Sunday, February 26, 2012

Obama Scores a Hat Trick Against Liberty, pt 2.First they came for the… who?

The Church Rings its Bells
My previous post looked at how the Left had been so easily manipulated into fears of the Right’s ‘War on women’s health’, in this post I'm more concerned with pointing out how the Right has been so easily manipulated away from what is a truly critical issue, and into charging instead at the diversionary red flag of ‘religious liberty’, exposing us all to a far greater danger as a result of it.

To the question "Isn't 'Religious Liberty' important?!", the answer is of course it is important, but in rushing to protect just that, you leave exposed a far greater concern, and one which 'Religious Liberty' cannot survive without.

There’s a quote attributed to Ben Franklin, which (appropriately) is only partly true of what he said, the supposed quote is that “The best lies are half true”, which is true enough, since the part which is True, carries the falsehood as a Trojan Horse through the mind's  gates and into the heart, where the lie then does its destructive work… but that is a much weaker, more pedestrian form of what Franklin actually said.
“The Church disowned, the tower overthrown, the bells upturned,
what have we to do
But stand with empty hands and palms turned upwards
In an age which advances progressively backwards?”
T. S. Eliot, from “Choruses from the Rock

The unadulterated quote is subtly different, far more powerful, and much closer to what we are dealing with today, a far more insidious type of lie,

  • Half a truth is often a great lie
Telling only half the truth changes its context and alters its meaning, degrading your ability to identify what the Truth was originally true about, as well as your ability to distinguish what complemented or contradicted it and what might be of greater priority - half of the truth can turn your understanding of it into a falsehood. Imagine if telling someone that they must protect their hands from gunfire, caused them to think that they’d be safe to step into the line of fire if only they kept their hands safely behind their back, no matter that it meant exposing their heart and head to direct fire… you get the picture? What we are facing today, with this issue of “Religious Liberty”, is using circumstances to pit one truth against another truth, in order to destroy them both.

So with that in mind, I’ll repeat my main point from the last post:

  • "Religious freedom has not been attacked, liberty itself has been attacked, and it’s being attacked under the cover of the distraction of ‘religious freedom being under attack’."
Of course it's not as if the Right, and especially the Catholic Church, didn't have good reason for taking the bait as they have, when this all blew up into the headlines earlier this month, it was because the Church saw the latest regulations and Obama’s exemption to them, as a direct attack upon their rights of religious conscience:
“Catholic leaders complained that the rule would force them to subsidize medical procedures to which they morally object.
“Unless this rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to either violate our consciences or drop health care coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so),” according to a letter from Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
He and other church prelates asked that the message be read from pulpits over the weekend.
“We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law,” Naumann’s letter stated. "
Their alarm was all the more real, because this wasn’t the first time that one of this administration’s administrative agencies had attempted to administer unto Catholic beliefs with their own regulatory revelations - just three years ago it was the EEOC that was trying a very similar line of attack against religious institutions, such as the Catholic Church:
“In taking its current stance, the EEOC is attempting to override not just the conscience-clause laws of nearly half the states but also federal court precedents. Even if a religious institution isn't involved, it's still an open question as far as the federal courts are concerned whether an employer's refusal to pay for contraceptives for its employees--which, in the case of birth-control pills, can add an extra $350 or so per year to the cost of hiring every female employee of reproductive age who is on the pill--really constitutes employment discrimination, either under the original 1964 act or under its 1978 amendment, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The latter bars discrimination "on the basis of sex" because of "pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions." Contraception, of course, isn't pregnancy but a means of securing its opposite. And while birth control pills can confer health benefits, such as regulating menstruation or treating hormonal skin conditions, the reasons most women take them have more to do with lifestyle than health.”
Since that overstep was walked back, the religious institutions apparently thought that they were safe, maybe because between then and now, the Church, or at least many of the organizations organized under it, Sisters, Bishops and laity, had given their enthusiastic support to the Obama administration’s efforts to pass ObamaoCare – recall Rep. Stupak – it is not a stretch at all to say that it wouldn’t have passed without their support, the ‘socially conscious’ religious organizations gave them their aide and gave them their efforts in order to get their flock on his side, and I think they supposed that in doing so they had earned a place of favor and were ‘safe’ from being further molested.

Not so. For one thing, let’s be serious, Obama didn’t have to fight all that hard for their support; as a result of religious leaders longstanding efforts to promote programs of 'social consciousness', the religious organizations had already bought into the ‘principle’ that govt should do unto people as their betters ‘knew’ was best for them – taking what is rightfully theirs to do it to them with. This view is uncontroversial amongst the “Educated”, and it is the popular Point of View amongst those who consider themselves to be ‘enlightened’ and 'progressive' modern people, on both left and the right, and despite the Right's charges of "Marxism!" it did not begin with Marx, but with Rousseau, and his
“This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free”
The issue has been mainstreamed into us by proregressives since the 60's... not the 1960's, but he 1860's; Teddy Roosevelt, who began what Obama is attempting to finish, didn't spring upon us out of nowhere, he had, thanks to govt intrusion in the schools, a following among the educated. The result is that no matter whether your “Socially Conscious” efforts are directed to the purposes of helping the poor, or to restraining 'Big Business', or towards keeping all of the foolish people from drinking or smoking cigarettes or consuming trans-fats, those fundamentally anti-American ideals (yeah, I mean that, more in the next post) are well established in a sizable number of Americans, and with that accomplished the task of moving from there, to Obamacare, is and was the smallest of steps. Obama needed only to give the American people the slightest tissue of assurances that he meant well, such as with as his signing statement to Rep. Stupak, to enable them to convince themselves that all would be well, and the leaders of the Churches thought that they were in the clear as well.

Not so, it turns out, and what may have shocked the church the most this month, I suspect, is that it turns out that what the administration’s latest moves amounted to instead, was a firmly administered wham, bam, thank you ma’am, and they were surprised (!), and angered, with this latest regulatory revelation of theirs. I’m tempted to make further rude and crude remarks about their surprise, but there’s no need for me to descend to that, Kathleen Sebelius out did me by a long shot when she said this:
"So is the full range of preventive health services recommended for women by the highly respected Institute of Medicine, including contraception.
Today, virtually all American women use contraception at some point in their lives. And we have a large body of medical evidence showing it has significant benefits for their health, as well as the health of their children. But birth control can also be quite expensive, costing an average of $600 a year, which puts it out of reach for many women whose health plans don't cover it.
The public health case for making sure insurance covers contraception is clear. But we also recognize that many religious organizations have deeply held beliefs opposing the use of birth control.
That's why in the rule we put forward, we specifically carved out from the policy religious organizations that primarily employ people of their own faith. This exemption includes churches and other houses of worship, and could also include other church-affiliated organizations."
This was the original attempt to show consideration to ‘churches and other houses of worship’. Does any of this even pass the laugh test?

The easiest laugh bubbles up from the issue of $600 a year for 'contraceptive healthcare' – up quite a bit from the $350 a year that the EEOC had projected, Inflation I suppose( Hey! It’s the economy stupid!)… but either way, that’s a whole lot of contracepting going on! But then, I suppose if ‘women’s rights’ are for the purpose of sparing men the burden of supplying their own materials, to say nothing of sparing them from exerting the character to restrain themselves… then I suppose the cost is worth it, right ladies? 'Ladies men' the world over send you their thanks, from the bottoms of their wallets and sated libidos.

But the biggest laugh has got to be reserved for what was supposedly an exemption for a ‘religious organization’. Unless you are talking about a monastery, it fits no organization that I know of; the ‘primarily employ people of their own faith’ is either a statement of crass duplicitousness, ignorance or just plain stupidity (though to be sure, we shouldn’t rule out the unique ability of government to make an arresting blend of all three). I worked for a time at a Catholic hospital, as does my wife now. Neither of us are Catholic, nor were most of the people which either of us worked with. A Catholic organization owns and operated the hospital, but they did not limit their employees, or their patients, to only those who are rosary carrying Catholics – so is it the intent of this administration to punish them for their diversity?!

Those organizations are also free to offer their services to people who are not of their faith, aren't they? They are even free to employ people who are not of their faith, they are FREE to do that, are they not? The Catholic Church's views on Contraception are well known, people who work for them know their views, and if they don't like those views, they are free to leave, and should leave, if it is a problem for them... to say otherwise would be to say that the govt should be able to force their compliance with ideas they do not believe in, it is to say that the govt can force the ideas of that, or any other organization, or any other group of people, or any single individual, to conform to the views which the govt finds to be acceptable to those in power (at the moment).

Now we're getting a bit closer to the real issue involved here.

First They Came For The…
When you hear the famous line "First they came for the ___" who is it you find yourself mentally filling in that blank in with? Hold that thought a moment.

Of course after the ‘surprising’ and very public outrage of the Church, and many others as well, the Obamao administration decided that the solution was to instruct insurance agencies to provide the objectionable materials free of charge. What does that mean? It means, for one thing, that the govt can force a business to provide something for free, which the govt has decided it doesn't want another to have to pay for... as a favor.

It also means that those who have deeply personal reasons for not wanting to involve themselves in something, have no Right whatsoever to stand by their beliefs, it means that they will have to, by govt decree, stand by as their ideals are violated, stand by as a business they contracted with will be forced to supply what neither of them wish to have supplied, one because of an unfair burden of cost, the other at the cost of providing to their employees, materials that are offensive to them, in this case contraceptive materials and drugs, but it could just as easily be forcing the CPUSA to provide copies of the Federalist Papers to its members (yeah, fat chance, but still...), the idea that anyone should be satisfied with, or mollified by, knowing that others will be forced to foot the bill for objectionable materials being provided to members of your organization... should be infuriating to anyone that claims any love for liberty.

It is an egregious violation the church's religious liberties, that is true, but more fundamental than that, it is a violation of each persons fundamental Right to make their own decisions, their own choices, it violates everyone's Right to live their own lives as they see fit, without having to justify their choices to a governmental authority. That is what is being violated with this action that is being labeled as an issue of 'Religious Liberty', and all those who dislike or frown upon the teachings of the churches, are lining up behind the govt's actions; and all those who side with the church are lining up on their side saying they do have a right to refrain from such activities. And the forgotten man, is every single American whose Right to Choose as they see fit, is being trampled in the rush for, or against this measure.

Yes, my tears for the Church(es) have more than a few crocodile tears mixed in with them.

The Church(es), were blissfully silent when putting their Rights above everyone else’s, they were happy to assume their ability to exempt themselves from being forced to comply with what everyone else was being forced to comply with through ObamaoCare, and now they want to raise a great to-do over THEIR rights being abused - even though if Obama's exemption had been a bit more broad, they would have been fine with it, would have been fine with everyone but them, being forced to do what they may not have wanted to do - that is sacrificing Liberty for privilege.

The problem is that when you allow a Right to be converted into a privilege, you’ve entirely lost the Right to that, and you now depend instead upon the favor of those who have the power to dispense it to you… or not.

For them, in place of their Rosaries or the ecumenical equivalents in other churches, I’d like to have them all silently repeat the full quotation/poem, which begins with “First they came for the…”, but it’s important to recite the entire passage, because what they came first for was NOT the Jews (is that what you had in mind too?). It is incorrectly given in that way as shorthand, perhaps deliberately so, but take a look at the full passage, which was written by a Protestant pastor, Martin Niemöller (1892-1984), a church leader who began as a supporter of the Nazi's, and ended up in their concentration camps - take a look and see if you can see why saying only 'first they came for the Jews', is a problem:
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.
As Niemöller  makes clear, they did not come for the Jews first, not even second, but third, after all the other unpopular peoples which popular opinion understood needed to be dealt with for ‘the greater good’, had been handled; THEN they came for the Jews, and then they will come for you.

It may be surprising to some, but it changes the meaning of this passage not a single bit if you replace “Socialists” with “Free Marketers”, or “Trade Unionist” with “Businessmen”, or finally “Jews” with “Christians”; the meaning remains exactly the same… so much for “We will never forget”, eh? Loses its meaning I suppose, if what you remember is only half-true.

As I pointed out in the last point, this administration was not surprised by people’s fear for their ‘religious rights’ but instead deliberately orchestrated their outrage. An article in Forbes, “The Audacity of Power”, points this matter out well:
“…In other words, this entire political fire storm is a set-up by the Administration.
The original HHS ruling put the Catholic Church into the position of choosing one of these two options:
Option A: The Church complies with the law and violates its own teachings and principles of faith. Such a choice would strip the Church of its legitimacy and make it a de facto vassal of the state. In this case, the ability of the Church to challenge the government’s political power is vastly reduced, if not completely destroyed. Faith, charity and civil society are marginalized. Government wins.
Option B: The Church as a matter of conscience refuses to obey the law, and stops offering health insurance to its employees. In this case, the Church gets crushed by hundreds of millions of dollars in fines. As a consequence, its ability to fulfill its religious mission by funding hospitals, schools and charities is sharply reduced if not destroyed. As the Church is forced to withdraw from its active role in civil society, those who believe in government will rush to fill the void. Faith, charity and civil society are marginalized. Government wins.
The risk to President Obama was the Church would create “Option C” and engage in a broad political battle to force the full repeal of the ruling or, if that fails, the defeat of President Obama in the November election followed by the repeal of ObamaCare. Under Option C, government’s power is reduced. Faith, charity and civil society win.
President Obama’s political skill is demonstrated by his anticipation and preparation for just this outcome. First, he has used the issue to energize his political base by positioning his Administration as the defender of “women’s health” and attacking his opponents for taking him up on his implicit dare to make it an issue in the Presidential campaign.
Second, last Friday’s decision to “retreat,” as proclaimed by the weekend Wall Street Journal’s page 1 headline and find a way to “accommodate” religious freedom, was pure subterfuge. The notion of retreat or compromise is pure spin. The President’s operative statement reflected zero tolerance for those that would disagree with his policies….”
I’m sorry, but I do not feel sorry for them, instead I am more than a little bit angry at them, angry at them for helping to prepare the way for ObamaoCare, angry for how their earlier aid helped the Left to provide a diversionary target, directing fire away from where the actual attack has been taking place – while the Right has mobilized to defend the secondary issue of ‘Religious Rights’, especially as exemplified by Catholic organizations, the left is deepening its assault upon everyone’s right to make their own choices, upon your right to your own property, your right to live your own life – iow, the principle of individual liberty is what is, and has been under direct assault here, and people’s desires for the power to do unto others as they feel would be best for them, has led us all to forget where that path of good intentions inevitably wends its way towards.

If anyone should have known and understood that, the Catholic Church should have, having been present in France through the French Revolution, and Europe throughout the 20th century, having seen the development of leftist ideas and their fruits, they should have had an intimate understanding of this.

But for some reason those who hold principles, often think that they need not abide by principles outside of their own particular area of interest. This shows a couple things to be true, 1), they don’t understand what their own principles are principles of (Truth), and 2), they don’t understand principles at all. My pity for their pain is thin. In lieu of tissues for their tears, I’ll offer them this, from Gagdad Bob, who quipped “You know what they say: sleep with Dems, wake up fleeced.”. Exactly so.

The Right, by following along with the program which the Left has scripted for them, is protecting a vital limb of the body of liberty, by exposing its heart and head to the direct line of fire.

Bringing this home, was what happened when Catholics responded to President Obama’s exemption, with the message of their bishops… it was forbidden to be passed on to members of their church in the Military; the Chaplin’s being ordered not to pass on a religious message from their church, during church, neatly cutting into issues of freedom of religion and freedom of speech as well.

I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that - forget the Contraceptive issue, it’s a diversion, it’s a fig leaf. Worse, it’s as if a fiend somehow convinced someone to protect their limbs from gunfire with their foreheads.

And we’re supposed to accept this as being not only ok, but that it was all being done to promote ‘contraceptive health’ – but worse than that – we are supposed to dismiss the assault on the individual liberty of all Americans, dismiss the assault upon businesses forced to provide products for free to some, we are supposed to dismiss the govt’s setting up the principle of being able to selectively abridge the liberty of one ‘group’ of Americans – while utterly discarding the principle of liberty for all Americans… we’re supposed to disregard all of this, and pay attention only to the fact that some religious people are having their sensibilities offended by having products they disapprove of distributed to their employees.

It is NOT appropriate to refer to this as an issue of religious freedom, any more than it would be appropriate to first charge a robber for firing an unregistered gun within city limits, rather than charging them for murder during the commission of a robbery. As the Forbes article makes clear, this issue of ‘Religious Freedom’ was selected because the administration understood that the Right would see that red meat, look no further and swallow it hook line and sinker - which they nearly universally have - and in doing so they step into the same trap that the Catholic Church did.

In taking up the ‘religious freedom’ issue, conservatives leave unprotected the issue of “Liberty for all” , and in objecting to the Obama Exemption as the issue, they tacitly approve of govt's ability to mandate behaviors upon everyone, and in that way Franklin is proved Right once again, in that Half a truth is often a great lie.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Obama Scores a Hat Trick Against Liberty, pt 1.

I spent most of last week with a head full of cold medicine, the hacking and wheezing made all the worse from watching as the Obama Administration scored its 'contraceptive' Hat Trick upon us. And after having watched the Keystone Cops (for those readers who have never seen the old silent comedies… just think of our current Eric Holder Justice Dept - same difference) level of responses to it on the part of the Right, and the Left, I find myself longing for more of that ol' foggy medicine headed feeling.

The Right has been busily dishing out headlines screaming about a new war on Religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular, and right on cue, The Left has followed that up by screaming about the Right's 'War on Women's health', perfectly illustrated by one left leaning friend of mine who linked to an article trumpeting how conservatives had rolled the clock back to the 1950’s. During all of this, while taking it all in and checking his schedule, Obama shook his teleprompter at the nation and chided people about the dangers of going overboard, and then, being the swell fellow he is, he offered to go ahead and generously offer an exemption to the church, out of the goodness of his heart, in order to make everything all better.

Isn’t that special? NyQuil please. And Sudafed too… oh to heck with the middlemen, I’ve got enough Kleenex stocked up...” Scotch!”

Obama’s Hat Trick.
1st Amendment:“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
President Obama’s Hat trick involves his successfully pitting the popular myths of one part of the 1st amdt, against the popular appearances of another part of the 1st amdt, while thoroughly undermining the actual foundation which all of the amendments, meaning your rights, rest upon (you look surprised... did you actually believe that your Rights start with the 1st Amendment?). Here’s his new chief of staff, Mr. Lew, giving us a glimpse of their patented 'Rights Reducing' technique in action, from last week on Fox News Sunday:
WALLACE:…The question -- where does the president get the power to tell a private company they have to offer a product and offer it for free?
LEW: Well, Chris, just to be clear -- the president has the authority under the Affordable Care Act to have these kinds of rules take affect. And the issue with this being for free is quite an interesting one. If you look at the cost of providing health insurance, it actually doesn't cost more to provide a plan with contraceptive coverage than it does without.
That is quite an amazing statement by Mr. Lew, but before getting into my reply, which I’m fairly certain will in some way unsettle all of my friends, left, right and center, let me give you a hint as to my take on this:
Religious freedom has not been attacked, liberty itself has been attacked, and it’s being attacked under the cover of the distraction of ‘religious freedom being under attack’.
But before digging in, let’s recap and dispense with some of the popular distractions first, I'll take it in order, going from left to right.

Left Behind
To hear the left describe it, this last week, President Obama came out with some bold proposals for ‘women’s health issues’, which have simply been misinterpreted as being offensive to Catholics and sooo unfairly too, since it was really all actually about the all-important topic of 'Contraceptive Health'. And that has been the meme of the week, hasn't it?… it’s all about women’s health, contraceptive care, etc, as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney emphasized:
This needs to be said, over and over, to put the discussion about contraception to rest, to place it back in the realm of public health, and to stop the stigmatization of all reproductive health care, which has not surprisingly gone well beyond abortion to include contraception.
And of course there’s that ‘Turning the clock back’ meme which my friend was promoting, “Very neatly, and on three separate fronts, conservatives in America turned the clock back to the 1950s with their rhetoric about women’s rights Thursday, according to women in politics on both sides of the aisle. This could be a big problem for the GOP when the calendar reaches November...”
IMHO, this has been less a case of the clock being turned back by conservatives, than it has been an example of what this administration does best: campaigning.

This ploy, begun months ago, looks to have been designed to take the media focus off of the dismal state of the economy and the President’s fumbling of it, such as with the Keystone Pipeline, etc, and putting it squarely back onto the easily accessible fears of the unfocused and unwary voter (IOW those who vote Leftist (yeah, rhetoric, so sue me)) and raising for each of them the very scary possibility of a Republican being elected president, which of course as everyone knows, means an impending Theocracy!

Silly as that sounds (you’re… not silly enough to think it doesn’t sound silly, are you?), I’d like you to think back, way back... when was the first instance in your recent memory, and I'm sure you could go back months, if not years, in searching your memory banks, when was it that you last recall the issue of contraception being publicly raised, let alone threatened? I don’t mean abortion, so spare me your links and articles, please, and I don’t even mean condoms being distributed in schools, I mean contraception being threatened with elimination or regulation through either a high profile legal case, or as the central focus of some piece of legislation or even as a vital component of your health care plan. Hmmm?
Anything? Anyone?

Have you heard about anyone seeking to outlaw or to prevent the production or sale of contraception? Have you seen the black helicopters swarming around your local pharmacy or convenience store and emptying the shelves of such things?

I’m thinking… probably... no.

And as far as health care goes, maybe it’s just me, but when I’ve heard people discussing their health care plans over the years, I don’t believe that I’ve ever heard them asking about whether or not an HMO or a PPO included the all-important bargain pricing on contraceptives… how about you? And please, no 'You're a Man! You don't Know!' complaints, they don't apply, I'm not talking about me - I don't think I've ever heard men discussing their health care plans, it's always been either the women I work with, or my wife or her friends, so how about it?

Yeah. That's what I thought.

Yet now we’re supposed to be suddenly faced with this oh-so urgent issue of contraceptive health in the public discourse,and it’s so vitally important an issue now that the President must step in and make a special ‘exemption’ to still the waters and put things to rights.

Really? Where did this come from? Where did it start?

It's my bet that the first time in recent memory that you likely heard the issue of contraception being raised at all, was during George Stephanopoulos’s bizarre and extended discussion of ‘contraceptive care’ at one of the republican debates, do you remember watching or hearing about that? It was so out of the blue and inexplicable... everyone I knew, and most of the pundits as well, were doing a serious head scratch over it... 'where'd that come from?'

I’m glad to see, now that I google it, that I’m hardly the first or only one to wonder that, or to be suspicious about it:
“… most everyone agrees that the moment where Stephanopoulos suddenly shifted the topic from job creation to hypothetical questions involving whether the states have a right to ban contraception was…odd (to say the least).
Yep. This was in the New Hampshire debate, January 7th, which the Daily Caller notes caused "... an impatient audience literally “boo” co-moderator George Stephanopoulos for a series of unrelenting questions to Mitt Romney about a hypothetical ban on contraceptives...". Here's part of it,
“Governor Romney, do you believe that states have the right to ban contraception? Or is that trumped by a constitutional right to privacy?” Stephanopoulos asked the slightly bewildered-looking former Massachusetts governor.
“George, this is an unusual topic that you’re raising,” Romney responded, “Do states have a right to ban contraception? I can’t imagine a state banning contraception. I can’t imagine the circumstances where a state would want to do so…Given that there’s no state that wants to do so, and I don’t know of any candidate that wants to do so, you’re asking could it constitutionally be done? We could ask our Constitutionalist here,” Romney said, gesturing toward Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).
Stephanopoulos persisted.
“Do you believe states have that right or not?” he asked Romney.
“George, I don’t know if the state has a right to ban contraception, no state wants to! The idea of you putting forward things that states might want to do, that no state wants to do, and then asking me whether they can do it or not is kind of a silly thing,” Romney responded, much to the crowd’s delight.”
It continued on from there for several minutes… and you 've got to ask, why? What in the past, let alone the recent past, prompted bringing that issue up? Answer: Nothing.

Stephy’s questioning only becomes even slightly sensible, if Stephy had foreknowledge of the upcoming HHS‘contraceptive health’ issue, and given George 'Stephy' Stephenopolous’s history with leading public opinion to benefit this administration (surely you haven't forgotten about JournoList and MMFA, have you?), that is hardly an issue that needs any sort of conspiracy theory to float it, it’s just the way he is used to operating. Especially, given recent events, it seems very likely that it came about as a result of Stephy's political insider trading which revealed to him that the matter of contraception soon would be an issue, and it was his hope to be able to conduct a pre-emptive strike on the GOP candidates and catch one or more of them with their pants down - so to speak.

And now surprise, surprise, here comes the HHS rule mandating that contraception will be provided, even if for free, no matter what. Suddenly the issue in the news is not about the economy, it’s not about the Keystone Pipeline, it’s not about questionable foreign policy positions around the world, or even about the fact that these HHS’s directives are examples of the govt forcibly abridging the rights of its people, no, no, no… it's all about 'contraceptive health' and the eeevil conservatives who desire nothing more than the opportunity to go on oppressing women.

And for their part, conservatives have been more than happy to play along.

Fools. Why? Let me ask you something, if you saw someone shooting at people, and then shooting at clergy, would you object to their shooting at the clergy? Or would you object to the caliber of gun they were using to shoot at the clergy... or would you object to the fact that they were shooting at People!? Hmmm? That'll have to do until next post, but... think about it... mmmkay?

The issue was doubled down on when the White House tried to ‘help’ by having President Obama ‘offer’ his generous exemption to Catholics; out of the goodness of his heart, he’s offered to force insurance companies to extend those same services to the same people in the same organization… but (supposedly) now they'll be 'offering' them for free.
What was the explanation for that? President Obama said:
"Every woman should be in control of the decisions that affect her own health," Obama said in a midday address at the White House.

"Now, as we move to implement this rule, however, we've been mindful that there's another principle at stake here -- and that's the principle of religious liberty, an inalienable right that is enshrined in our Constitution," Obama said. "As a citizen and as a Christian, I cherish this right."
So President Obama, mindful of those deeply cherished Rights (remember the 'Magician rule': Don't let your eyes follow where he directs your attention), and the left's deeply coveted privileges, or as HuffPo puts it:
Religious groups, particularly Catholics, fiercely objected, saying the federal government should not force institutions to violate the tenets of their faith. Women's advocates argued that employees should have access to birth control regardless of where they work.
, what was our constitutional professor's proposal to defuse this 'conflict of rights'?
Under the new plan, a religiously affiliated institution would not be required to provide contraception coverage. Rather, the institution's insurance company would offer the coverage for free and without raising premiums.
Now, even if you take his 'solution' as an actual attempt to offer something new (which is highly doubtful, I think Rep. Ryan had it right as "A distinction without a difference"), what it comes down to is that before the 'compromise', his administration proposed to mandate that religious organizations must provide 'contraceptive care' to their employees in their health insurance, and after his exemption... religious organizations must provide 'contraceptive care' to their employees in their health insurance, but... the insurance companies must pay for it.

That 'solution' was supposed to make everything all right? That these contraceptive items are being ‘offered’, mandatorily, that shouldn’t be a problem, right?, riiight, I mean, obviously, when it comes to issues of religious principle, the price of the materials involved have traditionally been the most important factor, right? "Free" fixes everything, right? Clearly, if contraception, or even abortion, were offered for free, Catholics and conservatives would have no more problem with the issue, right?

Could anyone, anyone, really think that offering to offer other people’s money to pay for the services they deeply objected to, would actually soothe anybody’s objections?

Can anyone really think that the White House was deluded enough to think that their actions would somehow not be seen as inflammatory to the right? On the other hand, there was one group was pleased:
"Sister Carol Keehan, head of the Catholic Health Association, an umbrella group for more than 600 Catholic hospitals, said Friday she was "very pleased" with Obama's compromise, which she said "protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions.

Keehan was a key supporter of the president's health care reform law -- against the wishes of the U.S. Catholic bishops -- but she had voiced strong criticism of the initial contraception regulations."
Big surprise there, right? 

"But... but... but..." you and President Obama attempt to say, "... she's Catholic! See! It's NOT a religious issue!", which I do agree with, or at least I agree that it's not primarily a religious issue... but I'll leave that for the next post, because for now the fact of the matter is that it has been taken as a religious issue by the Right, and by the left, which is exactly what the administration was hoping for to begin with.

It's also no surprise that people are now fired up along the preferred leftist battle lines of sex and diminished rights (‘women’s rights’, ‘religious rights’, etc), and that the media is obligingly painting conservatives into the corner of “the 1950’s”, not to mention the added benefit of there being very few still questioning the administration’s handling of the economy.

Imagine that.

And conservatives are the ones who are supposed to have turned the clock back? Please. Can you say 'Manipulation'? Ladies and Gents, the movers and shakers of the left knew what they were doing, they correctly gauged the reactions of the right, and the left, and chose this issue, and this timing, as not only a useful media meme to control the news cycle, but an effective campaign strategy as well - time will tell whether or not they misjudged - but I don't think that there's any doubt that this entire issue was raised with the Presidential campaign in mind.

And heads up to the Left - this campaign is a campaign against the American understanding of Liberty, and if you win it, you will lose a treasure you never realized you had.

As a final note until my next post, let me offer a clue to my Catholic and other religious friends – if you are thinking that you are going to battle this mandate and this ‘exemption’, without first undoing your support for everything that made it possible - ala Sister Carol Keehan:
"An ideal health care system would first of all provide everybody with high quality care. It would reach out to everyone, it would focus on preventive care, and it would give special attention to the vulnerable."
, and the Catholic Bishops:
"Since 1919, the United States Catholic bishops have supported decent health care for all and government and private action to advance this essential goal,” Bishop Blaire said.“Long before the current battles, the Catholic Church was persistently and consistently advocating for this overdue national priority."
, who supported ObamaoCare to begin with; for them to have a chance in hell to undo this or any of the rest of it will require a miracle to succeed.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

School Choice: Turkey or Beef-ish?

I went to a forum last week, American for Prosperity’s School Choice Conference which was held at Loyola Academy in St. Louis, and what I barely restrained myself from shouting out during it was:
What Choice?! What does it matter which building you choose, or how well it is run, if what they are teaching is all the same?!
The forum was ably moderated by Jim Hoft of The Gateway Pundit, and included as panellists, Dick Morris (former Clinton political strategist and commentator), Dana Loesch (Tea Party activist, 97.1 FM radio host, CNN commentator, Editor of Big Journalism.Com and a homeschooling mom herself), Mike Podgursky (Professor of Economics University of Missouri) and Robbyn Wahby (Executive Assistant to STL Mayor Francis Slay), and as I sat there listening with Gretchen of Missouri Education Watchdog (who has a good report on it here), I couldn't help noticing that we both fidgeted, sighed and grumbled at many of the same parts.

What was frustrating to me was that, with a couple brief exceptions from the host of the event, Loyola's President, H. Eric Clark (who achieves what are probably the most impressive results possible within the current system, though it does require a 7:30a.m.-5:40 school day to accomplish it), Dana Loesch's comments on homeschooling, and some asides from Podgursky regarding how there were only two examples of educational success in Missouri, the two Catholic Diocese schools (his related paper, here), the real issue - what the education is that we are attempting to educate with - was not raised. Instead, we heard about 'human capital' (which produced synchronized sighing from Gretchen & I ), letting parents choose between public schools and Charter Schools (which amounts to private management of government policies), and the all consuming need to improve Math & Science skills and improve Test Scores.

That's choice? Oh, and breaking the Teachers Unions... by allowing the state, or Fed govt, to choose replacements for 'under performing' teachers.

That would be an improvement?

As Gretchen noted,
"As he was talking, I thought, "How is sending students to charter schools (schools supported by taxpayers dollars and under the same government mandates) freeing them from the regulations, lack of innovation, teaching to a student's need vs the system, and reducing the testing?" THAT question was NEVER answered. This is the problem with the School Choice movement in general and in Missouri with the funding of charter schools. It never addresses the underlying fact that the government is still providing the blueprint and the rules and regulations for what the children are learning. The money is being transferred to "free markets" (which conservatives love) but the system is still controlled by the government. That's not really free market, is it? That's not really an authentic choice for parents, is it?"
Which I agree with, but the most important issue goes even deeper than that, and I'm not talking about the Free Market issue of privately run vs. publicly run schools.

What course is being charted with the proposed Charter Schools?
Regarding the issue of a Free Market solution, I think that that requires something more than... a CSINO (Charter School In Name Only) to qualify as one. Do I think Charter Schools are a better idea than Public Schools? Well... it depends... who is it that is in control of the Charter School?

Do I believe in privately run schools over govt run schools? Yes... assuming that the words are allowed to retain their meaning. If it is under the administration and/or control of the parents of the students going to the school, then yes, I am full on behind the idea of Charter Schools.

If, on the other hand, what you mean by Charter Schools, are schools which are administered by a private corporation that is running the schools for profit, while their educational decisions are made under the direction of state education bureaucrats, then, no, I don't see them as a worthwhile improvement, not at all. In fact I see them as potentially even more harmful than the public administration, because under these circumstances the words 'private' and 'charter' have lost their meaning - the only thing you can be sure of here is that they are private schools no longer, and without even the feeble electoral controls of a public operation.

At best, such an arrangement could be called a managerial improvement over that of being administered by strictly govt employees. At worst, the ability of a business to earn a profit without the critical components of pricing, having to provide satisfactory service to the parent customer, and lacking any true competition with other businesses, this is almost certainly a recipe for unforeseen evils and unanticipated disasters.

But in either case, best or worst, they would not provide a meaningful solution to the problems facing our educational system, which is now truly, in the Twilight Zone.

A nutritional parable
Picture this if you will. Imagine with me that somewhere there was once a land, where the children were well fed, healthy and satisfied with their meals and amazingly productive and happy as a result. But as times changed and more scientific ways of cooking were introduced, people thought they could do better than they had with their old stoves and pots & pans, and so they began to modernize, and they modernized not only their kitchens, and their stoves and their pots and pans and how they went about taking orders and serving their meals, but they also began changing their old tasty recipes - too much salt! Too much spice! Unhealthy meats! Kids today need a scientifically balanced diet!... or so the thinking went.

As these improvements took root, and eating the state approved meals became compulsory, people began to demand that more meals be served, more treats, faster service, and, not long afterwards, the need for better quality.

Changes swept the land, spurred on by fears that people would no longer be fed well enough to be able to compete with the (select your decade and insert: Rebels, English, French, Germans, Japanese, Germans, Russians, Chinese...) and so flush with disturbing fears and 'new ideas!' the govt set out to see to it that everyone was well fed. The cooking methods were continually changed, made more efficient, as quaint local restaurants gave way to expertly designed cafeteria styles and long table seating, and the delivery of the meals was made more uniform and scientifically balanced, the menus were streamlined, and soon even more children were being fed, fed faster, and fed more, than ever before in history.

What a success!

But... grumblings about quality remained an issue... kids complained about the food and so did parents, their kids were dragging and didn't want to finish their meals, the food being served just wasn't helping them stay energetic and engaged... how would they compete?! The meals MUST be improved!

Experts said startling improvements in costs and efficiency were possible if only the managerial know-how of corp. America were followed, and though the Food Servers Union objected, experts insisted that servers and staff should have to improve their efficiencies and meet their metrics, or adios! What could be more sensible?

Time passed, cookbooks were written, updated, replaced, movies were made, 'Waiting for Superfood!' Politicians found new angles and ways to politicize the food, parents called for more Choice! and the politicians ran with that as well, 'Get Parents involved! Let them choose their preferred eateries!' Wow!
More and more corporations saw potential profits in these eateries, in providing their materials, supplying ingredients, plates, utensils, napkins, cha-ching! Efficiencies and profits also lay in standardizing on materials and serving practices across the land, economies of scale could be realized in menus, food and delivery... what could be more American than that! And the National No Meal Left Behind Act was passed... yippee!

And yet, to the amazement of all... though more and more money was thrown at the problem, study after study showed that health and satisfaction continued to decline. More parents across the land began pulling their children out of these public dining halls and gave them home cooked meals instead, and as remarkable results became more plain to see... they were attacked for it. Religious eateries also showed higher rates of success as well, but the unions charged that they simply picked and chose who they served, so they didn't ever have to deal with the picky eaters, these comparisons were unfair!

Whatever could the matter be?

So now let me finally get to my point by asking you something. If this was the actual situation we faced, and after all the attempts at improving the quality of the foods, the menus, preparation & service; if after all the attempts to bring costs down or even to use all quality ingredients in the foods, they all still failed, you'd be baffled too, wouldn't you?

Well, what if, when looking back over the history of such dining, you found out that, despite all the differing methods that had been tried for preparing and serving the foods, and the different ingredients of the foods, what if you realized that in the end, all of the meals served in the public eateries, and most of the private eateries as well (after all, they got their servers and staff from the same places) served only variations of the very same menu items, all across our fabled land - and what it turned out that that item was, was:

Hot dogs.

Yep, that's it, hot dogs.

Why hot dogs? Well... because some expert dietitians early on, those who first began to streamline and improve the dining experience, determined that hot dogs were THE most compact, efficient meal possible - hot dogs could be pre-packaged, frozen, cooked boiled or micro-waved - in order to produce meals that could be offered to all children. Scientifically designed hot dogs also meant that servers didn't need to know anything about food or cooking, all they had to do was heat and serve.

And their ingredients... they could be varied - even sold by those variations "All Beef Served Here!" - without having to change much of anything at all. Sometimes they were made with mystery meat, sometimes turkey franks, some times beef franks or even Kosher franks. Sometimes they were served with potato chips, or potato salad... milk or a soda, sometimes served on a plain white bun, others on a sourdough bun or even a roll, but all the same, the meals being served to one and all, with the exception of some of the homeschoolers who didn't just serve the public menu at home, were normal hot dogs, day in and day out.
Garnishes were easy too. ketchup, mustard or relish; simple, easy to pack into plastic packages in bite sized amounts.

Now, looking at this situation with that new understanding of the menu, what would you say then? Wouldn't you begin to suggest that rather than tinkering with the ingredients of the hot dogs, or how they were served, that maybe, just maybe, putting other, more substantial foods on the menu... miiight be a decent idea?
And what if when you asked for their reasons for not serving up an actual full course, balanced, meal, they said things like:

  • But it costs too much!
  • Kids can't digest higher quality meals anymore!
  • No one eats such archaic meals anymore, and no one has in... decades!
What would you think of those excuses?

Do you realize how close and fitting an analogy this is to our schools today? This is the situation we are in. We have allowed ourselves to become so focused upon the textbook preparation, the administrator and teaching staff, operational costs, etc, so focused upon improving the delivery of our children's intellectual nourishment... but no one, NO ONE, has been asking about anything more than the form and style of textual hot dogs that we've been serving up!

You know that you'd want to grab all of those politicians, parents and experts and... slap some sense into them and tell them to "Put something other than hot dogs on your menus!", wouldn't you? If so, then please, slap yourself as well, because that is as near to an exact comparison to our world of education, as you are going to find.

Choice is important, but what you choose, and what you're willing to accept as a choice, is even more important.

Early on, our educational 'x-spurts' began recommending a prefabricated educational food be served to all, replacing the tried and true classics of Western Civilization, with the textual equivalent of a hot dog, and the modern textbook, was born. The progressive literary nutritionists were adamant that the 'elitist' tone of earlier times, the regard for 'so called' great authors, should be removed, too spicy, the quality writing and insights of authors of history, was too difficult to digest, and needed to be replaced with unbiased facts of social studies books. Anything smacking of ethical judgments or religion needed to be replaced with something more widely acceptable. The result was that what may have begun as Brauts, soon degenerated into a bland turkey frank of thought, which can't be made unpalatable without loads of condiments being heaped upon them, as well as the pictorial equivalent of ketchup and mustard and relish - color pictures, graphs and colorful call-outs - were crammed into the textbooks, quickly becoming more numerous than the text itself.

Those we've left in charge of the education of our people, have been cranking out these intellectual hot dogs, and they have made the means of turning the crank, and how they are served up to our kids into issues of more political interest, than the far more valuable food which is actually being stuffed down your children's throats and into their minds. Here's a prime example of just that:
"According to Robert Pandiscio in a blog post for Core Knowledge “Education reform may be sexy, but curriculum is not.” He also writes about his encounter with Michelle Rhee after she had just finished giving a speech at the Manhattan Institute. Pandiscio asked Rhee if she would consider working on curriculum reform, to which she replied,
“The last thing we’re going to do,” she replied with a chuckle, “is get wrapped up in curriculum battles.”
Instead of curriculum battles, Rhee has geared all of her energy towards influencing politicians, governors, mayors and state elected officials to accept her policies of tying teachers’ pay to student testing, removing tenure and offering big bonuses to “highly effective” teachers. She also advocates for vouchers and charter schools. By concentrating on restructuring education policy near and dear to conservatives, in at least 14 states so far, Rhee has lobbied, schmoozed and bought conservative Republicans to her advantage."
Nope, don't want to get into any of that messy 'curriculum' stuff, we'll just stick with the mush stuffed into skins, heat and serve... good enough for government work, right?

This is the material you want to base an education upon? Really? I submit to you, that at the very least, until you see students taking their textbooks to the beach with them because of their own interest in them and/or for their own pleasure, then you will not see any significant return on your educational dollar, and you will never see such a thing until after the materials your students are given in their 'curriculum' is of a high enough quality to make them worth reading.

And trust me, that doesn't mean tighter quality controls on how the sausage is made, that means returning to well balanced, high quality, solid content, intellectual feasts.

It was just such a diet which our Founding Father's were raised upon, and was great deal to do why we had the Founder's era. You can see the truth of that in John Adams describing how James Otis' speech against the 'Writs of Assistance' resulted in "Then and there the child Independence was born", in 1761:
"But Otis was a flame of fire!—with a promptitude of classical allusions, a depth of research, a rapid summary of historical events and dates, a profusion of legal authorities, a prophetic glance of his eye into futurity, and a torrent of impetuous eloquence, he hurried away every thing before him. American independence was then and there born; the seeds of patriots and heroes were then and there sown, to defend the vigorous youth, the non sine Diis animosus infans. Every man of a crowded audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take arms against writs of assistance. Then and there was the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the child Independence was born. In fifteen years, namely in 1776, he grew up to manhood, and declared himself free."
It wasn't how well Otis delivered his speech that lit the world on fire; if Otis had a teleprompter to read it off of it wouldn't have made any difference at all, the American Revolution would have been stillborn, if his audience wasn't thoroughly familiar with what it was he was speaking about.

In our hot-dogged world today, we tend to think of "classical allusions" as being pretentious, even useless - too spicy and filling! - but in our Founders times, those allusions were understood to refer to consequential ideas, historical events, philosophical concepts and heroes who strove in their name... those 'pretentious allusions' were able to capture the imagination of his audience because they were alluding to things which were commonly known to them and understood by them.

Fortunately for the previous 251 years of the world, our Founder's times were not plagued with anything resembling a Dept. of Education, or a Common Core Curriculum of intellectual pablum, and because the stuff of every child's education was that of gourmet intellectual cuisine, those ideas and histories were able to become transformed by informed minds into the fuel which enabled Otis's 'Flame of fire!' to take hold and change the world.

The more we learn today of what they knew then, the more brightly our flame will be able to blaze tomorrow. The more those 'pretentious allusions' fade away... so will our liberties and rights.

An Aperitif
Can you really and truly call an education as being worth it's name, if all it does is teach its students various skills and techniques? Is making someone more skilled at getting what they want, without teaching them to understand what is wise or unwise to want and why... can that really be called a good thing? An education was once understood to consist of conveying the significant issues of history and thought, forming a moral manner and enabling a self governing nature.

Where do you see that occurring today? Teaching anything less than that, such as useful skills only, was once thought of as instruction fit only for slaves. Is that what you want for your kids? Are you really so sure that those who understood those issues which we've mostly forgotten today, didn't know what they were talking about?

Does it ease your mind any to know that one time President of Princeton College, Woodrow Wilson, prior to becoming one of the most harmful proregressive presidents of our nation, had said in a speech to a group of high school teachers:
"We want one class of persons to have a liberal education and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."
, who found his comments completely unremarkable. Does it make you wonder at all about having such a mania for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) standards in our Common Core Curriculum... and little or no emphasis on seeing that they also get an education in those fields such as history (not 'social studies', history), literature, philosophy, which are so central to the 'privilege of a liberal education'? Not that such 'STEM' skills aren't highly useful, but... are your children being taught to lead their own lives well, or to get a 'good job' working for someone else?

In that forum last week, only two people suggested the possibility of serving something other than hot dogs. Mr. Clark, of Loyola who represented a variation on the Catholic School option (which Mr. Podgursky advocated as well), and Dana Loesch who supported homeschooling and direct parent involvement. Everyone else, Dick Morris especially, spoke of nothing other than altering the methods of delivering and paying for an 'education', not one of them spoke about, or even mentioned, WHAT the content of an education should be. It was simply assumed that good administration would produce good grades and test scores were the final word in whether a school was successful or not at providing an education, rather than simply processing the sausages.

Well I'm here to tell you, if you feed kids nothing but hot dogs, you wind up with fat, unenergetic kids. If you feed their minds with the intellectual equivalent, you get nothing but more of the same.

Schools today, with increasingly rare exceptions of fine teachers who still manage Teaching in spite of the materials they are saddled with, schools today are centered around meaningless, hack written, often factually incorrect and politically skewed materials.

It is awful. It is boring. It is profoundly uninteresting. It is failing and it will continue to do so until it is entirely replaced - not reformed - replaced.