Category: Prime Politics Written by Joe Conason
What is most striking about the showdown over contraceptive freedom is not the political victory that President Obama earned by standing up for women’s reproductive rights, although his Republican adversaries are certainly helping him to make the most of it. Those adversaries don’t seem to realize they have fallen into a trap, whether the White House set them up intentionally or not.
While the Catholic bishops and their allies on the religious right insist that this is an argument over the First Amendment, their true, longstanding purpose now stands revealed to the public. They would begin by imposing their dogma on every woman unlucky enough to work for an employer who shares it -- an agenda that is deeply unpopular even among the Catholic faithful, let alone the rest of the American electorate. Then they would impose it on everyone, as the theorists of the religious right suggest every time they deny the separation of church and state.
The bishops have nothing to lose except their flock, whose respect for the hierarchy has plunged anyway over its resistance to reform and its failure to punish abuses far graver and more sinful than contraception. If they had to stand for election, not many of them would be left standing. And if they had to face a referendum on this current matter, they would lose resoundingly to the president, according to the latest survey data.
In a poll taken last Friday for the Coalition to Protect Women’s Health Care, Public Policy Polling found that 57 percent of Catholic voters endorse the Obama “compromise” that would ensure continued prescription birth control for women working in religious institutions, without requiring those institutions to pay directly for that coverage. Only 29 percent sided with the bishops, the religious right and the Republicans , while 5 percent actually think the religious institutions should pay for contraceptive coverage regardless of their doctrine. The cross-tabs of the PPP poll show that Latino Catholics, Catholic independent voters and Catholic women support the Obama solution by wide margins. (The most recent poll by Fox News Channel shows the same overwhelming approval for the president’s position among the general public.)
Those statistics are no threat to the bishops, of course, but represent a profound problem for the Republican leaders and candidates who have signed up for this male geriatric crusade against modernity. Mitt Romney, for instance, seems to believe that by stoking evangelical paranoia about a supposed “war on religion” by Obama, he will subdue evangelical paranoia about his Mormonism (which, by the way, expressly permits birth control). His pandering commenced when he announced his 2012 candidacy, but grew still more intense this week when he accused the president of perpetrating an “assault” on religion.
Such tactics are unlikely to placate the prejudices arrayed against Romney -- and even if they did, he will pay a very high price next fall for joining the angriest and most extreme culture warriors on this issue. Congressional Republicans will be courting the same danger if, as promised, they propose legislation that would overturn the Obama compromise and deprive women working for religious institutions of equal rights to contraceptive services.
The president should hold fast. He has proved that it is possible to uphold the principle of full access to birth control, which has been the pro-family social policy of the American majority for half a century, while respecting the religious convictions of all Americans. The wild ranting of his enemies is only helping him now — and may yet ruin them in November.
Last Updated on Friday, 24 February 2012 04:19
Category: Prime Politics Written by Stacy Swimp
The national backlash by liberals against U.S. Senatorial Candidate Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), charging his “ad” with being ‘racist” is as anti-intellectual as any claim that I have ever seen from the left. The ad in no way implies that there are “inherent” intellectual differences among any ethnic group, nor does it imply an individual achievement on the behalf of someone white that suggests that Whites are superior to Chinese. The ad also does not promote any manner of intolerance.
The content of the ad was strictly economic in nature and targeted the fact that the US national debt is owned predominantly by Asian economies. China leads the major foreign holders of treasury securities. One can and should debate whether Hoekstra is any way culpable for that debt, in light of his own record as a Congressman, if that is their opinion. That is a legitimate debate, based upon public policy and public record. However, to accuse Mr. Hoekstra of racism and try to diminish the facts he presented in satire is anti-intellectual and reckless.
Is it “racist” for whites to use nonwhites in satire skits now? For Blacks to use non-Blacks to role play in the same manner? The malicious attacks of racism against Mr. Hoekstra’s satirical ad is an attempt by liberals to impugn his character and distract from truth.
One liberal I spoke with accused the ad of being stereotypical, due to a bicycle the actress was riding: “The actress riding a bike? Not stereotypical? This ad is the mere definition thereof my friend! It is well known that the Chinese rode bikes in droves and many do till this very day. To run this ad as an American is an affront to all Asians who live in this country.”
My questions to those who are haste to toss the word “racist’ around are: What does “race” mean to you? How do you define racism? Where did you get your definition from?
The moral here is very simple: If you are looking for a fault, it is easy to find it, even if it is not there. If you are looking for hatred and bigotry, it is easy to perceive it as such, even if it does not apply. Finally, if you are liberal and you assume that every conservative is racist, solely on the basis of disagreeing with your perspectives, there is nothing a conservative can say or do that you will not falsely label as racist. It is much easier to use false labels to dispel truth than to actually face the truth.
Editor’s Note: Stacy Swimp is a national conservative commentator.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 February 2012 16:10
Category: Prime Politics Written by Stacy Swimp
President Obama stood before America and gave his third State of the Union address. Whereas Dr. Martin L. King once proclaimed, “I have a Dream,” President Obama expressed that he has an “imagination.” While the President is “imagining,” America is having a nightmare, reeling from his anti-free-enterprise and anti-family policies.
Obama began his speech boasting, “For the first time in nine years, there are no more Americans fighting in Iraq.” He highlighted that, in the military, personnel don’t obsess over differences. Instead, he added, they “focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could do if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach.”
The President said creating new American jobs “should begin with the tax code.” He stated that “companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no sense and everyone knows it.”
He is correct in this assessment. The U.S. corporate tax rate on new investment ranks among the highest in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) at 34.6 percent. The U.S. corporate tax rate exceeds that of France (34.0 percent), India (33.6 percent), Russia (31.9 percent) and Japan (29.5 percent). Argentina, Chad, Brazil, and Uzbekistan are the only countries with higher corporate tax rates than America.
President Obama’s solution appears to be more of the same — big government. He does not want to reform the U.S. Tax Code. Instead, he wants to dictate the free market and have government decide who wins and who loses, by offering tax breaks and incentives to “some” businesses, rather than making America “safe for business” for all corporations.
Our current U.S. corporate tax system is detrimental to economic growth. One study suggests: “The aim of corporate tax reforms should be to create a system that has a competitive rate and is neutral between different business activities. A sharp reduction to the federal corporate rate of 10 percentage points or more combined with tax base reforms would help generate higher growth and ultimately more jobs”.
In effect, government should not be involved with business creationism, except to provide a business friendly economic climate, devoid of governmental intrusion or favoritism.
Jerome Hudson, a spokesperson for Project 21, a National Speaker’s Bureau of Black Conservatives, keenly observed that the President’s health care plan was suspiciously missing from the speech.
“Obama also failed to celebrate his signature legislative victory: Obama Care. After the year it took to pass it, so “we could find out what’s in it,” you’d think the President would’ve been touting his sweeping reform.Guess again. Why? Because Mr. Obama knows that 60 percent of Americans oppose the law...”
It should also be noted that the President’s individual mandate shall price hundreds of thousands of unskilled workers out of full-time employment. The mandate requires businesses to provide health benefits to full-time employees. Small businesses, in particular, simply cannot remain functional under such a mandate.
Black Americans ought to be outraged after this speech. President Obama claims to advocate for the creation of new construction jobs, though he supports union subsidies which discriminate against Black Americans.
The Davis-Bacon Act or “prevailing wages,” was passed by Congress in 1931 with the intent of favoring White workers who belonged to White-only unions over non-unionized Black workers.
The Davis Bacon Act continues to have discriminatory effects today by favoring disproportionately White, skilled and unionized construction workers over disproportionately Black, unskilled and non-unionized construction workers.
The President attempted to ingratiate himself to Americans by uttering the ideals of his vivid imagination. The truth is that far too many American families, as a direct consequence of his economic policies, are living a nightmare.
Last Updated on Thursday, 02 February 2012 18:13
Category: Prime Politics Written by Vince Keenan
Two weeks ago, Detroit City Council released its first set of four discussion draft maps for council districts. All maps must be compact contiguous and roughly equal population. The city’s first proposed options, took abstract cuts through the city horizontally and vertically. These first maps wrapped boundaries around precinct lines rather than natural separations cutting many neighborhoods apart in order to fit.
Detroit doesn’t need boots that don’t fit, we need sturdy broken-in workboots so we can tackle the job at hand. When Data Driven Detroit (D3) released its neighborhood based map on Friday, it started gaining momentum almost immediately at public forums. Without fliers, or posters, or being displayed on the big screen, the D3 map was mentioned more than any other. The Data Driven Detroit map looks familiar - like Detroit.
The move from district government to all at-large council ninety-four years ago was a hopeful step toward addressing the problems of 1918. Almost one hundred years later we find ourselves taking another hopeful step toward a better future by moving to the hybrid system that combines the strengths of the at-large and district systems. It is an exciting time that is full of potential to re-organize and update our democratic infrastructure and start fresh. It isn’t a silver bullet, but it is a new hope.
The 1918 all at-large system of council was designed for a rapidly growing city. We were moving up, expanding in both population and revenue fueled by the seemingly unstoppable automotive industry. Today we face a different reality – we are having trouble maintaining our population. While we expanded from the center, we lost population in more of a checkerboard pattern, some neighborhoods remain strong and some have been hit hard. Today, we have to rely on each other to make neighborhoods work. We need a government that supports that local effort.
Every day we see evidence of a simple Detroit truth: it will be a long while before central city government is able to do better for our neighborhoods than we can ourselves. That’s not to say we shouldn’t want or expect city government to do its job and support the common good, it’s just to say we shouldn’t hold our collective breath. We need to do what we can to support neighborhoods that are working now.
The D3 district map supports neighborhoods. It adds legislative heft to areas of the city that are working together to keep it together. Imagine a City Council table where Councilmembers represent the unique neighborhood perspectives. Southwest has a voice, Northwest, the Eastside, the Westside, each with their own disctinct issues, each with their own solutions. Council becomes the forum where all the voices of the city come together to work for the common good. Rather than focusing on what downtown has or doesn’t, the D3 map focuses on neighborhoods that are already working together and builds off that strength. It uses freeways, railroads and industrial space as much as possible to avoid slicing neighborhoods in half. We need to tell council that neighborhoods matter to us, not precincts. The D3 map feels right, but council is having a hard time finding a way to discuss it.
We have some very good people trying very hard to fix the city inside city government, but we know that the problems still exist when we elected officials ignore public consensus. The conversation is stifled because Council can’t figure out how to get the neighborhood map to the table. The D3 map is compact, contiguous, roughly equal population, and meets Voting Rights Act requirements. In fact the D3 map does is more complaint that the City maps. Then the city said it needed to match the precincts and D3 was still able to create a neighborhood-based map that matches up with precincts. So what is the holdup? The D3 precinct-based map has jumped through the hoops and should be on the table. Council must not hide behind procedures to ignore constituent feedback. This is not the time to say we’ve run out of time to carefully consider the D3 map. This is not the time to worry about there being too many maps. This is the time to get it right. This is the time for districts that fit.
Council is set to make its final decision Friday, Feb. 17. Let your Council know that we need the best possible districts to help the effort to re-build our city from our neighborhoods up.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 February 2012 16:00
Category: Prime Politics Written by Julian Carmona
The Internet is an expansive collection of networks, utilized by many people all over the world. Though parts of the Internet have proven to be relatively shady, lawless, and impossible to regulate, as a whole, it has mainly been beneficial to all its users. And because of this, few have tampered with the regulation and general availability of the Internet, at least, successfully.
There are some entities that would have the Internet not be so free and boundless as it is. But due to the difficulty of effectively shutting down even a piece of the Internet, these entities resort to only blocking or censoring the parts that they wish restrict from their people. China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and much of the Middle East are examples of countries where Internet censorship has been imposed by their governments.
Recently, a bill has been introduced to Congress, the ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ (SOPA). The bill’s purpose is stated as, “To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes.”
To accomplish this, the bill would grant the government, after a successful lawsuit is filed, the power to block access and cutoff financial transactions from the website of the defending party (a “foreign infringing site”). Granted, there is a clearly stated criterion for what is considered a “foreign infringing site”, but the biggest concern here is that this bill would allow the government to have the ability to block access to any website from US citizens. This idea alone is enough to have sparked a tremendous opposition against the passing of this bill.
There are other important arguments too, such as the liabilities and policy imposed by the bill that would hinder the growth of a portion of Internet economy. Another argument against the bill is that it would bypass due process when exposing US sites to liability. A government the likes of the United States’ which was founded on the ideal of freedom, should not be granted the power to censor information from it’s people.
Though the idea of the government gaining such power over the Internet is quite an unpopular one, the actual purpose of the bill isn’t as worrying. The bill’s purpose is to target and halt any illegal business conducted by foreign infringing entities; online pirates who have, for the sake of escaping the jurisdiction of US law enforcement, fled to other countries with more lenient Internet copyright regulations.
Search engines and Internet service providers would be used to locate the foreign infringing sites and after having any advertising companies cease business with the foreign infringing sites, funding for them would be cut. Considering much of what is stated in the bill, it can be said that it brings forth an effective, albeit unpopular and unethical, means of accomplishing what its title dictates.
As stated before, many concerns regarding the passing of this bill stem from the fact that it would grant the government an uncomfortable amount of control over what can and cannot be accessed on the Internet.
But another issue with SOPA is that it undermines and, in some cases, goes against some laws that have already been established. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was passed in October 1998, really set the standard for copyright law on the Internet.
According to 17 U.S.C. § 512 stated within DMCA, service providers on the Internet are not liable for the actions or content produced by their users. These service providers also don’t need to conduct any action in response to their users breaking copyright laws aside from notifying the party whose copyright is being infringed.
The SOPA states that upon receiving the copy of the suit from the Attorney General (AG), against the foreign infringing site, they must do everything within their power to halt access to the foreign infringing site from their subscribers, even if it means blocking access to the site completely. If service providers do not comply with this, an action for injunctive relief may be presented AG.
SOPA’s haphazardly constructed definition for a website “dedicated to theft of U.S. property,” allows for sites that just barely meet the mark of facilitating or enabling a user’s infringement to be incorrectly labeled as “dedicated to theft of U.S. property.”
Erickson states that, “A site can also be declared to be “dedicated to theft of U.S. property” if it takes “deliberate actions to avoid confirming a high probability” that the site has been used for infringing activities.
This is true whether or not the “failure to act” would itself violate existing law. And because rightsholders will say that there is a “high probability” that social networking and user-generated content sites are used for infringement by some users, this provision would effectively force those site operators to actively monitor their users’ activities.
This is flatly inconsistent with the DMCA’s provision stating that service providers do not have to monitor user activities.
It is clear that much of the bill’s inner workings are problematic in terms of running parallel with current laws regarding copyrights and in terms of general clarity. But the greatest issue that would arise from the passing of this bill is the power that would be granted to the government, the ability to ultimately censor the Internet. Though the thought of the government censoring the Internet seems extreme, the possibility is there. The bill would not let the government block access to any website, only one’s that meet certain criteria. But to put the government in that position where it has any Internet censorship capabilities at all would just be irresponsible.
The mere thought of the United States government having the ability to censor information from US citizens sounds not only ludicrous, it is downright unconstitutional.
Most of the concerns about SOPA’s potential censorship issues have sprouted from the fact that the criteria for parties that could be targeted is very broad. Under the bill’s definition for a site “dedicated to the theft of U.S. property”, websites that allow their users to post information would be liable if even one of their users posts something that infringes on someone’s copyright. This being the case, similar websites may no longer wish to be held accountable for such a vast amount of user’s actions, so they might start restricting what can be posted. Something like this could cause many of a website’s users to stop using the site. So with a very predictable case like this, the bill could easily cause the decay of business, job-creation, and innovation for many websites like Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook.
A solution that could be considered to making this bill work better and be more popular would be to allow all current laws that the bill would change to remain the same. Another thing would be to alter the problematic definitions that I have stated before into a form that would not have such a broad range of targets.
In the case of the governments power to censor websites, that power would never be granted; the fund cuts utilizing the advertising companies would remain the primary means of shutting down foreign infringing site.
There are quite a few things that are unacceptable about this bill that make it generally unpopular. The unnecessary changes it makes to current laws that work fine, the awkward writing of some very important definitions stated within the bill, and for the bill to hold websites liable for even just one of their users’ conduct. But perhaps the most important concern with the bill, if it were passed, it would give the government the capacity to censor foreign infringing sites. To say that this could change over time to allow for more broad criteria for legally “justified” censorship is definitely a possibility.
Julian Carmona is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan and a contributing writer to the Michigan Chronicle.
Last Updated on Monday, 09 January 2012 11:52
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