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Posts Tagged ‘GOP’

Risk Santorum would have us believe that he’s talking about religious freedom. He would have us believe that the government is intruding on his freedom to practice his religious beliefs and imposing some alternate moral code on him and his family. Well, I have a couple of questions I’d like him to answer.

Did the government force him and his wife to practice contraception, when he is opposed to it on religious grounds?

Did the government insist that he send his kids to a public school rather than homeschooling them?

Has the government interfered with his choice to run for President?

Did Pennsylvania prevent him from running for Congress?

If the answer to those questions is “no,” then just how does he figure that the government is infringing on his right to practice his religion?

On the other hand, is he willing to grant the same right to others to practice their religion if that belief doesn’t square with his particular version of Catholicism? From what I see, I wonder. He finds it troubling that Catholic non-church institutions be required to include contraception coverage for their employees. However, he overlooks the obvious fact that not all employees of those institutions are Catholic. So, when competing religious views are at stake, he seems to think it ok to favor the religious liberty of those he agrees with and to disregard the religious liberty of those he doesn’t.

The tension inherent in the issue of contraception coverage is precisely the reason for the First Amendment’s wording. It is precisely why we cannot legislate according to a particular, specific set of religious beliefs.

It’s curious that the people who seek to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us are the same ones who feel the need to legislate against Sharia Law and who would deny Muslims the right to erect buildings in which to worship.

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There is a simple solution for Catholic hospitals, universities, and social service organizations when it comes to the religious liberty claim as it applies to including contraceptive coverage in their employee health plans: hire only Catholics, with Catholic spouses. Then nobody’s religious liberty is being affected.

Oh wait! Most Catholic women use contraceptives. If these institutions hire non-Catholics, what about the religious liberty of those employees?

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So, Tim Pawlenty thinks that President Obama is engaging in class warfare. Has he lost his mind? If there has been class warfare in this country, it’s the result of a generation of GOP policies of tax breaks for the uber-rich while wages have remained stagnant at best for the rest of us. The Republicans talk of Ronald Reagan as if he were a saint but they conveniently forget that Reagan’s tax rates were significantly higher than they are now. In fact, they’re so blinded by their admiration of him, that the GOP budget negotiators rolled their eyes in disbelief when the president pointed that fact out to them the other day. Perhaps that really sums up the nature of the problem. Republicans in Washington want to rely on their own set of “facts.” But facts are stubborn things. They don’t change just because they don’t fit your ideology.

And the really sad thing about Pawlenty’s comment is that the Fox-infused Republican base will lap it up as surely as they do the Gospel.

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During the campaign leading up to the midterm elections, the GOP hammered the Democrats on the issue of jobs.  Yet, the first order of business when the GOP-led House began its session was to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  The repeal effort is loaded with irony, being almost exclusively a symbolic act that has no chance of succeeding through the Senate and surviving the inevitable presidential veto.  Contrary to GOP claims (and the title of the bill) that health care reform is a job-killer, it seems far more likely to be a job creator — mostly jobs in the private sector.  I enumerated some of that in my previous post, and while the numbers I suggested may have been inflated, I didn’t mention the new jobs in the health care sector itself that would be created.

The very next bill the House GOP is taking up is also largely if not totally symbolic: a permanent ban on Federal funds being used for abortion services.  Speaker Boehner and the GOP seem to have overlooked the Hyde Bill, which does prevent Federal funds to be used for abortions.  And the dreaded “Obamacare” act also contains provisions that ensure that no Federal funds will be used for abortions.  And this bill, as well as the health care repeal bill accomplishes nothing to create jobs and is more sound and fury, signifying only a sop to the GOP base.

Somewhere after they finish the symbolic moves, the GOP has signaled that they’re going to attack the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases.  And, not surprisingly, they’re pointing to the “job-killing” aspects of regulations they don’t like.  Actually, it’s more like regulations the oil industry doesn’t like.  The truth of the matter is that moving to alternative forms of energy creates jobs.  Yes, there will be some jobs that will be phased out — jobs in the petroleum industry.  But that will happen over decades as the supply of petroleum on the planet is exhausted.  And the sooner we can begin a shift to non-petroleum-based energy, the longer the petroleum will last, along with the jobs in that industry.  Meanwhile, thousands of new jobs will be created — many more than will likely be lost.  That doesn’t sound like a job-killing idea.

Mr. Speaker, when are you actually going to do something toward creating jobs — something other than constantly using the phrase “job killing” when describing anything that might actually move the country forward?

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More has come to light from John Boehner’s interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.  In the same interview I mentioned in my last post, Boehner mouthed the GOP talking point about opposing the drilling moratorium.  But in the next sentence, he allowed as how in the case of deepwater drilling, we ought to pause until we know what caused the well to fail and until we know how to prevent a recurrence.  I have news for the Minority Leader.  That’s exactly what the moratorium would do — pause deepwater drilling until we can figure out what went wrong and how to prevent it from going wrong again!

And then there’s Michele Bachmann (R-MN) who railed against the US becoming part of a global economy.  I’m not exactly sure where she’s been for the past decade or so, but we ARE part of a global economy.  It’s the dream child of the free-market folks — offshore your production to the cheapest and least regulated labor markets in order to maximize profits.  The downside, of course, is that markets are never fully free.  The best we can hope for is fair competition.  And the downside of offshoring production is that it also drives down wages at home, making it more difficult for large numbers of people to afford your product.

And the there’s Sharron Angle, the tea party candidate who won the GOP senatorial primary in Nevada.  She’s been busy trying to walk back some of her more outrageous statements so as to broaden her appeal to folks who are a bit less unhinged than she is.  Somebody obviously told her that advocating abolishing Social Security isn’t politically popular, so she’s trying to blur the distinction between outright abolition, privatizing it (since that concept worked so well for George W. Bush even before the markets melted down), and something she calls personalizing it.  This from the woman who also wants to go back to Prohibition — in Las Vegas no less!  And who thinks that rape and incest are all just part of God’s plan for people and that a woman who’s been raped just needs to have a little faith that her assault is part of that plan, as is carrying the resulting child to term.  And then there’s her great sympathy for the long-term unemployed, who she suggests should simply take one of those many low-paying jobs she says are out there just waiting instead of feeling entitled to unemployment insurance benefits.

Meanwhile, I’m going to be out of reach for a week or so — a trip to visit mother-in-law and then a fun trip up the coast a bit for a weekend on the beach with good friends and an annual bbq gathering with some of spouse’s aerospace buddies, some of whom were giants in the industry.

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The Republicans have made a lot of political hay about “the massive” health care reform bills — comparing them to Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace, often cited as the world’s longest novel.  Once again, their political hay is full of little more than hot air.  It’s easy to expand something written by increasing the margins, enlarging the font and setting extra wide margins.  While that may make it easier to read, much like the large print books for visually challenged readers, those tricks don’t make it longer.  It just kills more trees.

The official version of the Senate’s health care bill has been printed in the Congressional Record.  It comes in at 208 pages — not over 2000!

A more accurate way of gauging the length of a written piece is to count words.  The House version of the health care reform bill comes in at just over 318,000 words;  the Senate bill is some 1500 words shorter.   As a matter of comparison, No Child Left Behind came in at 280,000 words.  Tolstoy’s War and Peace, depending upon which translation is used weighs in at a whopping 560,00 or even 670,000 words!

So, once again, the GOP leadership is using sleight of hand deception to create the image of big government.  Let’s be honest.  The conservatives would like nothing more than to see 100% of the federal budget used for defense.  All these regulations just get in their way.  And if that’s what you like, I would caution you to consider what has happened to our economy each and every time in our history when unfettered capitalism gained primacy.  The stock market crash of 1929, followed by a decade-long Great Depression; deregulation of the savings and loan industry, followed by its collapse in the early 1990s; and our current financial debacle.  The common causal thread in all of those events was a distaste for regulation and the inevitable greed that deregulation unleashed.

Republicans as a group seem to be plagued by short memories.  While ignorance of history might be understood (not forgiven, just understood), Dana Perino’s latest pronouncement takes the cake.  After demonstrating her ignorance of “ancient” history (apparently defined as anything prior to her birth) when she allowed as how she didn’t know about the Cuban Missile Crisis, she has topped that by stating on Fox News that there wasn’t a terrorist attack during George W. Bush’s term while condemning the Fort Hood attack as terrorism.  To be sure, 9/11 happened before she became Bush’s press secretary, but it cannot be denied as a seminal event of his presidency.  Pathetic.  Ignorant.

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How do you solve a problem like Afghanistan?  It’s a puzzlement.  On the one hand, Gen. McChrystal is asking for more troops.  Lots more troops.  Perhaps upwards of 40,000 more troops.  On the other hand, other voices are saying that more troops isn’t the right answer.  The pundits have, understandably, taken sides, too often shedding more heat than light.

The first thing to understand is that troop numbers (and other resource levels) represent the tactical level.  The president has said that he’s doing an in depth analysis of the situation in Afghanistan.  Expecting a decision on troop levels before that analysis is complete may be good for scoring political points, but it’s like looking through the wrong end of a telescope.  It’s starting at the wrong end of the discussion.  It’s beginning at the end and working back towards the beginning.

The beginning of the analysis is defining precisely how Afghanistan figures into the national interest of the United States.  And national interest includes more than simply national security.  It does (or should) include economic interest and other areas of concern.   If the current relationship with Afghanistan doesn’t contribute to our national interest, what are the ways in which it does not? That defines our strategy.  The answer to that question leads directly to a discussion of how best to improve that relationship.  That discussion, in turn, results in mission definition.  This analysis doesn’t happen in a day or even a week.  And it couldn’t be completed so long as the Afghan election results weren’t known.

Then, and only then, can decision-makers arrive at the appropriate resource levels.  It’s easy to assume that a goal of improving our national security leads automatically to a military solution.  But that’s a very simplistic answer and assumes that force is the only way we can wield power.  It also assumes that we have unlimited military resources at hand.

A second fact needs to be understood and factored into the public understanding.  The general in the field is looking at what he needs for his particular mission.  He doesn’t and shouldn’t concern himself with actual or potential needs in other parts of the world, or even if the military can field the requested numbers without putting other current or potential conflicts at risk.  Those are things that are the responsibility of the Joint Chiefs to consider in advising the Commander in Chief.

The President has said that our effort in Afghanistan is aimed largely at training an Afghan army so that the country can defend itself.   Yet, is that possible given that the country ranks second only to Somalia in corruption?  It can even be argued that Somalia lacks a government at all, and Karzai’s control doesn’t extend much beyond Kabul.  It’s neither irrational nor unpatriotic to argue that no amount of US support — military or otherwise — will change the situation in Afghanistan.  And yet, simply to pull out would be immediately attacked as being weak on defense.  So there are domestic political considerations to be weighed as well.

If the President decides to send more troops, as it appears he will, how many can he spare?  Our military is far smaller than it should be to fight two wars at the same time.  And even though we are disengaging in Iraq, our forces are exhausted.  Most have served multiple tours — some as many as five — already.  How much more can we ask of them?  We cannot ignore the long-term costs of these deployments on their minds and spirits as well as on their bodies.  Costs that go well beyond monetary ones.  There may well not be the number of troops available that the general is requesting.  One reason there have been so many contractors providing support services in Iraq is that our military is too small to allot the needed numbers to non-combat roles.  Do we need to re-institute the draft if we’re going to continue to fight in Iraq, Afghanistan and who-knows-where else?  That is a tactical question, but first we need to determine our  goals in that part of the world.

These are the sorts of questions and considerations that President Obama must address before making his decision.  His trips to Dover and to Arlington and to Fort Hood are part of his duty.  They are also a solemn reminder of the cost of war.  It is right that he understand that cost.  The cost of war should not be remote and impersonal.  It’s not a surprise that the military and diplomatic men on the ground have different views of how to “solve” the problem.  The former has been taught to advocate for a solution by force while the latter has been taught the potential benefits of so-called “soft power.”  Both have their place.  The question is which, or which mix, is the most likely to achieve the desired ends.

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