Politics Archive

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ben Carson - On the Issues, Part IV - Faith in Society

Ben CarsonThis entry is part of a series looking at Ben Carson's stance on political issues. For this series, I'm mostly looking at the issues identified on Carson's own website in the section, Ben on the Issues. I figured that was a good way to pick the issues he himself found most important to discuss, without anyone being able to accuse me of cherry-picking Carson's worst stances. An index of all the issues can be found on the first post in the series, Ben Carson - On the Issues, Part I.

This entry addresses Carson's stance on Faith in Society. I've covered this topic in more detail in several other blog entries, with one particularly relevant one being a Response to an Editorial by Pat Boone.

Here's how Carson started off this section on his website.

The United States of America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. We can and should be proud of that fact. It served us well for almost 200 years.

The principles upon which the U.S. was founded were largely Enlightenment Ideals, not anything specifically Judeo-Christian. First, consider the founding document of our government, the U.S. Constitution. It has no religious references other than the convention of using 'Year of our Lord' for the date. Consider also a comparison of the First Amendment with the First Commandment. The Amendment is all about freedom to worship however you see fit. The Commandment is all about worshipping one god and one god only. Those are not the same values. (Other Commandments, like don't steal, or don't murder, are universal to nearly all societies, and not specific to Judaism or Christianity.) There are plenty of other examples in that blog entry linked to above.

One particularly interesting example that I've brought up before is the Treaty of Tripoli. It was signed in 1796, just 8 years after the Constitution was ratified, by Senators who could rightly be considered Founding Fathers. And even though it was only a treaty, the circumstances surrounding it illustrate the mindset of those early U.S. politicians. When it was presented to the Senate, it was read aloud in its entirety, so that all present knew the entire contents. It was then confirmed unanimously by all of the members present (23 out of 32). Not only that, but in a somewhat unusual practice, the vote was recorded. To clarify, it wasn't so unusual for a vote to be recorded (this was the 339th time), but it was very unusual for a vote to be recorded when the vote was unanimous - this was only the 3rd time. So what is it about the treaty that makes it so interesting in a discussion on religion? Article 11 (emphasis mine):

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

After the treaty was passed by the Senate, President John Adams issued a statement that he "accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof." Like I said, it was only a treaty, but the politicians of the time seemed to go out of their way to support it and make their support known. If these politicians had any objections to the statement that "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion", they certainly didn't act on them.

Carson went on to write.

However, we need to reverse the recent trend of secular progressives using activist, federal judges to drive faith out of our society. Anyone who wishes to practice their faith, for example by praying privately, can and should be able to do so. Equally, the rights of someone to abstain from private prayer should also be jealously protected.

Other than the first sentence, this passage isn't too bad, but also not very provocative. How many places in the U.S. are people being stopped from praying privately? Nearly every example I can think of that the religious right gets upset about is where religious people can't force their prayers in government venues, such as city council meetings or classrooms (or the recent example of Kim Davis trying to abuse her government position and enforce her religious principles on the citizens of her county). There are only a very few isolated cases I've heard of where people really were being stopped from praying privately, and these were usually the results of people misunderstanding the law and have usually been resolved pretty quickly (examples: ACLU Defense of Religious Practice and Expression).

The first sentence is where I disagree. First of all, 'activist' judges are not being used to drive faith out of society in general. Judges are properly interpreting the First Amendment, and using it to keep religion and government separate. The fact that Christianity has had special privilege for much of the history of this country due to the majority of citizens being Christian does not change the fact that many of these instances of special privilege were in violation of the Constitution. Now that Christianity is losing its grip on the country (between 2007 and 2014, Christians fell from 78.4% to 70.6% of the population - Pew), I expect these types of challenges will become more common. And like I said, these legal challenges are usually only where church and state are improperly entangled, not for people privately practicing religion.

Here's the last excerpt from Carson I'm going to discuss.

The First Amendment enshrines our freedom to practice whatever faith we choose from any government intrusion. Our Founding Fathers never meant for the First Amendment to be used to drive prayer out of the public square.

Here are two statements by a very prominent Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, "History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government," as well as, "In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own." There's also the very famous passage from his letter to the Danbury Baptists about "building a wall of separation between church and State." Granted, Jefferson was only one of the Founding Fathers, but he was certainly no fan of organized religion, and very clearly wanted religion kept separate from the public square. Consider also the discussion above about the country being founded on Enlightenment ideals, and it seems pretty clear that the founders did indeed intend for the government to be secular.

Outside the legal sphere, it's no secret I'm no fan of faith. I have an entry, Why Do I Spend So Much Time on Religion, listing examples of the harm caused by religion*. Now, I would never advocate for the government to try to suppress religion, since only totalitarian governments try to dictate beliefs, and regimes that have tried this in the past have in effect made the state a new religion. But I would like for society itself to change to the point where admitting belief in gods was no longer automatically seen as a virtue.

I've previously mentioned a study by Gregory S. Paul, Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies. Here are two graphs from that study. (Click to embiggen. I modified this figure somewhat to combine these two graphs into one image, but didn't change anything about how the data was plotted.)

Graphs from Gregory S. Paul's Study

This shows a clear correlation between religion and societal dysfunction. Granted, correlation is not causation, so it's possible people turn to religion for comfort in dysfunctional societies, rather than religion causing dysfunctional societies, but it's certainly clear that less religious societies for the most part are better off than more religious ones.

A related previous entry of mine is A Response to Ben Carson's Comments on Navy Bible Kerfuffle, looking at Carson's misinterpretation of the Establishment Clause, and a truly idiotic claim about religious neutrality promoting atheism.


On to Part V, Taxes


Image Source for Ben Carson: Christian Post, Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst


*To clarify, I don't think religion is universally harmful. There are many varieties of belief, even among 'one' religion like Christianity. On the balance, I think religion as currently practiced does more harm than good, but that's painting with a very broad brush, and could change in the future depending on how religion itself changes. As I wrote in another entry, Hercules Misunderstands Atheists - Responding to Kevin Sorbo, "If religion was all soup kitchens and homeless shelters, or even just spaghetti dinners and Christmas bazaars, religious debates could be mainly academic and philosophical. As soon as religious people quit causing so much trouble in the world, atheists will quit getting angry about religion."

To clarify further, I definitely don't think religious people are usually harmful. Most people are on the whole good, regardless of what religion they practice. Society wouldn't have survived if they weren't. But many otherwise good people do bad things because of religious influences, like continuing to fight against marriage equality, or murdering doctors who perform abortions. To quote Steven Weinberg, "Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

Updated 2015-09-23: Added section & figures on correlation between religion & societal health. Added parenthetical note about many Commandments not being rules specific to Judaism or Christianity.

Updated 2015-09-24: Added footnote clarifying difference between religion and religious people.

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Response to Mike Huckabee's Misrepresentations of Planned Parenthood

Mike HuckabeeI recently received an e-mail forward that was originally put out by Mike Huckabee's campaign. It appears to be the same article as is on his website, Defunding Planned Parenthood is not enough, and given that it came from Huckabee, I'm sure you can guess that it had some pretty scathing things to say about the organization. Now, I've never followed Huckabee particularly closely before. The issues I had heard him talk about were enough to let me know that I didn't agree with him on those issues (like his shameful behavior around the Kim Davis affair), so I didn't feel compelled to look into his stances further. But while I already knew I wouldn't agree with his political views, I wasn't expecting the level of dishonesty I found in this e-mail forward.

The article was one long screed against Planned Parenthood, calling out the organization for actually performing abortions, while at the same time presenting facts in a very misleading manner to misrepresent the organization and to make it seem as if tax money is funding abortions. Here are two examples, which I'll come back to:

Over the past decade, Washington politicians have pumped more than $4 billion into Planned Parenthood. It's abhorrent and insane that Washington forcibly confiscate money from our paychecks only to bankroll Planned Parenthood's repulsive, revolting butchers.

Congress neglects our veterans' hospitals, abandons our borders, and bankrupts our children, but somehow finds plenty of money for the abortion industry. Talk about priorities! How many harvested organs will it take before this madness ends? The facts are staggering.

Planned Parenthood performs 327,000 abortions per year, approximately one every 96 seconds. Government grants, funds, and reimbursements account for 41% of Planned Parenthood's income. In total, they earn $1.3 billion in annual revenue.

Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton call Planned Parenthood a "healthcare provider," but the facts tell an appallingly different story. They invest virtually nothing on adoption and pennies on prenatal care. In fact, of every dollar they spend on services for pregnant women, 94 cents go to abortion. It's clear that Planned Parenthood isn't a "healthcare provider" any more than a heroin dealer is a community pharmacist.

A quick reading of those passages and the rest of the e-mail certainly makes it seem like Planned Parenthood spends the bulk of their money on providing abortions, and that the federal government is providing much of this money through our tax dollars. But that's not the case at all.

Here's an article from the Washington Post, How Planned Parenthood actually uses its federal funding. By law since 1976, Planned Parenthood can't use any federal funding for abortion services. The money they get for that comes from private donors and organizations. Below is a graph from that article showing a breakdown of how Planned Parenthood spends their total budget from all revenue sources (closely matching a similar breakdown verified by FactCheck.org in 2011). Note that only 3% of their funding goes to abortion services, while the rest goes to other forms of healthcare.

Planned Parenthood Spending

As far as the recent videos that have prompted much of this recent move to defund Planned Parenthood, here's an op-ed from the New York Times, The Campaign of Deception Against Planned Parenthood. The videos were heavily edited to make it look like Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue for a profit, when they were in fact following the law that "facilities may be reimbursed for costs associated with fetal tissue donation, like transportation and storage."

On a related note, if you watched the debate on Wednesday night, you may have heard Carly Fiorina's claim about a graphic scene from those videos that supposedly took place within a Planned Parenthood clinic. This is also untrue. Even giving Fiorina the benefit of the doubt as to having seen such a scene, the most likely source is a separate documentary, where that footage wasn't shot in a Planned Parenthood clinic, and where the events weren't exactly as Fiorina remembered. Even if she wasn't intentionally lying, what she said still wasn't the truth. This is all detailed in a Vox article, Carly Fiorina is wrong about the Planned Parenthood tapes. I know because I watched them.

So, let's go back to those passages I quoted above. Let's take another look at that first one. Recalling the facts of Planned Parenthood's funding and budget that I explained above, pay close attention to Huckabee's wording.

Over the past decade, Washington politicians have pumped more than $4 billion into Planned Parenthood. It's abhorrent and insane that Washington forcibly confiscate money from our paychecks only to bankroll Planned Parenthood's repulsive, revolting butchers.

Congress neglects our veterans' hospitals, abandons our borders, and bankrupts our children, but somehow finds plenty of money for the abortion industry. Talk about priorities! How many harvested organs will it take before this madness ends? The facts are staggering.

Planned Parenthood performs 327,000 abortions per year, approximately one every 96 seconds. Government grants, funds, and reimbursements account for 41% of Planned Parenthood's income. In total, they earn $1.3 billion in annual revenue.

The way each of those paragraphs discusses federal funding in one breath and then abortion in the next certainly implies that much of that government funding is going to abortions, and I think Huckabee intentionally created that association in the reader's mind. But as I pointed out above, no federal funding goes to abortions. So, even though Huckabee may not have lied per se by explicitly stating that the government funds abortions, this method was still dishonest.

Now, let's take another look at the second excerpt.

Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton call Planned Parenthood a "healthcare provider," but the facts tell an appallingly different story. They invest virtually nothing on adoption and pennies on prenatal care. In fact, of every dollar they spend on services for pregnant women, 94 cents go to abortion. It's clear that Planned Parenthood isn't a "healthcare provider" any more than a heroin dealer is a community pharmacist.

Again, notice Huckabee's careful parsing of words. He didn't say that Planned Parenthood spends 94% of their total budget on abortion, but that's what a person might get from a quick reading of this paragraph. And he completely omitted how much of their budget goes to other healthcare services that aren't necessarily for "pregnant women".

So, going through sentence by sentence, you may not be able to find a 'lie' from Huckabee, but the overall impression the article gives is certainly different from reality, which is dishonest.

I guess part of what gets me about this is the right wing's constant mantra of 'morality' and 'family values'. Now, I knew that was all just a bunch of rhetoric to begin with, and I really strongly disagree with a lot of their supposed morality, anyway, but it really does highlight the bankruptcy of their position when they have to resort to this type of dishonesty to try to further their agenda.

---

I've written a few times about abortion already on this site. Not only do I disagree with Huckabee's dishonest methods, but I also think abortion can be justified and that it should remain legal and available, particularly in the first trimester, but also for legitimate reasons later in the pregnancy. If you to want read my views, they're available through the links below:

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Friday, September 18, 2015

Ben Carson - On the Issues, Part III - Balanced Budget Amendment

Ben CarsonThis entry is part of a series looking at Ben Carson's stance on political issues. For this series, I'm mostly looking at the issues identified on Carson's own website in the section, Ben on the Issues. I figured that was a good way to pick the issues he himself found most important to discuss, without anyone being able to accuse me of cherry-picking Carson's worst stances. An index of all the issues can be found on the first post in the series, Ben Carson - On the Issues, Part I.

This entry addresses Carson's stance on a Balanced Budget Amendment. Here's the gist of Carson's argument in his own words.

In January 2009, our public debt was $11.9 trillion. Now, it's more than $18 trillion. Interest payments on the debt now total about $250 billion, the 3rd single biggest item in the federal budget.

We must ratify a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution in order to restore fiscal responsibility to the federal government's budget.

This point is partly pointing out a legitimate problem, partly presenting the stats in a misleading way, and then presenting a 'solution' that's not a good solution at all.

First, I'm going to steal some graphs I used in a previous post, How Big Is the National Debt? (which were themselves taken from US Government Revenue.com). Here are graphs of the U.S. debt and deficit by year as a fraction of GDP.

Federal Debt History as a Percentage of GDP
Federal Deficit History as a Percentage of GDP

Yes, the debt is high and needs to be addressed. On that, I agree with Carson. Still, the current deficit is not unprecedented, unless you naively look at absolute numbers instead of fraction of GDP. In fact, the current debt is less than the debt during WWII. Also, note how much the deficit increased temporarily right around 2009 - the time frame Carson picked out for his example of how much the debt has grown. That was right in the midst of the worst of the Great Recession, when tax revenues were at their lowest and stimulus spending was at the highest. Of course that type of deficit spending is going to push up the debt, but it's exactly what needs to be done in a recession. Imagine how much worse the recession would have been if it wasn't for that deficit spending.

In fact, that brings me to the point of why Carson's proposed solution is a bad one. Almost everyone agrees that budgets need to be balanced in the long term, but there are times, particularly in economic downturns, when the government needs the freedom to do deficit spending to invest in the economy. Paul Krugman has a fairly recent article in the Guardian, The case for cuts was a lie. Why does Britain still believe it? The austerity delusion, discussing this issue of stimulus spending vs. austerity. I recommend reading the whole thing if you have time, but there's one particularly informative graph, showing the economic growth from 2009-2013 of various countries plotted vs. the austerity of those countries. You'll note that harsher austerity correlates with worse economic growth, with the worst austerity actually causing the economy to shrink.

Economic Growth vs. Austerity

Short term stimulus spending during an economic downturn is good for the economy in the long run, and the reason why Congress shouldn't be forced to balance the budget every year. Of course, that doesn't mean Congress shouldn't balance the budget when the economy is doing well, but it needs the freedom to easily practice deficit spending when it's called for.

More Info:


On to Part IV, Faith in Society


Image Source for Ben Carson: Christian Post, Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ben Carson - On the Issues, Part II - Second Amendment

Ben CarsonThis entry is part of a series looking at Ben Carson's stance on political issues. For this series, I'm mostly looking at the issues identified on Carson's own website in the section, Ben on the Issues. I figured that was a good way to pick the issues he himself found most important to discuss, without anyone being able to accuse me of cherry-picking Carson's worst stances. An index of all the issues can be found on the first post in the series, Ben Carson - On the Issues, Part I.

This entry addresses Carson's stance on the Second Amendment. Here's part of what he wrote on his website.

The right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms is fundamental to our liberty.

It was no accident that our Founding Fathers enshrined the right to own firearms as the 2nd element of the Bill of Rights, immediately after establishing our free speech rights. I cannot and will not support any efforts to weaken The 2nd Amendment.

The 2nd Amendment is a central pillar of our Constitution. Our Founding Fathers added it explicitly in order to protect freedom in the United States of America. It provides our citizens the right to protect themselves from threats foreign or domestic.

I don't agree with Carson's interpretation of the Second Amendment or the Founders' intentions behind it. There's an article I've quoted before, written by former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment, where he explains how for most of the history of the country, the amendment was interpreted differently than the individual right it has recently become. Here's a good excerpt explaining this.

For more than 200 years following the adoption of that amendment, federal judges uniformly understood that the right protected by that text was limited in two ways: First, it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, and second, while it limited the power of the federal government, it did not impose any limit whatsoever on the power of states or local governments to regulate the ownership or use of firearms. Thus, in United States v. Miller, decided in 1939, the court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that sort of weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a "well regulated Militia."

Stevens went on to suggest that the 2nd Amendment should be amended to read, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed." This would clarify what seemed to be the Founders' original intent.

I recognize that once the Supreme Court reinterpreted the Second Amendment to be an individual right in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago (damn activist judges </sarcasm>), that makes it the law of the land. And I do believe that guns serve useful purposes and should remain legal*. But I would like to see far more regulation over guns than currently exists. Personally, I think everyone that wants a gun should be required to earn a license, similar to the existing requirements for concealed carry permits, including a background check at the time the license is issued, with an agency monitoring criminal records to make sure that the license remains valid. If people can be required to have photo IDs to vote, the most fundamental right in a representative democracy, a permit for a gun doesn't seem like a big deal. These are useful, but deadly instruments, and a little mandatory training shouldn't be too much to ask.

I've actually written a bit more on gun control that I'm not going to repeat here, but that can be found in the following entries, which among other topics cover how effective guns are for people to "protect themselves from threats foreign or domestic" (short answer: not very effective):


On to Part III - Balanced Budget Amendment


Image Source for Ben Carson: Christian Post, Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst


*Obviously, there's no danger of guns becoming completely illegal anytime soon. It would take a Constitutional Amendment, and one affecting the Bill of Rights, no less, which is unrealistic. Even Barack Obama, who's a proponent of stricter gun control, signed into law a bill allowing loaded guns to be taken into national parks (more info: NBC News).

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ben Carson - On the Issues, Part I

Ben CarsonIt was only back in March when I said I was done writing about Ben Carson. It didn't take me long to break that promise and write about him again in April, figuring that that would be it for a while. But I never guessed that Ben Carson would be polling as high as he is at this point and be a serious contender for the Republican nomination. According to a recent NBC News article, Ben Carson Could Eclipse Donald Trump at the Front of the GOP Pack, Carson is polling second among Republican candidates right now, and could potentially take the lead. Now, it's still early in the race, and a lot will happen before the GOP picks their candidate, so I'm taking these current polls with a grain of salt. Also, with as bad as some of the Republican candidates are, Carson's not the worst option on the right. Still, I disagree with Carson on so many topics that I just can't get behind him.

For this series, I've decided to go to Carson's own website, specifically the section, Ben on the Issues, and take a look at what he himself (or at least his website team) has to say. In places where his website is light on details, I've pulled in other sources. But note that I've addressed all the issues Carson felt strongly enough about to include on his site, so this certainly isn't a case of cherry-picking him at his worst. There were also two very big issues that he didn't address at all on the site, so I've also covered those using other sources.

To summarize this whole series up front, I disagree with Carson on just about every issue identified on his website, and in the two additional issues I addressed here. Granted, sometimes I did agree on the nature of a problem, but not with his proposed solutions, which in some cases would only make matters worse.

Because my responses to some issues are long enough to merit their own blog entries, I'm breaking this up into multiple posts. Today's entry is still a little long, but none of these individual issues were long enough or substantive enough to stand alone. Below is an index of all the issues covered in this series, indicating which ones are in this entry, and which ones are/will be posted in follow up entries (with links to be added as the entries are posted). You can click on any of the links to jump to that issue. The two issues marked with asterisks were the ones not addressed on his website.

In This Entry:

Follow Up Entries:


Abortion

Here's Carson's intro to this section, which I think sums up his position rather succinctly:

I am unabashedly and entirely pro-life. Human life begins at conception and innocent life must be protected.

I've discussed this on this site before, in the entry, Abortion, where you can read my opinion in much more detail, but I'll still say a bit here.

There are many liberals who see this issue differently from me, but I do think it comes down to balancing the rights of the developing human in utero with those of the fully human mother. But just because a clump of cells happens to have the right genetics and is alive doesn't make it a human being with rights. In fact, it's cheapening the value of all humanity to claim that a bunch of cells with no differentiation is fully human. A human being is much more than just genetics and metabolism. A person has a mind, an emotional life, feelings, thoughts. A newly fertilized egg has none of that, and even throughout most of its development as an embryo in the first trimester, it doesn't have a functioning brain and so doesn't have even the glimmer of what makes a human a human. I see absolutely no reason to privilege those cells over the rights of the mother supporting them.

As the embryo develops into a fetus and the brain begins to function, thoughts and feelings do begin to occur, so the rights of the fetus should begin to be considered. But it's still a gradual process, so the mother should certainly take precedence over the fetus in any discussion comparing the rights of the two, especially in those early stages (or more than two for multiple pregnancies). And there are many circumstances, such as genetic conditions like dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (to pull an example from my other entry), that would result in severe suffering for the person that would develop from that fetus, that are legitimate reasons to perform abortions later than the first trimester, and even 'partial birth abortions' that the forced birth crowd try to demonize.

For a liberal who doesn't see this the exact same way as me and thinks it's entirely a bodily autonomy issue, here are two entries putting his arguments in verse.


Education

In recent years, there has been a troubling trend of the U.S. Department of Education increasingly trying to dictate how children are educated in our primary and secondary schools. This must stop and Common Core must be overturned.

Our education system must be run by involved parents and engaged teachers and principals. Any attempt by faceless federal bureaucrats to take over our local schools must be defeated.

Now, I can sort of understand this from a states' rights issue, for the people who interpret the Constitution narrowly and don't like the Commerce Clause justification for the Department of Education. But just imagine we were to re-write the Constitution in this day and age. Is there any reason why the federal government shouldn't be involved in education? Americans move around a lot. The Census bureau even keeps track of it as domestic migration. It's kind of nice to be able to move from one school district to another, even across state lines, and know that your child can transfer relatively seamlessly academically. Or that your child can apply to any university in the U.S. they want, with the university having confidence in the education your child received. The only practical way to do this is with nationwide standards. Sure, there should be room for local school districts and individual teachers to adjust their teaching methods to their students, but a nation wide Common Core set by the Department of Education makes a lot of sense.

I've written quite a bit about the state Board of Education here in Texas and all the shenanigans and controversy they've been associated with, which is probably a big part of the reason why I'm not particularly sympathetic to the argument that only state and local governments should have control over education with no oversight from the federal government. It allows idealogues to abuse their positions and damage our children's education. For a listing of nearly all the times I've written about education down here in Texas, go to the very end of the entry, Midterm Election 2014 - Fix the Texas Board of Education.

This is also related to another entry I've written, A Critical Examination of Ben Carson, Part 9 - Shoddy Scholarship, debunking Carson's claim of a dumbing down of modern day American education compared to a century ago.


Gitmo

Radical terrorists captured in countries all over the world must be detained safely while awaiting trial by military commission. Gitmo is, by far, the single best facility for this dangerous job.

Keeping Gitmo open is a critical element in our never-ending efforts to keep the American people safe from another cataclysmic terrorist attack.

The War on Terror is not a war in a conventional sense. There's no enemy government with whom we'll eventually sign a treaty to end hostilities, exchanging prisoners of war when it's all over. It is more a war on organized crime. But the groups are only loosely affiliated, and will go on fighting no matter how many leaders we kill. There's no end in sight to this 'war'. So, while there's justification for holding enemies prisoner without a trial during a conventional war, what justification is there in the War on Terror? Without a trial, how can we be certain they really are enemies, and not just people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or someone who looked the wrong way at a soldier having a bad day? How do we know we're not incarcerating innocent people? And how can we justify imprisoning innocent people indefinitely? Granted, Carson did say these people should be tried by military commission (though he's calling them all radical terrorists without any benefit of the doubt of innocent until proven guilty), but the history of Guantanamo is a stain on our nation's reputation.

This is related to Carson's most shameful position - his support of torture, which I discussed at length in the entry, A Critical Examination of Ben Carson, Part 8 - Torture. I won't summarize that entry here, other than to repeat how disgusting it is that Carson supports this type of depravity that goes against so much of what America stands for.


Healthcare

We need to re-establish a strong and direct relationship between patients and their physicians. For instance, I strongly support Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) which empower families to make their own decisions about their medical treatment. HSAs will also drive down health care costs while protecting patient choice and freedom.

Yes, the Affordable Care Act needs fixes to get it working right, but at least it's a start at universal health care. Carson's Health Savings Account proposal seems naïve. Here are the responses from a few health care experts quoted by Media Matters in the article, Health Care Experts Rip Ben Carson's "Near Worthless" Health Care Plan.

"For a person who has serious health problems or for a person who has a low income, a $2,000 health care savings account is worthless, or near worthless" said Timothy Jost, professor of law at Washington and Lee University who specializes in health care regulation and law. "It would not either allow them to buy health insurance or allow them to afford health care or anything other than very routine primary care and some medications."

And another:

"It's not really insurance," he [Jonathan Gruber, a health economics expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology] added. "It is leaving you self-insured for any risk above $2,000. The typical heart attack in the U.S. can cost about $100,000. This is typical of the poverty of ideas on the right on health care right now."

And one more:

Calling herself a "lukewarm fan" of the Affordable Care Act, [Carolyn] Engelhard [assistant professor of public health sciences and director of the Health Policy Program at the University of Virginia] added that "people who choose HSA's are healthier and have more money to put in their HSA's." But, she added, if you make $8 per hour "you don't have enough to pay your bills, let alone put extra money into an HSA. Just giving people an HSA and telling them to be smarter about spending is an overly-simplistic method. It won't work well."

I have a related entry, A Critical Examination of Ben Carson, Part 3 - Healthcare & Romanticizing the Past, as well as another previous entry on Universal Health Care.


Russia

President Putin must come to learn that there will be grave and serious consequences when Russia engages in naked aggression against other sovereign nations and free peoples. All options should remain on the table when dealing with international bullies such as President Putin.

I suppose that interpreted generously, that's fair enough. All options should remain open. However, it certainly does seem to be implying that perhaps the U.S. should have responded with military action against Russia. And if it really comes to it, that may be the only course of action left, but its a very, very drastic action. We went decades during the Cold War never directly fighting against the Soviet Union. I don't think we should be in too much of a hurry to get into a fight with Russia.


Israel

The United States of America has had a special relationship with Israel ever since we were the very first nation to recognize her creation. The depth of our unique bond with Israel has only strengthened over the years.

Not much to say on this. Israel is an ally of the U.S., and should be treated like other allies. The relationship is currently strained a bit, and the reasons for that should be dealt with diplomatically.


Climate Change

This topic wasn't covered on Carson's site, but it's one of the most important issues facing the world today, so I felt it was worth including in this discussion. In fact, the very omission of this topic on Carson's site is telling - how can you ignore something this important?

While I have much to say on this issue, I've actually already covered it in pretty good detail in a previous entry on Carson, A Critical Examination of Ben Carson, Part 5 - Global Warming. Basically, Carson doesn't accept the science on global warming. In a 2104 Bloomberg article he was quoted as saying, "You can ask it several different ways, but my answer is going to be the same. We may be warming. We may be cooling." In a separate op-ed, he wrote, "to use climate change as an excuse not to develop our God-given resources makes little sense", which seems to be implying that we should continue using fossil fuels at current rates. Statements like these are awful. The first reveals either a complete ignorance of science, or a willingness to put ideology ahead of facts, neither of which are acceptable for a president (his stance on evolution reveals a similar denial of science). The second statement is just a completely irresponsible course of action given the reality of climate change.

I've written several other entries on climate change:

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That's it for today's entry. Stay tuned for coming entries dealing with more of Carson's stances on issues.

On to Part II - Second Amendment


Image Source for Ben Carson: Christian Post, Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Updated 2015-09-21: Slightly reworded a few sections to read better and added a few more links.

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