Category Archives: President

President Obama’s budget defeated 99-0 in Senate

I don’t think he’s even phoning it in anymore–I think President Obama has just totally given up. From the Washington Times:

President Obama’s budget suffered a second embarrassing defeat Wednesday, when senators voted 99-0 to reject it.

Coupled with the House’s rejection in March, 414-0, that means Mr. Obama’s budget has failed to win a single vote in support this year.

Republicans forced the vote by offering the president’s plan on the Senate floor….

Read it all.

VDH: It was the power, stupid!

Because Victor Davis Hanson is always a good read:

In my dumber days, between 2001-2008, I used to wonder why the Left relentlessly hammered the war on terror (e.g., renditions, tribunals, predators, preventative detention, Patriot Act, intercepts, wiretaps, Guantanamo Bay) when these measures had not only proven quite useful in preventing another 9/11-like attack, but had been sanctioned by both the Congress and the courts. In those ancient times, I was not as cynical as I am now. So I assumed that Harold Koh and MoveOn.org, though mistaken, were worried about civil liberties, or measures that they felt were both illegal and without utility.

But, of course, the Obama (who attacked each and every element of the war on terror as a legislator and senator) Left never had any principled objection at all. Instead, whatever Bush was for, they were in Pavlovian fashion against. I can say that without a charge of cynicism, because after January 2009, Obama embraced or expanded every Bush-Cheney protocol that he inherited. In response, the anti-war Left simply kept silent, or indeed vanished, or went to work extending the anti-terrorism agenda. Guantanamo Bay, in other words, was a national sin until the mid-morning of January 20, 2009….

What is going on? Two things, really. One, the media believes that the noble ends justify the tawdry means. So if it is a choice between emphasizing the latest Obama embarrassment by digging into the scary Fast and Furious, the “millions of green jobs” Solyndra insider giveaways, the Secret Service decadence, the GSA buffoonery, and the work while getting food stamps con in Washington OR endangering Obamacare and by extension “the children,” or the war to eliminate autism, or the right to breath clean air–well, why would one ever wish to derail all that by weakening a landmark progressive and his enlightened agenda?

Or for you more cynical readers, why would you wish to enervate the present comfortable culture in Washington in which the press and politics are at last one? Or why undermine the first African-American president, who is a constant reminder of our progressive advancement? Or why weaken our only chance some day to have open borders or gay marriage?

Two, the Left has always operated on the theory of medieval penance. We surely must assume that Warren Buffett has never had problems with the ethics of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. or had a company he controls sued by the IRS for back taxes. Why? Because he has confessed his sins, and accepted the faith and paid his tithe to the Church. Ditto a Bill Gates or a rich celebrity like Sean Penn or Oprah. In the relativism of the left, if the one-percenters will simply confess that their class is greedy and needs to pay their fair share—even if they are entirely cynical in the manner of GE’s Jeffrey Immelt and penance is written off as the cost of doing business—then they become exempt from the wages of them/us warfare and the “you want to kill the children” rhetoric.

There is no difference in the way the Koch brothers or Exxon run their empires and the way that  GM, GE, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and Google do. But the former are enemies of the people, while the latter are protectors who have have confessed to their bishops and agreed to mouth doctrine and thereby obtained penance to make as much money as they want and to spend it as they damn well please. Suddenly in America after 2009 there are good and bad cable networks, good and bad celebrities, good and bad CEOs, good and bad sports teams (ask Lovie Smith), good and bad states, good and bad everything—not adjudicated on the actual basis of behavior, but rather on whether some are willing to go to reeducation camp, admit their errors, and join the effort to clean the air and feed the kids….

I have a confession to make that may upset readers. I was neutral in the Republican primaries, but especially interested in one fact: who would take off the gloves and run a “war room” campaign in the fashion of Bill Clinton in 1992 (as opposed to the McCain model of emulating Mike Dukakis in 1988)? Romney did it first and most effectively.

The result is that when we hear that Rush Limbaugh should be taken off the air for his profane misogyny, almost immediately now there are accounts of Bill Maher’s $1 million gift to Obama and his far greater and unapologetic slurs against women. When we hear all those creepy “concerns” about Romney’s great-grandfather as a polygamist in Mexico, suddenly we are reminded that Obama’s father in Kenya was, too. Putting a dog on the car roof is now not quite the same as eating a dog and then matter-of-fact reading one’s account of it on an audiotape. Trivial? Yes. Distractions from the current economic mess, and beneath us all? Perhaps. All Romney’s doing? Of course not.

But at least 2012 won’t be a default campaign. In other words, to quote Obama, Romney will get in “their faces” and “bring a gun to a knife fight.” McCain more graciously and nobly lost by putting all sorts of concerns off the table. I would expect that should Obama keep harping about Romney’s tax returns, Romney will demand Obama’s transcripts and medical records at last to be released. If Obama’s surrogates keep writing about Mormonism, we will learn of new disclosures about Trinity Church….

Read it all.

York: To Obama, legal precedents are all about politics

From Byron York at the Washington Examiner:

In 1996 Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act by huge bipartisan votes — 342 to 67 in the House and 85 to 14 in the Senate. President Bill Clinton signed the measure into law.

Now, the Obama administration says DOMA, which permits states to refuse to recognize gay marriages from other states and also creates a federal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, is unconstitutional. In Boston on Wednesday, Stuart Delery, an attorney for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, urged the First Circuit Court of Appeals to find DOMA violates the Constitution by discriminating against gays and lesbians. “I’m not here to defend [the law] on any standard,” Delery told the court.

What was striking about Delery’s request that a federal court strike down DOMA was that just a day or two before, President Obama railed at the very notion that a federal court would strike down any law passed by Congress….

If the president was so concerned about a court overturning a duly constituted law passed by a democratically elected Congress, why was he urging a small group of unelected judges to strike down DOMA, a measure that won passage by a far greater margin than Obamacare?

The answer is, of course, that the administration is making a political argument for its positions, not a legal one. And perhaps counterproductively, the president’s decision to bring up Obamacare’s history in Congress could end up reminding the public of the tangled circumstances of its passage. Even with a huge majority in the House, Democrats barely passed the bill in the face of bipartisan opposition. And in the Senate, Obamacare succeeded as the result of a set of freakish circumstances that allowed Democrats to pass an unpopular measure into law….

*sigh* It’s always the hypocrisy that gets me. Read it all.

Cardinal Dolan: “‘radical,’ ‘unprecedented’ and ‘dramatically intrusive'”

From James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal:

The president of the U.S. Conference of Bishops is careful to show due respect for the president of the United States. “I was deeply honored that he would call me and discuss these things with me,” says the newly elevated Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York. But when Archbishop Dolan tells me his account of their discussions of the ObamaCare birth-control mandate, Barack Obama sounds imperious and deceitful to me….

“So you can imagine the chagrin,” Archbishop Dolan continues, “when [the president] called me at the end of January to say that the mandates remain in place and that there would be no substantive change, and that the only thing that he could offer me was that we would have until August. . . . I said, ‘Mr. President, I appreciate the call. Are you saying now that we have until August to introduce to you continual concerns that might trigger a substantive mitigation in these mandates?’ He said, ‘No, the mandates remain. We’re more or less giving you this time to find out how you’re going to be able to comply.’ I said, ‘Well, sir, we don’t need the [extra time]. I can tell you now we’re unable to comply.'”

Archbishop Dolan explains that the “accommodation” solves nothing, since most church-affiliated organizations either are self-insured or purchase coverage from Catholic insurance companies like Christian Brothers Services and Catholic Mutual Group, which also see the mandate as “morally toxic.” He argues that the mandate also infringes on the religious liberty of nonministerial organizations like the Knights of Columbus and Catholic-oriented businesses such as publishing houses, not to mention individuals, Catholic or not, who conscientiously object.

“We’ve grown hoarse saying this is not about contraception, this is about religious freedom,” he says. What rankles him the most is the government’s narrow definition of a religious institution….

“We find it completely unswallowable, both as Catholics and mostly as Americans, that a bureau of the American government would take it upon itself to define ‘ministry,'” Archbishop Dolan says. “We would find that to be—we’ve used the words ‘radical,’ ‘unprecedented’ and ‘dramatically intrusive.'”

It also amounts to penalizing the church for not discriminating in its good works: “We don’t ask people for their baptismal certificate, nor do we ask people for their U.S. passport, before we can serve them, OK? . . . We don’t serve people because they’re Catholic, we serve them because we are, and it’s a moral imperative for us to do so.”…

The archbishop sees a parallel irony in his dispute with Mr. Obama: “This is a strange turn of the table, that here a Catholic cardinal is defending religious freedom, the great proposition of the American republic, and the president of the United States seems to be saying that this is a less-than-important issue.”…

Read it all.

Obama kills Atlantic offshore drilling for five years

From Breitbart.com:

Yesterday the Obama administration announced a delaying tactic which will put off the possibility of new offshore oil drilling on the Atlantic coast for at least five years:

The announcement by the Interior Department sets into motion what will be at least a five year environmental survey to determine whether and where oil production might occur.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell notes that a planned lease sale, which the administration cancelled last year, will now be put off until at least 2018….

Read it all, but remember, the president is doing everything he can on energy, except all the things he should be doing.

Conspiracy or just incompetence masquerading as?

I am not a conspiracy-theory enthusiast. I think it’s hard enough for one person to keep a secret, much less the dozens it would take to organize some of the most famous conspiracy-theory events out there.

So, yes, we did land men on the moon—more than once. (Can you imagine all of Houston keeping a secret?)

And, yes, the Twin Towers came down because they were plowed into by airplanes directed by Al-Qaeda terrorists, and yes. . .steel can melt.

(But I’m not touching the JFK assassination—even anti-conspiracy theorists know when to get out.)

So, I don’t go looking for conspiracies, especially in politics or government, but I am beginning to wonder if the U.S. government, especially the Executive Branch, is purposely targeting traditional Christians by making it difficult for churches to conduct their business, hold their meetings, travel unencumbered, and fulfill their mission of being Christ’s Body in the world. Here’s a list, just off the top of my head, of recent events:

*  Inclusion of the Holy See (the Vatican) on U.S. State Department’s 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.

From Catholic.org:

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) – The US State Department has added an unlikely name to the list of countries that are considered money-laundering centers – the Vatican. The listing was published Wednesday in the 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, and lists 190 countries.

The list is divided into three categories, primary concern, concern, and monitored. The Vatican has been listed with 67 other countries which also includes Poland, Egypt, Ireland, Hungary, and Chile.

A State Department official did confess that the Vatican had recently established programs to prevent money laundering….

In plain English, there is no accusation of wrongdoing, nor even evidence of it. The State Department merely sees the Vatican as a possible risk because of the large volumes of money processed through its banking system.

Now this is somewhat understandable. The Vatican has had financial problems in the past, which is why they are instituting changes. They are also in the “countries of concern” category, the middle group, primarily it seems because of the amount of money they handle, not because of any specific wrongdoing.

But then this happens, and you have to ask “why now?” since the Vatican has already taken steps to address its problems:

*  Closing by JP Morgan Chase of the Vatican’s account

From Reuters:

JP Morgan Chase (JPM.N) is closing the Vatican bank’s account with an Italian branch of the U.S. banking giant because of concerns about a lack of transparency at the Holy See’s financial institution, Italian newspapers reported.

The move is a blow to the Vatican’s drive to have its bank included in Europe’s “white list” of states that comply with international standards against tax fraud and money-laundering.

The bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), enacted major reforms last year in an attempt to get Europe’s seal of approval and put behind it scandals that have included accusations of money laundering and fraud….

Last year, the Vatican adapted internal laws to comply with international standards on financial crime.

The 108-acre sovereign state surrounded by Rome now complies with the rules of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

It also established an internal Financial Information Authority (FIA) along the lines of other countries and has committed to comply with international anti-money laundering standards and liaise with the group and law enforcement agencies….

JP Morgan’s actions are less understandable than those of the U.S. State Department. If the Vatican is in the midst of instituting reforms, why close their account? Investigations haven’t presented any new information and talk of money-laundering and tax fraud are still just allegations. Was there pressure, overt or implied, by the U.S. government?

* Concern about travel documents

The United Methodist Church has repeatedly on the international level upheld the traditional Christian understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman, despite ongoing attempts from various groups to allow for same-sex unions. Once again at their General Conference this April they will face this issue. In a write-up for First Things, Thomas C. Oden mentions in passing the ability of foreign delegates, especially those from Africa, to get the proper travel documents to attend the conference:

The struggle for the soul of the United Methodist Church has reached a decisive point. At every quadrennial national meeting since 1976, the issue of the ordination of partners in same-sex unions has been raised and defeated. Until now my church has not gone the way of the Episcopalians, the United Church of Christ, the mainline Presbyterians, and the Evangelical Lutherans. At the General Conference this April, Methodists face another battle over this issue, and the legislative outcome is in doubt. The contest will hinge on how many of the African delegates will get visas and on whether we can meld together the voices of evangelicals, moderates, overseas delegates, and centrist liberals who care about the future of the United Methodist Church and who wish to avoid a decade of devastating court challenges….

The presence of Christians from Africa and Asia is essential for the UMC to continue to uphold the biblical mandate on marriage. I wonder how many will get visas—I guess we’ll have to wait until April to see.

A paperwork hold-up did affect some long-scheduled Nigerian clergy unable to get visas to come to the U.S. for a religious conference earlier this year. Apparently, the State Department pointed to the security issues involved with Nigeria, which is a valid concern, but given the lead-time for the paperwork, questions remain.

*  Abridgement of First Amendments rights

And of course, the biggest area indicating that the administration is targeting traditional/conservative Christians is the mandate by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for all employers, religious or not, to pay for (either directly or indirectly) contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients. Or, as Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York said in response to the 2013 deadline for compliance: “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”

If religious freedom falls and the Catholic Church as well as other religious institutions pulls back from operating for all instead of just their own faithful, the government will have succeeded in keeping them from following Christ’s Great Commission, of imposing the State between people gathering together to help each other, and of gravely weakening all of our “inalienable” rights.

But I reassure myself that this can’t possibly be a conspiracy with the adage:

Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence.

And that goes double when dealing with government bureaucrats.

Ace: There are four possible main types of educated people–guess what type Obama is

Being Ace, he’ll tell you, of course:

As Pethokoukis says, it’s an anecdote that defines the presidency.

Energy was a particular obsession of the president-elect’s, and therefore a particular source of frustration. Week after week, [White House economic adviser Christina] Romer would march in with an estimate of the jobs all the investments in clean energy would produce; week after week, Obama would send her back to check the numbers. “I don’t get it,” he’d say. “We make these large-scale investments in infrastructure. What do you mean, there are no jobs?” But the numbers rarely budged.

There are four possible main types of educated people:

  • Good student, good thinker
  • Good student, bad thinker
  • Bad student, good thinker
  • Bad student, bad thinker

I don’t actually think Obama was a good student — I mean, where are the grades, yo? — but I would call him a “good student” in the sense that he believed whatever his professors told him.

A pliable mind, let’s call it.

Some people are bad as students because they reject the crap their professors tell them. Some of these people are just idiots; some are pretty smart, and go on to do big things.

On the other hand, some “good students” are complete idiots themselves, and what makes them good students — pliability, willingness to believe — is exactly what makes them bad thinkers.

Obama’s that type, obviously.

He has no rebelliousness of mind. No defiance of thought.

He believes everything his leftist professors and leftist heroes and leftist patrons (like Bill Ayers) told him.

He’s got a soft mind. A soft man, who’s lived a soft life, with soft hands, and a soft mind.

Meanwhile, this parvenu (where are the grades, yo?) sends out his flack to call Paul Ryan “aggressively and deliberately ignorant” on this very issue….

Read it all.

When you’re holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail


An oldy but goody (August 2010), from News Channel 5 in Franklin, Tennessee:

…But a now former Middle school football coach in Williamson County said writing a politically-charged country song got him fired, after it rubbed a few parents the wrong way.

26 year old Bryan Glover is not shy about his political opinions. He is proud tea party Republican and felt compelled to voice his disappointment in the current administration through his music. But he never thought sharing his new song would leave him unemployed.

The song is called, “When You’re Holding A Hammer, Everything Looks Like A Nail.” It is a reference to Glover’s frustrations with the current administration and President Obama. Glover co-wrote the tune with a parent on the Grassland Middle School football team. He never thought sending it out to friends, family and player’s parents could put the hammer on the nail of his job with the school….

Within hours, parents called the school to complain of the politically charged lyrics and Glover said the principal at Grassland Middle School told the head football coach to release Glover from his position with the team.

“He just said parents were complaining, maybe there was a comment of racial overtones,” Glover said,

“I found it amusing,” said parent Michael Kasaitis about Glover’s country song.

He said no matter the opinion on his music, the link was sent from his personal email account and it is free speech.

“I was totally upset. He has every right to write a song, write a book or to make his opinion known,” said Kasaitis….

Read it all.

Shapiro: Critical Race Theory explained

From Ben Shapiro at Breitbart.com:

…Critical Race Theory (CRT) was an intellectual development in the late 1970s and early 1980s in which some scholars, perturbed by what they perceived as a loss of momentum in the movement for racial equality, began to doubt that the constitutional and legal system itself had the capacity for change.

This criticism mirrored a Marxist attack long voiced in academia: that the Constitution had been a capitalist document incapable of allowing for the redistributionist change necessary to create a more equal world. To create a more equal world, the Constitution and the legal system would have to be endlessly criticized – hence critical theory – and torn down from within….

So, what does CRT believe? In their primer, Critical Race Theory, Richard Delgado (one of the movement’s founders) and Jean Stefancic set out some basic principles:

1. “Racism is ordinary, not aberrational”;

2. “Our system of white-over-color ascendancy serves important purposes, both psychic and material.”

When taken together, these principles have serious ramifications. First, they suggest that legal rules that stand for equal treatment under law – i.e. the 14th Amendment – can remedy “only the most blatant forms of discrimination.” The system is too corrupted, too based on the notion of white supremacy, for equal protection of the laws to ever be a reality. The system must be made unequal in order to compensate for the innate racism of the white majority.

Second, these principles suggest that even measures taken to alleviate unequal protection under the law – for example, the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education – were actually taken for nefarious purposes, to serve white interests. This is exactly what Derrick Bell believed: he said that Brown had only been decided in order to prevent the Soviet Union from using American racial inequality as a public relations baton to wield against the white-majority United States….

So here’s what we’re left with, in simple terms. Racism cannot be ended within the current system; the current system is actually both a byproduct of and a continuing excuse for racism. Minority opinions on the system are more relevant than white opinions, since whites have long enjoyed control of the system, and have an interest in maintaining it.

This is a deeply disturbing theory. It is damaging both to race relations and to the legal and Constitutional order….

The CRT theme runs deep in the Obama psyche….

Read it all.

The bishops and the mandate: Principled witness vs. politics as usual

From Robert P. George, Sherif Girgis and Ryan T. Anderson, writing for the Witherspoon Institute:

…Let’s consider some facts. When national opposition to the mandate was a white-hot blaze, President Obama announced a few changes meant to satisfy critics. Hours later, the mandate was enshrined in the Federal Register without any of those changes having been made. The President’s self-imposed deadline for making good on his promises? After the election.

He claimed to be accommodating religious, especially Catholic concerns. It was a compromise, say America’s editors. That would make it history’s first unilateral compromise: The White House had secured (and promptly rolled out) the approval of longtime supporter Sr. Carol Keehan—and Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards—but not a single bishop.

In fact, the New York Times reports, the proposal was never really meant to address the bishops’ concerns. It was calculated to give cover to liberal Catholics, whose renewed support of the mandate would mute the roar of criticism of Obama from champions of religious freedom on the Left and Right both….

Well, the bishops certainly do oppose mandating this funding (and always have), for contraceptives and abortifacients are, as Cardinal Timothy Dolan and others have noted, not health care. Anovulent pills can be used for genuinely health-related purposes, which the bishops support and even cover for their own employees. But what contraception and abortion prevent or “treat”—the existence of new people—is no illness or disease. They serve, as such, no common good. And when one weighs religious liberty against what is no public good at all, it’s easy to see how the scales of justice will tip. Bishops who point this out are not flexing “political muscle” in a hyped-up “difference over policy,” as America’s editors suggest. They are drawing the plain implications of Catholic principle—to which Jesuit magazines are, we presume, editorially committed.

But suppose, for the sake of argument, that these services were forms of health care. Imagine too that the “compromise solution” were more than the election-year I.O.U. of a politician who had already revealed himself to be reckless about religious freedom (and even averse to that term). We still face the fact that the mandate would require Catholic and other religiously opposed employers to provide plans that cover services they find morally abhorrent, or else pay crippling fines. Insurance companies would be the ones to advertise (and, officially, to fund) the plans’ controversial parts, but objecting employers would in practice bear their costs. …

Freedom of conscience is hardly safer after the new proposal: Objecting employers will still have to contract for insurance plans covering what they judge to be immoral. Their employees will still have this coverage through employers’ contracts, effectively on their dime….

But it gets worse. All these threats—to conscience, to witness, to religious freedom, to pluralism and civic virtue—would take their toll for no good reason, whatever one’s view of the services at stake. The cause of subsidized contraception and abortion has, again, no share in the common good. But suppose it were a public good, and important enough to justify risks to conscience and witness and religious freedom; suppose Obama’s revision really would be implemented as promised; and would, so implemented, diminish all these risks. The case for the mandate would still fail, for whatever risks remained would be unnecessary.

For one thing, contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs are widely available—not just at drug stores but also (to cite the administration’s own announcement) at “community health centers, public clinics, and hospitals with income-based support.”

But even more tellingly, the administration has on nonreligious grounds granted exemptions from the mandate to employers that account for an estimated 88 million employees in 2013. If coverage of contraceptives and abortifacients is indispensable, why is it not guaranteed for these tens of millions? If, on the other hand, the administration can afford to exempt employers for other reasons, why not show the same solicitude for employers with moral and religious objections? HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebellius, who promulgated the mandate, may have let the reason slip when she declared herself at “war” with those she cast as enemies of—you guessed it—“women’s health.”…

The administration’s dubious record on religious freedom, its selective intransigence on the insurance mandate, indeed the weakness of its position from every vantage-point leave only one explanation. Against people seeking to keep and share their faith, the Obama administration has chosen to give shining witness to its own dogmas—for which it would risk one-term martyrdom; before which it would bend every pillar of society, make every last man and woman bow. The Catholic bishops remain standing in bold resistance, and somehow it is this—and not their own, rather awkward posture on the matter—that embarrasses the editors of America magazine.

Read it all.

Apologies and Afghanistan

From Andrew McCarthy at National Review Online:

We have officially lost our minds.

The New York Times reports that President Obama has sent a formal letter of apology to Afghanistan’s ingrate president, Hamid Karzai, for the burning of Korans at a U.S. military base. The only upside of the apology is that it appears (based on the Times account) to be couched as coming personally from our blindly Islamophilic president — “I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident. . . . I extend to you and the Afghani people my sincere apologies.” It is not couched as an apology from the American people, whose frame of mind will be outrage, not contrition, as the facts become more widely known.

The facts are that the Korans were seized at a jail because jihadists imprisoned there were using them not for prayer but to communicate incendiary messages. The soldiers dispatched to burn refuse from the jail were not the officials who had seized the books, had no idea they were burning Korans, and tried desperately to retrieve the books when the situation was brought to their attention.

Of course, these facts may not become widely known, because no one is supposed to mention the main significance of what has happened here. First, as usual, Muslims — not al-Qaeda terrorists, but ordinary, mainstream Muslims — are rioting and murdering over the burning (indeed, the inadvertent burning) of a book. Yes, it’s the Koran, but it’s a book all the same — and one that, moderate Muslims never tire of telling us, doesn’t really mean everything it says anyhow.

Muslim leaders and their leftist apologists are also forever lecturing the United States about “proportionality” in our war-fighting. Yet when it comes to Muslim proportionality, Americans are supposed to shrug meekly and accept the “you burn books, we kill people” law of the jungle. Disgustingly, the Times would inure us to this moral equivalence by rationalizing that “Afghans are fiercely protective of their Islamic faith.” Well then, I guess that makes it all right, huh?

Then there’s the second not-to-be-uttered truth: Defiling the Koran becomes an issue for Muslims only when it has been done by non-Muslims. Observe that the unintentional burning would not have occurred if these “fiercely protective of their Islamic faith” Afghans had not defiled the Korans in the first place. They were Muslim prisoners who annotated the “holy” pages with what a U.S. military official described as “extremist inscriptions” in covert messages sent back and forth, just as the jihadists held at Gitmo have been known to do (notwithstanding that Muslim prisoners get their Korans courtesy of the American taxpayers they construe the book to justify killing)….

Read it all.

Going viral: Are you kidding me?

One man’s rage against the machine:

Media Matters could become the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of 2012 Obama campaign

Or so says liberal Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz:

“Well I think if swing voters in the pro-Israel community had any idea how extreme Media Matters was on issues of Israel and supporters of Israel, they would regard Media Matters as another, you know, Rev. Wright,” Dershowitz told The Daily Caller.

“And for many, many in the pro-Israel community, it would be a game changer.”…

Though Dershowitz says he doesn’t think the Obama administration and Media Matters are close, he believes the White House has to clearly distance itself from the organization because Democrats like him cannot exist within a tent that tolerates Media Matters….

And my response is, so what? Prof. Dershowitz tolerated Candidate Obama’s membership in the Rev. Wright’s church, and the president’s relationship with the reverend apparently did little to harm his campaign in 2008, thanks to a compliant and complacent press.

Why does the professor think things will happen differently this campaign season? Silly, silly man.

“More than a touch of malice”

From Paul Rahe at Ricochet:

…We know a bit more now. We know that the President did not act on impulse, that he took his time in making this decision, and that he sought advice from a range of individuals within the Democratic Party. Vice-President Joe Biden and William Daley, who was then Obama’s Chief of Staff, both profess to be Catholic, and they strongly advised against doing anything that would antagonize the Catholic bishops and the laity. Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Nancy Pelosi, the former Speaker of the House and current Democratic minority leader, were also consulted. They, too, profess to be Catholic, and they fiercely advocated imposing this burden on all employers providing health insurance for their employees.

The decision appears to have been made before the New Hampshire primary. Otherwise, it would be hard to explain why, at the debate in New Hampshire in early January, George Stephanopoulos – who pretends to be a journalist but is still obviously nothing more than a Democratic operative – repeatedly pressed Mitt Romney to spell out where he stood on the question of contraception. Stephanopoulos’ disgraceful performance, which drew boos and catcalls from the crowd, is an indication that Obama and at least some of his aides thought that they had something to gain by injecting this question into this year’s campaign….

The administration’s claim to the contrary notwithstanding, the pill and other birth control devices are not free. But the expense involved is not great. Among those who are employed and have healthcare insurance, no one is hard put to come up with the paltry sum required.

This suggests that there can be only one reason why Sebelius, Pelosi, and Obama decided to proceed. They wanted to show the bishops and the Catholic laity who is boss. They wanted to make those who think contraception wrong and abortion a species of murder complicit in both.  They wanted to rub the noses of their opponents in it. They wanted to marginalize them. Humiliation was, in fact, their only aim, and malice, their motive.

Last week, when, in response to the fierce resistance he had deliberately stirred up, the President offered the bishops what he called “an accommodation,” what he proffered was nothing more than a fig leaf. His maneuver was, in fact, a gesture of contempt, and I believe that it was Barack Obama’s final offer. From his perspective and from that of Sebelius and Pelosi, the genuine Catholics still within the Democratic coalition are no more than what Vladimir Lenin called “useful idiots,” and, now that the progressive project is near completion, they are expendable – for there is no longer any need to curry their favor.

In his piece in The Washington Examiner, which I link above, Michael Barone mentioned Obama’s decree with regard to contraception and abortifacients in tandem with a brief discussion of the President’s decision to reject the construction of the Keystone Pipeline. He was, I think, right to do so – for there is no good reason that any student of public policy can cite for doing what the President did. Cancelling the pipeline will not delay or stop the extraction of oil from the tar sands in Alberta, and the pipeline itself would pose no environmental threat. If the President’s decision had any purpose, it was symbolic – an indication to all that he cared not one whit about the plight of the white working class and that he was capable of punishing those whom he does not like and more than willing to do so.

In 2008, when he first ran for the Presidency, Barack Obama posed as a moderate most of the time. This time, he is openly running as a radical. His aim is to win a mandate for the fundamental transformation of the United States that he promised in passing on the eve of his election four years ago and that he promised again when he called his administration The New Foundation. In the process, he intends to reshape the Democratic coalition – to bring the old hypocrisy to an end, to eliminate those who stand in the way of the final consolidation of the administrative entitlements state, to drive out the faithful Catholics once and for all, to jettison the white working class, and to build a new American regime on a coalition of  highly educated upper-middle class whites, feminists, African-Americans, Hispanics, illegal immigrants, and those belonging to the public-sector unions. To Americans outside this coalition, he intends to show no mercy….

Read it all, and read it well.

WSJ: “Immaculate contraception”

Because sometimes, the headline is just too good to pass up. From the Wall Street Journal editorial page:

Here’s a conundrum: The White House wants to impose its birth-control ideology on all Americans, including those for whom sponsoring or subsidizing such services violates their moral conscience. The White House also wants to avoid a political backlash from this blow to religious freedom. These goals are irreconcilable.

So you almost have to admire the absurdity of the new plan President Obama floated yesterday: The government will now write a rule that says the best things in life are “free,” including contraception. Thus a political mandate will be compounded by an uneconomic one—in other words, behold the soul of ObamaCare….

Under the new rule, which the White House stresses is “an accommodation” and not a compromise, nonprofit religious organizations won’t have to directly cover birth control and can opt out. But the insurers they hire to cover their employees can’t opt out. If that sounds like a distinction without a difference, odds are you’re a rational person….

Insurance companies won’t be making donations. Drug makers will still charge for the pill. Doctors will still bill for reproductive treatment. The reality, as with all mandated benefits, is that these costs will be borne eventually via higher premiums. The balloon may be squeezed differently over time, and insurers may amortize the cost differently over time, but eventually prices will find an equilibrium. Notre Dame will still pay for birth control, even if it is nominally carried by a third-party corporation.

This cut-out may appease a few of the Administration’s critics, especially on the Catholic left—but only if they want to be deceived again, having lobbied for the Affordable Care Act that created the problem in the first place….

We couldn’t recall any spirit of conciliation when the birth-control mandate was finalized in January, so we went back and checked the transcript of that call with senior Administration officials. Sure enough, back then they said that the rule “reflects careful consideration of the rights of religious organizations” and that a one-year grace period “really just gives those organizations some additional time to sort out how they will be adjusting their plans.”

A journalist asked, “Just to be clear, so it’s giving them a year to comply rather than giving them a year to in any way change how they feel or the Administration to change how it feels.” Another senior official: “That is correct. It gives them a year to comply.”…

There is simply no precedent for the government ordering private companies to offer a product for free, even if they recoup the costs indirectly….

The larger tragedy is that none of them objected to government health care, which will always take choices away from individuals and arrogate them to an infallible higher power in Washington. Who was it again who claimed that if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan?

Read it all.

WFB: Culture beats economics

From Matthew Continetti at the Washington Free Beacon:

Polling shows that the economy remains voters’ top priority. But there are signs that the business situation is improving. The dropping unemployment rate is just one example of good economic news. U.S. growth may be subpar, but it is growth nonetheless. Conservatives would be foolish to think that the media will dwell on the economy’s weak spots when the president is a Democrat and his party controls the Senate.

Running bulls will bring in additional revenue to the U.S. Treasury, which will temporarily mask the country’s dire long-term fiscal predicament. The dollar’s status as the global reserve currency will stave off inflation and high interest rates for a while longer. The administration will claim credit despite doing everything in its power to reward friends and punish enemies, delay the recovery, and increase the cost and intrusiveness of government. But even that may not be enough to secure the president’s reelection.

Why? Because culture trumps economics. The tenor of news coverage might lead one to believe that the assault on the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation for ending donations to Planned Parenthood, and the debate over the administration ruling that universities and hospitals with religious affiliations must provide contraception to their employees, are winning issues for the Democrats. But any Democratic strategist planning a campaign around these issues might want to think twice.

Such controversies tend to mobilize conservatives more than liberals. As longtime consultant and analyst Jeffrey Bell observes in his excellent book, The Case for Polarized Politics, social issues tend to separate the populist, socially conservative mass from the progressive elite. That is why Republican social policy has been an electoral winner, whether the topic is crime or patriotism or affirmative action or abortion or religious liberty….

The debates over Komen and contraception are not solely about abortion and health care. They are both instances of a liberal minority attempting to coerce an organization to perform acts against its will. Patty Murray’s ridiculous suggestion that Komen’s “dangerous” decision to eliminate the grant to Planned Parenthood was the result of a “partisan witch hunt” is beside the point: Civil associations in a free society have every right to give money to whichever organizations they choose. Meanwhile, Barbara Boxer, M.D., can tell MSNBC that the Department of Health and Human Services contraceptive regulation is “a medical issue” all she wants; it does not change the fact that, if the regulation goes into effect, institutions affiliated with the Catholic Church will be forced to do something that violates fundamental tenets of their religion.

Both stories fit the classic pattern of post-cultural-revolution politics…

Tying the president’s fiscal policies to broader questions of society, culture, life, and freedom is the more effective route, because on these questions Obama has nowhere to go. He is a prisoner of his ideological biases. His elitist defense of social progressivism likely will lead him to commit a gaffe similar to when he said that the Cambridge police acted “stupidly” in arresting Professor Gates of Harvard….

Read it all.

Ed Morrissey: Bishops to Obama: No dice

From Ed Morrissey at HotAir (remember Captain’s Quarters?):

After a long day of supposed “accommodation” and discussion, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops took a close look at the supposed adjustment of the HHS mandate yesterday.  Their conclusion?  It represents no change at all, and the bishops will press for a “legislative solution” to Barack Obama’s mandate

They note that the overall mandate is “unsupported in the law and remains a grave moral concern,” and that they “cannot fail to reiterate this, even as so many would focus exclusively on the question of religious liberty.” But it’s that question that animates their activism, and it’s not just the fact that these religious organizations will end up paying for these products and services either directly or indirectly — which we’ll address momentarily.  The mandate forces these organizations to facilitate the use of products and services that violate their religious doctrine, under penalty of government force.  It’s exactly the type of government threat from which the First Amendment was written to protect religious practice — and that included the practice of religion outside of worship spaces….

[W]hat we do know is that costs will rise immediately as insurers have to pay for the contraceptives and abortifacients for which they will get no cost-sharing from the women who use them.  When those costs go up in the short term, so will premiums.  If the long-term savings that HHS predicts do come to pass, all it will do will be to avoid premium hikes far down the road, but the initial impact will force insurers to raise premiums to cover these costs — and that means the religious organizations that have to pay more to cover the costs of the mandate.  So yes indeed, they will have to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients despite the shell game announced by the White House yesterday….

Read it all.

USCCB responds: “Unacceptable”

From the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, a statement on the administration’s so-called compromise that was announced earlier today:

Bishops Renew Call to Legislative Action on Religious Liberty

Regulatory changes limited and unclear
Rescission of mandate only complete solution
Continue urging passage of Respect for Rights of Conscience Act

WASHINGTON – The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have issued the following statement:

The Catholic bishops have long supported access to life-affirming healthcare for all, and the conscience rights of everyone involved in the complex process of providing that healthcare. That is why we raised two serious objections to the “preventive services” regulation issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in August 2011.

First, we objected to the rule forcing private health plans — nationwide, by the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen—to cover sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion. All the other mandated “preventive services” prevent disease, and pregnancy is not a disease. Moreover, forcing plans to cover abortifacients violates existing federal conscience laws. Therefore, we called for the rescission of the mandate altogether.

Second, we explained that the mandate would impose a burden of unprecedented reach and severity on the consciences of those who consider such “services” immoral: insurers forced to write policies including this coverage; employers and schools forced to sponsor and subsidize the coverage; and individual employees and students forced to pay premiums for the coverage. We therefore urged HHS, if it insisted on keeping the mandate, to provide a conscience exemption for all of these stakeholders—not just the extremely small subset of “religious employers” that HHS proposed to exempt initially.

Today, the President has done two things.

First, he has decided to retain HHS’s nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients. This is both unsupported in the law and remains a grave moral concern. We cannot fail to reiterate this, even as so many would focus exclusively on the question of religious liberty.

Second, the President has announced some changes in how that mandate will be administered, which is still unclear in its details. As far as we can tell at this point, the change appears to have the following basic contours:

  • It would still mandate that all insurers must include coverage for the objectionable services in all the policies they would write. At this point, it would appear that self-insuring religious employers, and religious insurance companies, are not exempt from this mandate.
  • It would allow non-profit, religious employers to declare that they do not offer such coverage. But the employee and insurer may separately agree to add that coverage. The employee would not have to pay any additional amount to obtain this coverage, and the coverage would be provided as a part of the employer’s policy, not as a separate rider.
  • Finally, we are told that the one-year extension on the effective date (from August 1, 2012 to August 1, 2013) is available to any non-profit religious employer who desires it, without any government application or approval process.

These changes require careful moral analysis, and moreover, appear subject to some measure of change. But we note at the outset that the lack of clear protection for key stakeholders—for self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular non-profit employers; for religious insurers; and for individuals—is unacceptable and must be corrected. And in the case where the employee and insurer agree to add the objectionable coverage, that coverage is still provided as a part of the objecting employer’s plan, financed in the same way as the rest of the coverage offered by the objecting employer. This, too, raises serious moral concerns.

We just received information about this proposal for the first time this morning; we were not consulted in advance. Some information we have is in writing and some is oral. We will, of course, continue to press for the greatest conscience protection we can secure from the Executive Branch. But stepping away from the particulars, we note that today’s proposal continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions. In a nation dedicated to religious liberty as its first and founding principle, we should not be limited to negotiating within these parameters. The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services.

We will therefore continue—with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency—our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government. For example, we renew our call on Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. And we renew our call to the Catholic faithful, and to all our fellow Americans, to join together in this effort to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all.

Pro-life leaders slam White House ‘compromise’ on birth control mandate

Tell me again why women are entitled to contraception at no cost to them and at cost to the taxpayer or the insurance company? Why this issue? Why now? Why this benefit and not something else? From Lifesitenews.com:

The White House announced today that, instead of forcing religious employers to pay for birth control, it will force insurance companies to offer the drugs free of charge to all women, no matter where they work.

The plan, touted as a concession to freedom of religion and conscience, was immediately denounced by pro-life Rep. Chris Smith. “The so-called new policy is the discredited old policy, dressed up to look like something else,” said Smith.  “It remains a serious violation of religious freedom. Only the most naï or gullible would accept this as a change in policy.”

“The White House Fact Sheet is riddled with doublespeak and contradiction,” Smith continued. “It states, for example, that religious employers ‘will not’ have to pay for abortion pills, sterilization and contraception, but their ‘insurance companies’ will. Who pays for the insurance policy? The religious employer.”

President Obama reiterated the statement in a press conference this afternoon, saying that “the insurance company, not the hospital, not the charity, will be required to reach out” to women employed by such institutions to offer birth control “without copays, without hassles.”

The new rule is reportedly similar to coverage laws in Hawaii that allow employers with religious objections not to directly pay for contraception, but instead to direct employees on how to conveniently access all such drugs and procedures.

In an email to the Weekly Standard, Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said this week that such an “adjustment” would be not only inadequate, but even worse than the current mandate.

“It would be no improvement to say: ‘Sure, you don’t have to include the coverage, you just have to send all your lay employees and women religious to the local Planned Parenthood clinic,’ he wrote.

Eric Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League also told LifeSiteNews.com that the new rule amounted to a “shell game.” “At the end of the day, religious employers are still required to provide insurance plans that offer free contraceptives, sterilizations and abortifacients in violation of their moral tenets,” he said….

Read it all.

HHS Mandate 101 and why you should care

From National Review, Kathryn Jean Lopez interviews Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and a professor of constitutional law at the Catholic University of America:

MARK RIENZI: The mandate forces individuals and organizations to violate their religious principles by providing their employees with drugs that cause abortion, as well as with contraception and sterilization. Whatever one thinks about the debate between “choice” and “life,” we should all be able to agree that only willing people should have to participate in abortions.

This country was founded by people of all different faiths and backgrounds. We have a great tradition of finding ways to work with people so as not to force them to violate their religious beliefs. The Obama administration’s refusal to do that here violates the Constitution and federal law.

LOPEZ: Is there a smart shorthand that captures that?

RIENZI: Sure: Tyranny….

LOPEZ: Is this about birth control or religious freedom?

RIENZI: The only issue here is whether the government will force unwilling religious objectors to give up their religious beliefs. There is no problem of access to birth control in this country. As the administration never stops saying, the stuff is popular and provided by most private employers. And when private employers don’t provide it, the federal government already gives it out to people who want it through Title X funding.

Let me give you an example. At the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, we represent the monks at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina. They are Catholic, and they have religious objections to providing these drugs. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the federal government already provides contraception to more than 100,000 people in North Carolina, from more than 100 federally funded Title X clinics. There is simply no reason that the government can’t provide contraception to any employee of Belmont Abbey who happens to want it. So the question is not whether people will be able to get birth control — they can, and they will. People get plenty of contraception today without making Catholic monks give it out. The question is whether the government will use the issue to force a small religious minority to conform to the government’s view that birth control is a great idea. And that’s something the Constitution and federal law clearly forbid….

RIENZI: James Madison famously said that conscience is “the most sacred of all property.” Conscience — particularly in the religious sense — is the right all of us have not to be forced by the government to violate our religion. It is the idea that in a free country, the coercive power of the government should not be used to deny people the right to freely and peacefully practice their faith…. It is a bedrock principle of our Constitution, our history, and our basic liberty….

LOPEZ: I’m an atheist. I’m on the pill. Why should I care about this?

RIENZI: You should care because you are an American, and this is a fundamental liberty issue. Religious liberty is just one aspect of liberty. The same First Amendment that protects your right to be an atheist — which is a wonderful and noble thing that our First Amendment does — protects the rights of other people to have other views. Just as you wouldn’t want the government to force you to follow Catholic views about the pill, we also don’t want the government to force Catholics to follow your views. It’s a free country. If you want the pill, you can buy it, you can work for one of the millions of employers who happily pay for it, or you can get it for free from the federal government. But everyone should oppose this forced conscription of unwilling people to participate.

LOPEZ: Is this a Catholic issue?

RIENZI: No, it is a liberty issue. That’s why you’ve seen such a huge outpouring of criticism of the Obama administration from people of all religious faiths….

Read it all. Twice.