"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
There is probably no other section of our Constitution that is currently more controversial than this one. In my own opinion, the amendment guarantees the right of the people to keep and bear arms only in the context of a well-regulated militia. I invite any old English grammar experts to render an honest opinion on the literal meaning of that sentence. I am not one, but I cannot interpret it in any way that does not link the right of the people to "keep and bear Arms" to a "well regulated Militia." Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Number 29, "If a well regulated militia be the most natural defence of a free country, it ought certainly to be under the regulation and at the disposal of that body which is constituted the guardian of the national security." Of course, the body he was referring to was the Executive Branch.Read more
And spread the word – share this with your friends on Facebook. We have a limited number of them, and we’ll only do this one printing. (Now I'm supposed to say: so act fast!)
The purpose of this post is to get our readers updated on birth control – what Obama has done and what his opponents are saying. Clashes about birth control coverage for women seem to have everyone talking, including Foster Friess, a primary contributor to Santorum’s Super PAC. He said, "Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly." [i]
Per the Affordable Care Act, starting July 2012 most new health care policies, and eventually all insurance policies, will offer a list of preventive services for women WITHOUT COPAY OR DEDUCTIBLE [ii]. This includes all forms of FDA-approved contraceptives. (Bayer Aspirin is not on that list, Friess, you disgusting man.) This list of women’s services is based on recommendations from a July 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine, “Clinical Preventive Services for Women: Closing the Gaps," which identified key components of women’s health services that have been shown to “improve well-being." [iii]
Yet some religious institutions, who offer insurance plans as employers, are upset that this interferes with their beliefs. It should be noted, that many of the insurance plans that do not cover contraceptives do cover medications like Viagra. [iv]
So in response, Obama put a caveat in the policy that would allow institutions to opt out, but women will be guaranteed no-cost access to contraception by a requirement that the insurance company offer the coverage instead.
"The result will be that religious organizations won't have to pay for these services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly. But women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services, just like other women, and they'll no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars a year that could go towards paying the rent or buying groceries," says President Obama. [v]
In Wednesday’s Arizona Republican debate during discussions on this issue, Romney dogged (ahem) Obama and said, "I don't think we've seen in the history of this country the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance that we've seen under Barack Obama." [vi]
In this same debate, Santorum lamented about the birth control issue, stating that 40% of children are born outside of wedlock and that birth control is bad for women and society. Wait. Doesn’t birth control reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies?
Really, I could go on and on, but I think it is worth just taking a step back: Why are we fighting about this?
Several months ago, I had a group lunch with a prominent physician from the World Health Organization who oversaw research studies in Cuba. I was very impressed with his descriptions of the quality health care and research in Cuba. He said, “Well, the Cuban government prioritizes two things: education and health. So that is where they most of their money goes, and it shows. The United States prioritizes (pause) other things.”
I support President Barack Obama because he is prioritizing women’s health, particularly preventive services that save lives. Birth control is a beautiful thing.
And so it continues...
As if it wasn't bad enough that Rick Santorum decided to criticize Obama's faith, Mitt Romney decided he needed to do the same thing yesterday. My guess is that Romney saw Santorum's tactics as the straight and narrow path toward better poll numbers, and he demonstrated this today when he parroted Santorum at a campaign rally, claiming that Obama has "fought against religion" and has a "secular" agenda. See the article here:
The Christian Right is at the heart of Romney's free-fall in the polls. They don't like him because he's a flip-flopper; they don't like him because he's Mormon. And Santorum seems at least smart enough to capitalize on this weakness. He is the last standing alternative to Mitt Romney, and so he says what the Evangelicals want to hear; his comments about Obama's "phony theology" and his stand against prenatal screenings are just empty rhetoric meant to woo the Christian Right of the Republican party. He knows that Arizona and Michigan are week away, next is Washington, and Super Tuesday is afterwards, (we so excited) and he has a chance to win big.
I thought Romney wouldn't go this route considering that Mormons are told that they aren't Christian all the time. But this isn't the first time Santorum has done this. He claims that if you are a liberal, you can't be 'religious' and you certainly aren't Christian. (See link below where in 2008 Santorum claimed that there is no such thing as a liberal Christian). So Sorry Eric, you do not exist.
Both Romney and Santorum are on a roll (holy rollers). They've found a cadence for the religious campaign stumping, and they can only go down from here. The Crusades 2.0 are just beginning.
Here are Santorum's latest comments on Monday as reported on MSNBC's The Last Word:
"I don't know if you've been listening to the president, the secretary of state, and other members of the cabinet, when they talk about freedom of religion... They don't say that anymore. They talk about freedom of worship; well, you folks all know there's a big difference between freedom of worship and freedom of religion. Think about what I just said. We have leaders of this country who are now narrowing the view of what religious liberty is in the first amendment."
What does this even mean? Never mind that President Obama just talked about the importance of protecting "religious liberty" on February 10th at a news conference. Regardless, it seems that using the term "freedom of worship" broadens the view of religious liberty. Many people lead spiritual lives but are not connected to a specific religious institution. Many people follow a moral or value-system but are not believers in a God. So what of them? Shouldn't their right to worship be valued, protected, and recognized?
I think Joseph Smith said it best, and Romney and Santorum might learn something here:
Articles of Faith 1:11 - We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
Amen to that.
Over the last several debates, GOP contenders use the word socialist to describe their warped view of what the Democratic Party stands for. They have leveled such attacks on "socialist" president Barack Obama, and have regularly used "socialist" in a derogatory tone against anything Democratic. Redistribution of wealth is also married to the socialist label, as with any governmental benefit. Not only do these candidates (and pundits) have little regard for the meaning of the word, they often demonstrate their ignorance in twisting its usage.
Socialistic theory encompasses government's choice to control capital. The extremist form of socialism, communism, argues for complete control of capital, eliminating all private property. Republicans follow and support many socialist platforms as a collective group and demonstrate socialistic behavior as government continued to grow at levels disproportionate to the economy. Growth of government = increased control of capital = socialism.
Let me cite some specific examples of socialist support among Republicans:
The military is the largest socialist organization in our nation. The military is not a privately run organization, nor does private capital control any equipment, technology, or weapons. The government own all military capital, and provides all services. It's quite interesting to watch Republicans discuss healthcare in the military with utmost respect, and then lash out at government controlled civilian healthcare. Veteran benefits are socialistic programs, as is all wartime activity. Think we can privatize the military? Get ready to fork out serious payments if you want protection.
Unless you are coughing up the $20k a year for private tutoring, education is a socialist program. Education is run and supported by the state and federal government, which spends roughly $7,000 a year on each enrolled student. Even if you believe private industry can operate the same program at 30% efficiency, it will still cost a family with two kids roughly $10k a year to pay for private education. In a purely capitalistic market you would pay according to the quality of the education, meaning the superior schools will cost substantially higher than average.
Medicare is another program that is entirely socialistic. With 90% of healthcare costs coming the final ten years of an individual's life, our seniors will be left out in the cold, as the payments will be unreasonable to assume. Now to be fair, the Medicare program could be privatized, which would require the 5.8% payroll tax to be saved by the individual year on year. Given the current state of our economy and the choices made by consumers, this will be a difficult challenge for the vast majority of citizens. Hospitals also are funded through governmental spending to drive consistency in quality.
I have often listened to my Republican friends complain about toll roads when traveling out east. I always found this interesting given that private controlled roads would charge per use, mimicking toll roads today. Private roads would follow market demand. If any road had continual traffic jams, the owner of the road would assume they are not charging enough, as the demand outweighs the supply. Public transportation would also be private in a purely capitalistic market, so pricing would also be owned directly by the users and not the government.
Just imagine if our society was purely capitalistic. If your house was burning down, or if someone had broken into your home, better hope you have a credit card on file with the right emergency department or no help will be coming. If your child falls off a ladder, and you have no insurance because you are one of the millions of individuals who lack coverage from your employer, there will be no emergency room visit. If you are convicted of a crime, don't look for the government to appoint a socialist lawyer if you can't afford one. If your district needs help with a specific project, don't ask the government for earmarks. If you have an innovative idea, the government will not protect you through patents.
Republicans like to look at selective measures to demonstrate Democrats are socialists. Here are a couple of facts that demonstrate socialism is not a partisan issue:
- The most money ever paid in earmarks was $56.2 billion in 2004 when Republicans controlled the House, Senate, and Presidency.
- The largest governmental subsidy is spent on fossil fuel (oil) with $72.5 billion (2002-2008) allocated through legislation signed by Republican presidents. The 2002 Farm Bill also provided expansive governmental subsidies to farmers across the US.
- In 2003 Republicans passed a $1 trillion dollar government entitlement prescription drug program to support Medicare. Part of the legislation shifted drug price negotiating power from the federal government (largest buyer of drugs) to the insurance companies (who then billed the federal government), creating a fixed pricing windfall for the Pharma industry.
- President Bush was the first president to see the annual budget cross the $2, $3, and $3.5 trillion dollar spending levels.
- Homeland Security was the largest expansion of government since the Department of Defense.
- The EPA was proposed and signed into legislation by Republican President Richard Nixon.
- Defense spending is the largest bill our government pays today, driven by Republican legislation.
- President Bush signed TARP and the first round of auto-bailouts, effectively creating social programs for the wealthy.
The most telling reason Republicans are closet socialists, is the way they vote. The only candidate campaigning on an anti-socialist platform is Ron Paul, and it is no secret how the Republican base feels about him. The other Republican candidates follow the same line of thinking as previous generations before -- lots of tax cut rhetoric, and no discussion of trimming today's socialist programs.
Santorum just told a crowd of tea party people in an Ohio hotel that Obama's agenda was based on "some phony theology," and that it was "not a theology based on the Bible." I suppose Santorum is the new prophet of the people as Romney's poll numbers fall faster than Adam and Eve after... well, the Fall.
Rick Santorum: Obama Agenda Not 'Based On Bible'
So this is where I am puzzled. Everyone seems so afraid that Mitt Romney is attached by invisible puppet strings to the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City or that he'll center his presidency on the Book of Mormon, but yet we have Santorum indirectly proclaiming that he hopes to run America based on his mangled interpretation of a two-thousand-year-old document?
It isn't as if I don't want a moral president, but I just can't understand why it is so important that the president is some certain type of Christian. I am not comforted by the idea that a president would rely too completely on his own interpretation of God and His Holy Word to make decisions that might affect me. I think they tried that in the dark ages. Additionally, I object to one candidate accusing another of not being Christian enough or that a candidate would peddle his holiness and supposed religiosity to garner votes.
The separation of church and state is a good thing. In fact, I do not agree with the conservatives who call for prayer in school. I grew up with prayer in school; we all said grace, (as it was called in the South where I'm from,) before heading to the cafeteria for lunch. It went something like this:
God is great; God is Good
and we thank Him for our food
And then the Catholics would cross themselves, and I'd feel confused. I wasn't taught to pray that way; I was taught to say, "Dear Heavenly Father," and "In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen," and most always, "We ask Thee to bless the Prophet." I suppose that if I found the daily prayer-chanting in school isolating and confusing, a Buddhist or Muslim or Jew might find it even more so. But maybe we don't care about them; maybe this country is for Christians only, everyone else be damned.
And by the way, this goes for us Mormons too: for those of you voting for tea party candidates, just remember that they most certainly believe that you belong to a cult and that you also adhere to a "phony theology," but they'll still take your vote and your campaign donations anyway.
So onto my final point here, a point that I have made previously: I am not interested in the religion of my president. Although my faith guides choices in my life and who I vote for, I am not more likely to vote for a Mormon than a Catholic president. Additionally, some right-wingers seem hell-bent on calling President Obama out as a Muslim (or even an atheist.) But I wonder what's the big deal? I wouldn't have a problem voting for a Muslim, just like many Muslims don't take issue voting for a Christian. (Besides, am I supposed to be worried that a Muslim president would wear an explosive vest to the State of the Union address?) I would be just as likely to vote for a Buddhist, a Jew, a Jain, or even a Christian for that matter, so long as their political beliefs coincided with mine and with my faith.
So Santorum: I am not voting for the next Preacher of the United States of America, so hush up about your religion and your Bible, and run for president already.
Now and then politicians let their tongues slip and tell the public what they really think about certain things. Last November, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich shared what most astute observers of Fox News already know about the right-wing news network, but what no conservative will ever admit – that much of what is said on the network is not factual and is often complete rubbish. When a woman asked Gingrich a complicated question about the Obama Administration’s AIDS policy at a gathering in South Carolina, Newt indicated that the information presented in the question was new to him and that he did not know enough to give a response. (Gingrich should be given credit for being honest about that and not trying to make up an answer from thinair on something he didn’t know about - or something for which he didn’t have a pre-rehearsed, memorized talking point.) Then Gingrich said, “One of the real changes that comes when you start running for President -- as opposed to being an analyst on Fox -- is I have to actually know what I'm talking about.”Read more
I realize that a posting on class warfare may seem about 6 months behind the times. Accusations of “Class Warfare” reached a fever pitch some months back amidst calls for a “millionaires tax,” the headline-grabbing “we are the 99%!” cry of the Occupy movement and Warren Buffet’s disclosure that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. The best synthesis of the discourse that I saw was provided, of course, by Jon Stewart .
The topic was brought to mind again recently when I read a NY Times article on the increasing number of conservative, middle-class Americans who receive some sort of government assistance .
In the article I learned that not only does the lowest income quintile receive 36% of all forms of government aid (down from 54% in 1980), but also that the top quintile actually took home about 12% of all aid. Additionally, a survey referenced in the article found that a plurality of respondents incorrectly named “programs for the poor” as the fastest-growing benefits program in the U.S.
I bring up these two points specifically because they are important in the larger context of the national debate surrounding topics like income inequality, budgets for social programs and class. The article illustrates what all poor people already know, which is that the answers to questions like who gets what from the government, and where should we be looking to make cuts, are seriously obscured by misinformation.
When imagery of animals digging through garbage, and terms like “welfare queen” and “parasite” are used on national television to describe those receiving government assistance (watch the Stewart clip!), it is clear that there is actually a concerted effort by some on the right to frame the debate in falsehoods.
While the right would have you believe that those receiving government assistance are lazy, greedy, black single mothers of 6, the numbers tell a different story. First, the large majority of all recipients of social programs are either children or the elderly. In FY 2011 nearly 75% of those receiving federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits were children . Medicare and Social Security, which together make up the government’s largest expenditure, are both only available to the elderly.
Okay, so most aid money goes to children and the poor (not counting the billions in tax breaks for big companies), but I bet the rest of them are just lazy, right? As mentioned above, almost 65% of all government aid goes to those above the lowest income quintile. Believe it or not rich folks, you can work hard and still have trouble making ends meet.
The TANF program, for example, contains employment requirements . And there are millions of working Americans who have seen their real wages decrease for decades, making government assistance necessary for things like health care, education, energy and housing. The price tags for these necessities have all skyrocketed, especially compared to most consumer goods, making the Heritage Foundation’s attacks on the poor for having televisions and microwaves seem particularly disgusting .
From 1970 to 2010 real wages for American workers declined by 28%, while national GDP nearly doubled . So who saw the gains from the growth in GDP? Over the same time period the top 0.1% of earners saw their share of national income rise by 385% !
The dishonest discourse fomented by the right has very serious consequences for all of us, and particularly the most vulnerable in our society. When the millionaires in Washington DC decide to ignore our woefully underfunded schools, choose to prioritize prisons over housing, and do nothing to fix healthcare, there are serious consequences. Over 46 million Americans live below the poverty line, the highest rate in the 52 years that the Census Bureau has published statistics on it , the U.S., with over 2.3 million people in prison, has by far the highest incarceration rate in the world , and an estimated 45,000 premature deaths occur each year because of lack of access to health care .
But despite reality, the right continues to ignore these problems and dismiss those who raise issue of equality as 'divisive'. Rick Santorum (a millionaire) even criticized Mitt Romney (a multi-millionaire) for using the term “middle class,” because he believes it is a Democratic term used to divide society . Which society is he is living in that he doesn’t see how very much divided we already are?
Yes, there is certainly a Class War raging, and I’ll give you one guess as to who is winning it.
The 28% figure takes into account the (non)wages received from the unemployed as well. Real wages over this period for only employed individuals dropped by a smaller, but still alarming, amount.