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Gov. George Allen Signed Contraceptive Coverage Into Law; No Exemptions for Religious Institutions

by: lowkell

Wed Feb 08, 2012 at 08:46:08 AM EST


As always, we love to point out rank Republican't hypocrisy. In this case, it's their issue du jour, that President Obama is somehow "hostile" to (or even "declared war on") religion because his administration has stated that contraceptives should be covered under the health care law, with exemptions for churches but not for church-affiliated hospitals, universities, etc. Well, as it turns out, this "war on religion" also is taking place in notoriously liberal Georgia, as well as under Romneycare in Massachusetts. But not here in religion-respecting Virginia, right?

Uh oh.

Accident and sickness insurance; denial of benefits for prescription contraceptives prohibited. Requires any (i) individual or group accident and sickness insurance policies providing hospital, medical and surgical or major medical coverage on an expense incurred basis; (ii) corporation providing individual or group accident and sickness subscription contracts; and (iii) health maintenance organization providing a health care plan for health care services, whose policy, contract or plan, including any certificate or evidence of coverage issued in connection with such policy, contract or plan, includes coverage for prescription drugs on an outpatient basis, to provide in each such policy, contract, plan, certificate, and evidence of coverage that such benefits will not be denied for any drug approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for use as a contraceptive. Each such policy, contract, plan, certificate, and evidence of coverage must also include coverage for a variety of federal Food and Drug Administration approved prescription contraceptives. If the patient's physician determines that none of the methods designated by the policy, contract, plan, certificate, or evidence of coverage is medically appropriate for the patient, the plan must also provide coverage for another medically approved prescription contraceptive method prescribed by the patient's physician.

This new section will not require coverage for experimental contraceptive drugs not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration or coverage for prescription drugs in any contract, policy or plan that does not otherwise provide such coverage. These provisions will not apply to short-term travel, or accident-only policies, or to short-term nonrenewable policies of not more than six months' duration.

This provision would apply to individual or group accident and sickness insurance policies, contracts, plans, certificates, and evidences of coverage providing outpatient prescription drugs, pursuant to ยงยง 38.2-4214 and 38.2-4319, on and after July 1, 1996.

Note that there are no exemptions - none, nada, zilch - for religious institutions of any kind mentioned in this Virginia law. Also note that this passed the State Senate 27-12 (Bill Bolling voted "nay," while several Republicans voted "yea"), passed the House of Delegates 86-12 ("Nay" votes cast by Eric Cantor, Morgan Griffith, Bob Marshall and...Bob McDonnell), and was signed into law by (drum roll please) Governor George "Felix" Allen!

So, what's with George Allen's "war on religion" (snark) anyway, especially given that Allen went contrary to conservatives like Eric Cantor, Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling and Bob Marshall on this one? Perhaps this is something that Bob Marshall might want to ask him when they debate? Should be fun. :)

P.S. Allen also signed into law a health provision covering state employees which says, "The plan shall include coverage for prescription drugs and devices approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for use as contraceptives."

UPDATE: Hahahahaha; Allen recently said, "my view is that this unprecedented mandate by the Obama administration is an abhorrent overreach that violates the very liberty and religious freedom that our country was founded on." Look in the mirror, dude! Allen also called the Obama administration's action "unprecedented;" in fact, it had numerous precedents, including Romneycare, Georgia, and...Virginia under Gov. George Allen. Ha.

lowkell :: Gov. George Allen Signed Contraceptive Coverage Into Law; No Exemptions for Religious Institutions
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typical repubilcan (0.00 / 0)
"Do as I say, not as I do" attitude. And ol' Georgie is the biggest abuser and hypocrite of them all.

Turns out Willard's financially invested in birth control (0.00 / 0)
See here.

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[ Parent ]
This whole thing is a charade (0.00 / 0)
And the GOP knows it.  They don't mind taking women's health down to try to mis-portray the President as hostile to religion, a trumped up (false) allegation that is absurd, and laughable.

The only way the GOP radicals can win (if indeed they can at all) is to create more-of-the-same culture wars and make Americans look past all the outrageous positions in the hurt-the-poor-and-the-sick, end-Medicare, love-to-fire-people crowd of misanthropes running for president on the GOP side.  They think that if they fulminate enough maybe some of the slurs will stick and their base will continue to adore them.

This is real desperation and it shows how truly chauvinistic, stupid, and out of touch they are.  Most Catholics use artificial birth control and they don't want to lose theirs anymore than the rest of Americans do.  

But the amazing thing is that the GOP and right-wing media  are even going down this road. Barring (another) stolen election, these guys are toast.  

I have got to add here that you will note it is mostly a bunch of old white guys who are fulminating in the media about this. I will also add that most Catholics do not listen to the bishops anyway. So the GOP histrionics (once again) against women right to use birth control should not be taken seriously.  

Ditto Mark Shields who has just lost touch.  Retire him already.  His BS on this subject shows he has no credibility.  

Besides: The ruling doesn't even apply to churches, though the bishops and talking heads try to make Americans think that they do. They apply to any hospital or college taking federal funding.  And that is the prerogative of the White House and the Dept of Health and Human Services.  Period.  Shields ought to be ashamed of himself for helping stir this up into a bigger non-controversy. And as for the rest of the media fuming about this, well, the keep sinking to new lows, over and over.

There's nothing in the middle of the road except yellow stripes and dead armadillos (Jim Hightower). PS I'm on Twitter here.


I agree on the substance of this analysis (0.00 / 0)
but the fact is that the politics of it are awful. On some level, whether we like it or not, this intrudes on the religious beliefs of Catholics by requiring them to do something in institutions that they control that goes against their beliefs.

What's more, when we get down to specifics, the GOP is divided over the implementation of their anti-/limited government dogma, but issues like this tend to unify rather than drive a wedge through the GOP.

The situation cries out for some kind of exit strategy. I think the Obama administration will try to find a more elegant and sensitive solution that complies with legal requirements for providing insurance coverage, but also acknowledges in a more substantial way the religious concerns of the Catholic Church here, perhaps by designing a way for third parties to provide the coverage in question.

Whatever they do, it should be accompanied by an apology that they should have thought through better how the decision would affect religious institutions, and that the Administration will be more sensitive to these issues in the future. That is both the smart and the right thing to do, IMHO.


[ Parent ]
My Guess (0.00 / 0)
I hazard a guess that the very same bishops (perhaps even some who passed around pedophiles in order to keep a dirty secret) don't mind paying for Viagara for the male employees of universities and hospitals. Of course, the argument would be that birth control is different from male impotence.

If Catholics who work in the hospitals don't want birth  control, that's free choice. Forcing non-Catholic employees unable to afford to pay for birth control to adhere to the teachings of the church is an infringement on the religious freedom of non-Catholics.


[ Parent ]
Requiring religious-affiliated institutions to provide their employees (0.00 / 0)
this type of coverage appears to be pretty standard around the country. The right, as usual, is just making up an "issue" and trying to run with it. The problem, as Romney has discovered, is that they themselves are vulnerable to attack on the same issue (in Romney's case, Santorum has nailed him).

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[ Parent ]
As for the politics... (0.00 / 0)
...the vast majority of Catholic women use or have used contraception and support requiring health insurance plans to include contraceptive coverage.  

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[ Parent ]
The churches' argument boils down to this (0.00 / 0)
They really want 100% of the people working for them to be 100% catholic.  Their thinking is that if you don't like the health plan, don't go to work for the church.  That makes since if it's literal - you're working inside an actual church.  When it comes to hospitals and universities, it's a whole different kettle of fish, since it's extremely unlikely that 100% of employees will follow that particular religion.

Of course, there's the whole issue of why these archaic churches scream about birth control anyways.  It's so hypocritical you want to scream.

Personally, I don't see why churches should be allowed to discriminate any more than other private businesses - and churches really are private businesses - are allowed to when dealing with both customers and employees.  


[ Parent ]
Just to be clear (0.00 / 0)
As I understand it, the Catholic church is not saying their employees cannot use contraceptives -- only that they don't want to be forced by the government to subsidize it.

That actually seems pretty reasonable to me.

I have to believe there is a more sensitive way to ensure that women get they coverage the law requires, but that the religious beliefs of the Catholic-affiliated institutions are given significant consideration and deference.

And not just because a few right-wing lunatics are using it to their political advantage, but because the government should not be able to force a person or institution to do something so contrary to their religious beliefs, IMHO.  


[ Parent ]
I understand that (0.00 / 0)
but I don't think that is the issue that is being debated.

The issue is and will continue to be framed as one of religious freedom and government coercion.


[ Parent ]
"Continue to be framed"... (0.00 / 0)
...by the right wing.

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[ Parent ]
Keep in mind that this is the way it already works (0.00 / 0)
in most states. Also, it's important to note that churches ARE exempt under the new federal guidelines.  

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[ Parent ]
You cannot say that too often, Lowkell (0.00 / 0)
The media keeps glossing over the important point that this rule is not about churches but hospitals, colleges and other institutions serving the public.

There's nothing in the middle of the road except yellow stripes and dead armadillos (Jim Hightower). PS I'm on Twitter here.

[ Parent ]
Largest Catholic university in US provides "contraceptive benefit" (0.00 / 0)
Fascinating.
The largest Catholic university in the nation has admitted to providing contraception coverage as part of its health care benefit package, further undermining the GOP's claims that Obama's regulation requiring insurers and employers to offer reproductive health benefits represents and "unprecedented" war against religion. The rule - which exempts houses of worship and nonprofits that primarily employ and serve people of faith from providing contraception coverage - mirrors existing requirements in six states.


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[ Parent ]
True (0.00 / 0)
but that is the framing that appears to be winning out in the media.

The politics of this are not good for Obama. I hope they figure ut a way to get this one behind them, and return to better issues -- jobs, a growing economy, and the payroll tax cut.


[ Parent ]
It may be framed that way (unfortunately) (4.00 / 1)
but this issue is precisely attempted religious coercion of most Americans, even Catholics, who disagree with the Bishops.  The bishops are trying to get our government to help them enforce their provincialism on Americans.  I also think that if churches do not want to follow the law in their civil  institutions, then they should sell them and get out of those businesses.  

There's nothing in the middle of the road except yellow stripes and dead armadillos (Jim Hightower). PS I'm on Twitter here.

[ Parent ]
The framing (0.00 / 0)
It is important to remember that one reason why the wing-nut framing is winning out is that there is an element of truth to it.

Religious institutions are being asked to subsidize things that are contrary to their religious beliefs. That is a fact.

If the answer to that is women have a right to certain health care coverage under the law, I agree with you, but that is not addressing the issue -- it is simply talking past one another.

Obama has an opportunity here to both ensure women get the health care coverage to which they are entitled and show deference to religious freedom.

Why on Earth would he not take advantage of this opportunity?


[ Parent ]
Any evidence (0.00 / 0)
that "the wing-nut framing is winning out?" Also, let's just say that is the case, why would one assume that it was winning because its argument made any sense, when we've seen a gazillion times - on so many different issues - how wingnut framing on issues (e.g., government is bad, global warming science is controversial in some way, Obama "apologized" for America) can "win" even if it has little or (more frequently) no merit whatsoever.

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[ Parent ]
The evidence (0.00 / 0)
is just my impression from reading news coverage on a dozen or so websites, some conservative, some liberal and some non-partisan. But sure, one can see it differently.

Then you ask, "Why would one assume it was winning because it made any sense..."

Well, first of all, I didn't say that was "the" reason, only that it was "one reason."

But lots of elements, some substantive, some tactical, go into winning a message war.

All I'm saying is that the wing-nut framing this time, namely, that the government is forcing a religious organization to do something contrary to their religious beliefs, does have merit (contrary to the example you cite). That is precisely what the government is doing.


[ Parent ]
The right-wing blogs will of course have (0.00 / 0)
the most misleading and hyperpartisan takes on this. What does the polling actually say? See here:
A solid 56 percent majority of voters support the decision to require health plans to cover prescription birth control with no additional out-of-pocket fees, while only 37 percent are opposed. It's particularly noteworthy that pivotal independent voters support this benefit by a 55/36 margin; in fact, a majority of voters in every racial, age, and religious category that we track express support. In particular, a 53 percent majority of Catholic voters, who were oversampled as part of this poll, favor the benefit, including fully 62 percent of Catholics who identify themselves as independents. Here are the full numbers by party and religion.


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[ Parent ]
Video: White House slams Romney on his utter hypocrisy (0.00 / 0)


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[ Parent ]
Hi, aznew (4.00 / 1)
Nice to see you here.  Hope to see more of you on the blog. I would say, though, that the primary right would be the right of women to have the health care they need.  The purported "right" claimed by the enterprises (not the churches themselves) of churches turns things on their head. The claim suggests that they have a primary right to deny of us of our rights.  

But in some cities, for example, a Catholic hospital may be the main hospital serving many, many people who do not necessarily subscribe to the supposed "matter of faith and morals," but who deserve complete health care.

Forcing the general public to observe what not even most Catholics subscribe to is just plain wrong. I have known few Catholic women who buy this stuff, not even many older Catholics. I see this as a desperate grasping at control by the hierarchy of church MEN. They just keep belittling women and getting themselves and the media distracted from what is truly sacred about life, the already living breathing people of this world.

It is rather amazing how the church fathers, patriarchs all, keep this up. At some point they are going to have to fess up, and level that the only reason they deny birth control is the numbers game.  All else is subterfuge.

As Lowkell has observed, it (requiring the same institutions provide birth control under MittCare) was good enough for Mitt Romney, until it was recently deemed inconvenient, due to an attack by the 21st Century-challenged Santorum.  But back in the day of the one-term gov (who knew he couldn't win reelection), as I said earlier, there was less a culture war to fan. And trying to force this into a meme of the Presidents supposed, but non-existent, hostility to religion, would jump the shark 1,000 times.  

There's nothing in the middle of the road except yellow stripes and dead armadillos (Jim Hightower). PS I'm on Twitter here.


[ Parent ]
I will also add that if the administration caves, they (0.00 / 0)
would be selling out most women.

There's nothing in the middle of the road except yellow stripes and dead armadillos (Jim Hightower). PS I'm on Twitter here.

[ Parent ]
I am not suggesting they "cave" (0.00 / 0)
but I suspect you would find my solution a "cave."

I think the goal should be two things --

-- to provide women with the health care coverage; AND
-- to let Catholic institutions off the hook for doing so.

I would propose a reassessment of the rule that would exempt the Catholic institutions from providing the required coverage, but find some other way to get women employees of these businesses the coverage to which they are entitled without forcing Catholic institutions to do so.

It seems like a no-brainer to me. No one needs to be sold out.


[ Parent ]
It doesn't "seem like a no-brainer" (0.00 / 0)
to most people, because in fact this is yet another real-life situation that's extremely complex and most definitely NOT black and white.

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[ Parent ]
Well (0.00 / 0)
it looks like the White House may be getting it, after all...

http://2012.talkingpointsmemo....


[ Parent ]
Note this paragraph. (0.00 / 0)
Women's groups reacted by backing the White House, pushing out polls that showed a broad-based support - even among Catholics - for the White House plan. They said the plan was a political win for Obama, something that would solidify support with women and progressives.

And what does the polling say? See here:
A solid 56 percent majority of voters support the decision to require health plans to cover prescription birth control with no additional out-of-pocket fees, while only 37 percent are opposed. It's particularly noteworthy that pivotal independent voters support this benefit by a 55/36 margin; in fact, a majority of voters in every racial, age, and religious category that we track express support. In particular, a 53 percent majority of Catholic voters, who were oversampled as part of this poll, favor the benefit, including fully 62 percent of Catholics who identify themselves as independents. Here are the full numbers by party and religion.


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[ Parent ]
I'm a little skeptical of this polling (0.00 / 0)
I understand how most people would approve of the benefit, but I'm wary of 53% of Catholics supporting the government telling their institutions to do something contrary to the Church's teachings.

I'll be curious to see some additional polling on this question.


[ Parent ]
PPP is one of the best pollsters (0.00 / 0)
out there. I see no particular reason to be skeptical of this at all.

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[ Parent ]
Actually, you're right...PPP was actually understating support (0.00 / 0)
for the Obama administration's policy. See here:
According to a recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll conducted by Public Opinion and Survey Research Program, 66 percent of Americans agree with the federal government's recent decision to include birth control in its list of preventative services.

The Department of Health and Human services recently included contraception in a list of preventive care under the Affordable Care Act. Because of this decision, women will have their birth control covered by their insurance without co-payments.

The recent poll finds that "two-thirds of Americans (66%) say they support the recent decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to require health insurance plans to pay for the full cost of birth control and other preventive services for women under the new law, and 24 percent of the public oppose the decision."



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[ Parent ]
I believe it... (0.00 / 0)
I was born and raised Catholic - there are a lot of liberal Catholics out there and a lot of U.S. Catholics who completely disregard the church's teachings on birth control.

[ Parent ]
Caving to right-wing bullying is never (0.00 / 0)
a good thing. I hope that's not the case here, given that it's perfectly good policy AND perfectly good politics.

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[ Parent ]
How? (0.00 / 0)
How could the federal government do what you propose, "exempt the Catholic institutions from providing the required coverage, but find some other way to get women employees of these businesses the coverage to which they are entitled"?

Some one has to pay for coverage, whether it is broad or a narrow "birth control" insurance plan. If the government somehow paid for coverage for women working in Catholic hospitals, that would set up an unfair situation for non-Catholic health plans that do cover birth control.

Catholic hospitals still retain the right to deny coverage for tubal ligations, vasectomies, etc., those things that require hospital procedures.  


[ Parent ]
Well, there is the so-called Hawaii compromise (0.00 / 0)
where the institution doesn't provide the coverage, but tells the employee where they can obtain it. Then perhaps some subsidy is used to offset the cost.

Is that unfair to non-Catholic hospitals who pay for the coverage? I suppose it is, so perhaps there is some sort of subsidy or tax deduction/credit that addresses that.

There is a solution to be had, if the parties want to find it.

It seems to me that a work around to this specific issue is in the interests of:

- The Obama Administration;
- Women who need the coverage
- People who use the hospitals
- The Catholic Church

Continuing the fight mainly serves the interests of:

- Santorum, Romney and Gingrich
- GOP in Congress

both of which thrive on driving the country into cultural conflict.

Some cultural conflicts are avoidable, some are not. This one is.

We have enough to fight about -- why look for something that can be resolved.


[ Parent ]
But if... (0.00 / 0)
They tell their employees where to find the coverage aren't they also aiding and abetting the purchase of birth control?  Not the same as paying for it, but not far off either.

It seems to me that this could be resolved with a simple funding workaround.  No Catholic hospital or University is fully funded by church dollars, so rather than use church funds for birth control coverage, use unrestricted funds.


[ Parent ]
The main point is... (0.00 / 0)
that there is some workaround that can be achieved.

There are two interests here -- the health of women, and the rights of a religious group. Both are legitimate and important interests, and while they are somewhat in conflict, they are not mutually exclusive. There is an accommodation to be worked out here.

From what I understand, the Catholic Church is not trying to deny contraceptives to their employees. They are merely saying they don't want to provide it.



[ Parent ]
Major Mainstream Religious Leaders Support White House on Contraceptive Coverage (0.00 / 0)
See here.
February 8, 2012, Washington, DC - Today, twenty-three major mainstream religious leaders released a statement supporting the January 20, 2012 announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services that contraceptive services must be covered by most insurance policies without deductibles or co-pays, and that only purely sectarian organizations are exempt from this requirement.

Catholics for Choice; the Central Conference of American Rabbis; Concerned Clergy for Choice; Disciples Justice Action Network; Episcopal Divinity School; Episcopal Women's Caucus; Hadassah; the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation; Jewish Women International; Methodist Federation for Social Action; Muslims for Progressive Values; the National Council of Jewish Women; Planned Parenthood Clergy Advisory Board; the Rabbinical Assembly; the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; the Religious Institute; Society for Humanistic Judaism; The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; Union Theological Seminary; Unitarian Universalist Association; United Church of Christ; and Women's League for Conservative Judaism represent millions of religious leaders and people of faith across the country.

Together, the leaders of these Christian, Jewish and Muslim national organizations affirmed:

"We stand with President Obama and Secretary Sebelius in their decision to reaffirm the importance of contraceptive services as essential preventive care for women under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and to assure access under the law to American women, regardless of religious affiliation. We respect individuals' moral agency to make decisions about their sexuality and reproductive health without governmental interference or legal restrictions. We do not believe that specific religious doctrine belongs in health care reform - as we value our nation's commitment to church-state separation. We believe that women and men have the right to decide whether or not to apply the principles of their faith to family planning decisions, and to do so they must have access to services. The Administration was correct in requiring institutions that do not have purely sectarian goals to offer comprehensive preventive health care. Our leaders have the responsibility to safeguard individual religious liberty and to help improve the health of women, their children, and families. Hospitals and universities across the religious spectrum have an obligation to assure that individuals' conscience and decisions are respected and that their students and employees have access to this basic health care service.  We invite other religious leaders to speak out with us for universal coverage of contraception."

Signed,

Catholics for Choice, Jon O'Brien, President

Central Conference of American Rabbis, Rabbi Jonathan Stein, President

Concerned Clergy for Choice, Rabbi Dennis Ross, Director

Disciples Justice Action Network, Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston, Director

Episcopal Divinity School, The Very Reverend Dr. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, President

Episcopal Women's Caucus, Rev. Dr Elizabeth Kaeton, Convener

Hadassah, Marcie Natan, National President

Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, Robert Barkin, Interim Executive Vice President

Jewish Women International, Lori Weinstein, Executive Director

Methodist Federation for Social Action, Jill Warren, Executive Director

Muslims for Progressive Values, Ani Zonneveld, President

National Council of Jewish Women, Nancy Kaufman, CEO

Planned Parenthood Clergy Advisory Board, Rev. Jane Emma Newall, Chair

Rabbinical Assembly, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President

Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Rev. Steve Clapp, Chair

Religious Institute, Rev. Dr. Debra W. Haffner, Executive Director

Society for Humanistic Judaism, M. Bonnie Cousens, Executive Director

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO

Union Theological Seminary, Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, President

Unitarian Universalist Association, Rev. Peter Morales, President

United Church of Christ, Rev. Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President

Women's League for Conservative Judaism, Rita L. Wertlieb, President; Sarrae G. Crane, Executive Director



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The purpose of Blue Virginia is to cover Virginia politics from a progressive and Democratic perspective. This is a group blog and a community blog. We invite everyone to comment here, but please be aware that profanity, personal attacks, bigotry, insults, rudeness, frequent unsupported or off-point statements, "trolling" (NOTE: that includes outright lies, whether about climate science, or what other people said, or whatever), and "troll ratings abuse" (e.g., "troll" rating someone simply because you disagree with their argument) are not permitted and, if continued, will lead to banning. For more on trolling, see the Daily Kos FAQs. Also note that diaries may be deleted if they do not contain at least 2 solid paragraphs of original text; if not, please use the comments section of a relevant diary. For more on writing diaries, click here. Thanks, and enjoy!

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