Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Join my group in Yahoo! Sports March Madness Tournament Pick'em!

 
Howdy You all, My dear Family and Friends,
 
I would like you to join my group in Yahoo! Sports Tournament Pick'em! And Invite Your Friends Too! It's real easy, free and all you need is a Yahoo account. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and you could win a $1 Million USD Too. What more could one ask for?
http://tournament.fantasysports.yahoo.com/t1 
To accept the invitation, just follow this link.

For reference, here's the group information. There is NO Password to join this group. 
Group ID#: 3185 
Bill added this note: 
"Come and join and you could Win a Million Bucks if You can predict them all correctly! A $1,000,000.00 isn't chump change, unless you're Romney---HaHaHa!"
Thanks for your time!
 
Best wishes always,
Bill Harasym

"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral." -Paolo Friere-

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Thank you for entering Buddy in the World Spay Day Pet Photo Contest!

Help Buddy de Cat win the contest, or even enter your pet!
 
Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2012 5:42 PM
Subject: Thank you for entering the World Spay Day Pet Photo Contest
 
Buddy

Dear William,

Thank you for entering The Humane Society of the United States' and Humane Society International's World Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest. By joining the contest, you've already been entered into the Judged Category and have the chance to win great prizes.

Here's how it works:

  1. To vote for a pet, a person must first donate -- every $1 means 1 vote for your pet ($5 = 5 votes, and so on). Every dollar raised by your best friend will help the organization you chose spay and neuter animals -- and get you closer to winning the grand prize!
  2. Share your pet's photo with the animal lovers in your life. You can post it to Facebook, tweet it, spread the word by email, and more—all using our easy share tools! Click here to login and start sharing.
  3. You can also join your friends and family in voting for your pet - just donate $5 for 5 votes, $10 for 10 votes, and so on. Just login to manage your account and click "Vote for your pet."

Every vote in your pet's honor promotes spay and neuter efforts across the globe and right in your own neighborhood, helping to lower the number of animals who are euthanized each day and control pet overpopulation. Be sure to check the World Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest website to find your pet and see how he or she is doing in the contest. And don't forget: The deadline for voting is 10 p.m., Eastern Time, February 29, 2012.

Thank you for participating, and for all you do for animals.




Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why Obama's the Least Socialistic President in Modern History! (Yep, it's true, And That's a Shame)

If the nation were governed by a referendum of Republican voters it would be more "socialistic" than it has been under President Obama.

 

The Republican presidential candidates keep calling Barack Obama a socialist. If they're trying to invoke the Red Menace like Republicans of past campaigns, they're a generation too late. Americans between the ages of 19 and 29 have no memory of the Cold War. Today they have a more positive impression of socialism than they do of capitalism.

The word "socialism" can be applied to a range of economic models, from Cuban collectivism to the Western European social democracies that are the home of some of the world's most successful corporations.

But until this election came along it had never been used to describe someone who expanded the private health insurance system, let a negligent company keep control of the cleanup for an environmental disaster it caused, offered to cut retirement and elder health benefits, and repeatedly insisted that the government should cut costs. This president is less socialistic than most of his predecessors, including many Republicans.

The irony is that socialist-inspired policies are popular with Americans, including many Republicans, even if the label is not. Polls suggest that a more "socialist" Obama would also be a more popular candidate, and the same is true of his opponents.

 

Socialisms-

The word "socialism" is used to describe a spectrum of possible economies ranging from the Scandinavian model, where government involvement co-exists with multinational corporations, to the more communistic Cuban model and the idealistic anarcho-syndicalism of the anti-Franco insurgents in the Spanish Civil War.

The social democracy model emphasizes expanded public rights to social services and a more distributive tax base, but leaves ownership of production in capitalist hands. This form of socialism has had a major influence on the governments and economies of Italy, Great Britain, Germany, Sweden, and Finland. It hasn't interfered with the success of multinational corporations like Mercedes-Benz, Nokia, Deutschebank, Barclays Bank, or Ferrari.

Socialist ideas have a long history in the United States. Socialist and left-leaning parties were the first to propose a number of ideas that are now considered core American ideals, including civil rights, antipoverty programs, Social Security and Medicare.

 

The Pink Menace-

But socialism was once linked with the Soviet Union, America's nuclear foe, which gave it an aura of treachery and danger it no longer possesses.

The Republicans who call Obama a socialist are using a GOP tactic that reached its zenith in Richard Nixon's 1950 Senate victory against Helen Gahagan Douglas. Nixon supporters handed out thousands of "Pink Sheet" flyers that year comparing his opponent's voting record to that of socialist-leaning New York City Representative Vito Marcantonio. Marcantonio ran on the American Labor Party ticket and belonged to several groups that were regarded as "red."

Douglas considered Nixon's actions thuggery, as did a number of other Americans in both parties. She called him as "a young man in a dark shirt," which was an indirect allusion to the fascists the US had been fighting five years before. (Upon hearing her remark, Nixon displayed an odd unfamiliarity with human anatomy. "Why, I'll castrate her!" the future president said. He also described Douglas as "pink right down to her underwear.")

Douglas found it hard to believe these attacks could be effective, and some people think her delay in responding to them cost her the election. But they did, and this set the tone for the next six decades of GOP campaigns.

 

Newtradamus-

Newt Gingrich was the first of the current crop of contenders to attack Obama with the socialist label, as political writer John Nichols reminded me in a recent interview. Gingrich published a book last year titled To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine. Gingrich's publisher called it a "dire warning for America," which is "at risk for its very survival" after electing "the most liberal president ever."

Gingrich reacted to the GOP's 2010 electoral victories in his book by saying, "The American people rejected the secular-Socialist machine that had seized control of the Federal government."

In fact, one of the reasons Republicans really won in 2010 was because they ran a series of very effective ads around a so-called "Seniors' Bill of Rights" whose key proviso was a direct attack on "socialist" Obama's repeated attempts to negotiate entitlement cuts: "No cuts to Medicare to pay for another program," the Republicans declared. "Zero."

Yes, these Republicans were defending one of our country's most socialistic, and most popular programs, while accusing their "socialist" opponent of trying to cut it.

Gingrich's 2011 book waxes triumphant about recent conservative victories in Europe's three largest economies --  Germany, France and Great Britain. Within 18 months those governments' policies had plunged Europe into a deep recessionary spiral. He singles out the British election as a vote to "reverse years of socialist decay through through a dramatic, Thatcher-like policy of radically shrinking the public sector, slashing government spending, reducing welfare, and restoring public enterprise."

What he didn't say is that Great Britain is now struggling with setbacks in unemployment, wages and growth, and recently weathered a series of nationwide riots sparked by economic conditions.

Gingrich was firm in his predictions for Obama in 2011. The president, said Gingrich, would embrace "card check" politics for unions and promote cap-and-trade to slow the ongoing destruction of our fragile ecosystem. Gingrich's predictions proved false as Obama quickly abandoned both initiatives.

Nostradamus he isn't. But Gingrich, undeterred by reality, still insists that Obama is imposing a "radical," "secular/socialist state" on the American people.

 

Red Tide-

The socialist theme was quickly picked up by the other GOP candidates. "Obama's socialist policies are bankrupting America," said a Rick Perry TV ad. Michele Bachmann concluded her Iowa campaign by declaring she wouldn't let Obama "implement socialism" in the United States. Rick Santorum accused Obama of not doing enough to fight "militant socialism" around the world (the first draft of his presentation used the phrase "godless socialism"), adding that Obama is a "radical."

Front-runner Mitt Romney was the lone holdout, the only candidate not to label the president with the S-word. But he couldn't hold out forever, especially since both his rivals and the press pressed him about it repeatedly. He tried to avoid the question when he was asked directly whether Obama was a socialist, but finally allowed that the president "takes his political inspiration from Europe and from the socialist democrats in Europe." (Romney pointedly described Europe's "social democrats" as "socialist democrats" for maximum effect.)

And despite this year's lofty declarations against personal attacks, John McCain wasn't above a little red-baiting himself in the final weeks of the 2008 campaign. "At least in Europe the socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives," he said then. "They use real numbers and honest language."

 

The Enemy Within-

In time-honored fashion, the red-baiters soon began to turn on one another. Gingrich described Romney as a "Massachusetts moderate" whose campaign was studying "European socialist ideas." And a caller to Rush Limbaugh's program even accused Limbaugh, who is above all else a Republican Party operative, of supporting the "socialist" Romney.

"If you're going to start throwing the 'socialism' term around there," Limbaugh answered indignantly, "I'll tell you, these are times of tumult."

Now he tells us.

Ron Paul's extreme libertarianism makes him, authentically, the least socialistic candidate in the race. Yet Paul was the only candidate who refused to call Obama a socialist. He's a "corporatist," said Paul, an assessment with considerably more evidence to support it.

 

Obama's Socialist Scorecard-

Is Barack Obama a radical socialist, a "corporatist," or something else? A friendly journalist describes him as a "pro-business populist," and that's certainly been the posture he's tried to take. If "thin-skinned business leaders" ignore his rhetoric and "look at his proposals and record," writes Jonathan Alter, "they might be pleasantly surprised." Indeed.

John Nichols is the author of a book titled The "S" Word: A Short History of an American Tradition … Socialism. When asked if Obama is a socialist he laughed and said, "Afraid not."

"In fact," Nichols added, "Obama is one of the most un-socialistic presidents this country's had in the last 150 years."

"When Barack Obama was asked to reform the healthcare system," Nichols said, "he rejected all of the models based on social democratic proposals, as well as their American 'single-payer' equivalent, and instead went for insurance reforms reforms that were initially proposed by the (conservative) Heritage Foundation." (The United States is the only developed nation without a "socialized" healthcare system, and its costs are twice those of many comparable countries.)

"There you see him rejecting social democratic ideas and going for a conservative model."

"Look at the Gulf oil spill," Nichols added, "a real disaster for America and the world. President Obama could have taken the response that Franklin Roosevelt and, I would argue, Dwight D. Eisenhower would have taken. He could have said 'Here's a big corporation that's caused us a huge , disastrous problem, and we cannot trust them to address that problem because of their past and current activities. So we're going to nationalize this problem … control will be handed over to the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies. Then we're going to assess this corporation for the cost of the cleanup.'"

"That's a solution with a social democratic overlay," said Nichols, "but also one that's very much rooted in the way this country's always done things. Obama didn't do that."

 

Red Dawn-

Ironically, a more "socialistic" agenda could improve Obama's popularity – even among Republicans!

Polls taken during the health reform debate showed that 51 percent of Republican voters wanted a "public option" in the health bill that would allow them to purchase coverage from the "socialist" Medicare system. Even stronger majorities of voters overall supported the public option. But Obama never fought for it, and some reports indicated he had traded it away early on in return for a promise from the for-profit hospital industry that it would not resist the bill aggressively.

Other polls have shown that overwhelming majorities of Republican voters, including Tea Party members, oppose cutting Social Security or Medicare in order to reduce the federal deficit. Yet Obama created a "Deficit Commission" and appointed as its co-chairs two politicians who were publicly in favor of doing just that, and he has continued to offer cuts of that nature as part of a "Grand Bargain" with Republican leaders in Congress. A "millionaire's tax" is also popular among Republican voters, who also joined with other Americans in wanting the government to act more decisively to create jobs.

If the nation were governed by a referendum of Republican voters -- just Republicans -- it would be more "socialistic" than it has been under President Obama. Since these policies are supported even more strongly by Democrats and independents, a more "socialistic" Obama – one who rejected cuts to Medicare and Social Security, fought more aggressively for a "millionaires' tax," pushed a public option, and backed a more aggressive jobs agenda – would be more popular with American voters across the political spectrum.

 

Red Republicans-

It's proven popular with previous presidents from both parties. In fact, based on their policies, most Republican presidents of the last century were more "socialistic" than Barack Obama. Eisenhower built the federal highway system and presided over the IRS when the top marginal tax rate for high earners was 91 percent.

Nixon proposed a minimum guaranteed income for all Americans, which he called a "negative income tax," without any Clinton-era preconditions like "workfare." It would have applied to all families with children, and passed Congress but failed in the Senate. Nixon also imposed wage and price controls in 1971 to control inflation. These controls, while not considered traditionally "socialistic," were a radical imposition of state control over the private-sector economy.

Even Herbert Hoover, who presided over the Crash of 1929 and is often contrasted with FDR, described himself as a "progressive." He expanded the civil service, proposed a Department of Education and a guaranteed pension for all Americans, enlarged the national park system, ended private oil leases on government land, and formed an antitrust division within the Justice Department.

And, much as it irritates Republicans to be reminded of it, Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times.

Obama has proposed a reasonable $476 billion program of infrastructure repair, but he's avoided the kinds of bold initiatives put forward by his Republican predecessors: No Hoover-like litany of progressive reforms, no major public projects like Eisenhower's highways, no Nixon-style negative income tax. And he certainly hasn't responded to our ongoing economic crisis with any state interventions on the scale of Nixon's wage and price controls.

 

Socialism's Super Salesmen-

All this name-calling may not be helping the GOP, but there may be another surprise beneficiary: Socialism. The once-stigmatized ideology has become more acceptable since the fall of the Iron Curtain. The Pew Research Center reports that 31 percent of Americans have a favorable response to the term, while 61 percent respond negatively. The public's feelings about capitalism soured slightly in 2011, with approval/disapproval shifting from 52/37 to 50/40.

What's much more striking is the fact that, for the first time, more young people think favorably of socialism than they do of capitalism.  Forty-nine percent of young people aged 18-29 have a positive view of socialism, while 43 percent see it negatively. Twenty months ago those numbers were reversed, making this a dramatic shift in youth opinion.

Which raises the question: Are today's Republican presidential candidates socialism's best salesmen?

Of course, many factors could be driving young people's improving opinion of socialism. Youth unemployment is at record highs, and they can see that little is being done to change that. The Occupy movement has highlighted the ills of unfettered capitalism. But could they also be watching the comic-opera figures on the GOP debate stage and being drawn to anything that group dislikes?

Nichols thinks so. "When they hear Republican politicians ranting and raving about socialism," he said, "young people may be thinking, 'If these yahoos are against it, it can't be that bad.' At the very least, I think it's opened up a great deal of interest in socialism as a alternative."

 

Socialism's Return?-

Nichols notes that socialist parties were once part of a vigorous American debate and government's role in society. He believes that socialism should re-enter the mainstream and serve the same purpose on the left that libertarianism serves on the right.

There are even places where the two ideologies can collaborate, like civil liberties and foreign policy. As Nichols notes, many of today's mainstream ideas were first articulated by either libertarian or socialist thinkers.

And as Obama has embraced more seemingly "socialist" mainstream ideas – tax structure, or greater infrastructure spending – his popularity has risen.

Whatever happens, one thing's already clear: Love him or not, Barack Obama is no socialist. But socialist-inspired ideas remain as popular – and as American – as ever. That's something politicians in both parties would do well to remember.

 

By Richard Eskow who is a writer, a senior fellow with the Campaign for America's Future, and the host of a weekly radio show, "The Breakdown."


 

"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless
means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral." -Paolo Friere-

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Please Vote NO on House Joint Resolution 7!

Dear Ms.Rose Berger, Mr. Jon Botten, and Mr. John Patton,

It is a permissible reading of the 1st Amendment to say that if prohibiting the exercise of religion is not the object of the Affordable Care Act but merely the incidental effect of a generally applicable and otherwise valid provision, like requiring insurers to provide contraception coverage, then the First Amendment has not been offended. To make an individuals obligation to obey such a law contingent upon the laws coincidence with his religious beliefs, except where the States interest is compelling-permitting him/her, by virtue of his/her beliefs, to become a law unto himself, contradicts both constitutional tradition  and common sense. To adopt a true compelling interest requirement for laws that affect religious practice would lead towards anarchy.
As with its ruling in Lying v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Association, the Court warned of the perils of allowing a religious group to have veto power over laws. The neutrality of laws and their general applicability protect them from First Amendment challenge.

So Please Vote NO on House Joint Resolution 7!

My Primary Concerns:

• The HHS rule on essential services is not about government mandates. This is about the importance of reproductive medical care and women's health. HHS heeded the findings of an independent panel of experts, the Institute of Medicine, which recommended that birth control be included as a preventive health care benefit. 

• Forcing women to pay out-of-pocket for contraceptives puts an unfair, discriminatory cost burden on a certain segment of society, and women may choose not to use the most effective form of birth control due to cost concerns.

• Birth control pills are sometimes prescribed and used for many other medical  conditions. Allowing employers to exclude contraceptives from health insurance plans could also prove costly to individuals with such conditions. 

• Contraception helps prevent unintended pregnancies, improves the quality of  women's lives, and reduces the need for abortion. 
The problem is that birth control is legal in the United States, and birth control pills are used for other purposes than contraception (in fact, contraception may not even be the purpose of the majority of prescriptions). Contrary to what Santorum and others allege, the prescriptions are relatively expensive for poor and working class families.
Religious practices in the United States are trumped by secular law all the time when there is a conflict. Thus, Native Americans who believe in using peyote as part of their religious rituals were fired from their government jobs for doing so, and the US Supreme Court upheld it in 1990.
The arguments the Catholic Bishops are making about the balance between conscience and the obligations of civil law should be welcomed by all Americans as part of our national dialectic.
President Obama is to be applauded for at least trying to find a compromise that doesn’t dragoon Catholic institutions into betraying that conscience. In the end, of course, civil law must uphold equitable treatment of all women, and a satisfactory compromise may not be possible. We will be the better for having the debate, and attempting to find a modus vivendi.
What isn’t helpful is to have loud-mouthed hypocrites who reject all the humane principles for which the Catholic Church stands getting on a high horse  about a third-order teaching such as artificial birth control (on which the position of the church has changed over time, and may change again).
Thank you for your time and any consideration given to me regarding this issue. And please vote NO on HJR 7! Thank you.

"Official message from Congressman Cynthia Lummis Regarding Women's Health and her Opposition to it!"

Here is a wonder example of right-wing lies and bullshit with a topping of the 18th century "Blount Amendment". Cynthia is a member of the right-wing "Uterus Police" but her rank is unknown at this time.
 
So, Dear Cynthia,
It is a permissible reading of the 1st Amendment to say that if prohibiting the exercise of religion is not the object of the Affordable Care Act but merely the incidental effect of a generally applicable and otherwise valid provision, like requiring insurers to provide contraception coverage, then the First Amendment has not been offended....To make an individuals obligation to obey such a law contingent upon the laws coincidence with his religious beliefs, except where the States interest is compelling-permitting him/her, by virtue of his/her beliefs, to become a law unto himself, contradicts both constitutional tradition and common sense. To adopt a true compelling interest requirement for laws that affect religious practice would lead towards anarchy.
As with its ruling in Lying v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Association, the Court warned of the perils of allowing a religious group to have veto power over laws. The neutrality of laws and their general applicability protect them from First Amendment challenge.
 
 
 

February 21, 2012

 

 

William Harasym

200 Smith Street, Apt. 410

Sheridan, Wyoming 82801-3842


 

Dear William:

 

Thank you for contacting me regarding H.R. 1179, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011.  It is good to hear from you.

 

On August 3, 2011, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a list of preventive services specific to women that most health plans in the United States will be required to provide without co-pays or out-of-pocket expenses.  These mandatory preventive services include sterilization procedures as well as contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  There is a religious exemption to the mandate for health plan sponsors that are "religious employers."  As originally drafted, however, "religious employer" was very narrowly defined as an employer that: "(1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization" under the Internal Revenue Code. 

 

This exemption would not cover most employers, including numerous religious institutions in the United States who do not meet all of the requirements of the exemption.  While the Obama Administration has offered a "compromise" under which non-exempted religious organizations could elect not to provide coverage, the insurance plan would still have to provide the coverage free of charge.  This means religious organizations would still be indirectly subsidizing the coverage.  Moreover, the mandate would remain in full force for other employers who nonetheless have conscience objections.  This is but one example of how Obama Care has limited the freedom of American citizens.  Congress needs to repeal Obama Care in its entirety and start over.

 

Because the chances for full repeal of Obama Care are still uncertain, I have also cosponsored the bipartisan Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179).  This legislation is designed to preserve the status quo for conscience protections prior to the enactment of Obama Care.  H.R. 1179 has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, where it awaits further consideration.

 

H.R. 1179 would permit (but not require) a health plan to decline coverage of specific items or services that are contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the plan issuer, sponsor, purchaser or beneficiary.  To eliminate any financial incentive for health plans to feign conscience objections in order to escape coverage mandates, plans that opt out of coverage would not be able to lower the overall actuarial value of the plan.

 

H.R. 1179 also prohibits the federal government or health plans in Obama Care's health insurance exchanges from discriminating against medical providers who do not wish to provide or refer for items or services based on their religious beliefs or moral convictions.  H.R. 1179 does not overturn state laws or even other federal laws in this area.  It simply prevents Obama Care from being used as a tool for discriminating against medical providers based on their conscience objections.

 

Thank you again for taking the time to write to me.  I value your input.  If you haven't done so already, I would like to encourage you to visit my website at www.lummis.house.gov.  There you can sign up to receive my newsletter, and have access to a wealth of other information.  I won't flood your email box, but I will provide you with updates once in a while about activities in Washington that affect our lives in Wyoming.  I hope you will sign up so that we can stay in close touch, and I look forward to seeing you in Wyoming.

 

Sincerely,

z

Cynthia M. Lummis

Member of Congress

 

 


 

I find it extremely hypocritical that a party that rants about less government regulations and interference, yet when it comes to certain topics, like women's rights and trying to control their uterus, you are all for it. This isn't about religious freedom, it's about women's rights, and you and your gang wanting to limit them. Is there a big kerfuffle about men and their Viagra which is also covered? NO! Why, well because we live in a patriarchy, where the men make the rules. The churches have already been exempt regarding this, but you all want to expand this because you think this is a great thing to stir up your conservative base, the base that you have now sexually neutered, and who supposedly doesn't need or use birth control. Oops, wrong there, because over their lifetime, almost 99% of the woman use some form of birth-control. And how exactly is it a violation of the Constitution to have insurance providers to cover birth control? You know the churches aren't always right, and you yahoos seem to be wanting to ride this horse till it dies. Throughout history secular laws have superseded religious law, although in this case, "churches" already are exempt, but you all and this right-wing extremist "Blunt Amendment" are really grasping at straws. This contraceptive battle isn't about religious freedom, it's about women's rights. Maybe your knuckle-dragging followers will believe your lies and misinformation, but your lies don't float here.

This conflict between Federal authorities and the U.S. Catholic Bishops over rules requiring employees of Catholic institutions such as universities and hospitals to have birth control pills supplied to them as part of their health insurance. Because of Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, the contemporary Roman Catholic church has taken the stand that artificial birth control is immoral. The bishops therefore object to having the church be forced to supply it as part of their employees' health care packages. Yet, there are over 100,000+ exemptions regarding this for churches, but you republicans think you can make this a pivotal issue to ignite your sleeping right-winged anti-intellectual base.

The problem is that birth control is legal in the United States, and birth control pills are used for other purposes than contraception (in fact, contraception may not even be the purpose of the majority of prescriptions). Contrary to what Santorum alleges, the prescriptions are relatively expensive for poor and working class families.

Religious practices in the United States are trumped by secular law all the time when there is a conflict. Thus, Native Americans who believe in using peyote as part of their religious rituals were fired from their government jobs for doing so, and the US Supreme Court upheld it in 1990.

Likewise, traditionalist members of the Sikh religion believe that a man should avoid cutting his hair, and should bind it up in a turban. So what if an orthodox Sikh gets a job as a construction worker? He can't get a hard hat on over the turban. Does he have the right to forgo the hard hat on the construction site, so as to retain his turban? The question went to the US courts, and they said Sikhs have to wear hard hats. If a brick fell on the turban and killed the Sikh worker, his family could after all sue the construction company for negligence since it did not require him to wear a hard hat.

Or there are many instances in which Muslim religious laws and practices have been over-ruled in the United States by the courts. American law forbids Muslim-American men to take a second wife, something legal to them in many of their home countries. State law tends to award community property in cases of divorce instead of the much smaller payments men can make to divorced women in Islamic law, even if the couple have specified in their marriage contract that Muslim law (sharia) will govern these issues.

I don't think there is any question that Federal law, and state law, can trump Roman Catholic religious sentiments, just as they trump the religious sentiments and practices of other religious communities where issues of secular justice and equity are at stake.

The tradition of American progressive thought is tolerant of religion even while usually not being religious itself. In my view this attitude of tolerance is rooted in James Madison's theory of democracy, which is that it is best preserved by lively arguments among groups in the body politic that disagree with one another. Thus, while the Roman Catholic Church authorities adopted a negative stance toward modernity, cultural pluralism, and democracy in the nineteenth century, the Catholic community in the United States nevertheless contributed in important ways to modernity, cultural pluralism and democracy. Arguably, had the US been entirely Protestant, its law and practice would have evolved in a less pluralistic and tolerant direction.

A flourishing Catholic community contributed to social debates and so improved American democracy– witness Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement. And, the reformist theologians of the twentieth century, most of them European or Latin American, cultivated by American Catholics, made important contributions to our understanding– Karl Rahner, Edward Schillebeeckx, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Hans Kueng, Paulo Freire, and Gustavo Gutierrez. I would argue that Vatican II was an important event in American religious life across the board, not just for American Catholics. It is lack of appreciation of Madisonian conceptions of democracy of pluralism and checks and balances that led the late Christopher Hitchens to disregard altogether the enormous positive contribution of the Church, whether to the education of the poor and working classes or to teaching social justice. (By the way, the argument for democracy depending on diverse voices and vigorous debate is also an argument for the benefits for the US of the advent of Islam in American public life).

So, the arguments the bishops are making about the balance between conscience and the obligations of civil law should be welcomed by all Americans as part of our national dialectic.

President Obama is to be applauded for at least trying to find a compromise that doesn't dragoon Catholic institutions into betraying that conscience. In the end, of course, civil law must uphold equitable treatment of all women, and a satisfactory compromise may not be possible. We will be the better for having the debate, and attempting to find a modus vivendi.

What isn't helpful is to have loud-mouthed hypocrites who reject all the humane principles for which the Catholic Church stands getting on a high horse about a third-order teaching such as artificial birth control (on which the position of the church has changed over time, and may change again).

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Five ways to argue with a Keystone XL pipeline supporter!

Five ways to argue with a Keystone XL pipeline supporter!

1. When they say: "The Keystone XL pipeline will bring down gas prices!"

You can say: In your dreams.

Gas is a global commodity and its price is set by global markets. It rises and falls based on all sorts of factors, including current demand, demand forecasts, global economic conditions, and international events that affect distribution channels. Local supply fluctuations rarely have any but the tiniest impact on gas prices. New pipelines carrying costly-to-extract tar-sands oil might extend the lifespan of climate-wrecking fossil fuels by a few years, but they won't bring down the price at the pump. (In fact, in the Midwest, Keystone XL might actually increase the price per gallon — this report explains why.)

2. When they say: "The Keystone XL pipeline will create jobs!"

You can say: If only.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims, ludicrously, that the pipeline will create 250,000 new jobs. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) says 100,000 new jobs are on tap. The pipeline builders are a little more sober but still like to throw around big new-jobs numbers in the tens of thousands. Look closely at them and you realize that their figures are totally fudged: They're talking about "job years," not jobs (so it tallied one worker laboring for two years as "two new jobs").

The only independent report on pipeline jobs, from Cornell [PDF], concludes the project will generate 2,500-4,650 temporary construction jobs. That's not nothing — but it's nothing like the astronomical numbers pipeline supporters pull out of their hats. In fact, after a brief initial spasm of construction, the number of permanent jobs created by the pipeline is comically small — as low as 50, according to the Cornell report.

3. When they say: "The Keystone XL pipeline is safe and won't hurt the environment!"

You can say: That's always the line, isn't it?

Unfortunately, in this case we have extensive and recent evidence to the contrary. (The similar Keystone I pipeline has leaked at least 14 times in roughly a year.) The pipeline's original route was smack over the ecologically sensitive Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies much of the Plains with its fresh water; but even if it gets routed differently, Keystone XL will carry corrosive, unstable, hard-to-clean-up tar-sands sludge across an entire continent using failure-prone systems in hard-to-reach locations. It will be a disaster waiting to happen.

4. When they say: "The Keystone XL pipeline will bolster our national security!"

You can say: Stop living in the 1970s!

We're supposed to be happy about tapping new tar-sands oil reserves from our friends in Canada because that means we're buying less oil from other, less-friendly nations in the Middle East, Latin America, or elsewhere. But even pipeline proponents admit that most of the tar-sands oil will be headed overseas to customers in Asia, no matter where it's refined. Anyway, our national security today is far less dependent on overseas oil than it was 30, 20, even 10 years ago. But rising global temperatures threaten to destabilize our food and water supplies, drown our coasts, and assault us with extreme weather. If we don't get started on changing our carbon-emissions habits soon, the national-security problems caused by a climate-change feedback loop will make us nostalgic for the days when all we had to worry about was OPEC.

5. When they say: "If we don't use the tar-sands oil, someone else will!"

You can say: Buck up, mate!

According to this fatalistic, all-or-nothing logic, any and all action we can imagine taking to mitigate climate change is hopeless unless we can get every nation on earth to agree to take the same steps at the same time. But that's never the way real political change unfolds: Someone always has to take the first step, raise awareness, trigger new ways of looking at a problem, and start a chain reaction.

Bonus Lunatic Congressperson Argument:

When they say: "The Keystone XL pipeline will help caribou mate!"

You can say: Well, what can you say? Do you need to say anything at all?


"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral." -Paolo Friere-

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