Monday, October 8, 2012


Although today may seem like just another Monday for you and most other Americans, today is Columbus Day. It's still an official U.S. Federal holiday, even though the age-old idea that Columbus actually discovered America has long-since been thoroughly disproven.

The fact is, Columbus was an ambitious man who made the mistake of thinking he'd landed in India when he landed in the Americas. That fact, however, was one Columbus was never willing to accept - maybe because he wasn't starting from the same place in his thought processes, a concept known as 'first principles.'

One of our staff members has been doing a good bit of thinking about first principles lately, in light of two news stories: the pile of lies that Mitt Romney told at the first presidential debate that many in the media continue to mull over, and a new contraception study released over the weekend.

The debate over the debate is the story we're fairly sure you saw over the weekend, if you took in any serious media. As more and more journalists look back over the facts of the debate, many of our colleagues seem to be coming around to the position we originally took last Thursday - that no one who lied as much as Mitt Romney did could have possibly won the debate. Even former GOP rival Newt Gingrich admitted Romney wasn't honest during last week's debate.

As the contraception study and the story of Chris Columbus remind us however, many of us in the media may not be starting from the same first principles as Team Romney, or the extremists on the right.

The two-year contraception study released over the weekend basically gave women any kind of birth control they wanted for two of years at no cost. The study found that no matter what the women's background, education, religion, or economic level, abortions were reduced by 75%. The study comes just as millions of women will begin to get access to contraception without insurance co-pays, thanks to a part of Obamacare that we discussed in detail earlier this year.

In short, the study proves that all those on the extreme right who have been fighting for years against low or no-cost contraception, or for abstinence-only education, have in fact been responsible for INCREASING the rate of abortions, not protecting the sanctity of human life, which is their stated goal.

That's now a scientific fact that's not up for debate, unlike many of Mitt Romney's statements at last week's debate, which distorted and obfuscated undebatable facts.

That's where first principles come in.

Most educated people now think that Columbus was educated, but pridefully stupid - too proud to admit his factual error about landing in the Americas. In a similar manner, many people who see this contraception study may think the extreme conservative anti-abortion rights crowd will now see the error of their ways, and change their tactics.

Both groups are wrong, just as many of us in the media who have factually proven Mitt Romney didn't win last week's debate are also wrong.

If you're starting from the premise that debates should be about facts, you're not starting from the same premise as Team Romney. They wanted to win the battle against the first draft of history, which deals almost exclusively in appearance, not fact. As far as they're concerned, facts weren't important - only appearance.

Likewise, the extreme anti-abortion groups don't really care about preventing abortions, especially using methods like those outlined in the new contraception study. Sexuality, to them, is something to be feared, and the reproductive system is something to be controlled. That's their first principle.

As for Christopher Columbus? His first principle was to become wealthy, not to discover the route to India and East Asia. His principle, like the others, worked for a while, at first. But the Spanish crown eventually took his title, holdings and money.

In the end, facts matter. But often, not at first.

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