Santorum vs. pornography

Rick Santorum has just lost the porn-lovers’ vote, probably dooming his candidacy:

Rick Santorum has a message for America’s smut merchants: Prepare for battle.

If elected, the GOP presidential candidate writes in a position paper widely circulated this week, he would order his attorney general to “vigorously enforce” existing laws that “prohibit distribution of hardcore (obscene) pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite TV, on hotel/motel TV, in retail shops and through the mail or by common carrier.”

“The Obama administration has turned a blind eye to those who wish to preserve our culture from the scourge of pornography and has refused to enforce obscenity laws,” he writes. “While the Obama Department of Justice seems to favor pornographers over children and families, that will change under a Santorum administration.” . . .

To be sure, plenty of Americans agree with Santorum that pornography erodes the country’s moral character, and his contention that “pornography is toxic to marriages and relationships” is shared by many.

Moreover, despite pornography’s ubiquity, there’s no reason US attorneys can’t step up prosecutions of people who flout anti-obscenity laws, especially against domestic purveyors. As recently as 2006 a federal jury found an Arizona company guilty of breaking obscenity laws for distributing hardcore pornography across state lines. The FBI announced 38 child pornography-related guilty verdicts or pleas this month alone.

“In most parts of the country, a lot of pornography on the Internet would plausibly be seen as obscene,” UCLA constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh told the Daily Caller, which publicized the overlooked Santorum position paper this week. “You can’t prosecute them all … but you can find certain types of pornography that are sufficiently unpopular” for easy convictions, he told the conservative news site.

via Rick Santorum vows to end ‘pandemic of pornography.’ Could he prevail? – CSMonitor.com.

Would this be good?  Shouldn’t the government at least enforce existing laws that have passed constitutional muster?

Obamacare will cover abortions for $1 premiums

The Obama administration has figured out how to let Obamacare cover abortions despite the Hyde Amendment. (P.S.: Why doesn’t the Hyde Amendment prevent government funding for abortion pills, as in the insurance mandate?)   Health Insurance companies will have to offer abortions as a premium service for which the insured will have to pay extra.  But the extra fee will be no more than $1 per month.  From LifeSite:

It’s official. The concern pro-life organizations had about the ObamaCare legislation funding abortions has been confirmed, as the Obama administration has issued the final rules on abortion funding governing the controversial health care law.

Nestled within the “individual mandate” in the Obamacare act — that portion of the Act requiring every American to purchase government — approved insurance or pay a penalty — is an “abortion premium mandate.” This mandate requires all persons enrolled in insurance plans that include elective abortion coverage to pay a separate premium from their own pockets to fund abortion. As a result, many pro-life Americans will have to decide between a plan that violates their consciences by funding abortion, or a plan that may not meet their health needs.

The Department of Health and Human Services has issued a final rule regarding establishment of the state health care exchanges required under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

As a knowledgeable pro-life source on Capitol Hill informed LifeNews, as authorized by Obamacare, “the final rule provides for taxpayer funding of insurance coverage that includes elective abortion” and the change to longstanding law prohibiting virtually all direct taxpayer funding of abortions (the Hyde Amendment) is accomplished through an accounting arrangement described in the Affordable Care Act and reiterated in the final rule issued today.

“To comply with the accounting requirement, plans will collect a $1 abortion surcharge from each premium payer,” the pro-life source informed LifeNews. “The enrollee will make two payments, $1 per month for abortion and another payment for the rest of the services covered. As described in the rule, the surcharge can only be disclosed to the enrollee at the time of enrollment. Furthermore, insurance plans may only advertise the total cost of the premiums without disclosing that enrollees will be charged a $1 per month fee to pay directly subsidize abortions.”

via Obama Admin Finalizes Rules: $1 Abortions in ObamaCare | LifeNews.com.

HT:  Carl Vehse

The UN & NATO authorize our wars, not Congress

So says our Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs:

The Obama administration and Defense Secretary Panetta are contending that when offensive military action is needed, it does not have to go to Congress first for permission but that international agreements, the UN or NATO can override Congressional acts of authorization of war or use of force.

At a hearing that was held in Washington on March 7, 2012, Sen. Sessions of the Senate Armed Services Committee questioned not only Defense Secretary Leon Panetta but also of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey about offensive military action and the permissions that are needed.

Both Panetta and General Dempsey indicated that “international permission,” rather than Congressional approval, provided a ‘legal basis’ for military action by the United States.

In other words, they explained that they didn’t need permission by the Congress and can pursue offensive military action without Congress’ involvement and that the UN would dictate when and how the hostilities would occur, therefore bypassing the War Powers Act.

via Panetta: ‘Use of military force can be granted by UN or NATO, not Congress’ – Atlanta Paulding County Republican | Examiner.com.

Nevermind the Constitution, which as a War Powers Clause that specifically invests the power to make war with Congress:

[Congress shall have Power...] To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.
Article I, Section 8, Clause 11

That’s Congress and not the Executive branch–even though presidents have been running roughshod over this Constitutional requirement for our last several wars–and certainly not international agencies!

Government vs. teacher-training programs

Public school teachers and academics in the universities are among the Democratic party’s most loyal footsoldiers, advocating government intervention in a whole host of endeavors.  But they don’t like it much when the government intervenes with them.

And yet here is a case where government intervention might well be a good thing:  Tying federal (that is to say, taxpayer) money to the performance of teacher education programs (that is to say, the effectiveness of the teachers they turn out).   This currently would relate only to one smallish federal program, one that gives grants to graduates willing to teach in “high need” areas.   Needless to say, this is spurring outraged opposition from schools of education, which seem to have pulled the teeth from the original proposal:

Teacher colleges and their accreditors pushed back against a Department of Education plan to tighten eligibility for federal Teach Grants this week, winning concessions on a proposed rule that could have ended aid to hundreds of colleges and set a precedent for other federal programs.

Under the department’s original proposal, states would have been required to sort teacher-education programs into four categories—”low-performing,” “at risk,” “satisfactory,” and “high quality”—based on their graduates’ job-placement and retention rates, the academic “growth” of graduates’ future students, and customer-satisfaction surveys. Only programs that received the highest ranking and were approved by a specialized accreditor would have been eligible to award the grants, which provide up to $4,000 a year to students who agree to work in “high-need areas.”

Sophia McArdle, the department’s representative on a panel that is negotiating the teacher-training rules, said the agency’s goal was to set a “minimum bar” for Teach Grant eligibility. (While federal law limits Teach Grants to “high quality” programs, it doesn’t define the term. In the past, department officials have claimed that the grants go to too many “mediocre” programs.)

But negotiators said the bar was being set too high, and would deny aid to all but “the crème de la crème,” as one panel member put it. They maintained that it was unfair to exclude the hundreds of programs that lack specialized accreditation, or the potentially hundreds more that might fall under the new “satisfactory” category. They argued that the grants should go to students attending programs deemed “effective” or higher, regardless of their accreditation status, and the department agreed.

Under the compromise language, programs lacking specialized accreditation would be judged based on whether they provided graduates with “content and pedagogical knowledge” and “quality clinical preparation” and had “performance based” exit requirements.

Even more significantly, panelists succeeded in striking any reference to “high quality” from the state rating system, replacing it with “exceptional.” That seemingly semantic change ensured that the “high quality” definition wouldn’t outlive Teach Grants, and be used to limit aid under other federal programs. President Obama has proposed ending the Teach Grant program and replacing it with a “Presidential Teaching Fellows” program that would provide scholarships to high-achieving students.

Even with the changes, the new rules still represent a significant expansion of the federal involvement in teacher-training programs. Until now, the government has largely stayed out of teacher prep, leaving it to states to set their own standards for judging and penalizing programs. The proposed rules, with their outcome standards and survey requirements, mark a “much more rigorous and intrusive federal role,” said Jane West, senior vice president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

via Teacher-Training Programs Win Concessions on Proposed Federal Rule – Government – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Many of these government interventions are simply efforts to provide accountability for taxpayer dollars.  That, I think, is a legitimate concern for Congress and ought not to be confused with the bigger issue of government attempts to regulate our lives.

HT:  Jackie

Only churches can be religious

How to restrict religion given the Bill of Right’s protection of the “free exercise” of religion?  Easy, the secularists in power are finding:  Define religion as only what goes on behind the walls of churches.

That’s what the administration has done in its abortion pill/contraceptive mandate in exempting only church congregations, while requiring church-run hospitals and other ministries to provide that coverage free of charge even when they violate their religious convictions.

Now colleges are using the same strategy, as Greg Forster reports:

The Supreme Court declared in 2010 that public universities must permit religious student clubs to select leaders who share their faith. UNC-Greensboro is now getting around this by declaring that a Christian student club isn’t really religious.

On what grounds? It isn’t affiliated with a church.

Other schools are apparently pursuing this strategy as well. Expect to hear more about it.

via An Arm of the North Carolina State Government Says Christianity Isn’t a Religion » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

The next step, as in the former Soviet Union:  Religion is restricted to what goes on inside of your head.

 

 

Today politics “is about nearly everything”

Political scientist James Q. Wilson has died.  Among his many contributions was an article on “Broken Windows”–observing that if a broken window in a building doesn’t get fixed, soon all the windows will be broken, an example of how social order must be established in small things so as to create social order in big things–a theory that led to new methods of police work that, famously, caused the crime rate in New York City to drop dramatically.

George Will sums up some of his other insights:

New Deal liberalism, Wilson said, was concerned with who got what, when, where and how; since the 1960s, liberalism has been concerned with who thinks what, who acts when, who lives where and who feels how: “Once politics was about only a few things; today, it is about nearly everything.” Until the 1960s, “the chief issue in any congressional argument over new policies was whether it was legitimate for the federal government to do something at all.” But since the “legitimacy barrier” fell, “no program is any longer ‘new’ — it is seen, rather, as an extension, a modification, or an enlargement of something the government is already doing.”

The normal dynamic of politics, Wilson warned, is a process of addition, candidates promising to add to government’s menu of benefits. Hence today’s problem of collective choice: Can Washington, acknowledging no limit to its scope and responding to clamorous factions that proliferate because of its hyperactivity, make difficult choices? With government no longer constrained by either the old constitutional understanding of its limits or by the old stigma against deficit spending, hard choices can be deferred, and are.

Try, he wrote, to think “of a human want or difficulty that is not now defined as a ‘public policy problem.’ ” The defining is done by elites to whose ideas the political system has become so open that changes of policy often result not from changes of public opinion but from changes in the way elites think. Liberal elites define problems as amenable to government engineering of new social structures. Conservative elites emphasize the cultural roots of many problems and hence their intractability.

America, Wilson said, increasingly faces “problems that do not seem to respond, or to respond enough, to changes in incentives.” This is because culture is often determinative, is harder to change than incentives and impedes individuals’ abilities to respond to incentives. . . .

Wilson warned that we should be careful about what we think we are, lest we become that. Human nature, he said, is not infinitely plastic; we cannot be socialized to accept anything. We do not recoil from Auschwitz only because our culture has so disposed us. Children, Wilson thought, are intuitive moralists, but instincts founded in nature must be nurtured in families. The fact that much of modern life, from family disintegration to scabrous entertainment, is shocking is evidence for, not against, the moral sense, which is what is shocked. And the highest purpose of politics is to encourage the flourishing of a culture that nurtures rather than weakens the promptings of the moral sense.

via James Q. Wilson: America’s prophet – The Washington Post.


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