Monday, November 23, 2009

A Note to Bishop Tobin: Back Off

This weekend, there unfolded yet another example of interference by the Catholic hierarchy in the political affairs of the United States. This time, the culprit is Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, who is trying to get Rep. Patrick Kennedy, son of Sen. Ted Kennedy, to endorse abortion restrictions in the health care bill. Apparently, as early as 2007, Bishop Tobin attempted to intimidate Rep. Kennedy by asking him to refrain from Communion.

My Gut Reaction: Apparently, Tobin and his fellow bishops believe that major political issues in this country should be settled through the distribution of pieces of tasteless, unleavened bread to our politicians.

Analysis: This type of interference in our political system by the bishops has to stop. They have gone from merely expressing opinions to actively trying to push around politicians through religious means. If the Church wants to be such a force in civil society, perhaps it could do us the favor of contributing to said society-through the payment of taxes.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Coathanger Amendment

The 2009 Health Care Reform Bill recently passed by Congress contained a rather interesting rider courtesy of Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak. Rep. Stupak attached and successfully passed an amendment to the bill which bars any form of federal funding for abortion through the health care funds. It would not only bar direct funding for abortion, but also any affordability payment to an insurance company that covers abortion.

My Gut Reaction: The DailyKos was right when they termed this amendment "The Coathanger Amendment."

Analysis: This amendment seeks to limit indirectly the rights of women to obtain abortion, and not simply those who apply to the government for assistance. By denying insurance companies eligibility for affordability funds if they cover abortion, essentially creating an incentive not to cover it.

The potential stakes of this issue become apparent when one reads this account of a woman who had to have an abortion twelve weeks into her pregnancy after the fetus died. Had the fetus not been aborted, she would have faced a serious risk of infection or sepsis. Luckily, her insurance company covered abortion. That might not be the case if the government starts providing incentives for companies to not cover abortion.

What is particularly galling about this legislation is that religious leaders, particularly from the Roman Catholic Church, seem to have played a major role in drafting the amendment. The Suburban Guerilla blog reports that the congressmen who drafted the amendment were in talks with representatives of the Catholic Church. (Yet another reason to revoke the Church's tax exempt status.)

Luckily, there is a movement fighting against this amendment. Forty House Democrats have already pledged to vote against any final bill that contains the amendment. Furthermore, there is an online movement to create a new meaning for the word "Stupak," referring to sepsis generated by back alley abortion. You can vote for this new meaning on the Urban Dictionary by clicking here. You may also wish to do searches on Yahoo! under "sepsis stupak" in an effort to get it on their top ten searches list.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Quote that Summarizes the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Way Forward

From Bradley Burston of Ha'aretz:

"The fears of Israelis are real. The grievances of the Palestinians are just. If both peoples have one trait in common, it is that they cannot be bludgeoned, bribed, or sweet-talked into supporting a policy which favors only one side."

Monday, November 02, 2009

I've Heard of Imperialism Being Wedded to Commerce, But Imperialism Wedded to Sports?

Apparently, next week's Fox NFL pre-game show will be held in Afghanistan, so that the brutality of combat can be melded with the action of sports.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Bit of Advice from One of Our Israeli Brethren

An article by the Ha'aretz writer Gideon Levy, republished by the Common Dreams website, contains some interesting advice for the United States government. Levy argues that the Obama Administration needs to take a tougher diplomatic line with the Israeli government, suggesting the use of sanctions to end the growth of settlements.

My Gut Reaction: It's kind of pathetic that we need an Israeli commentator to tell us this.

Analysis: As Levy writes, the United States does not allow itself to be treated with the same level of contempt and disregard by any nation other than Israel without serious repercussions. In many cases, the result is the threat of sanctions and or warfare. Even in the cases of close allies along the lines of Israel, such as France or Germany, the reaction tends to be one of dismissal.

Perhaps the greatest indicator of the level of deference our nation gives to Israel is Levy's mention of opinion polls in Israel showing President Obama having an approval rating of only 6 to 10 percent. If any other country were publishing approval polls about our leader, the typical American patriot would be frenzied with insulted anger. In the case of Israel, however, this is passed over in silence.

Of course, Gideon Levy should not be taken to represent the mainstream of Israeli opinion. Indeed, he has been called the most radical commentator in Israel. Nevertheless, his opinion is worth considering, particularly as it comes from an outsider looking in.