Friday 10 February 2012

Is it really "Un-American" to require an employer to provide contraceptive health coverage?

After reading this piece by Heresiarch on the Obama/Catholic problem of the day, I forced myself to ingest one of the sources, namely this Telegraph article by Dr Tim Stanley, titled "Obama's war on the Catholic Church isn't just insensitive – it's un-American". Ignoring the momentary shiver I always feel when I hear someone use that McCarthy era standard, I plowed on. I'm afraid I stopped on this paragraph (six?) as it told me everything I need to know:
The answer is that Obama’s diktat violates the American principle of freedom of conscience. It’s one thing to ask Catholic organisations to provide contraception coverage. It’s another thing to order them to do it. Imagine that you’ve been happily wearing a neck tie since the age of thirteen (imagine you are Mitt Romney). Then, one day, a government bureaucrat knocks on the door to tell you that it’s now the law of the land that you have to wear a neck tie, 24/7. The first reaction of any freedom loving, self-governing individual would be to tear the neck tie off (and maybe use it to throttle the bureaucrat). It’s a basic rule of human nature that people resent being told to do something, even if they intended to do it anyway. The Americans and British are brothers-in-arms when it comes to this kind of obstinacy.
The question that paragraph is attempting to answer is "Why is the Church so agitated, the liberal press asks?". And if that's the answer then I feel the issue of freedom of conscience is back to front. The analogy is poor. Actually, it is woefully bad. A better analogy would be this. Every day a person wears a neck tie but he provides his own. As silly as this may sound, let's say he only wears them at home or otherwise outside working hours. This is how he feels he should dress. Perhaps the employer has an irrational hatred of neck ties or something. Then one day, a government bureaucrat knocks on the door of the employer and says any apparel benefits plan that you provide for your employees must include a provision for neck ties. How horrible.

Here's how you exercise your freedom of conscience. If you are unhappy with this state of affairs, don't provide employee health benefits. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees don't have to anyway. For larger businesses, there is a $2000 tax penalty per employee for failing to provide health insurance to full time workers.

Get real, people. You've got it backwards. Why can't you see that? I think actually these pundits can. I think probably even John Boehner and Mitt Romney can. They're just hoping to hoodwink ordinary people in an election year. I hope the White House is better prepared for this row than it was for the Nazi-Socialist death panel slurs in 2008.

Monday 6 February 2012

Arsehole Justice: The #TwitterJokeTrial: Why it matters to me - why it should matter to you.

Back in November, just a couple days before Paul Chambers' High Court appeal was originally scheduled to be heard, I gave a brief introductory speech to the specially convened Westminster Skeptics meeting. It is now two days before the appeal will finally be heard (8th February 2012). I have reproduced the notes for my speech here (the actual speech was a bit different). This is the Twitter Joke Trial in a nutshell from my point of view:

I first became aware of this case back in January 2010 when I read a write up in the Independent about a week after Paul was arrested. He had not yet been charged and the incident was still being treated as a bomb threat or hoax. It struck me as problematic because I felt I understood the context well enough to deduce that no harm was intended. I expected there would be no charge, but I remained curious...

Flayman on LiveJournal (old)