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Archive for February, 2012

More on the Weak Case for a Special Exemption on Contraceptive Coverage

[ 74 ] February 1, 2012 |

I’m sure you’ll be surprised to know that I don’t find E.J. Dionne’s criticisms of the Obama administration’s contraception coverage persuasive. For the reasons stated there it’s not entirely clear what Dionne wants, but what he’s advocating is either pointless or isn’t a “compromise” but just represents giving in to opponents of gender equity. My second point applies to Jon Chait as well; if you’re going to try to make a case that religious freedom should trump core concerns about gender equity, reproductive freedom, and impartial governance, the fact that as a first approximation no lay Catholics believe in the church’s teachings seems relevant (as does the fact that the policy does not apply to religious institutions qua religious institutions, but only in their secular functions as employers.) The burdens of what Dionne, Douthat and Chait are asking to impose are real, while the impact on religious freedom as the religion is actually practiced of the Obama administration’s superior alternative is miniscule.


More Komen

[ 16 ] February 1, 2012 |


This explanation has been met with reasonable skepticism for a number of reasons. For one, the organization has faced increasing pressure from antiabortion activists to cut all ties to Planned Parenthood. For two, Karen Handel, the Foundation’s senior vice president for public policy, is antiabortion. During her failed 2010 gubernatorial campaign, she publicly stated, “I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood.” That’s not to mention, as sociologist Gayle Sulik, author of “Pink Ribbon Blues,” told me, “If Komen held its corporate partners to that standard, we’d see a lot fewer pink-ribboned products on the market.”


Regardless of whether the Komen Foundation pulled grants “because they caved to anti-choice pressure or because of the political leanings of their VP,” says activist Jessica Valenti, founder of, “the result is the same — women’s health and lives are going to suffer as a result.” That’s especially true for low-income women who are most dependent on Planned Parenthood’s services.


No matter how much anti-choicers wish otherwise, it’s not feasible to create an approach to women’s health that separates good girl concerns from bad girl concerns. For instance, many women land in gynocologist’s offices seeking contraceptive services and cervical-cancer screenings, and doctors use that opportunity to teach the art of breast self-exam. As noted in my previous post on the Santorums’ pregnancy troubles, even the world of the hated abortion provider and the much-vaunted obstetrician can’t be so easily separated, as the latter is often called upon to have knowledge of pregnancy termination in case of a medical emergency.

In the end, the grant money is less important than the symbolism of Komen buying into the conservative myth of good-girl health care vs. bad-girl health care. In reality, women’s health care can only work if it’s comprehensive health care. Komen has already been under serious scrutiny by those who argue that the organization cares more about shoring up their image than making real progress in the fight for women’s health, and with this move today, they proved their critics right.

As noted in comments, can help you find alternatives if you’d prefer that your charitable contributions not go to an organization that believes in gender subordination, and I also agree that donations to your local clinics are a good idea. (As, of course, in a donation to your local Planned Parenthood; in the name of the Komen Foundation even better.) More good suggestions here.

Climate Scientists Strike Back

[ 96 ] February 1, 2012 |

After another dumb climate change denial article in the Wall Street Journal last week, a group of climate scientists had enough. We need a lot more aggressive attacks like this from the scientists. An excerpt:

Check With Climate Scientists for Views on Climate

Do you consult your dentist about your heart condition? In science, as in any area, reputations are based on knowledge and expertise in a field and on published, peer-reviewed work. If you need surgery, you want a highly experienced expert in the field who has done a large number of the proposed operations.

You published “No Need to Panic About Global Warming” (op-ed, Jan. 27) on climate change by the climate-science equivalent of dentists practicing cardiology. While accomplished in their own fields, most of these authors have no expertise in climate science. The few authors who have such expertise are known to have extreme views that are out of step with nearly every other climate expert. This happens in nearly every field of science. For example, there is a retrovirus expert who does not accept that HIV causes AIDS. And it is instructive to recall that a few scientists continued to state that smoking did not cause cancer, long after that was settled science.

One of denialists’ prime tactics has been to confuse the public by stretching the definition of “expert” to mean “whoever they find to shill for them.” If you are a member of the general public, do you know the difference between climatologist and meterologist? Or any other kind of scientist? No. You put a guy in a lab on the TV and that looks pretty expert to most people. The Weather Channel passes for expertise for those who are into the weather and TV weather forecasters have been at the forefront of climate denial, even though they lack the knowledge to analyze long-term climate patterns.

Present at the Re-Creation?

[ 5 ] February 1, 2012 |

Channeling my inner Tom Friedman this morning. I’m convinced that a candidate willing to espouse the platform I set forth would immediately win a bipartisan mandate for reform…

On rare occasions, however, we have the opportunity to revisit national values and to redesign the institutions that constrain our policy choices. These contingent moments come when the accumulated weight of years of muddling, combined with geopolitical and technological changes, leave us with institutions fundamentally out of sync with the strategic environment the nation faces. There is reason to believe that the United States now faces such a moment. The strategic, political and technological challenges facing the Obama administration — and potentially a successor Romney administration — differ so dramatically from the environment that faced Harry Truman and Acheson at the time of the “creation” that they now risk pulling the national security bureaucracy out of shape.

The Komen Foundation

[ 28 ] February 1, 2012 |

Obviously, take your cancer donations elsewhere.

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