Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Some of the most intelligent group of words I’ve ever read

~ Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

From Ezra Klein on January 10, 2016…

On Monday, Donald Trump held a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he merrily repeated a woman in the crowd who called Ted Cruz a pussy. Twenty-four hours later Donald Trump won the New Hampshire primary in a landslide.

I’m not here to clutch my pearls over Trump’s vulgarity; what was telling, rather, was the immaturity of the moment, the glee Trump took in his “she-said-it-I-didn’t” game. The media, which has grown used to covering Trump as a sideshow, delighted in the moment along with him — it was funny, and it meant clicks, takes, traffic. But it was more than that. It was the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president showing off the demagogue’s instinct for amplifying the angriest voice in the mob.

It is undeniably enjoyable watching Trump. He’s red-faced, discursive, funny, angry, strange, unpredictable, and real. He speaks without filter and tweets with reckless abandon. The Donald Trump phenomenon is a riotous union of candidate ego and voter id. America’s most skilled political entertainer is putting on the greatest show we’ve ever seen.

It’s so fun to watch that it’s easy to lose sight of how terrifying it really is.
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Trump is the most dangerous major candidate for president in memory. He pairs terrible ideas with an alarming temperament; he’s a racist, a sexist, and a demagogue, but he’s also a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante. He lies so constantly and so fluently that it’s hard to know if he even realizes he’s lying. He delights in schoolyard taunts and luxuriates in backlash.

Trump is in serious contention to win the Republican presidential nomination. His triumph in a general election is unlikely but it is far from impossible. He’s not a joke and he’s not a clown. He’s a man who could soon be making decisions of war and peace, who would decide which regulations are enforced and which are lifted, who would be responsible for nominating Supreme Court Justices and representing America in the community of nations. This is not political entertainment. This is politics.

Trump’s path to power has been unnerving. His business is licensing out his own name as a symbol of opulence. He has endured bankruptcies and scandal by bragging his way out of them. He rose to prominence in the Republican Party as a leader of the birther movement. He climbed to the top of the polls in this election by calling Mexicans rapists and killers. He defended a poor debate performance by accusing Megyn Kelly of being on her period. He responded to rival Ted Cruz’s surge by calling for a travel ban on Muslims. When two of his supporters attacked a homeless man and said they did it because “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” he brushed off complaints that he’s inspiring violence by saying his supporters are “very passionate.”

Behind Trump’s success is an unerring instinct for harnessing anger, resentment, and fear. His view of the economy is entirely zero-sum — for Americans to win, others must lose. “We’re going to make America great again,” he said in his New Hampshire victory speech, “but we’re going to do it the old fashioned way. We’re going to beat China, Japan, beat Mexico at trade. We’re going to beat all of these countries that are taking so much of our money away from us on a daily basis. It’s not going to happen anymore.”

Trump answers America’s rage with more rage. As the journalist Molly Ball observed, “All the other candidates say ‘Americans are angry, and I understand.’ Trump says, ‘I’M angry.'” Trump doesn’t offer solutions so much as he offers villains. His message isn’t so much that he’ll help you as he’ll hurt them.

Donald Trump Holds New Hampshire Primary Night Gathering In Manchester
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Trump’s other gift — the one that gets less attention, but is perhaps more important — is his complete lack of shame. It’s easy to underestimate how important shame is in American politics. But shame is our most powerful restraint on politicians who would find success through demagoguery. Most people feel shame when they’re exposed as liars, when they’re seen as uninformed, when their behavior is thought cruel, when respected figures in their party condemn their actions, when experts dismiss their proposals, when they are mocked and booed and protested.

Trump doesn’t. He has the reality television star’s ability to operate entirely without shame, and that permits him to operate entirely without restraint. It is the single scariest facet of his personality. It is the one that allows him to go where others won’t, to say what others can’t, to do what others wouldn’t.

Trump lives by the reality-television trope that he’s not here to make friends. But the reason reality-television villains always say they’re not there to make friends is because it sets them apart, makes them unpredictable and fun to watch. “I’m not here to make friends” is another way of saying “I’m not bound by the social conventions of normal people.” The rest of us are here to make friends, and it makes us boring, gentle, kind.

This, more than his ideology, is why Trump genuinely scares me. There are places where I think Trump’s instincts are an improvement on the Republican field. He seems more dovish than neoconservatives like Marco Rubio, and less dismissive of the social safety net than libertarians like Rand Paul. But those candidates are checked by institutions and incentives that hold no sway over Trump; his temperament is so immature, his narcissism so clear, his political base so unique, his reactions so strange, that I honestly have no idea what he would do — or what he wouldn’t do.

When MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough asked Trump about his affection for Vladimir Putin, who “kills journalists, political opponents and invades countries,” Trump replied, “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.” Later, he clarified that he doesn’t actually condone killing journalists, but, he warned the crowd, “I do hate them.”

It’s a lie that if you put a frog into a pot of water and slowly turn up the heat the frog will simply boil, but it’s a fact that if you put the American political system in a room with Trump for long enough we slowly lose track of how noxious he is, or we at least run out of ways to keep repeating it.

But tonight is a night to repeat it. There is something scary in Donald Trump. We should fear his rise.

about the human soul and the damage that tens of thousands of deaths can do

~ Friday, January 25th, 2013

This is the kind of reader email that says more than any professional writer could ever hope to express. Yes, it’s on gun control. But it’s also about the human soul and the damage that tens of thousands of deaths can do – far beyond the actual victims.

I read about your scary childhood experience and I had to leave work due to the sick feeling in my gut. The sick feeling has been building, maybe since Sandy Hook, but your story forced to write about something I had never written about before.

I accidentally killed my best friend when I was 15. Shot my best friend of eight years a week before we started high school. I was sitting in his room holding his rifle across my legs as he talked about how he had looked it up in some collectors guide and it was worth more than when he got it (Christmas or birthday or something). All the sudden there was a gigantic explosion and the rifle flew off my legs and I looked over as my friend fell over holding his gut and the whole world was tinted a hazy red.

It stayed tinted red for I don’t how long-weeks, months, a year? I sat through hours-maybe an entire day of getting the good cop/bad cop thing down at the police station:
“Did you know the gun was loaded?”-Of course not.

“Why was the gun loaded?”-I don’t know. I didn’t know it was loaded okay?

“Was the safety on?”-I don’t know, it’s all a haze. I can’t remember.

“Was your finger on the trigger? I mean that style of gun is hard to hold unless your finger is by the trigger.”- I don’t know, I don’t know, I mean it must have been, why would the gun go off if it wasn’t.

“Were you two arguing?”-Are you kidding? Of course not…

I don’t know what I said, and the actual events were a blur then and they are a blur now, but eventually they let me go to the hospital. My friend hung around for a couple days and I wandered around in my red, miserable, bad dream. He could squeeze my hand for a while. They let me cry for a while with his weird, bloated-looking body when he finally wasn’t hanging around and he wasn’t squeezing my hand.

There was a funeral. I think a day or two of school was cancelled. I stood there in a stupor, red-tinted, and hugged a million people. People knew we were best friends. My friend and I’s families hugged and cried a bunch; we promised to not be strangers ‘cuz I was still a member of their family (I visited them one more time).

Eventually I was back and school and I imagine people looked at me weird for a while; I was in such a daze I don’t really remember. There was never any sort of legal action. I went and saw some sort of therapist a couple times. They asked me some textbook questions and I gave them some short answers and I guess they were satisfied. I somehow got through that year doing normal activities and then the next one. At some point I wasn’t in the daze anymore, but nothing was ever the same. Over twenty years later I think about it at some point every single day.

So yeah, I don’t really want to be surrounded by people carrying guns. And it isn’t just that I had a terrible experience with guns. I also don’t want them around because I grew up with the Gun “Tribe”. Many of the loudest, baddest, sharpshot, ninja, gun-owners (and part-time Constitutional Scholars) I know are the biggest knuckleheads of my past:

There is the Facebook “friend” from high school who huffed a lot of gas and never got higher than a C in any class (especially history/social studies)? Yep, he is now an (unofficial) sniper in the anti-fascist militia and a legal expert. He changed his avatar to an AR-15. Now watch this Sandy Hook Truther video he just posted!
There is the uncle who has held like 80 different jobs, thought that removing lead from gasoline was Communism, and used to send me every paranoid conspiracy theory chain-email ever made until my mocking responses finally made him stop? Yep, finally got an (unpaid) job as Constitutional Scholar, varmit-destroyer, and protector of free society.
There is the cousin-in-law who got a job as a cop and then was quietly let go like two weeks later for reasons no one will tell me, and who now plays shoot-em up video games all day. His new milita-member duty is mocking people who call a “magazine” a “clip” and informing them that if they can’t name all the parts of weapon correctly, they have no business having opinions about it.
Don’t get me wrong. I grew up in small town Rocky Mountains. Everyone had guns, and they weren’t all like the characters above. Some people have a rifle they only pull out of a safe in hunting season. The problem is the characters above are the ones that have the 10 gun arsenals.

Writing this, I realize that a lot my sick feeling has to do with the gun control issue that is now on the table. I think of all the promising measures that have been proposed (I think limiting magazine size is the Holy Grail) and then I think about our terrible House of Representatives, Western Democratic Senators who want their gilded “A” ratings from the NRA (that “responsible” lobbying group who has a repeat poacher and admitted pedophile on their Board), and the millions of loud deadbeats (like the ones I list above) who don’t have anything better to do than scream at congressional aides over the phone. The thought of all this going very badly, and what the results of that could be, makes me sick to my stomach.

Dispatches out of the Bubble

~ Friday, November 9th, 2012


Evolution is a thing, By Will Femia

Ohio really did go to the president last night.

And he really did win.
And he really was born in Hawaii.
And he really is -legitimately- President of the United States.
Again.

And the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not make-up a fake unemployment rate last month.
And the Congressional Research Service really can find no evidence
That cutting taxes on rich people grows the economy.

And the polls were not skewed to over-sample Democrats.
And Nate Silver was not making up fake projections about the election
To make conservatives feel bad.
He was doing math.

And climate change is real.
And rape really does cause pregnancy sometimes.
And evolution is a thing.
And Benghazi was an attack on us.
It was not a scandal by us.

And no one is taking away anyone’s guns.
And taxes haven’t gone up.
And the deficit is dropping, actually.
And Saddam Hussein didn’t have weapons of mass destruction.

And the moon landing was real.
And FEMA isn’t building concentration camps.
And UN election observers aren’t taking over Texas.
And moderate reforms of the regulations on the insurance industry
And the financial services industry
Are not the same thing as communism.

Adapted from The Rachel Maddow Show 11/7

The violins are so tiny I can’t hear them

~ Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

From Andrew Sullivan comes this:

I can see no problem with the ad above run by Obama on his extraordinarily ballsy decision to choose the riskiest path to get bin Laden and all the intelligence his compound contained. It is the kind of ad that would be a no-brainer for any Republican president, seeking re-election. If Bush had done it, he would have jumped out of a helicopter in a jump-suit with fireworks. And it is simply true that both George W. Bush and Mitt Romney downplayed the importance of finding and bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.

Here is the last president, after his bungling of the battle at Tora Bora, in March 2002:

“I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority… “I am truly not that concerned about him.”

And here is Mitt Romney who still seems to believe that the “Soviets” are our number one geopolitical foe:

“It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”

And this was a key issue in the 2008 election. You may remember the debate in which Obama pledged that he would launch a unilateral attack within Pakistan if necessary to get the mass murdering religious fanatic. McCain cited this as evidence of Obama’s insufficient experience in foreign policy and general jejuneness. So this was a hugely successful policy opposed by McCain, opposed by Bush and opposed by Romney. No wonder they’re so upset at reality. It’s the same reaction they have when it becomes clear that Osama bin Laden was captured and killed by a president smart enough not to deploy torture, years after a bunch of thugs took over US intelligence on the orders of the panicked incompetent, Dick Cheney.

And one thing about John McCain. He actually said: “And, you know the thing about heroes, they don’t brag.” For his entire political career, McCain has done nothing but brag about his own military service, milking every last, disgusting drop for his own interests, making it the center-piece of his campaign. And he didn’t kill anyone – just crashed his plane, was tortured, and cracked under tortured interrogation. He has spent decades making this a reason for him to be elected to various offices, from the very first first=person account in US News, which launched his political career. Heroes don’t brag, Senator? How else would you describe your entire career?

I’m with Jon Meacham, who plays a tiny violin for the upset Republicans:

Republicans are — forgive the cliché — shocked, shocked to discover that a presidential contender is “politicizing” an important national event. In this sense, “politicizing” might be best translated as “beating us up and we don’t have anything much to say to stop it.” The ad itself raises intriguing, substantive, legitimate questions — and the ferocious, sputtering Republican reaction is proof positive that they know it, or at least suspect it.

Tomasky echoes:

It couldn’t be more hilarious, watching these Republicans rend their garments over the Obama administration’s bin Laden video. Imaging the paroxysms we’d have been forced to endure if George W. Bush had iced the dreaded one is all we need to do to understand how hypocritical it all is. But what obviously gets under Republicans’ skin is not the fact of this video’s existence, but the fact that Barack Obama got him and they didn’t, which destroys their assumption of the past decade that they are “the 9/11 party.” And more than that—and this is the real story here—it’s the fact that the Democrats don’t appear to be afraid of the Republicans anymore. That, to Republicans, is what’s truly unacceptable.

I think the Obamaites need to be more aggressive in foreign policy arguments. Obama ended one war in Iraq, dispatched Osama bin Laden and Muammar Qaddafi without a single US casualty, re-set relations with Russia, brought unprecedentedly united international pressure against Iran’s nuclear bomb potential, wiped out much of al Qaeda’s mid-level leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and presided over democratic revolutions in Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain. He restored this country’s moral credibility after the dark period of Nazi-style interrogation under Cheney, Bush and Rumsfeld.

So the dignity of work only applies to poor moms?

~ Monday, April 30th, 2012

Phony Mommy Wars, by Maureen Dowd

Ann Romney is a good mom.

She’s also a good pol.

And though her people skills are far superior to Mitt’s, it turns out that Ann is just as capable as her husband of turning an advantage into a disadvantage.

After the liberal strategist Hilary Rosen clumsily mocked Mitt Romney for relying on Ann to tell him what issues women care about when “his wife has actually never worked a day in her life,” Ann smashed that lob back.

Blasting out her first tweet, she said: “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”

Shaken Democrats dived for cover and threw Rosen under the campaign bus. The media, worried about being perceived as favoring President Obama, jumped in on the side of the maligned Ann.

She pressed her advantage, scolding Rosen on Fox News. “She should have come to my house when those five boys were causing so much trouble,” Ann said. She alluded to her brave battles against breast cancer and multiple sclerosis: “Look, I know what it’s like to struggle.”

But at a fund-raiser at a private home in Palm Beach, Fla., on Sunday, the night before her 63rd birthday, Ann made it clear that she wasn’t really aggrieved. She was feigning aggrievement to milk the moment.

“It was my early birthday present for someone to be critical of me as a mother, and that was really a defining moment, and I loved it,” a gleeful Ann told the backyard full of Florida fat cats, sounding “like a political tactician,” as Garrett Haake, the NBC reporter on the scene, put it.

It’s important when you act the martyr not to overplay your hand. If you admit out loud to a bunch of people — including Haake, who was on the sidewalk enterprisingly eavesdropping — that you’re just pretending to be offended, you risk looking phony, like your husband. (It also doesn’t fly to tell Diane Sawyer that your dog “loved” 12 hours in a crate on top of the car or that it’s “our turn” to be in the White House.)

The candidate, meanwhile, continued to look phony by presenting a completely different side of himself to the wealthy Palm Beach donors who came in fancy cars to eat snapper and hear a snappier Mitt.

Rather than making bland pronouncements or parsing patriotic songs, as he usually does, Mitt gave a more specific vision of a Romney White House, including the possible elimination of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which his dad once led, and vivisecting the Department of Education. He also talked about ways he might close tax loopholes for the affluent — another matter he hasn’t been too detailed about — to pay for his cuts in tax rates.

Mitt offered a different view of the value of working parents in January when he talked about how he changed welfare rules as governor of Massachusetts:

“I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, well, that’s heartless. And I said, no, no, I’m willing to spend more giving day care to allow those parents to go back to work. It will cost the state more providing that day care, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.”

So the dignity of work only applies to poor moms?

This latest kerfuffle is piffle, but it is another instance of Republicans dragging women back to the past to re-litigate issues they thought were long settled.

Just as women had assumed their contraception rights were safe, they had considered the tiresome debate about working moms versus stay-at-home moms over. My mom stayed home to raise five kids, and she is my feminist role model.

For the most part, nobody’s casting aspersions on anybody else’s choices, which are often driven by economics. Women have so many choices that they’re overwhelmed by the stress of so many choices.

The real issue is whether Mitt, a tycoon who has been swathed in an old-fashioned cocoon, understands the plight of working mothers and the rights of 21st-century women.

When the Romneys got married and moved to Boston in 1971 so Mitt could attend Harvard, they set up house in a suburb, befriended other young Mormon couples and kept to their cloistered, conservative, privileged, traditional, white, heterosexual circle.

Campuses were roiling with change — feminism, civil rights, antiwar demonstrations — but the Romneys were not part of that. They were throwbacks.

“The parental roles were clear,” Michael Kranish and Scott Helman write in “The Real Romney.” “Mitt would have the career, and Ann would run the house.”

We will see if these affluent, soon-to-be owners of a car elevator in La Jolla and members of the horsey set can relate to the economic problems of regular people.

Given how secretive and shape-shifting Mitt Romney is, we’ll probably have to keep eavesdropping to find out.

Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive

~ Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

and here’s the Republican platform:

Compassionate v Severely

~ Monday, February 13th, 2012

Remember when GWB tried to win the independents over when he called himself a compassionate conservative. Well this year’s front runner is going all out to lose everyone but the base of his party.

Severe Conservative Syndrome by Paul Krugman

Mitt Romney has a gift for words — self-destructive words. On Friday he did it again, telling the Conservative Political Action Conference that he was a “severely conservative governor.”

As Molly Ball of The Atlantic pointed out, Mr. Romney “described conservatism as if it were a disease.” Indeed. Mark Liberman, a linguistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, provided a list of words that most commonly follow the adverb “severely”; the top five, in frequency of use, are disabled, depressed, ill, limited and injured.

That’s clearly not what Mr. Romney meant to convey. Yet if you look at the race for the G.O.P. presidential nomination, you have to wonder whether it was a Freudian slip. For something has clearly gone very wrong with modern American conservatism.

Start with Rick Santorum, who, according to Public Policy Polling, is the clear current favorite among usual Republican primary voters, running 15 points ahead of Mr. Romney. Anyone with an Internet connection is aware that Mr. Santorum is best known for 2003 remarks about homosexuality, incest and bestiality. But his strangeness runs deeper than that.

For example, last year Mr. Santorum made a point of defending the medieval Crusades against the “American left who hates Christendom.” Historical issues aside (hey, what are a few massacres of infidels and Jews among friends?), what was this doing in a 21st-century campaign?

Nor is this only about sex and religion: he has also declared that climate change is a hoax, part of a “beautifully concocted scheme” on the part of “the left” to provide “an excuse for more government control of your life.” You may say that such conspiracy-theorizing is hardly unique to Mr. Santorum, but that’s the point: tinfoil hats have become a common, if not mandatory, G.O.P. fashion accessory.

Then there’s Ron Paul, who came in a strong second in Maine’s caucuses despite widespread publicity over such matters as the racist (and conspiracy-minded) newsletters published under his name in the 1990s and his declarations that both the Civil War and the Civil Rights Act were mistakes. Clearly, a large segment of his party’s base is comfortable with views one might have thought were on the extreme fringe.

Finally, there’s Mr. Romney, who will probably get the nomination despite his evident failure to make an emotional connection with, well, anyone. The truth, of course, is that he was not a “severely conservative” governor. His signature achievement was a health reform identical in all important respects to the national reform signed into law by President Obama four years later. And in a rational political world, his campaign would be centered on that achievement.

But Mr. Romney is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, and whatever his personal beliefs may really be — if, indeed, he believes anything other than that he should be president — he needs to win over primary voters who really are severely conservative in both his intended and unintended senses.

So he can’t run on his record in office. Nor was he trying very hard to run on his business career even before people began asking hard (and appropriate) questions about the nature of that career.

Instead, his stump speeches rely almost entirely on fantasies and fabrications designed to appeal to the delusions of the conservative base. No, President Obama isn’t someone who “began his presidency by apologizing for America,” as Mr. Romney declared, yet again, a week ago. But this “Four-Pinocchio Falsehood,” as the Washington Post Fact Checker puts it, is at the heart of the Romney campaign.

How did American conservatism end up so detached from, indeed at odds with, facts and rationality? For it was not always thus. After all, that health reform Mr. Romney wants us to forget followed a blueprint originally laid out at the Heritage Foundation!

My short answer is that the long-running con game of economic conservatives and the wealthy supporters they serve finally went bad. For decades the G.O.P. has won elections by appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy — a process that reached its epitome when George W. Bush won re-election by posing as America’s defender against gay married terrorists, then announced that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security.

Over time, however, this strategy created a base that really believed in all the hokum — and now the party elite has lost control.

The point is that today’s dismal G.O.P. field — is there anyone who doesn’t consider it dismal? — is no accident. Economic conservatives played a cynical game, and now they’re facing the blowback, a party that suffers from “severe” conservatism in the worst way. And the malady may take many years to cure.

Let women’s health be about women’s health

~ Monday, February 6th, 2012

by Katha Pollitt

As if it had finally noticed that women out-
number bishops, the Obama administra
tion has decided against permitting religious organizations a broad exemption from rules requiring that all methods of contraception be covered, with no co-payment, by health insurance plans. Strictly religious organizations—churches, missions and such—will be exempt, but not universities, hospitals and charities. As a public health matter, this is excellent news: for women whose health plans don’t cover birth control, it can be difficult to obtain and costs hundreds of dollars a year out of pocket.

As a political matter it is also good news, a welcome departure from December, when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rejected the recommendation of the FDA’s scientists—an unprecedented move—and decided not to make Plan B, emergency contraception, available over the counter to all girls and women. It’s nice to see someone besides women under the proverbial bus for a change. Still, if I had to choose, I would have expanded Plan B access and let the bishops have their bottle, because normalizing postcoital contraception—yes, indeed, putting it right there in the grocery store next to the aspirin—would help far more girls and women than narrowing the religious exemption. But no, we had those 11-year-old girls to worry about, the ones who would run off to orgies if they could buy EC at CVS.

For some reason, women’s health is never just about women’s health, the well-being of the 52 percent of the population that spends around thirty years trying not to get pregnant. Someone else is always more important: in December it was licentious children; now it’s the anti-contraception clergy. “This egregious violation of religious freedom marks the first time in our history that the federal government is forcing religious people and groups to ante up for services that violate their consciences,” writes Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the Huffington Post. According to Walsh, religious freedom is reserved for “anybody but Catholics.” Nonsense. Are Quakers, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other pacifists exempt from taxes that pay for war and weapons? Can Scientologists, who abhor psychiatry, deduct the costs of the National Institute of Mental Health? As an atheist, a feminist, a progressive, I ante up for so much stuff that violates my conscience, the government should probably pay me damages. Why should the bishops be exempt from the costs of living in a pluralistic society? Walsh cites the Amish, who are exempt from buying health insurance because they have a conscientious objection to it, but the Amish are a self-isolated band of would-be nineteenth-century farmers; they don’t try to make others read by kerosene lamps or demand the government subsidize their buggies. The Catholic church, by contrast, runs institutions that employ, teach and care for millions of people, for which it gets oceans of public money. A great many of those employed and served aren’t even Catholic: at Jesuit universities, almost half the students aren’t in the church; at Notre Dame, almost half the faculty is non-Catholic, and that is not unusual. The vast majority of Catholics long ago rejected the Vatican’s ban on contraception. Catholic women are as likely to use birth control as other women. What about their consciences?

When 98 percent of members of the church reject the official dogma, you have to ask: who does the church belong to? Theologian Daniel Maguire, arguing for the doctrine of probabilism, says the widespread dissent of theologians from “Humanae Vitae,” the 1966 papal bull declaring birth control immoral, frees Catholics to follow their conscience. But, he adds, “the bishops have a terrific amount of scare power for politicians,” and for the media too. The Washington Post has published two editorials against the narrow exemption. Columnist E.J. Dionne agrees: “Speaking as a Catholic, I wish the Church would be more open on the contraception question. But speaking as an American liberal who believes that religious pluralism imposes certain obligations on government, I think the Church’s leaders had a right to ask for broader relief from a contraception mandate that would require it to act against its own teachings.” I wish the Church would be more open on the contraception question? Now there’s a ringing defense of women’s health and rights! There is someone who really gets the situation of the Georgetown student, profiled in the New York Times, who lost an ovary because her insurance plan wouldn’t cover the Pill to cure an ovarian cyst. Dionne proposes a compromise in which women would get referrals to places that provide affordable birth control. (Like Planned Parenthood, which the church is busily trying to defund?) How about the compromise at work in eight states that offer no exemptions from requirements that contraception be covered in all plans that cover drugs? There Catholic institutions have acquiesced. In California, NPR reports, Catholic Healthcare West has covered birth control since 1997. And there’s always the compromise in which the church gets no state funds and pays for its own conscience—you know, like the Amish.

The issue is not going to go away. In the Senate, Marco Rubio has introduced a bill to overturn the requirement for religious institutions to cover contraception. Protestants are piling on, with Southern Baptist Convention head Richard Land threatening “civil disobedience” if forced “to choose between obeying God or man.” Two colleges, one Catholic, one nondenominational Christian, are suing HHS, emboldened by a recent 9-0 Supreme Court ruling opposing the administration and supporting the right of a Lutheran school to fire a staffer despite civil rights laws.

Forced to choose between God and man, choose women. This time round, let women’s health be about women’s health.

What really happened to Herman Cain

~ Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Cain Buffering

That’s what he (should have) said

~ Monday, October 24th, 2011

I have a dream that President Obama will say the following on his 2012 campaign stump speech.

As president, I have to address both domestic policy and foreign policy. Because of the way that the commander-in-chief role has evolved, I have far fewer political constraints on foreign policy action than domestic policy action. So let’s think about this for a second. On the foreign stage, America’s standing has returned from its post-Iraq low. Al Qaeda is now a shell of its former self. Liberalizing forces are making uneven but forward progress in North Africa. Muammar Gaddafi’s regime is no longer, without one American casualty. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are winding down. Every country in the Pacific Rim without a Communist Party running things is trying to hug us closer.

Imagine what I could accomplish in domestic policy without the kind of obstructionism and filibustering that we’re seeing in Congress — which happens to be even more unpopular than I am, by the way. I’m not talking about the GOP abjectly surrendering, just doing routine things like actually confirming my appointments. I’ve achieved significant foreign policy successes while still cooperating with our allies in NATO and Northeast Asia. Just imagine what I could get done if the Republicans were as willing to compromise as, say, France.