Pretend you're a pharmacist. You don't like birth control. Someone comes in with a birth control prescription and you refuse to fill it, so the customer goes somewhere else. The owner of the pharmacy finds out that you do this kind of thing all the time, that you're costing him tens of thousands of dollars in business because those customers never come back and the word-of-mouth on the pharmacy is terrible. The owner suggests that maybe you should seek another line of work. Or, if not another line of work, at least another place to work.
President Bush is on the verge of issuing a fiat protecting those who refuse to do their jobs and screwing those who pay them to do their jobs.
The Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing a draft regulation that would deny federal funding to any hospital, clinic, health plan or other entity that does not accommodate employees who want to opt out of participating in care that runs counter to their personal convictions, including providing birth-control pills, IUDs and the Plan B emergency contraceptive.
This is an old argument, usually framed as an issue of patient rights. It plays out most dramatically in small towns across the heartland, from whence emerge horror stories of raped women seeking morning-after birth control and being denied by religious zealots with gleaming eyes.
But this is a broader issue as well: are we going to establish the principle that people can refuse to do their jobs because of their religious beliefs and still retain those jobs? And are we going to allow the President, alone, to make decisions about what beliefs and actions are protected?
One of the blind spots of conservatives during the Bush Administration has been an understanding that people like them aren't going to hold power forever. George W. Bush, whose boundless wisdom protects us without the restraint of pesky things like laws, will be gone. A mere mortal will occupy the seat of limitless power. The ability to negate laws with signing statements, arrest and hold
"enemy combatants" without legal recourse, and the broad interpretation
of executive privilege that Republicans have argued in favor of are one
day going to be in the hands of people Republicans loathe.
And, eventually, someone's going to occupy the Oval Office who thinks it's a good idea to give vegetarians the right to work as grocery store checkers without having to handle meat, or protect worshipers of Gaia who shut down the ski lifts of the resorts where they work to prevent skiers from violating the mountain spirit.
If you empower government to protect people who refuse to do their jobs, more people are going to refuse to do their jobs. That may be great for those people, but it's bad for anybody with a customer to take care of. It's particularly bad for the small businesses that employ most of us, who need people to do the job in front of them and don't have a lot of other jobs and people to shuffle around to accommodate random religious beliefs.
This is not, as it's being postured from the right, a matter of religious discrimination -- except that President Bush wants to protect people who hold the same religious beliefs he does at the expense of people who don't. This is a fundamental question of government intrusion and Presidential power.
People are entitled to believe whatever they want to believe, but they aren't entitled to take whatever actions they want to take in the name of those beliefs. Every advocate of small government should object to the President's notion that he can do this kind of thing all on his own.
The National Debt when President Bush took office was approximately $5.7 trillion. Congress just raised the debt ceiling to $10.6 trillion -- roughly double where it was when President Bush took office promising a new era of fiscal discipline -- in preparation for a new round of borrowing. That new round is going to kick-off with the largest single-quarter debt binge in the history of the world: $171 billion between now and the end of September. That's an annual run-rate of nearly $700 billion.
"But wait!" you say. "Just the other day the government announced the deficit was only going to be $490 billion! Wha huh?"
That's easy: the deficit that is reported every year is different from the debt that is actually assumed. The deficit is lowered by the Social Security surplus, and then there are little things like the war that aren't counted on-budget because the Executive Branch doesn't want us to think about them. We spend the money, yeah; we just pretend we don't so the numbers don't look daunting and people don't start asking why in the world we'd decrease taxes during wartime.
That hides a couple-hundred-billion in borrowing so politicians can claim everything is just fine, really.
Which is what they're doing now, blaming the big deficits on that pesky old economy and the tax rebate/economic stimulus package, which in reality only accounts for $143 billion or so.
Which is fine, but when the money has to be borrowed it doesn't matter what we spent it on; it only matters that we spent it.
But the liberal students did not necessarily find reassurance. “For
people who thought they were getting a doctrinal, rah-rah experience,
it wasn’t that kind of class,” said D. Daniel Sokol, a former student
who now teaches law at the University of Florida at Gainesville.
one thing, Mr. Obama’s courses chronicled the failure of liberal
policies and court-led efforts at social change: the Reconstruction-era
amendments that were rendered meaningless by a century of resistance,
the way the triumph of Brown gave way to fights over busing, the voting
rights laws that crowded blacks into as few districts as possible. He
was wary of noble theories, students say; instead, they call Mr. Obama
a contextualist, willing to look past legal niceties to get results.
Mad Men, the excellent AMC show about my dad's entry-level career -- which is to say, advertising in the early 1960s -- is something close to a cultural phenomenon. I hear the most surprising people talking about it, including a highly Republican CEO and his politically plugged-in wife at a wedding reception last weekend. I was surprised because, delightful though he and his wife may be, they're kind of prudes.
But Mad Men is one of those rare shows that is about a lot of different things at the same time, so it resonates for almost everyone. To the CEO it's a nostalgic period piece. To my wife it's a story about women struggling in a man's world. To me, it's a show where at least once every episode you get to see an attractive women in seriously complicated undergarments. I mean, I don't think it's even legal to make undergarments like that anymore, because of the danger that someone might get strangled.
Anyway, the ratings are out for Mad Men's big-excitement season premier and the numbers are huge. Or, at least, they're huge by modern standards: 2.1 million people watched.
I deleted the post about Barack Obama leaking his private Western Wall prayer to the media. The source cited in the post has issued what amounts to a retraction. It seems Obama's campaign didn't leak the prayer after all.
I tried to rewrite the post in a way that would save it's larger value, which is that politicians who parade their faith around shouldn't be trusted. But after about a half-hour the post proved un-salvageable, so I deleted it.