Rush’s Apology and other short notes

You already know the basic story: Republicans didn’t let Georgetown student Sandra Fluke testify at their committee hearing on religious liberty vs. reproductive rights, resulting in that famous all-men-at-the-table photo.

So Democrats held their own hearing where Fluke did testify. Rush Limbaugh responded by attacking her for several days as a “slut” and a “prostitute” and suggesting that she post sex videos on the Internet.

She’s having sex so frequently that she can’t afford all the birth-control pills that she needs. That’s what she’s saying.

Other members of the conservative media defended Rush against the backlash. Mona Charen, for example wrote:

When the producer asked: “What do you make of Rush Limbaugh’s comments?” I said that his choice of words was crude but that I certainly understood and sympathized with the point he was making.

Mitt Romney missed his chance to have a Sister Souljah moment. “It’s not the language I would have used,” he said. To which Maureen Dowd replied: “Is there a right way to call a woman a slut?”

Eventually, Rush started losing advertisers. Money talks, so Rush issued an apology of sorts:

I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

So Rush and everybody else on the Right agrees that “slut” is an over-reaction to Fluke’s testimony, but they stand by “the point he was making”.

You’ve probably heard all that. But this point isn’t getting nearly enough attention: Rush’s attack on Fluke was fundamentally false from end to end. She was not talking about her sex life. She was not asking for a government subsidy. (Georgetown’s health plan is paid for by the students.) She was exposing the negative impact of Georgetown’s policy on the health of its female students.

This controversy isn’t about using bad words, it’s about telling vicious lies to silence an opponent’s legitimate point. Rush has not apologized for that or even admitted doing it. That’s what the conservative media is defending and Republican politicians won’t denounce.

Watch Fluke’s opening statement and see if you can find any connection between what she said and what Limbaugh said about her.

Rick Santorum’s recent attack on JFK was not only inaccurate and politically odd (how does dissing the first Catholic president rally the Catholic votes Santorum needs?), it was yet another example of the fuzzy thinking that surrounds the corporate personhood issue. Santorum seems unable to distinguish religious institutions from religious people.

Here’s what Kennedy said in his famous 1960 campaign speech to a conference of Baptist ministers:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote

In other words, the Church and the State are separate institutions. Having authority in one does not give you authority in the other.

But this is how Santorum explained why reading Kennedy’s speech makes him “want to throw up”:

To say that people of faith have no role in the public square?  You bet that makes you throw up.  What kind of country do we live in that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case?

In other words, he interprets Kennedy’s words to mean that the Church and the State must consist of different people; if you’re active in the Church you must be passive in the State, and vice versa.

But the conflict that nauseates Santorum goes away once you understand that institutions are not people. Individuals can be active in both religion and in politics, and we can still maintain Jefferson’s “wall of separation” between the institution of the Church and the institution of the State.

The Santorums reinforce all the worst stereotypes about homeschooling parents. But they aren’t all like that, as this first-person account by Stumblegoat makes clear.

Things everybody should understand about the price of gas:

  • America may have plenty of untapped natural gas and coal, but that’s not going to do you any good if your car runs on gasoline.
  • The price of gasoline depends on the price of oil.
  • Oil is a world market.
  • Gas prices were low when Obama became president because a worldwide recession had depressed demand.
  • New oil production in America will change the world price of oil exactly as much (or as little) as new production in Nigeria or Kuwait or anyplace else.
  • American oil production has gone up since Obama took office, reversing a long-term downward trend.
  • No conceivable increase in American oil production will make a sizable dent in the world market.
  • Anything that took Iran’s oil off the market (like a war) would make oil prices skyrocket.

Therefore: “Drill, baby, drill” is not an answer to the high price of gas, but reaching some kind of peaceful settlement with Iran would help.

The global-warming deniers who published a letter in the WSJ made their argument look serious by quoting the research of Yale economist William Nordhaus. Now Nordhaus explains why they’re wrong.

Last week the NYT talked about why young mothers aren’t married. This week the Atlantic examines why young adults aren’t buying houses.

Derek Thompson reviews a lot of reasons, but finally comes around to the one that makes sense to me: We don’t live in a long-term-planning world any more. The whole idea of a 30-year mortgage sounds absurd in an era where nobody has the faintest idea what their life will be like in ten years.

Kevin Drum has an interesting graph. If you break the federal budget up into Medicare, Social Security, and Everything Else, then graph it as a percentage of GDP, Everything Else is lower than it was 50 years ago and is still decreasing. Remember that the next time somebody starts talking about “out-of-control government spending”.

We don’t have a generalized spending problem. We’ve got an aging population and healthcare costs that are increasing too fast. Solve that and everything else falls into place.

The traditional theory said that the poor were less ethical than the rich. In “My Fair Lady“, Pickering asks Eliza’s father “Have you no morals, man?” and Mr. Doolittle replies: “No, no, I can’t afford ’em, gov’ner. Neither could you if you was as poor as me.”

But a new study indicates the exact opposite:

“Occupying privileged positions in society has this natural psychological effect of insulating you from others,” said psychologist Paul Piff of the University of California, Berkeley. “You’re less likely to perceive the impact your behavior has on others. As a result, at least in this paper, you’re more likely to break the rules.”

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  • Rick Wexler  On March 5, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Please refrain from referring to him as “Rush.” This is way to folksy and familiar. He is a cad and a scoundrel. He deserves no respect or admiration. One need not necessarily refer to him as the fat mothereffing blowhard bastard with no human emotions, but referring to him as “Limbaugh” would do. I for one would appreciate that. Thanks.

  • Stephanie  On March 5, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    1. Our public discourse is, indeed, best described as increasinly detached from logic or common sense. Both Limbaugh and Santorum were spouting words that didn’t relate to what they were supposedly talking about.
    2. Not drilling doesn’t contribute to any solution either–covering all bases includes drilling where you could
    3. National health insurance wouldn’t have a problem about whether healthcare trumped religious freedom or not…
    4. The aging population is a problem but the GOP wants to solve the problem by killing off the aged (cause that’s what cutting medicare and SSN would do) However–all those young people who think they’d be better off without medicare and ssn in their future wouldn’t be. The richest American today could be dirt poor tomorrow because we have an economy that is not based on production.

    So I agree with you on a lot you write but not everything. Mostly I pray for logic and good manners and those might both be too much to ask from our sick, sick society!!!!

    • weeklysift  On March 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      I’m happy to have you reading and commenting whether you agree with everything or not.

    • ZS  On March 7, 2012 at 11:16 am

      On #2: Avoiding additional drilling contributes to the mitigation of climate change. The “all-of-the-above” debacle (and Obama has now embraced the rhetoric, sadly) essentially guarantees that we won’t be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global CO2 levels below 450 parts per million (ppm). Go beyond 450, and most climate scientists agree that we’re opening ourselves up to a pandora’s box of disastrous consequences. And more and more scientists, including James Hansen, the leading climatologist for NASA, believe that 350 ppm is the safer goal – and we passed that years ago. Anyway, “not drilling doesn’t contribute to any solution either” is only correct if you somehow have information that contradicts the 98%+ of climate scientists who agree that climate change is a big problem, and one that is driven by human activities.

      • Stephanie  On March 8, 2012 at 11:17 am

        Sorry it took me so long to respond–we had no electricity for several hours. I’m blaming the high winds for the electric going out (althoughelectricity often goes out here–usually for days or weeks rather than hours and the problem is often suicidal squirrels or ComEd’s refusal to upgrade their outdated equipment until we give them a rate increase)

        I blame the high winds here — and last week’s tornados nearby — on climate change so I guess I could say that I’m aware of how big a problem climate change is. (and I agree that humanity contributes to that climate change although there would be climate change anyway) Historically humanity has always paid a steep price for any major climate change–lots of people die.

        Three points to consider and I’ll keep them brief to avoid boring you unless you ask for me to flesh out these thoughts:

        1. A higher cost of gas will make positive change LESS likely rather than more likely. Lots of Americans–especially the pesky aging and often jobless Baby Boomers–are getting poorer not richer. Without discretionary income there can not be new electric cars or solar panels on roofs or any of that good stuff. (If only I could have a solar panel!)

        2. We are overpopulating the planet so lots of people dying is a self-correcting mechanism in nature. And if all people die off, that’s okay too within the laws of nature. There’s no reason people shouldn’t go extinct.

        3. I don’t live a comfortable life now. My house is already too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter and has been since I was laidoff in 2003 and that becomes a health problem as I get older. I already am somewhat cut off from social contacts by the cost of gas. I am not eating as healthy as I used to because of the cost of gas included in the cost of food. I have no hope of an improvement in this situation unless people start buying my paintings (don’t hold your breath). As long as the leadership of the people calling for me to make more sacrifices are people like Al Gore who has made it clear that his wealth allows him to buy his way out of making any sacrifices, you’re are going to have a tough time convincing me to accept more sacrifice for some future goal that I won’t live to see.

        Just to conclude–in a society where people vote for their choice of leadership, negative economic change will always — ALWAYS — result in election of the worst choices eventually.


  • By Reason’s Tribunal « The Weekly Sift on March 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    […] Rush’s Apology and other short notes. Conservatives admit that “slut” is unacceptable language, but they ignore the underlying content, which consists of vicious lies. If JFK nauseates Rick Santorum, it’s because Rick can’t tell the difference between institutions and people. Parents homeschool for a lot of reasons. What everybody should know about the price of gas. An economist denounces the global-warming deniers who quoted him. Young people aren’t buying houses. Where the deficit doesn’t come from. And Eliza Doolittle’s Dad was wrong about morals. […]

  • […] Follow-up on the Rush Limbaugh mess that I covered last week: […]

  • By Creatures of Society « The Weekly Sift on March 12, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    […] week’s most popular post. The Sift had a slow week. Rush’s Apology and other short notes got 167 views, the first time a short notes post has been the most popular. (Something like 200-300 […]

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