Faith and Religion: Does Catholicism Plus Health Care, Equal Government Shutdown?

Accomplices to the crime? Insets: l - Cardinal Sean O'Malley, r - ArchBishop William Lori.

Accomplices to the crime? Insets: l – Cardinal Sean O’Malley, r – Archbishop William Lori.

     Fade in, Uncle Sam is lying on the ground, partially incapacitated. He’s been shot multiple times, by John Boehner, Eric Cantor and the GOP House leadership. While Cantor stands in the road and attempts to block the ambulance’s arrival, (1) the “CSI” of public examination and opinion is looking over the crime scene, trying to piece together what exactly has happened. As it turns out, one of the bullets can be traced…back to the Catholic Church! (This is the point where Horatio Caine dons his sunglasses, and utters a one-liner about the crime not being exactly…holy.)

     It’s an intriguing story, lacking only the beginning strains of The Who’s “We Won’t Get Fooled Again” to complete the scene. The story is based on actual events, with origins tracing back well beyond the passage of PPACA in 2010. Given enough time and page space, I could regale you with a long treatise on the church’s history of government entanglements, however I’d like to keep your attention, while not taking up too much of your time, my fine young readers! So, we’ll just get right into the substance of the story, starting with 2010 and PPACA. (2)

     Although the specific text regarding the coverage of contraceptives, known as the “Contraceptive Mandate,” cannot be found within the 906 pages of Public Law 111-148, section 2713 does contain a general mandate for insurers to cover, with no cost-sharing requirements, the following items:

‘‘(1) evidence-based items or services that have in effect a rating of ‘A’ or ‘B’ in the current recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force;
(2) immunizations that have in effect a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with respect to the individual involved; and
(3) with respect to infants, children, and adolescents, evidence-informed preventive care and screenings provided for in the comprehensive guidelines supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration.
(4) with respect to women, such additional preventive care and screenings not described in paragraph (1) as provided for in comprehensive guidelines supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration for purposes of this paragraph.”

     Pursuant to item (4) in the list above, in January of last year, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a ruling requiring insurers to “…cover these [recommended contraceptive] services without cost sharing for women across the country” beginning on August 1st, 2012. The ruling made an exception for what it referred to as, “Nonprofit employers who, based on religious beliefs, do not currently provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan,” granting them an additional year to comply with the new law. (3) As a result of this ruling, the Catholic church commenced an offensive against what it considered an “attack on freedom of religion.” (4)

     The opposition from the Catholic church hasn’t waned in the past year and a half. With the help of certain members of congress, two bills (one in the House,(5) the other in the Senate(6)) have been introduced, in an attempt to attach a “Conscience Clause” to the new health care law. Both bills are currently stalled in committee, with little to no prognosis for passage.

     It is at this point in our sordid tale, that the “bullet” comes in to the picture. On September 26th, a letter was sent to Congress by two committee chairmen from the Conference of Catholic Bishops. Within the text of this letter, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley and Archbishop William Lori, urged congress to commit to the following course of action:

“We have already urged you to enact the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940/S. 1204). As Congress considers a Continuing Resolution and debt ceiling bill in the days to come, we reaffirm the vital importance of incorporating the policy of this bill into such “must-pass” legislation.(7)

At odds.

At odds.

     Indeed, two days later the House Republican majority inserted language to these ends, into the tail-end of section 131 of House Joint Resolution 59,(8) and sent it back across the hall to the Senate, which rejected it and sent it back, during the to-and-fro volleying leading up to the current “Partial Government Shutdown of 2013.”

     So, did the Catholic church cause the current government shutdown? No, but they did “supply the shooters with additional ammunition, knowing what that ammunition would be used for,” and that makes them complicit. (Right about now, some would love to see Calleigh Duquesne (ah, Emily Procter!) walking into the offices of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, and placing O’Malley and Lori in cuffs, I suspect!) Will the victim survive? We’re sure to find out within the next few days, as we bump up against Thursday’s debt limit deadline. Until then, I guess we’ll just have to…stay tuned! (Cue the Roger Daltrey scream…)



American Rhetoric: The Gi-GUN-dous Elephant In The Room

Peeling back the surface debate...

Peeling back the surface debate…

     Lately, I’ve been getting very weary of the rampant over-simplifications plaguing the national debate on gun control. For instance, the left’s assertion that “guns kill people”. To my way of thinking, this is over-simplifying an otherwise complex issue. Guns kill people like pencils fail tests…and, since guns kill people, they need to be banned. (I should give you, my fine young readers, some modicum of “fair warning” at this point. This article is about to go into “SOAPBOX” mode, and might even flirt with the “TLDR” envelope!)

     Let’s say that I snap an icicle off of the eave of my house, and stab someone to death. Or, you drive your car over a patch of black ice on the highway, and slide off of a cliff. Oh crap, ice kills people! Let’s ban ice. Anyone who makes, manufactures, imports or sells ice will now be guilty of a felony. (I’d love to know which judge will issue the arrest warrant for GOD…)

     I grab a rock, and bludgeon someone to death. Oh crap, rocks kill people! We’d better ban all rocks. (What about the one we LIVE on? You know, the big BLUE one, which falls toward the sun, but has enough angular momentum to maintain an orbit?) Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, hurricanes, floods…Oh crap! Nature kills people! A ban on NATURE?

     I grab a Louisville Slugger, and clock someone across the temple, resulting in their death. Oh crap, baseball bats kill people! Ban all baseball bats! (There goes the national pastime!)

     I take a No. 2 pencil out of my desktop caddy, and run it right through someone’s temple, into their brainpan. Oh crap, pencils kill people! Ban all writing utensils! (Millions of grade school kids will LOVE this one!) No more kids doing classwork with pencils and pens, they all have to use computers now. But wait! I grab a computer tower off of the desk, and slam it right into someone’s cranium, knocking them dead. Oh crap! Computers kill people! Ban all computers! (There goes my access to YouTwitFace!)

     I strangle someone to death with my bare hands. Oh crap! Hands kill people! Let’s cut off everyone’s hands! (Great, now no work gets done.) Then, I kick someone to death with my booted feet, now that my hands are gone. Oh crap! Feet kill people! Cut off all feet! (Great, now no one goes anywhere, and even less work gets done than before.)

     Does everyone see where this is going? Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Even my nine-year-old daughter gets this concept. (I know she does, I asked her.) Since it’s people who are killing people, do we ban people? No, because even the idea goes so far past ridiculous, that it’s ridiculous! Still, since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, as after every national news-making school shooting, (Columbine, West Paducah, etcetera,) the liberal politicians go into “ban mode”.

     The problem that I have with every mention of a ban on this weapon or that, is that the vast majority of people committing gun-related crime in this nation are criminals. Do the powers-that-be honestly think that criminals care one iota about gun control laws? They don’t even care about the people that they’re killing with those guns, so go ahead, ban every single weapon on the market. Criminals will still get the guns and commit the crimes, while honest, law-abiding citizens become defenseless.

     Now. That being said, (and this is the point where I turn my pen, being mightier than the sword or the gun, toward the neo-conservatives on the right!) I’m also pretty disdainful of people who spout this rhetoric of needing things like AR-15s to…how do they put it? “Defend ourselves against the government”? I think it’s high time for a reality check here. Could someone please tell me what chance that little AR-15-armed Joe Citizen has against things like Reaper UAVs and FA-22 Raptors? You see, the U.S. armed forces enjoy and exercise a nice advantage in any battle, a thing called “air superiority”. Point made, my fine young readers?

     Aside from that, could someone please tell me for what reason could an honest, everyday law-abiding citizen actually need something like an AR-15 or an AK-47? These types of weapons are geared for one thing, and one thing only; making war. Take it from me, a six-year Army veteran. The only real advantages to these guns are offensive in nature; full-auto and three-round-burst modes sacrifice accuracy for quantity, and are for the purpose of laying down covering fire. In addition, having a higher muzzle velocity and / or a greater maximum effective range is not a home defense consideration, either. No, I suspect that Joe Neocon’s true motivations for hugging on to that assault weapon (we’re about to get into the use of that term as well!) are based in his wants, as opposed to his needs

     “Assault Weapons”. This seems like a fairly nebulous term, bandied about by the politicians and the media to describe a wide array of gun types, depending on who is trying to apply the term. When the average person contemplates the term, things like AR-15s come to mind. When politicians apply the term, they tend to use a different standard, which includes almost every semi-automatic (which describes just about every pistol and rifle being manufactured these days!) weapon on the market. This is where I have an issue with government. If people like U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein have their way, the citizenry would indeed be disarmed, while those who care nothing about gun control laws…the criminals, remain armed, and still quite dangerous.

     Here at 947 words, I should attempt to get around to the true subject of the debate, right? It’s the real “elephant in the room” that no one seems to want to address; the human element. You see, making the assertion that “guns kill people” and not that people kill people, is like blaming the pencil for failing the test, or blaming the light saber for the killing of the younglings in the third installment of the “Star Wars” saga. No, just like anything else, it takes a person to wield that weapon, and the motivation of that person to take that life. That’s what we as a society should be addressing, not engaging in this misguided attempt to contravene the second amendment of our constitution.

     If only our government paid attention to history, they would recall the lessons learned during Prohibition. The government tried banning the device, without addressing the real issue…the human issue. Their approach worked so well in fact, that we now have two amendments to our constitution dealing with alcohol, the second one repealing the first one.

     That’s the point here. The issue of gun control is not a simple issue, and does not have any simple remedy, because the true nature of the issue is just simply…not that simple. It is a complex issue, because we humans are a complex bunch. Maybe instead of attempting to disarm the citizenry, our government should be looking at the ways in which it deals with things like law enforcement, justice, the prison system, mental and physical health and other human aspects of the debate.

To be continued!

Threat To The Internet: Sientate Mijos y Mijas, and Eat Your SOPA

THIS is what eating SOPA will get you!

     Evidently, U.S. House Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) speaks Spanish, because that’s the message that he’s sending to American “netizens.” (Internet citizens.) The “Stop Online Piracy Act,” (H.R. 3261) widely known by its acronym “SOPA,” is a bill submitted to the house by Rep. Smith that, according to its detractors, threatens to undermine the internet that you and I have become familiar with. If the bill passes both houses of Congress and gets signed by the President, the government would have the power to effectively shut down sites such as YouTube, Facebook or even this very blog, even if only temporarily, just because someone alleges that the site in question contains copyrighted material from somewhere else.

     Make no mistake about it, my fine young readers. This is a dangerous piece of legislation, and if it becomes law you might see the deaths of the afore-mentioned companies, along with a plethora of others. The funny thing about all of the rukus around SOPA, is that almost every broadband cable company is supporting it. Even funnier still is that until quite recently, internet domain registrar GoDaddy also supported it!

     Now, we know that the entertainment industry supports this bill, that’s a given. What you may not know is that the newly-minted CEO of GoDaddy, one Warren Adelman, has ties to Hollywood that include divisions of NBCUniversal, (USA Networks) Viacom (MTV) and Warner Bros. (New Line Cinema) that date back to the late nineties, while he was serving as CEO of NeoPlanet.(1) (Funny that, eh?) To this suspicious eye, it’s no small wonder that Mr. Adelman would support his old entertainment industry buddies in this endeavour. The only problem with that, is that he now helms a company whose majority of users are on the opposing side of the debate! Shortly after announcing their support of SOPA, a boycott effort against GoDaddy was mounted, and all of a sudden things did not look like they were “Go”ing so well for GoDaddy, threatening instead to become more SLOW-Daddy. So last week, Adelman and GoDaddy backpedaled, withdrawing (at least outwardly) their support of the bill.(2) Other companies that support this bill have also become boycott targets.(3)

     Meanwhile, Rep. Lamar Smith (a graduate of T.M.I. Episcopal School of Texas…TMI…too much information…infinitely fitting!) and his band of co-sponsors are scheduled to take up the discussion on SOPA again when the House reconvenes after the holiday break. My fine young readers, now is the time to make your voices heard and your words read. I would encourage each and every one of you reading this to write and call your U.S. Representative and Senator, and tell them you will NOT “sit for this bowl of SOPA.” In addition, please discuss this with your friends and acquaintances, and urge them all to do the same. Spread the word people, we don’t need to hand the Justice Department (keep in mind that this is the same Justice Department responsible for Fast and Furious!) a free reign to shut down and censor the internet!


If you want to see where support and opposition of this bill lies, please follow this link: H.R. 3261: Stop Online Piracy Act