Democrats & Liberals Archives

Diktat of the Obama Administration? The Law of the Land Since 2000.

Apparently, there’s been some confusion here. The thought has been that employers are just now being required to pay for plans with contraception in them. This is not true, according to a report by NPR. They have been required to pay for such plans for over ten years now. The only difference is one of cost.

[E]mployers have pretty much been required to provide contraceptive coverage as part of their health plans since December 2000. That's when the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that failure to provide such coverage violates the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act. That law is, in turn, an amendment to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlaws, among other things, discrimination based on gender.

Got that?

But is that true for Catholic Charities and such?

Yes it is:

The court ruled that Catholic Charities didn't qualify as a "religious employer" because it didn't meet each of four key criteria (which, by the way, are the same as those in the new federal regulation):
  • The organization's primary purpose is "the inculcation of religious values."
  • It primarily employs people of that religion.
  • It primarily serves people of that religion.
  • It's a registered nonprofit organization.

A Catholic Hospital, for example, would fail this test because it doesn't function as the first, it doesn't only employ or serve Catholics. The only one it might qualify under is the first, but it's got to meet all four.

Now The Catholic Church itself does indeed have the purposes of the first part, does indeed primarily employ Catholics, serve Catholics, and is of course a registered nonprofit organization. So, it can say no to providing contraception to its employees.

Heard a whole lot of noise about it? No?

Well you haven't because two things have been missing: The Affordable Care Act, and President Barack Obama. The whole point of this little exercise is to create a wedge issue. The only difference for most people if Obama gets his way, is that they'll pay nothing for what employers are already required to give them. It will be more of a change if the Republicans and Catholic Bishops get what they want, because that will mean basically walking back a right that has been affirmed in the courts for the last eleven years.

If we want to talk about tyranny, in effect, let's get who has put policy where right, and why.

The courts basically ruled that it amounted to discrimination, that it amounted to an infringement of freedom not to have this coverage required. They ruled that it would be an infringement of freedom for somebody of another faith, serving in an institution whose primary purpose wasn't religious, tending to people also often not of their faith, to be denied this coverage. There is an economic cost these people would have to pay, above and beyond what others would, simply because their workplace is associated with a church, not even a true part of the church.

In all this talk about a church's rights, individual rights have been neglected.

If the church runs a secular business of some kind, the government simply requires the church to do what every other secular business must do: give employees the coverage and the right to seek out what treatment as they see fit.

In America, we often see this tensions, between the rights and obligations of different individuals, different persons (corporation vs. human being), different organizations. The point of government, often enough, is to mediate these disputes. The fact that we all exist in a common reality does not imply that we all share the same beliefs about that reality, nor that we occupy symmetrical positions in it, where an issue looks the same from each side. The church doesn't want to provide contraceptive coverage to anybody it employs, whether they are employed in the church, or in one of the charities or Hospitals it operates beyond the religious realm itself.

Many of those individuals, though, would like to have that requirement count for them, especially when they are not believers in the religious institution that owns the business.

The Obama Administration renders this dilemma moot by having the requirement be fulfilled by the insurance companies, not the institution itself, so there isn't even that concern left. From there on out, it is between the employee, the insurance company, and God, if they so choose to believe in them.

But apparently, this is not enough for them.

I believe the Government should draw the line here. Women, the courts and the law have held, should have access to this kind of healthcare. This hasn't been controversial for most people for quite some time. It's been the law for the lat ten years. Should we deny women their rights, so the Catholic Church that most of these women aren't believers in should consider its rights fulfilled? I don't believe so. The Church has been relieved of its role as the provider for these benefits. They should be happy with that concession. Women should not have to make concessions to the church on this count, especially not because some cynical politicians and pundits want to wail on about what a terrible injustice is being done by Obama.

Should women's rights be compromised by folks who can't even be bothered to base their overheated, melodramatic reality of some semblance of accurate facts? Should we really be listening to those who can't even be bothered to do, or present to us the basic research on the state of the law as it stands now? Should we set the balance of the rights of a church and the rights of the individuals it employs in outside enterprises based on merely the needs and the desires of the Church, neglecting the rights and the needs of the individual to do so?

We need more balance in this country between the rights and obligations of large institutions and special interests, and the individuals of this country. We need more coherence between what we are asked to believe, and what can be demonstrated to be true. We need more balance, more sobriety in the rhetoric out there, so we're not rushing to take political positions where angels fear to opine.

I've had enough of the Republican Party's practice of raising up divisive, wedge-issue oriented mass panics every time it wants to win a political battle. They ought to have more respect for us than that, and they ought to be giving us more reasonable arguments with better evidence before we take anything they say to heart.

Women's rights should not have to suffer so they can beat Obama, and turn people against him.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at February 12, 2012 10:08 AM
Comments
Comment #336484

Stephen

Obama’s commissars made the decision to interpret the rules a way that had not been done before. That is why it became a problem now and why we are talking about Obama’s diktat.

Beyond that ObamaCare has changed the equation. No longer can anybody opt-out of the system. This alone is sufficient change to make the diktat odious.

Obama’s compromise - to create an unfunded mandate that would de-facto be funded by the same Catholic charities - does not change his power grab. It just hides it enough that the credulous can think it is a change.

This need NOT be a problem. The pills are cheap, well within the means of any but the very poorest and not even beyond their means if they give up a glass of beer or a cup of coffee a day. It is also easily within the purview of groups like planned parenthood.

Since Obama’s commissars chose to make this an issue, where it need not have been, we have to assume that their power grab goes beyond the cheap and easy solution offered by self pay or pay by charitable organizations.

Posted by: C&J at February 12, 2012 11:23 AM
Comment #336486

Stephen,
I wish you would not use the word ‘diktat.’ It is a dog whistle for conservatives, a subliminal reference that most people will not even consciously notice. The syllable ‘dik’ sounds the same as ‘dick.’ Notice how that word almost never came up in the past? Think about it. When is the last time you heard the word ‘diktat.’ Suddenly, in a discussion involving birth control for women, conservatives feel compelled to keep referring to Obama’s ‘diktat.’ The subliminal reference is clear. Obama, that dreaded black man, is figuratively forcing his ‘dik’ upon Catholic women.

Posted by: phx8 at February 12, 2012 12:00 PM
Comment #336488

phx8..Funny and sadly probably true.

Posted by: Jeff at February 12, 2012 12:24 PM
Comment #336489

C&J-
Mandates were a conservative idea before they were a Democratic Party/Barack Obama idea. If it’s odious, then the GOP, the Heritage foundation, and Mitt Romney are just plain disgusting for coming up with the idea.

As for being forced to pay premiums and offer contraception coverage, that’s not an Obama power grab, that’s been law since right before Bush came into power. Obama didn’t start it, so it’s not a power grab. The power was already there, already enforced on the day he stepped into office.

Obama’s officials (seriously, buddy, I would have thought you were above red-baiting like calling them Commissar) did not make this an issue. The Catholic Bishops did. Obama shifted the cost of the coverage onto the insurers, who have more than just the Catholic Church as their clients.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think you completely glossed over the facts I presented. There was no power-grab, the requirement was law before he got there. Since the controversy began, he’s made the concession of putting it on the shoulders of the insurance company, which being required to pay for this for everybody will be no worse off for it (better off, in fact, since pregnancies are more expensive to cover than contraception.)

You would roll back women’s rights, roll back judgments that held that it was discrimination not to cover contraception, in order to assert the Church’s rights. The right to do what, demand that everybody else shapes their policies to suit their religious doctrines?

The American Government should not be in the business of enforcing religious mandates.

And I can make these arguments without calling Republicans or church leaders silly names.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 12, 2012 12:36 PM
Comment #336490

Jeff, phx8-
Nah, it’s a reference to a German word, and through that to the Nazi party. I’ll bet you you’ll see a lot of Republicans doing the same stupid crap. They don’t want to have a rational discussion, they want to have another fit of tearing down Obama’s numbers now that he’s getting more popular and their candidates are screwing the pooch.

If they can’t dazzle people with brilliance, they’ll be befuddling them with BS. With brilliance in short supply in their party, they’re moving to befuddle with BS full time.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 12, 2012 12:41 PM
Comment #336491

In the Republican War on Women, Republican Senator Blunt is doing his part:

http://www.thestatecolumn.com/articles/2012/02/09/reid-blocks-senate-republican-contraception-rule-amendment/

Republican Senator Rubio is doing his part, too:

http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/rubio-bill-limit-birth-control-access-millions

Rubio’s legislation would adversely affect millions of women, because ANY employer- not just churches, but corporations too- could withhold coverage for birth control.

Republican presidential candidate Santorum wants to lead the war against contraception and women’s reproductive rights. In his own words:

“One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country.”

“Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

Posted by: phx8 at February 12, 2012 12:57 PM
Comment #336492

phx8

I used the word “diktat” because of its association with the rise of Nazism in the 1920s and 1930s and its association in German with the Treaty of Versailles, which was associated with its harsh and dictated terms.

An educated person might know that history of the word and it takes a real twisted mind to associate it with the fear of black penises. I think that says much more about you and your own perversions. Is that something you guys think about a lot?

Jeff

The same goes for you. Do you really believe this dog whistle crap?

Stephen

Congratulations on being better educated than some of your liberal friends and not as obsessed with phallic images.

I would give you a little free advice, however. Never use your opponents accusation in your own title. Phx8 and Jeff didn’t understand the word, but they did vaguely intuit that it is not a good thing to repeat it.

I chose the word specifically for its connotations, BTW. I didn’t expect everyone to understand, but it never occurred to me that it would “penis” to some people.

Posted by: C&J at February 12, 2012 1:55 PM
Comment #336495

C&J,
So, where are we now in the characterization of Obama? Is he weak for compromising? Or is he a dictator? Or maybe he’s both at the same time: a weak dictator.

I like asking those kinds of questions, because not only because it makes the ridiculous contradictory assertions of conservatives painfully obvious; I also know that, from this point forward, everytime you come across the word ‘dictator’ and ‘diktat,’ on some subconscious level, you will wince.

Elevating the discussion might be a good idea, but does it really make it better if the word ‘diktat’ is used in order to associate Obama with Nazis? Really?

Posted by: phx8 at February 12, 2012 2:35 PM
Comment #336496

Which reminds me, C&J:
What do you think of this fine example of keeping a cool head?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 12, 2012 2:49 PM
Comment #336497

C&J-
I’m clarifying the truth. I can’t do that without reference to the mistake- or God help you, lie- that you started out with. Thanks for owning up to where you got that term. Just understand that when some look at free coverage for contraception, they don’t see the rise of the Nazi party.

And by all accounts, they shouldn’t. This seems to be a replay of the angry, rhetoric that the GOP has adopted as its means of pushing back against policy. You want people’s fears and anxieties to overcome the ground state of their reason. Well you know what? When you do that, my answer will be to puncture any of the misconceptions you bring across promptly. I will also call you out on unreasonable rhetoric that invokes the darkest, most totalitarian governments in recent history to describe the use of policy that in most European countries would seem fundamentally unremarkable. Countries, last time I checked, that did not founder into fascism or Communism over the course of the last sixty years.

It’s your party that’s surrendered itself into radicalism, and expects the rest of the country to follow it there, regardless of who’s in the majority or who is not, regardless of what the rights these people are supposed to have under the law.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 12, 2012 2:57 PM
Comment #336498

I mean, folks, this is getting absolutely silly.

Steve King (R-Iowa), in his CPAC speech, claimed that Democrats are working to lower calorie content in food in order to raise a generation of “feeders” who will be reaching for more food.

He called the janitors replacing inefficient incandescents with flourescent bulbs “Stasi Troops”- a reference to the East German secret police.

He drills holes in his showerheads to save time on showering so he can bash more liberals, and also resents more efficient toilets.

I mean this is the way the Republican Party has gone. What were once heated terms meant to push arguments have become taken at face value, sending the GOP into an alternate world of even more loaded rhetoric, and twisted values. I mean, our ancestors would have scoffed at the idea that efficiency was some kind of evil, Benjamin Franklin saying “Waste not, want not.” But apparently, if that wisdom plays into a liberal issue, Conservatives these days are prepared to be wasteful just to spite the liberals.

Wisdom should guide actions, and goodwill should guide our interactions with other people. Your opposition to us shouldn’t send your people to such heights of foolishness.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 12, 2012 3:06 PM
Comment #336499

phx8

He is both. He is weak in creating policies that will carry us forward, but he comes with an unfortunate attitude that would strengthen the centralizing tendencies of the state and weaken autonomous institutions.

I do not believe that Obama want to become a dictator. I thought it was stupid when you guys accused Bush of that and I have never accused Obama of it. America still has enough decentralization and tradition to weather bigger storms than we face today. What I worry about it erosion of the values that have made us different and usually better than most other places in the world.

Important to the long term prosperity and happiness of any country, is the strength of the nation, which is bigger than the current government. Decisions should be made at different levels. The Federal level should be reserved for the decision that cannot be made elsewhere.

Power is dangerous. If the leadership in the center usurps too many decision that should be made by the states or by the people themselves, it atrophies the abilities of the others. This is the road to serfdom and it is usually paved with good intentions.

I do not wince from the word diktat because I understand it and what it can mean. There is not a bright line between Nazi/communists and others. We tend to make too strong a distinction sometimes. Nazis, for example, were very good at conservation of nature and building roads. We certainly use some of the same methods they used and this is good and necessary.

The basis of totalitarianism is the primacy of the state in all institutions. Those of us who believe in democracy must also believe in pluralism, which means that some parts of society are insulated from state power but law, custom and tradition. The idea that the state can make an administrative decision to impinge on the core beliefs of an important autonomous institution is the act of a totalitarian nature. It does not mean that those doing it are necessarily trying to pull us in that direction, but it is in that direction.

As a small time leader myself, I have come to understand the unconscious power of our decisions and actions. The more power you have, the more necessary it is to act with circumspection and self-denial. You should not use your power to solve little problems that could be solved by the people involved. It is a good tenet of leadership, good manners and in the macro sense it helps preserve liberty.

Posted by: C&J at February 12, 2012 3:07 PM
Comment #336500

Stephen

I don’t care for such shows of anger and emotion that you link. I saw plenty of such at the OWS rallies and that craziness by union thugs in Wisconsin. I am against it all the time. There is rather more anger on the left, however.

Re your use of the word “diktat” - I used it as I thought proper. Please see my rather longer explanation to Phx8 above.

In telling you not to reuse it prominently I was just giving you some collegial advice. Some say I should not strengthen the opponents, but I think there is room on all sides.

The principle of not repeating your opponent’s words is best illustrated by Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook” statement. It gave us a long lasting image. Wouldn’t it have been better for him not to repeat what other said and say instead, “I have been an honest man”. We didn’t believe he was not a crook and we would not have believed he was an honest man. But you see the difference in the tone of the statements.

Posted by: C&J at February 12, 2012 3:15 PM
Comment #336501

Yes I have a very twisted mind. And as I am from Missouri not missoura blunt is an embarrassment to the state.

Posted by: Jeff at February 12, 2012 3:23 PM
Comment #336502

C&J-
Really, so you don’t believe he wants to become a dictator, yet you deliberately invoke talking points which make it seem like he’s laying the groundwork for fascism or Nazism.

If you don’t care for the emotions I’m showing, don’t be so irresponsibly provocative. Don’t wave around the red bait and the bloody shirt, and then act like you didn’t do anything especially unreasonable.

As for Nixon? This is what I would say: his best PR policy move would have been never to have engaged in the campaign of illegal behavior and cover-ups that he started in the first place. Folks might accuse you of being a crook but they’ll be up you know what creek without a paddle as far as proving it.

If you don’t want to be seen as particularly provocative, it’s all in your choice of words. It’s not just about choosing words for effect. It’s about relating to the person you’re writing to. Sometimes strong words are necessary, sometimes, they’re just going to browbeat people unsuccessfully.

As for the rest? Power is dangerous, but it’s necessary, so the key is creating good feedbacks that keep the people doing things, and those people commenting on things accountable. The solution of the framers was to pit power against power, but set up places where majority power would allow the government to decide things after all the debate. We need the government to be capable of doing things, but we also need it to be held accountable when it does wrong, and for it to be something we can hold back when we have to, or push forward when its not moving fast enough.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 12, 2012 4:03 PM
Comment #336505

Stephen

I explained at length. We have not yet had an American president who seriously thought he could or should be a dictator. The things you guy said about Bush were worse, BTW, than anything said about Obama.

But asserting the primacy of the state where is doesn’t belong is the road in that direction.

Political writing has that edge to it. Surely you do not believe that Republicans are hoping that the country goes down the tubes or that they are trying to reestablish racist policies, yet you write those things because you believe that some of their actions could lead in those directions. I do the same.

Re Nixon - I am not trying to justify him. I am simply using that example and giving you a little PR advice. Take it or not. I offered it in the spirit of friendship.

Re power - as George Washington said - “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” We have to use it but restrain it always.


Jeff

As the person who wrote the original “diktat” post, I explained the origin of the word. Phx8’s perv explanation never occurred to me and would have made no sense in my posting.

I think this “dog whistle” thing is generally stupid. It assumes that millions of people will be able to get some secret nuance. People who believe in such things probably believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis. (Perhaps this allusion is easier to understand). It is also dishonest and cowardly. Rather than debate real issues, those who employ this tactic just say that everything means “cock”. How stupid is that?

So in the last post and this one, I laid out a complicated explanation about the need for autonomous institutions that evidently the prurient minds think means “cock.”

I have been to Missouri and I know that most of the people there are intelligent and normal. It is rather insulting to your home state to imply that the credulity you exhibited in this post is somehow a form of Missouri skepticism.

Posted by: C&J at February 12, 2012 5:13 PM
Comment #336507

If you google “health care diktat,” you’ll see the use of the word was very rare until the debate over birth control arose. In recent days, the word suddenly appears many times in the right wing blogosphere.

And a ‘dog whistle’- coded language that means one thing to the general populace, and a very different thing to the targeted group- has been around for a while. When Republicans favored “states rights” in the South, it sounded like an argument against federalism to the general populace, but to the targeted people, the racist subtext was understood. Gingrich is particularly known for using dog whistles.

I still think the entire debate was a set-up by the Obama administration for several reasons: 1) The timing to coincide with CPAC, thereby clogging the media with a competing story, while offering conservatives a chance to engage in wildly over-the-top rhetoric aimed against Women as a constituency, 2) the measured statements and readily available interviews given by two pro-life Democrats in contested Senate races, namely Keane & Casey, all without ever overtly undermining Obama, 3) the pretense of having it both ways among Democrats, with Obama and female officials favoring the birth control side, while Biden and others back Catholic positions, 4) The rapidity with which a satisfactory compromise appeared, and finally, 5) the way the issue could be used to undermine Romney. The Obama administration has always figured Romney would be the nominee. Throwing this issue into the mix during CPAC should have strengthed Santorum among the far right wing, and force Romney to politically go further and further away from moderates and progressives.

To me, that looks like a sharp political operation on the part of the Obama administration.

Posted by: phx8 at February 12, 2012 5:38 PM
Comment #336508

phcx8

I chose the word diktat for the reasons I mentioned and because it is a diktat by the common definition of the word. I used to speak German, so it made sense to me. Now I live in Brazil and get most of my current news in Portuguese or from the “Economist” magazine. I don’t recall the word from either source. I listen to NPR podcasts (Talk of the Nation, Dianne Rehm and Marketplace) which are not right wing. Other sources show up a week or two late, which is why I tend to react later. I was unaware that others were commonly using the word and my google search that you suggested indicates that it still is not very common.

I think your dog whistle thing is a bit overdone. I am sure different groups interpret things differently. The same goes for liberals. I once got attacked for pointing out to some liberal friends that Soviet Sources indicated that the Rosenbergs were guilty. I learned that “Rosenberg” was a dog whistle for them.

Re Obama setting this up - maybe he did, which makes it even more like the totalitarian. The term I would use here is “agent provocateur” which I am sure some of your friends think is dog whistle for black dick, but is actually a term that describes what you say Obama did.


Posted by: C&J at February 12, 2012 6:05 PM
Comment #336509


So, if the Great Dictator wins the election 52 to 48? What then? Armed rebellion? Onward Christian Soldiers?

Posted by: jlw at February 12, 2012 6:28 PM
Comment #336510

Well, you can call it “totalitarian” or acting as an “agent provocateur,” but I would call it good old fashioned politics. This is an issue that excites the farthest of the far right and makes life very difficult for Romney. It encourages those conservatives opposed to birth control, such as Santorum, to receive a lot of attention. This goes deep into the most radical reaches of the conservative spectrum, agitating the most extreme voices. Meanwhile, there are the Catholic Bishops insisting on the belief of their Church- a belief virtually no American Catholic women observe.

When it comes to good old fashioned politics, it doesn’t get any better for the Obama administration.

Romney is the ultimate target. He alone has the money, intelligence, and competence to challenge Obama. Romney has at least two vulnerabilities: his glass jaw, Bain Capital; and his lack of fidelity to right wing dogma. This birth control issue forces Romney to court the right wing on their turf, but the longer these kinds of battles continue, and the longer the primaries and caucuses continue, the more difficult it will be for
Romney to pivot back to the middle in time for the general election.

There will also be a strong temptation among conservatives to change the focus of the upcoming election from the economy to social issues. Whgy not? An improving economy will result in a loss for the GOP anyway. If a loss looks like it has already been baked into the cake, then conservatives may throw caution out the window and choose to bake the cake they like best, a cake of social issues, rich and tasty, yet incredibly unhealthy for the future of the party.

Posted by: phx8 at February 12, 2012 6:32 PM
Comment #336512

phx8

Call it what you want. What you telling me is a that leader is using government power to attack a third party in order to provoke a reaction among political opponents that he hopes will radicalize a significant part of the citizenry of his own country so that he can drive moderates out of an election. Did I get that right?

If you think this is merely “smart politics” you might want to learn the words to the Horst-Wessel-Lied.

Are you sure that you are trying to make Obama sound LESS totalitarian, or are you trying to describe him in even more totalitarian terms to provoke a response? Can we smell the smoke form the Reichstag?

Posted by: C&J at February 12, 2012 6:46 PM
Comment #336513

Obama did not “attack” a third party. He made a move which elicited a predictable response from conservatives. They can be counted on to oppose anything Obama does, loudly and vociferously, simply because he is Obama. The result will be, not to drive moderates out of the election, but to use the predictable over-the-top conservative response to drive moderates into the hands of the Democrats.

Conservatives have become their own worst enemies.

Posted by: phx8 at February 12, 2012 7:17 PM
Comment #336517

phx8

It was an attack when he reinterpreted the rules. If - as Stephen says - he was merely starting to enforce and old rule in a slightly different way, it was a mere diktat. If - as you say - he was trying to provoke a reaction, it was a diktat and a misuse of government power in the way that totalitarians have used it.

Even if you assume that conservatives are over the top, Obama poked them with the stick of state power, as you say. So if indeed you think it was a clever Machiavellian move on Obama’s part, you are also attributing to him very base and abusive actions and motives.

You said it; I didn’t.

Posted by: C&J at February 12, 2012 8:16 PM
Comment #336518

C&J-
If you want to be so tiresome in your rhetoric as to treat what by your own admission consider just to be the start of some slippery slope as if it were equivalent morally to the end result, then this is going to be one minefield of a debate if we accept your framing. We can’t literally do a single liberal thing without invoking your use of loaded language.

The facts by themselves do not merit your characterization. The requirement didn’t start with Obama, it was just made cheaper for the consumer the requirement serves. By itself it is nothing more than a legal requirement that a certain category of medicine be covered at no cost to the consumer.

If that is your idea of the start of Nazi totalitarianism, then we are pretty far into Monty Python “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition” territory, complete with the torture of comfortable chairs.

You may be smelling the smoke from the Reichstag fire (which if you remember was blamed on communists and socialists), but the rest of us smell something quite different, and wonder at what motivates these theatrics.

I know about edges, but when it comes to that, I’ve always believed that an argument with edge works best if there is the steel of respectable logic and rationality behind it. You’re not looking to stampede people, or to insult people’s intelligence with excessively melodramatic comparisons.

I mean, really, you just ran afoul of one of the most famous rules of internet discussion, which is Godwin’s Law.

It goes a little like this:

“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”

Also invoked is a corollary, which I’ve followed only so far, obviously:

There are many corollaries to Godwin’s law, some considered more canonical (by being adopted by Godwin himself)[3] than others.[1] For example, there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.

I’m not going to be pedantic and try and apply that too arbitarily here, but you know why this rule was formulated? Because going for the Nazi/Soviet comparison is a ridiculously easy way to punch up an argument, and few people really want to reward those who availed themselves of the option. Like Godwin himself said:

“Although deliberately framed as if it were a law of nature or of mathematics, its purpose has always been rhetorical and pedagogical: I wanted folks who glibly compared someone else to Hitler or to Nazis to think a bit harder about the Holocaust,”

I think that’s an appropriate thought here. I mean, the deeds of the Nazis and Soviets are easy fodder for those who simply want to push buttons, like you’ve attempted to. But for those of us who know horrible, how out of control, how morally corrupt the views and the actions of these people were, the comparisons are not only insulting, but stink of a kind of intolerance of basic, calm political discussion that itself seems more totalitarian to us. It reminds us of the red scare of the fifties and all the bad blood that created.

It’s gotten to be a crutch, and worse yet, some people take it far too seriously, and start thinking the rivalry against us has to be carried out as seriously as the fight against the Nazis or the Soviets was.

I don’t think there’s some complex plan on Obama’s part. I think Obama was blindsided by the right’s response to it, saw the potential problem, and dealt with it in such a way that he preserved Women’s rights, at the same time defusing the legal objection that might have legitimately been there. What he’s left the Republicans to object to is insurance covering contraception. Now Republicans can allege that it’s cheap enough, but as those of us who have had to buy something like sixty dollar antibiotics on a limited budget can attest (like myself) it can be difficult to set aside that money.

That fact, I feel, is not overlooked by the people pushing for contraception to be struck from coverage. If that happens to be the case, then our side is right to take the issue to the women of America, who, for the most part, disagree strongly with that position.

As for Dog whistles? They can be there, if done subtly, but I think these days, the politics is practically overt. It’s not a dogwhistle when you’re passing around photos of Obama as a Witch Doctor with a bone through his nose, as some Republicans were caught doing. A dog whistle is more like Bush’s odd reference to the Dred Scott decision in one debate, which is often code for Roe vs. Wade, a decision that many pro-life Republicans consider equally inhumane.

Trouble is, your people aren’t doing subtle these days. You’re doing ham-handed attacks that are to dogwhistles what zippos are to flamethrowers. You of all people are smart enough to work with more subtlety and eloquence than that, but doing so would require you to really analyze what it is you’re saying, and I have the feeling that many Republicans today are just in a sick panic about Democrats having power, rather than than really thinking the last few years and the last few major policy shifts of the party through.

You’ll only free yourself from your lousy leaders when you stop letting them stampede you this way and that. They’ll only be held accountable when people aren’t too scared about the other side to seek alternatives.

Works both ways, too. Moderate Republicans like yourself might have a chance if being a moderate Republican didn’t put you in such a precarious position in terms of acceptance from the rest of the party.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 12, 2012 8:24 PM
Comment #336523

Arguments for a “religious employer” exemption have gone from wrong to ridiculous.

Questions about the government requiring or prohibiting something that conflicts with someone’s faith are entirely real, but not new. The courts have occasionally confronted such issues and have generally ruled that under the Constitution the government cannot enact laws specifically aimed at a particular religion (which would be regarded a constraint on religious liberty contrary to the First Amendment), but can enact laws generally applicable to everyone or at least broad classes of people (e.g., laws concerning pollution, contracts, fraud, negligence, crimes, discrimination, employment, etc.) and can require everyone, including those who may object on religious grounds, to abide by them. (E.g., http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/494/872/case.html http://www.aafcp.org/cplm/files/12.pdf.) Were it otherwise and people could opt out of this or that law with the excuse that their religion requires or allows it, the government and the rule of law could hardly operate.

When moral binds for individuals can be anticipated, the legislature may, as a matter of grace, add provisions to laws affording some relief to conscientious objectors.

The real question here then is whether there is any need for such an exemption in order to avoid forcing some employers to act contrary to their consciences. Those demanding such an exemption initially worked themselves into a lather with the false claim that the law forced employers to provide their employees with health care plans offering services the employers considered immoral. The fact is that employers have the option of not providing any such plans and instead simply paying assessments to the government. Unless one supposes that the employers’ religion forbids payments of money to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion), then the law’s requirement to pay assessments does not compel those employers to act contrary to their beliefs. Problem solved—except perhaps for an employer who really desires not just to avoid a moral bind, but rather wants to retain control of his employees’ health plans, limit their choices to conform to the employer’s religious beliefs, and avoid paying the assessments that otherwise would be owed. For that, an employer would need an exemption from the law.

Indeed, some continued clamoring for just such an exemption, complaining that by paying assessments they would be paying for the very things they opposed. They seemingly missed that that is not a moral dilemma justifying an exemption to avoid being forced to act contrary to one’s beliefs, but rather is a gripe common to most taxpayers—who don’t much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action the government may take with the benefit of their tax dollars. Should each of us be exempted from paying our taxes so we aren’t thereby “forced” to pay for a war, health care, or whatever else each of us may consider wrong or even immoral?

In any event, they put up enough of a stink that the government relented and announced that religious employers would be free to provide health plans with provisions to their liking and not be required to pay the assessments otherwise required. Problem solved—again, even more.

Nonetheless, some continue to complain. They fret that somehow religious employers ultimately will pay for the services they oppose. They argue that if insurers (or, by the same logic, anyone, e.g., employees) pay for such services, those costs will somehow, someday be passed on to the employers in the form of demands for higher insurance premiums or higher wages. They counter what they call the government’s “accounting gimmick” with one of their own: the “Catholic dollar.” These dollars remain true to an employer’s religious beliefs, it seems, even after paid by the employer to others, e.g., insurers or employees, in that they can be used only for things the religious employer would approve. The religious employers’ aim, we are assured, is not to thereby control the actions of others, oh no, but rather is merely to assure that the employers themselves do not somehow act contrary to their own beliefs by loosing “their” dollars into hands that would use them for things no self-respecting religious employer would himself buy. Their religious liberty, they say, requires not only that they be exempted from the law, but further that anyone to whom they pay money also be exempted and thus “free” to act according to their desires.

I wonder what they would think of their follow-the-dollar theory if they realized they had some of my “atheist dollars” in their wallets that can be used only for ungodly purposes, lest I suffer the indignity of paying for things I disbelieve.

Posted by: Doug Indeap at February 12, 2012 9:37 PM
Comment #336563

What is disappointing about this debate is that obscures the implementation of an important aspect of Obamacare, the focus on preventive medicine. The contraceptive mandate was a minor element in a larger package of preventive and early detection requirements for health insurance. The requirement to provide coverage without deductibles or co-pays for prevention and early detection of high morbidity and mortality diseases (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.) is a key element of the ACA’s long term cost controls. http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2010/07/preventive-care-background.html

But, why am I surprised? Anything to discredit Obama. Anything to divert attention from the positive aspects of the ACA and its potential to improve not only our health but reduce long term costs.

Posted by: Rich at February 13, 2012 9:22 AM
Comment #336570

Stephen,
This is an excellent article. Thank you — for so clearly defining what the true facts are!

If that is your idea of the start of Nazi totalitarianism, then we are pretty far into Monty Python “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition” territory, complete with the torture of comfortable chairs.

Oh yeah, absolutely. And, it’s not just bloggers like Jack who continually enter such absurd territory. I think Conservatives entered that over-the-top territory a very long time ago. This is why basically everyone who stands on the left is now being generally referred to as “socialist” or “communist.” Exaggerated rhetoric is now considered perfectly acceptable, and indeed, it’s practically a requirement.
This is why even their leading candidates (in this case Santorum) say things like this:

“They are taking faith and crushing it. Why? When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights then what’s left is the French Revolution. What’s left is a government that gives you rights. What’s left are no unalienable rights. What’s left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. What’s left in France became the the guillotine.”

It is truly incredible that Santorum could say this with a perfectly straight face! Yet, following that obviously ridiculous statement, the man has now moved into the lead position in the GOP primary!

Doug Indeap and Rich, very good points.

Posted by: Adrienne at February 13, 2012 1:49 PM
Comment #336572

“When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.”
Justice Antonin Scalia
Employment Division v Smith

Posted by: phx8 at February 13, 2012 3:19 PM
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