luray who received a six-figure severance package when she left in 2010 for a new job. That’s when now-resigned ultra-conservative Karen Handel took over and Planned Parenthood got put on the chopping block for funding. Megan Carpentier points out that, despite Handel’s claim that she had nothing to do with this decision, she earlier said that her role was to “[work] with [the affiliates] to make sure they are as strong as they can be.” Her salary has not been disclosed. Results from the tax year ending on March 31, 2012, will bring this to light—as well as her severance package.

Even Komen members knew that pulling funding from Planned Parenthood was a bad idea, according to a former employee who spoke anonymously. An internal staff review and board subcommittee agreed that the funding should be continued. Cutting off all funds would endanger low-income women who depended on the service, and a partial cutoff would compromise the integrity of the grants process and not shut up critics. Former senior communications advisor John Hammerly said, “It was our recommendation that we stay the course.” The full board unanimously overruled the subcommittee’s recommendations.

So who are the members of the board? Ultra-conservative and founder of Susan G. Komen in the name of her sister, Nancy Brinker, of course. Also her son, Eric. Then Dallas socialite/philanthropist/GOP donor/oil baroness/Junior Leaguer Linda Custard, who chairs the board of the elite Hockaday prep school (once attended by G.W. Bush’s daughters) and serves as a trustee for Southern Methodist University (eventual home to the G.W. Bush Library). Connie O’Neill has a similar portfolio; she notably serves on the school district finance committee of Highland Park (the most conservative zip code in the country), as well as the Crystal Charity ball, vital in the world of rich Texas Republicans. Also corporate real estate law firm founder Silicon Valley VC Linda Law, a Republican National Committee Regent, meaning a $250,000+ donor. These are in addition to Jane Abraham, the General Chairman of the anti-choice and anti-science Susan B. Anthony List and of its Political Action Committee.

Myths have swirled around the country, sometimes to justify the Komen action. But the facts don’t change:

Komen is still considering the withdrawal of grants from Planned Parenthood. The Washington Post reported, “It did not specifically state that the foundation would fund Planned Parenthood but said that the group would be eligible to apply for future grants.”

Komen has a problem with its strong connection to Republican politics. “A review of the board of directors of Komen…reveals that Brinker has the likely votes to control board decisions at any given time, and that those votes are either Republican stalwarts or individuals personally loyal to her,” Buzzflash reported. James Abruzzo, a management and global business instructor at Rutgers Business School, said,  “When you have a chairman who’s also the president, you have a lack of checks and balances. The founder generally populates the board with friends and associates.’’

Komen suffered from decisions influenced by right-wing Republicans Karen Handel and Ari Fleischer. According to an anonymous employee, “Karen Handel was the prime instigator of this effort, and she herself personally came up with investigation criteria. She said, ‘If we just say it’s about investigations, we can defund Planned Parenthood and no one can blame us for being political.'” Emails between Komen leadership on the day the Planned Parenthood decision was announced, reviewed by Huffington Post under the condition they not be published, confirm the source’s description of Handel’s sole “authority” in crafting and implementing the Planned Parenthood policy.

Komen has led lobbying efforts against common-sense healthcare bills for years–even those that would help women. Komen has stood in the way of research into environmental causes of cancer. In 2002, Mary Ann Swissler reported that a July 12, 2001 agreement between the President and five companies to run a Medicare prescription discount card program for Medicare patients included a company called Caremark Rx where Nancy Brinker was on the board of directors. If approved, the discount cards would provide up to a 10 percent discount on brand-name drugs.

Komen may have temporarily lost PR through this brouhaha, but it brought up horrible myths such as a medical link between abortion and cancer. An Oregon newspaper has published a letter to the editor stating this as fact. The American Cancer Society concluded, “At this time, the scientific evidence does not support the notion that abortion of any kind raises the risk of breast cancer or any other type of cancer.” Every major study supports this finding.

Even Brinker knows that abortion does not have a link to cancer. She called it “an old wives’ tale” in her memoir when she vigorously defended Komen’s Planned Parenthood grants. “The grants in question supplied breast health counseling, screening, and treatment to rural women, poor women, Native American women, many women of color who were underserved–if served at all–in areas where Planned Parenthood facilities were often the only infrastructure available. Though it meant losing corporate money from Curves [religiously-affiliated fitness centers], we were not about to turn our backs on these women.” Yet Komen added Jane Abraham, of the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List to its board. “Abraham is also closely affiliated with the Nurturing Network, a global network of crisis pregnancy centers,” Jodi Jacobsen of RH Reality writes, “Groups like Nurturing Network are the nucleus of lies about abortion and breast cancer.”

The backlash against Komen was a widespread grassoots revolt, not a conspiracy by the “liberal media” in spite of what columnist Ross Douthat writes. When he cries about the media opposition to the country’s “pro-life” voices, he ignores the fury from millions of American women in taking money from Planned Parenthood. Deanna Zandt, who created the Planned Parenthood Saved Me tumblr, posted information about who came to her site: “You might think our crazy traffic came from those media mentions. Shockingly, no–most of the hits came before the major media. So, to repeat: telling and sharing our stories matters.”

Keep that anger alive when “small” government tries to take away women’s reproductive rights—like the current batch of Republicans who want to make birth control illegal. Think it can’t happen? Listen to the candidates’ speeches—before the fury over Komen and Planned Parenthood occurred.

February 8, 2012

Conscience = Discrimination

Conscience. What a strange word to use when discriminating against people. Once again, religious groups have co-opted a term to oppose the scientific view that conscience is probably learned or imprinted (like language) as part of a culture.

The concept of conscience has provided the latest firestorm against President Obama regarding the requirement that all health insurance plans cover birth control without co-pay with exemptions those provided by churches and other places of worship. Because the Catholic Church operates an unbelievable number of businesses including private schools, universities, hospitals, and charities, millions of employees in these institution are not Catholic. Catholic leaders don’t want to follow the president’s guidelines—except in the 28 states that already require insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and services. No matter that the Church will not be paying for birth control; the insurance carriers do this as part of the benefits.

Republicans are delighted with their war on contraception because they can scream from the rooftops that President Obama is violating the First Amendment right of religious freedom. But what will the result be from their constituents? Republicans are ignoring the fact that 58 percent of Catholics believe that all employers should provide no co-pay birth control, and 98 percent of Catholic women use or have used contraception. Eighty-five percent of all Catholics support expanding access to birth control for women who cannot afford it, higher than the 82 percent of the general population who favors this, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington, D.C.

The decision to provide free birth control to women was based on an Institute of Medicine study concluding that birth control is medically necessary to “ensure women’s health and well being,” echoing similar recommendations by other medical organizations such as the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Public Health Association.

Demonstrating the extremes to which conservatives are going to fight the health benefit of birth control for women, MSNBC commentator Eric Metaxas compared the requirement to provide contraception to women to the rise of Nazi Germany. Men in Congress have again retreated from solving the economy and jobs problem to again trying to control women’s bodies.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced legislation promoted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, an organization with $26 million in its annual lobbying budget. This legislation would make all women who work for Catholic-operated institutions—nurses, janitors, teachers, etc.—purchase their own birth control unless state law provides that all employee insurance provide birth control or Catholic institutions already include this provision in the insurance policies.

House Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has sworn that Congress will overturn the administration’s mandate. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) claimed that the requirement of contraception coverage in employers’ insurance plans was a “bailout for Planned Parenthood” because birth control “is unrelated to the basic needs of health care.”

“What we are seeing now is the unfortunate fruits of the logical extension of the cesspool of Jacques Rousseau and his civil religion, whereby which your true religion was tolerated as long as it was subservient to the state,” Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) said. “That is not what this nation is about–it is a clear violation of your constitutional right to freely exercise your religion.”

In response, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said, “Women’s health care should not depend on who the boss is.”

As Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) explained, the administration’s rule has exempted 335,000 churches and other places of worship. “The concept of separation of church and state protects these 335,000 places of worship, but the concept of separation of church and state does not mean that a church can use their bully pulpit to separate millions of women from critical healthcare benefits,”Moore said, adding that separation of church and state does not trump women’s access to contraception.

Conscience is also the excuse in Virginia to give private adoption agencies the right to refuse parents based on sexual orientation or religious and moral beliefs. Under consideration in the state is adding state-funded, faith-based agencies to the list of agencies that can choose which parents are suitable for adoption based on the agencies’ beliefs. At this time, gay and lesbian couples are prevented from adopting because unmarried couples cannot adopt and gays and lesbians cannot get married in Virginia and eight other states. Thus gay and lesbian parents will be forced to contribute their tax dollars to an agency that, in turn, refuse them its adoption services.

The state currently permits single people, including gays and lesbians to adopt.  At this time, approximately 2,279 same-sex couples are raising about 4,558 children inVirginia, most adopted in Virginia, allowing only one parent to have custody.The new law will be more restrictive than the existing one, allowing agencies to refuse adoption by a single gay or lesbian.

Although the federal government has some protection against discrimination, Virginia allows faith-based organizations to discriminate based on gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and family status. These discriminations will almost certainly continue with the new law despite the 1996 Supreme Court ruling that gays and lesbians are a distinct legal classification and entitled to collective protection under the Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection clauses.

As with the birth control bruhaha, the Virginia legislature ignores the will of the people. Last year a Washington Post poll showed that 55 percent of Virginians think that gays and lesbians should be able to legally adopt children, and a Quinnipiac University poll showed that 59 percent of Virginians think that state-run agencies should not ban prospective parents based on their sexual orientation.

The basic question is how far religion can discriminate in the name of religious freedom. For example, if state-funded organizations can deny service to gays and lesbians in adoptive services, can they also deny services to them in hospitals? If Catholic institutions can discriminate against non-Catholic employees in providing health care, can they then discriminate against them in hiring? How far can religions go in infringing on other people’s rights in the name of religious freedom? Why should religions be able to use their beliefs to exclude rights and services when they receive government funding? Why should people be forced to contribute financially to organizations that refuse to provide services to these same people?

If an Islam-operated hospital were to insist that its employees be bound by Sharia law, Congress would be screaming that this is wrong. Their position on freedom of religion is attached only to the Christian religion, which means that they don’t actually believe in religious freedom—just in the political clout that the argument might give them.

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