Thursday, March 15, 2012

Individual Freedom and the Birth Control Debate: Finally, a Man's Perspective

This whole recent debate about birth control has been truly one of the worst examples of how we Liberal and Conservative Americans talk to one another. There has famously been a whole lot of name calling, but not a lot of listening. And it definitely has been cutting both ways.

Terrible things have been said by Rush Limbaugh regarding Sandra Fluke's testimony about birth control to Congress, and he has been rightfully excoriated by the mainstream media to the point where his advertisers are having a hard time justifying their sponsorship of his program. But while it is fun and a little bit cathartic to jump on the anti-Rush bandwagon, I think we've lost what is a legitimate concern for right-wing types: why should birth control be subsidized by taxpayers and not by users of birth control?

Limbaugh's tirade came on the heels of an earlier discussion that was kicked off by the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius when she announced that women needed to be granted free birth control coverage by insurance companies, and that there would not be a religious exemption granted for religious-owned organizations that did not primarily serve a religious clientele. Catholic Church members and social conservatives pointed out that this was an unprecedented government infringement on the separation of church and state. But too often their concerns were blown off as just the same old anti-choice womyn-hating bluster by establishment media.

There are legitimate concerns about government overreach and freedom of religion at the heart of these debates, and I think these concerns need to be acknowledged and addressed.

However, I also think that the concerns of Liberals aren't getting the proper amount of attention. Advocates of free birth control for women are not advocating taxpayer-funded guilt-free sex for sluts. Their concern is the relationship between cost and access to birth control, especially for the poor, and that by expanding access to birth control, poor women would be able to define their own economic destiny more easily. But no one is making this argument. Those who should be making this argument are too often making the argument that Conservatives are bullies and pigs and should be ignored.

One thing all of us Americans should be able to agree on is that the right of an individual to be able to choose things in life (religion, career, products and services) should be preserved whenever pragmatic. That's why it's so annoying to me to see these arguments where the Conservatives are the only ones who are pointing out the government infringement on an individual's right to choose, be it a pious employer or an outraged taxpayer. By choosing to upbraid Rush Limbaugh, liberal media types leave the link between lack of money and lack of choice unexposed, which is surprising considering the success that Occupy Wall Street had in raising awareness at the advantages that wealthy people have in a capitalist society.

And just in case Liberals are thinking that they don't need to address these arguments because the public is on their side, they should really take a look at this recent New York Times / CBS poll (page 22) that shows that 51% of Americans believe that not just religious organizations but all employers ought to be able to opt out of offering insurance that covers birth control if it violates their conscience, compared to just 40% that say employers shouldn't be able to. The numbers go to 57% / 36% when only religious organizations are counted.

We may be winning the Battle of Rush Limbaugh, but we are definitely losing the War of Insurance Coverage for Birth Control (note: we'll probably need to come up with a better name for this war).

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Jim Rogers Does it Again!

I'm sort of obsessed with Jim Rogers. Every two years, Jim Rogers will appear on the primary ballot as a candidate for U.S. president or U.S. senator, and despite doing limited campaigning, he will get an extraordinary amount of votes. And by "limited campaigning," I mean "standing on a street corner in a crimson sweatshirt and holding a sign up as traffic honks at him".

Yesterday was Oklahoma's presidential preference primary, and while the important stuff was going down on the other side of the aisle, Oklahoma's Democrats were asked to do one simple thing for democracy: checking the box that says Barack Obama. Unfortunately for the sitting president, only 57% of ornery Oklahoma Democrats are willing to give him a second term. Turns out 18% of Oklahoma Democrats would prefer the anti-abortion activist (and former Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida) Randall Terry. And 14% would prefer the distinguished hobo from Midwest City Jim Rogers.

The news stories this morning advertised the fact that based on Terry breaking the 15% viability threshhold, Randall Terry would get to claim a delegate or two and spoil what would have otherwise been a perfect delegate tally for Barack Obama at the Democratic Convention. But the news stories are incomplete. Randall Terry doesn't get to have all the fun.

Assuming he's still a candidate on April 4th, and assuming he submits a slate of delegates to the Oklahoma Democratic Party by March 15th, Jim Rogers should be able to claim three national convention delegates. Party rules say that the delegates to the national convention shall be awarded proportionally not only by statewide tally but also by congressional district. Of the 16 statewide delegates at stake, Obama should claim at least 11, leaving 5 to Randall Terry and 0 for Jim Rogers. But in the congressional district vote, Rogers got more than 15% in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th districts (the non-Oklahoma City, non-Tulsa parts of the state). Of the 29 delegates awarded to the districts, Obama should get 22, Terry should get 4, and Rogers should get 3. (Muskogee Politico breaks it down 21, 5, 3).

It's still amazing to me. This guy whose sole contribution to our republic is standing out on Reno and holding a handmade sign has received 15,000 Democratic votes, or 2.28% of the votes cast so far in all Democratic primaries and caucuses. He now has more delegates than Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Buddy Roemer, and Gary Johnson combined, as well as a higher percentage of votes cast. Vermin Supreme, New Hampshire's grizzled old coot of a perennial candidate, has one-twentieth of the votes that Jim Rogers has, and that guy's even been on TV.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Political Sign Spotting: Oklahoma's Super Tuesday GOP Primary

Oklahoma is holding its Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, March 6.  Supporters of the candidates have probably been hard at work campaigning, including placing campaign signs in public rights-of-way.  These are the dates that I've first seen a candidate's signs somewhere while driving in Norman:

Ron Paul: sometime in 2011
Rick Santorum: February 10th or so
Mitt Romney: March 2
Newt Gingrich: N.A.

Santorum is up in the polls here and is expected to win.