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Archive for the ‘Barack Obama’ Category

“Just think about that for a second”

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My last post focused on Sarah Palin’s completely preposterous claim that US President and African American man Barack Obama wants to return the US to an era of discrimination reminiscent of that which existed pre-Civil War.

Since then, I have been unable to shake that comment. If you too are struggling to conceive of just how AMAZING that idea is, I recommend Palin: The First Black President Wants to Revert to Pre-Civil War Society, by David A. Graham over at the Atlantic.

Graham does a quick but thorough job of explaining why Derreck Bell, and college Obama, are not actually scary black racists:

Bell wasn’t a violent revolutionary but an academic theorist and campaigner for equality; there’s no evidence that Obama was a zealous apostle of Bell’s critical legal theory; and Obama’s term in office, whatever other criticisms one may make of it, hasn’t been characterized by radical black nationalism…She suggests that by taking part in a protest of the near-total lack of senior faculty of color at Harvard Law School in the 1990s, both Obama and Bell wanted to restore apartheid in the United States. Keep in mind, they weren’t black nationalists calling for blacks to separate themselves, which might give some credence to her charge: they were advocating greater assimilation.

and looks at the problem of discussing racial inequality:

What Palin is expounding is a belief that has become common among conservatives. Almost all conservatives (like almost all liberals) agree that racial equality is the ideal toward which the United States ought to move. But many on the right have adopted the view that the only way to address racism is to pretend it does not exist. Thus, anyone who talks about race or acknowledges race or makes mention of the fraught American relationship with racism must by definition be a racist. Clearly, that makes Barack Obama and Derrick Bell racists. It also makes Juan Williams, a center-right commentator, a racist when he points out that Newt Gingrich is using “food stamps” as code for “black.”
Of course, if not talking about race were the solution, Harvard might have had a racially diverse faculty by 1991, rather than lacking a single tenured female professor of color. (And remember that Bell was the first tenured black professor, so he knew whereof he spoke.) And though Harvard Law has made gains in that area, there’s still a discrepancy — so the more quiet discussion of the topic in the last two decades doesn’t seem to have closed the gap.
Palin is right that the promise of America is that we “have equal opportunity to work hard and to succeed and to embrace the opportunities, the God-given opportunities, to develop resources and work extremely hard and as I say, to succeed.” But it is a masterpiece of doublespeak to say that standing up and asking society to deliver on that promise undermines it.

I don’t quote this at length to imply that Graham is right in everything he says–but I think his case is pretty strong that Palin is very, very wrong.

Written by Christopher ZF

March 12, 2012 at 13:55

Palin, Obama, and Pre-Civil War inequality

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Let me get this straight.

Sarah Palin thinks that Barack Obama is trying to bring the United States back to an era similar to that   which existed pre-Civil War? Um. Why would he want to do that? Ms. Palin, does that accusation not seem a bit, well, stupid?

He is bringing us back…to days before the Civil War, when unfortunately too many Americans mistakenly belived that not all men were created equal,” she said. “What Barack Obama seems to want to do is go back to before those days when we were in different classes based on income, based on color of skin.”

For the record, Ms. Palin. I don’t know anything about this radical professor that Obama embraced as a Harvard Law Student. I’m personally not particularly concerned about the first black president of the Harvard Law Review giving a cordial endorsement and hug to the first black professor of law at Harvard. You however seem pretty confident about the proper behavior of a young black law student in 1991, so I’ll let you judge. It sounds like Dr. Bell was fairly controversial, so maybe I’m not giving this its proper concern. Or maybe a 20 year old hug is a 20 year old hug.

But when you say, pejoratively, that Obama agreed with “the radical agenda of a racist like Derrick Bell who believed that white men oppress blacks and minorities,” I’m curious what you mean. Do you think that the white men did not oppress blacks and minorities? Because, you know that the United States has a long history of white men in fact oppressing blacks and minorities…right? And that history is in no way erased from our nation.

Anyway. I feel confident that I can safely say that the first black President of the United States does not want to return America to an era of pre-Civil War racial discrimination.

Written by Christopher ZF

March 9, 2012 at 14:25

the Presidential Election Forthcoming

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This is from Andrew Sullivan. I saw this cartoon, and all I could think was: holy shit.

This is totally wrong. I don’t mean “wrong” wrong; it is just a political cartoon, and they have been ugly for as long as there have been presidents. Such efforts at satire are welcome in making one’s political point, TRC partakes in such efforts regularly. (This cartoon, however, is much closer to “wrong” wrong, in my humble opinion).

I do think, however, that this image of Obama the Pimp and Sandra Fluke the Prostitute does not bode well for the upcoming presidential election. I worry that what we were fighting about, the appropriate mechanism to provide contraception and the impact of that mechanism on constitutionally protected rights, has already been sacrificed on the altar of insanity. Not a great sign of things to come.

And finally, poor Ms. Fluke. She participated in our civic process by standing up for what she believes, and look how she has been repaid.

Happy International Women’s Day.

Written by Christopher ZF

March 8, 2012 at 12:30

the Presidential Election forthcoming

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President Obama has been presented with a great luxury. While the Republican candidates for President are finding new ways to draw (political) blood, the President can remain free from the muck. The muck will of course come to him, but the longer the GOP folks fight amongst themselves, the more time Obama has to remind America why he inspired them in the first place: he is an awfully engaging, powerful campaigner. When full campaign mode comes, it won’t be easy for President Obama, obviously. There will be a terrible, ugly fight. Just as Liberals shouldn’t get too over-confident as Santorum and Romney say stupid thing after stupid thing, the GOP shouldn’t forget who they are running against.

Just thinking strictly politically, if I were a Republican, I would worry that one these two:

will eventually have to engage with this guy:

Written by Christopher ZF

February 28, 2012 at 14:46

Contraception NOT a health issue?

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I’m a white male who has been complaining about the male-dominated discussion about birth control over the past weeks. But I’m still going to write about birth control and pregnancy. You can skip this if you want.

*

I don’t know who Conrad Black is. According to his Wikipedia entry, he is Canadian, is the Baron Black of Crossharbour, and was once the third largest newspaper magnate in the world, which coupled with his 80s movie villain picture doesn’t give me a favorable impression of the man. Anyway, he wrote an article titled Obama: Leviathan 2012 for the National Review, which included the following sentence, and I am aghast at such a statement:

“Birth control is not a health issue at all; pregnancy is not a disease or an illness and termination of it is not a cure to a medical problem.”

He is, of course, discussing President Obama’s tussle with the Catholic Church over paying for birth control and the “Pearl Harbor nature” of such a move. And that he takes the side he does is not controversial or alarming. We just disagree.

But in doing so, The Baron seeks to disassociate pregnancy and birth control and women’s issues, as they say, from real health problems, and portrays women fighting for these issues as nothing more than noisy, pestering “abortion tigresses” infringing on the rights of the the Bishops of the Catholic Church and undecided voters. This almost knocked me out of my chair. The idea that contraception and pregnancy, that reproductive issues in general, are not health issues is a  horrible, vile idea. And anyone who has seen the potential impacts of a pregnancy on a woman and still believes that pregnancy and birth control are not health issues should be ashamed of themselves.

It doesn’t matter what one thinks about free access to birth control, employer paid reproductive /abortion services, religious freedom vs. government mandates for birth control coverage, or anything on the that issue. Such things are not related to the question of HEALTH.  But to frame the argument that pregnancy and birth control, even abortion, are not health related is a fiction, and an incredibly dangerous one at that.

I found Conrad Black’s article in the National Review quite disgusting. Not the politics of it but the way he speaks about women and pregnancy. Maybe it’s because I’m young, and there’s just a generational difference on such matters. Maybe it’s because I work in non-profits, and he’s a Baron and wealthy newspaper magnate. Maybe it’s because I fail to understand the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church. I don’t know. But when I read this, I see language that should make people very nervous:

By misrepresenting contraception as a health issue and hiding abortion behind it, and unleashing the feminist ravers as the shock troops against the religious denominations to shred the First Amendment, it will propose a giant step in the complete emasculation of any independent religious moral authority, or any institutional dissent from the absolute moral fiat of the federal state.

Ho. Ly. Shit. As Mrs. TRC pointed out, for Mr. Black these challenges from the wild and crazy women to the religious status quo are equivalent to becoming an effeminate, un-whole, castrated male.

Access to birth control is a health issue. And  pregnancy is not a disease, but is a dangerous health issue. All it takes is one rip in the condom, one failed birth control pill, and a woman’s life is in danger. The idea that pregnancy is just a happy-go-lucky process to bring smiling babies into the world is wrong. It’s a serious health issue. Preventing unwanted pregnancies is a serious health issue. And pretending otherwise does no one any good.

Written by Christopher ZF

February 24, 2012 at 16:40

and one more contraception comment for good measure.

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Getting into the politics, which I know many folks abhor… I’ve said many times in the past week that a public, drawn out fight over birth control will only hurt the Republicans, and that the real issue is the Catholic Church’s attempt to prevent access to birth control. Which isn’t a unique position to TRC. But still.

Quoting this at length, because it is worth it, even it if is overly optimistic.

Obama Punks the GOP on Contraception. Amanda Marcotte, Slate.

 The fun part of this is that Obama just pulled a fast one on Republicans. He drew this out for two weeks, letting Republicans work themselves into a frenzy of anti-contraception rhetoric, all thinly disguised as concern for religious liberty, and then created a compromise that addressed their purported concerns but without actually reducing women’s access to contraception, which is what this has always been about.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Christopher ZF

February 10, 2012 at 14:13

a few comments on the contraception and “religious freedom” argument underway

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I am following the argument between the Catholic Church and the Obama Administration over how Catholic hopsitals and other non-church Catholic institutions are to pay for contraception. It is a fascinating debate about religious freedom from government, health-care, contraception (which I must say I cannot believe we still fight over), but also the role of religion in government.

I am presuming, since the argument has been made by the Church that this is a religious freedom fight, that today’s compromise requiring insurance companies and not employers to cover the costs will resolve the issue. The Church has claimed this is not political, it is not about the services, it is about the Church’s freedom of conscience, and so this should just about wrap that problem up.

Anyway. There has been much written on this subject. And I wanted to share a few things that I have valued as I learned about the subject.

New York Times blogger Andrew RosenthalIn case you haven’t been paying attention – and I guess I wouldn’t blame you – the issue is this: The rule exempts religious institutions, like churches, but not religiously affiliated institutions, like Catholic hospitals, that serve the general public. Some social conservatives are calling this an unconscionableassault on religious freedom, since Catholic doctrine prohibits women from using artificial contraception. 
It’s pure election-year shenanigans, led by Republicans who want to make Mr. Obama seem godless. There are already 28 states with similar rules in place, and the Catholic Church continues to operate in all of them (last I checked, anyway).

Sarah Kliff (whose work on the Komen debacle and this issue has shown what modern internet journalism can be) at the Washington PostOutside the political punditry, most Catholics agree with the administration on the issue,” says one Obama campaign official, explaining the view that this could be a political win.
And a lot of this likely isn’t about Catholic voters at all.
Rather, it may well be about the demographics that are most supportive of this particular health reform provision: young voters and women. In the PRRI poll, both groups register support above 60 percent for the provision.

New York Times Opinion Page, Linda Greenhouse: These institutions, as well as Catholic universities – not seminaries, but colleges and universities whose doors are open to all – are full participants in the public square, receiving a steady stream of federal dollars. They assert – indeed, have earned – the right to the same benefits that flow to their secular peers. What they now claim is a right to special treatment: to conscience that trumps law.
But in fact, that is not a principle that our legal system embraces… 
In a 1990 decision, Employment Division v. Smith, the Supreme Court disagreed. Even a sincere religious motivation, in the absence of some special circumstance like proof of government animus, does not merit exemption from a “valid and neutral law of general applicability,” the court held. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the opinion, which was joined by, among others, the notoriously left wing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. 

Star Tribune Opinion Page. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, member of the Minnesota House.The church, with one hand, waves the bus of government through the intersection of Church and State, and into your choice of spouses; with the other hand it seeks to halt otherwise free access to contraceptive health care for its employees.
In lamenting the requirements for equal birth-control coverage for women, a spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops bewailed, “Government has entered the sanctuary.”
Is it ironic that this holy hand-wringing comes just as those same bishops seek to stand in your polling booth on the issue of marriage?

Daily Beast blogger David Frum:  If the audience is paying attention, for example, it will notice that Republicans are not proposing to allow employers and plans to refuse to cover blood transfusions if they conscientiously object to them (although there are religious groups that do). Or vaccinations (although there are individuals who conscientiously object to those as well). Or medicines derived from animal experimentation. (Ditto.)
No, Marco Rubio’s Religious Freedom Restoration bill provides for one conscientious exemption only: contraception and sterilization.
Which means it will be very hard if not impossible to persuade the target audience that this debate is not in fact about contraception. Everybody quite sure that’s a wise debate to have?

And finally, for TRC the worst part here is not the argument that the government is overreaching into areas where the government has no legal or moral right to be. The story is the opposite: the Catholic Church is once again attempting to insert itself from the pulpit into policy making. The Church can disregard modern science and the irrefutable preference for contraception all it wants. But it cannot keep our government from providing Catholics and non-Catholics with services it opposes.  The Church is opposing access to women’s birth control services, and that is a fight it is going to lose.

Mary Sanchez in the Chicago Tribune. The truth is, the desire to control, to assert one person’s view of morality over another’s choices, is coming from the other direction — from religious conservatives who see this as a skirmish in a new culture war. It’s being played that way because it’s politically expedient to do so in 2012, an election year.
The backlash is an effort to limit a women’s right to have access to health care, including the right to make decisions about reproduction. If that reminds you of the abortion issue, you’re not alone. That was the old cause. This is the new one. Access to contraception is the next target for religious conservatives bent on their version of morality trumping individual rights.
This isn’t primarily about the separation of church and state. Health care is the issue. It is a woman’s right to have access to contraception if she so chooses. And that means including it in prescription drug coverage.
And those “feminist allies” Buchanan talks about. Who are they?
When it comes to users of birth control, it’s nearly every woman in America. 

Written by Christopher ZF

February 10, 2012 at 13:16