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Melissa Harris-Perry, Baratunde Thurston, and more … Uncensored!

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Melissa Harris-Perry, Baratunde, and more!

On today’s show, we bring you some of the greatest moments of #TWiBRadio including the conversation about the Psychology Today article on black female attractiveness, Baratunde’s take on the racist legacy in Donald Trump’s ‘birther’-ism, and Melissa Harris-Perry’s genius about the abortion debate.

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And this morning on #amTWiB, L.Joy and company discuss a possible ‘cure’ for meth addiction, French government plans to pay full costs of abortion and contraception, and Rand Paul is in charge of GOP outreach?

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(Cross-posted)

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So What’s the Deal with the New Contraception Mandate Rules?

My latest article for RH Reality Check has been published:

Rending of garments has already begun in certain sectors of the blogosphere over the Obama administration’s proposed new rules regarding the contraception mandate (or, as I like to call it, the “birth control benefit.” “Mandate,” I think, feeds into wingnut teeth-gnashing about the Big Bad Government forcing them to do Shit They Don’t Like.)

Conservatives are alternatively gloating about how Obama is throwing women under the bus, and whinging that the new rules are still an affront to Jesus. Michelle Malkin and the other numbskulls at Twitchy published a post entitled: “Contraception mandate: Obama administration turns its back on the Sandra Fluke crowd.” The clowns at WorldNet Daily are claiming that Obama “blinked.”

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Court Dismisses Notre Dame’s Birth Control Benefit Lawsuit

20130108-084239.jpgA federal judge booted Notre Dame’s lawsuit complaining about the birth control benefit out of court — on a technicality. Judge Robert Miller ruled that the lawsuit wasn’t ripe, and that the lawsuit might never be ripe. (In order for a lawsuit to proceed in court, it must be ripe — in other words, shit must be going down imminently. You can’t sue based on something that might happen.)

Judge Miller also ruled that Notre Dame doesn’t have standing to sue because the Obama administration promised to revise the birth control deal in order to address the complaints of Notre Dame and others, and if the deal is revised, then whatever shit that eventually goes down won’t affect Notre Dame in the first place.

Via Jessica Mason Pielko at RH Reality Check:

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Miller cited the Obama administration’s promise to craft additional accommodations to the mandate for religious institutions like Notre Dame that are self-insured as the primary justification for the ruling. Additionally, Judge Miller held, because Notre Dame is included in the safe-harbor period while the mandate is implemented it faces no threat of enforcement action against it. In short, the judge said, Notre Dame can’t challenge the mandate now because it is not subject to the requirement it provide contraception without a co-pay, and, taking the Obama administration at its word, it never will be.

Basically, because Notre Dame is included in the year-long safe harbor announced by the Obama administration last year, and because the Obama administration promised it was going to accommodate self-insured organizations like Notre Dame (and Tyndale Publishers, which I wrote about here), there’s nothing for Notre Dame to complain about at the moment.

For you non-lawyers out there, you can think of standing and ripeness*** in these terms: Is shit going to go down? If so, is it going down soon? If so, is it going to fuck my shit up? For Notre Dame, the answer was no — on all counts.

Or, if you want to put it in legal terms (and the court did):

Notre Dame’s claims aren’t ripe, and they don’t have standing to bring them. Both conclusions flow from the government’s creation of a safe harbor for certain employers (including Notre Dame) while it re-works the regulation. As a result, Notre Dame faces no penalty or restriction based on the existing regulatory requirement.

[...]

Turning back to the question of standing, the challenged regulatory requirement isn’t the cause of the injuries of which Notre Dame complains. Taking the defendants at their word concerning the intended reworking of the rule, this regulatory requirement won’t require Notre Dame to conduct itself in ways its Catholic mission forbids. This regulation’s replacement might do so, but no one can say because that future rule hasn’t been promulgated. It is enough to know that the present regulation is to be replaced by another, and the safe harbor is protecting Notre Dame from harm to its religious precepts until that replacement occurs.

[...]

The present regulatory requirement isn’t sufficiently final for review to be ripe because the defendants have announced it will be modified and have underscored that announcement by providing Notre Dame with a safe harbor that protects it from the regulation as it exists today. Notre Dame lacks standing to attack the present regulatory requirement because it isn’t subject to that requirement, and, taking the defendants at their word, never will be subject to the present regulation.

Sucks to be Notre Dame. (Roll tide.)

*** “Standing” and “ripeness” are technically two separate procedural inquiries, but whatever — you catch my drift.

[The Hill via RH Reality Check]

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The Sliding Scale of Sin: Tyndale Publishers and Contraception Without a Co-Pay

My latest article for RH Reality Check has been published:

Recently, the district court for District of Columbia granted a request by Tyndale House Publishers to block the Affordable Care Act birth control benefit ensuring that employer-sponsored health insurance include coverage of contraception without a co-pay. (Jessica Mason Pielko wrote about the ruling here.)

Like so many other organizations, both religious and secular, for-profit and non-profit, Tyndale’s complaints are the same: the birth control benefit in the ACA infringes upon their right to religious freedom:

Tyndale and its owners are Christians who are committed to biblical principles, including the belief that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God from the moment of their conception/fertilization. But Defendants’ recently enacted regulatory mandate under PPACA forces Tyndale to provide and pay for drugs and devices that it and its owners believe can cause the death of human beings created in the image and likeness of God shortly after their conception/fertilization. The government’s mandate exempts what it calls “religious employers,” but denies that status to Tyndale House Publishers through its arbitrary definition.

What sets Tyndale apart from other companies challenging the birth control benefit, some of which have been successful in their challenges, and some of which have not, is that Tyndale is self-insured, whereas companies like Hobby Lobby purchase group health insurance plans from a commercial insurance carrier. In other words, Tyndale wholly assumes and underwrites the risk for providing health care to its employees (and pays for it out of its own coffers), while Hobby Lobby pays premiums to an outside insurance company. That it is self-insured means that Tyndale is paying directly for the insurance coverage of the contraception that it views as sinful, and the court found that this distinguishable fact rendered the birth control benefit sufficiently violative of Tyndale’s right to religious freedom.

(read the rest)

[via RH Reality Check]

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Shorter Ross Douthat: Birth More Babies, Bitches!

Have a goddamn seat, sir.

20121202-124852.jpgRoss Douthat has (yet again) penned a piece befitting his nickname “Douchehat.” In his latest spectacularly abysmal attempt to be insightful, Douthat laments the decreasing fertility rates in America and implies — nay! — outright states that women who are “retreating from child-rearing” are lazy layabouts unwilling to make the sacrifice that is their earthly duty.

He scolds childless women, whether married or not, for being decadent — for not doing what they’re goddamn well supposed to do, which is have children and shut the fuck up about it:

In the eternally recurring debates about whether some rival great power will knock the United States off its global perch, there has always been one excellent reason to bet on a second American century: We have more babies than the competition.

~snip~

America’s demographic edge has a variety of sources: our famous religiosity, our vast interior and wide-open spaces (and the four-bedroom detached houses they make possible), our willingness to welcome immigrants (who tend to have higher birthrates than the native-born).

~snip~

Among the native-born working class, meanwhile, there was a retreat from child rearing even before the Great Recession hit. For Americans without college degrees, economic instability and a shortage of marriageable men seem to be furthering two trends in tandem: more women are having children out of wedlock, and fewer are raising families at all.

~snip~

The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.

What do I even need to say about this nonsense? The doucherocketry erupts from the page. It is dripping in privilege of every sort — white, male, financial — and is borne of rank stupidity.

It may come as some surprise to Douthat, but most people do not have the privilege of living in a four-bedroom detached house. Most people are struggling to feed their kids and hold down minimum-wage jobs, even as the GOP increasingly makes public assistance more and more unavailable while sneering about how half the country needs to get over its burning desire to sit around and collect “free stuff” from the Kenyan-in-Chief.

If Douthat is so worried about the low birthrates in this country, and if he wants women to squeeze out little worker bee-babies that can contribute to this country’s economic growth by becoming taxpayers, entrepreneurs, and workers, he should focus more on what he glosses over in his article: Making it easier to plan for, have, and raise kids.

That means providing paid maternity and paternity leave; ensuring that women get paid as much as men do in the workplace; providing public assistance when families run into financial trouble; spending more money on public education and training programs; providing more and better student loan packages so parents can send their kids to college without going broke; ensuring that women have full access to healthcare, including contraception (because being able to choose when to have children is more beneficial for this country’s economic viability than forcing women to either remain celibate or to have oopsy-babies when they’re not ready.)

As for Douthat’s claims that those who choose not to have children are somehow being decadent, it is fairly obvious that he is saying that women who choose to remain childless are selfish or damaged in some way. And for that bit of 1950s thinking, I offer Mr. Douchehat a hearty “fuck you.”

As a side-note, I congratulate the headline writer for this particular piece of pablum. Since I cannot imagine that Douthat wrote the headline himself, I agree with djw at Lawyers, Guns, and Money :

First: Kudos to the headline writer, who I have to believe was entirely aware of the dark humorous effect of putting the phrase “More Babies, Please” directly above Douthat’s sneering visage.

Indeed.

[cross-posted at Balloon Juice]

Religious Arguments Against the Birth Control Benefit in the ACA Defy Logic

The various organizations that have sued the Obama Administration, claiming that the birth control benefit in the Affordability Care Act violates the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, are touting arguments about religious liberty that are intellectually dishonest as well as wholly lacking in common sense.

These arguments prioritize the “religious freedom” to deny healthcare benefits to women over the right of women to access such healthcare benefits. These arguments also dismiss out-of-hand the compelling interest in ensuring that women have access to affordable contraception, and are callous and dismissive of women’s health concerns and needs. (Whether or not ensuring access to contraception is a “compelling interest” is crucial to any legal inquiry, as I explained in my post about the ruling in the Hercules case.)

A review of the standard intellectually-bereft religious liberty arguments set forth by organizations protesting the birth control benefit, as well as by right-wing pundits and policy analysts, illustrates the dismissiveness with which women’s health rights are viewed.

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SCOTUS Gives Liberty University Go Ahead to Litigate Obamacare Mandate Claims

Liberty University is going to get its day in court.

20121127-144905.jpg SCOTUS has ordered the Fourth Circuit to consider claims that the individual and employer mandates violate Liberty University’s religious freedoms, specifically that the law forces the university to fund abortions and contraception.

Liberty University was one of the first organizations to complain about the constitutionality of the law. The district court rejected Liberty University’s claims, and the Fourth Circuit found the claims premature (SCOTUS had not yet ruled on the overall constitutionality of the law when Liberty filed suit.)

Now SCOTUS is telling the Fourth Circuit to deal with the substance of Liberty University’s claims:

On Monday the Supreme Court paved the way for Christian college Liberty University to challenge Obamacare, ordering the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to consider the claim by the school that the individual and employer mandates for insurance coverage violate the school’s religious freedoms. The move opens a potential crack in the ruling this summer that upheld the health care law and places yet another legal challenge to health care reform based on religious grounds before the federal courts.”

Do the Obamacare mandates violate any organization’s religious freedom? Not in my view. Religious organizations (churches and whatnot), are exempt from the contraception mandate. What is happening now is that marginally-religious and secular for-profit organizations are trying to take advantage of the exemptions carved out by the Obama administration specifically for organizations that serve and employ people who all love the same God in the same way.

Nothing in the healthcare law requires anyone to commit any act that could be seen as an infringement on religious freedom. No one is forcing birth control down anyone’s throat. People are still entitled to pray to the same God and refrain from doing the same things that their religious beliefs dictate. The healthcare law does not change any of that.

The law simply requires employers to provide insurance, including contraception access. But there’s a growing number of secular and marginally-religious organizations that feel they should be exempt from the law, but aren’t because they are not religious as defined by the law, and they don’t want to play by the rules. And since they can’t seem to get their people to do what The Lord Jesus tells them, they want SCOTUS to allow them to force their religion down everyone’s throat at the federal level.

The law in this area is still developing, and the decisions coming out of the various district courts around the country are split on whether the mandate violates religious freedom. SCOTUS recognized that this would be an issue — or at least Ruthie B. did.

When the Supreme Court ruled the individual mandate constitutional back in June, it did not address whether or not the bill somehow infringes freedom of speech and freedom of religion. In her written opinion, Justice Ginsburg pointed out that this remains an issue:

“A mandate to purchase a particular product would be unconstitutional if, for example,” she said, “the edict impermissibly abridged the freedom of speech, interfered with the free exercise of religion, or infringed on a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause.”

How SCOTUS will rule is anyone’s guess. While the court rulings in the O’Brien and Hobby Lobby cases are encouraging, it remains to be seen whether or not the Supremes will jam Citizens United into the collective crotch of American women.

[via RH Reality Check]

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Bush Appointee Rejects Hobby Lobby’s Arguments Against Birth Control Benefit

My latest piece for RH Reality Check has been published:

In the case brought by arts and crafts magnate Hobby Lobby against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), federal judge (and Bush appointee!) Joe Heaton, in denying the preliminary injunction sought by Hobby Lobby, has issued a stunning and forceful rebuke of the arguments offered by secular corporations seeking to deny health-care benefits to their employees.

First, Judge Heaton ruled that secular corporations do not have religious rights that are protected under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Second, Judge Heaton ruled that the birth-control benefit does not represent a substantial burden to individuals’ exercise of religion.

(Read the rest)

[via RH Reality Check]

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Paul Ryan Panics; Claims ‘Obama Threatens Judeo-Christian Values’ [updated]

20121105-110546.jpgIn a last-minute desperate attempt to scare the shit out of as many voters as possible, Paul Ryan made an outlandish claim that another term for Obama will threaten Judeo-Christian values. Because apparently, contraceptive access will bring about the end of days:

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — Representative Paul D. Ryan accused President Obama on Sunday of taking the country down a path that compromised Judeo-Christian values and the traditions of Western civilization.

The remarks came in a conference call with evangelical Christians, sandwiched between public rallies in which he often spoke of the Romney-Ryan ticket’s promise to bridge partisan divides if elected.

~snip~
“It’s a dangerous path,” Mr. Ryan said, describing Mr. Obama’s policies. “It’s a path that grows government, restricts freedom and liberty and compromises those values, those Judeo-Christian, Western civilization values that made us such a great and exceptional nation in the first place.”’

A spokesman for Mr. Ryan, Michael Steel, said, “He was talking about issues like religious liberty and Obamacare – topics he has mentioned frequently during the campaign.”

As I’ve said over and over, the notion that ‘Obamacare’ or the birth control benefit threatens religious liberty is horseshit:

Contrary to morality-soaked rhetoric of such zealots, however, the birth control brouhaha isn’t about protecting the rights of citizens to practice their own faith. It is about the rights of citizens to be given the freedom to make their own choices, free from the restrictions of a faith that they might not call their own. It is about freedom from religious tyranny—which is a bedrock principle of this country.

What Ryan seeks to protect is an imagined right of a handful of out-of-touch religious zealots to force their religious values down the throats of unwilling women.

It’s unconstitutional, and, frankly, it’s un-American.

As for Ryan’s claim that, essentially, another Obama term will destroy Western civilization as we know it? Render unto me a fucking break already.

UPDATE: Some folks pointed out on Twitter that it’s a dog-whistle. Yes, I think it’s a dog-whistle, too — but what isn’t these days? I can’t even be bothered to care today. I’m more concerned about drilling the following into everybody’s noggin: CONTRACEPTIVE ACCESS FOR WOMEN HAS FUCK-ALL TO DO WITH RELIGIOUS LIBERTY.

[via NYT]

[cross-posted at Balloon Juice]

The Right’s Position on the Birth Control Benefit is Unconstitutional. Is it Anti-Catholic, Too?

My latest piece for RH Reality Check has been published:

With more than 100 plaintiffs seizing the religious mantle against the birth control benefit, suing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has become quite the favorite pastime for those willing to twist and pervert the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment in a naked attempt to force the religious values of the few onto the many. What should be a rather banal issue about women’s healthcare policy has been spun into a contentious debate over women’s sexual proclivities, pitting a handful of (mostly male and mostly white) individuals against millions of women (and sane men.)

Bombastic bluster notwithstanding, the birth control benefit is not the assault on religious liberty that organizations like Wheaton CollegeHercules Industries, and Hobby Lobby pretend it is. The birth control benefit seeks to bring the cost of women’s healthcare and men’s healthcare into parity by requiring employers to offer health insurance plans that offer contraceptive coverage without co-pay. Ultimately, the birth control benefit seeks to provide more and better healthcare to women.

Unfortunately, hyperbole and self-righteousness has morphed a simple matter of permitting women access to healthcare into a holy war, with one side lobbing rhetorical bombs devoid of logic and fact, but which nonetheless hit their target and damage our cause because the bombs are wrapped in the ecclesiastical cloak of the Lord.

Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a public interest law firm representing several organizations that have filed suit against HHS about the birth control benefit, is one such rhetorical bomb thrower. Earlier this month, Duncan explained to the Catholic News Agency,

“[N]othing the government has done in the past months changes the fact that the mandate still violates federal law and the Constitution by forcing religious organizations to pay fines for the privilege of practicing their faith.”

Soaring rhetoric to be sure, but any reasonable reading of the birth control benefit requirements reveals that Duncan’s argument is poppycock.

(read the rest)

[via RH Reality Check]

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