Writing intermittently on life, politics, and society

Archive for January, 2011

Clowns

Good to see the Republicans are focused on job creation and fixing the US economy…

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly:

Last week, after a rather pointless vote to repeal the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, House Republicans announced their second major initiative: the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.”

Nick Bauman at Mother Jones breaks down the misogyny:

For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.

With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to “forcible rape.” This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. (Smith’s spokesman did not respond to a call and an email requesting comment.)

Given that the bill also would forbid the use of tax benefits to pay for abortions, that 13-year-old’s parents wouldn’t be allowed to use money from a tax-exempt health savings account (HSA) to pay for the procedure. They also wouldn’t be able to deduct the cost of the abortion or the cost of any insurance that paid for it as a medical expense.

Other types of rapes that would no longer be covered by the exemption include rapes in which the woman was drugged or given excessive amounts of alcohol, rapes of women with limited mental capacity, and many date rapes.

No doubt that the failure of this bill to pass the senate will be demagogued to the max in the districts of its proponents. Keeping the base riled up and the campaign funds coming in. I would love to be able to write that Smith and the co-sponsors of this bill have beaten their careers with an iron rod; but alas.

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At least we have a royal wedding to look forward to

So the Chancellor wanted to take credit for improved growth predictions last November, but now it has been revealed that the British economy shrunk by 0.5% in the last quarter of 2010 (zero growth if you account for the weather) he’s changed his tune:

These are obviously disappointing numbers, but the ONS has made it very clear that the fall in GDP was driven by the terrible weather in December.

I think Osborne mentions the weather about 15 times during his interview with the BBC. However, highlighting the fact that the UK was brass monkeys completely elides the reaction of the private sector to public sector cuts and anticipated tax increases. I find it interesting that the Chancellor still appears confident that the private sector will pick up the slack as public sector cuts continue apace.


Our overlords to be

I caught this interview with Chinese students of international politics on Channel 4 News last night that I thought was worth sharing, especially with my American friends who tend to be fed a steady diet of “the Chinese are coming to get you!” by their media and politicians.

I have issues with some of their arguments but I thought one student, Zhao Liang, had a decent analysis highlighting the difference between the perception and reality of China’s rise, it starts at around 4:00, here’s what she said:

Power is the ability to coerce or influence others. But what we see right now is only capacity but no power. Because although China is economically now the second in gross GDP, the Chinese government is facing so many problems domestically. When others see China they see: Oh, 8% (growth) per year. But when the Chinese see itself they see unemployment, they see inflation, they see the rising cost of households.

A good friend of mine has a post up on her site about what American Exceptionalism means to her. I noticed in the comments one person who was particularly concerned with US decline, claiming that the US is “fast becoming just another of the many”. It’s a sentiment I’ve encountered quite a bit. In spite of the fact that the vast majority of ordinary Americans still have standards of living that are the envy of the vast majority of the rest of the world.

The US is in a bad place right now. The fragility, and the real pain people are experiencing as a result of the economic crisis, have shaken many American’s confidence in their country. And stories about the growth of Brazil, India, and especially China, lacking nuance and complexity, only fuel the anger and anxiety.


Alan Johnson resigns…

And Ed Balls gets a job he intensely desired.

This could get really interesting. The Tories will be hoping the appointment of Balls – a Brown ally – as Shadow Chancellor will prevent Labour from getting past the Brownite Vs. Blairite era, and tether the party to Gordon Brown in the minds of voters.

Furthermore, they probably hope that it will reopen old wounds that will disrupt effective leadership. Balls was passed over for the job the first time precisely because of his links with the much-maligned Gordon Brown, his clashes with Ed Miliband over the pace of deficit reduction, and because he wanted (wants?) to be Ed numero uno in the Labour Party.


A specific problem

Recently, Jack Straw made some comments about white girls being seen as “easy meat” by Pakistani rapists that made me feel some kind of way.

My thoughts are still rather raw, so forgive the incoherent structure.

It seems to me that Straw has tried to give structural explanations for the choices made by the kind of gangs he describes – which is better than a lot of punditry involving race and culture. Still I’m left wondering if the failings of society at large aren’t being projected onto a minority community based on the actions of a tiny criminal element in that community.

If, as straw says, young Asian men are like any others, why are the cultural differences the most salient explanation? Why not urge a conversation about how women are viewed in British society as a whole?


Lib Dems, long game?

Caught this article by John Harris in The Guardian on the Liberal Democrats. I agree with his view that in the short term at least the outlook for the party is looking pretty grim:

The fleeting burst of Cleggmania during the general election campaign now looks like something from another age. Today, an opinion poll put support for the Lib Dems at just 7%. In a survey released just before Christmas, Mori found that in some regions of the UK, it was as low as 4%. To hear some people talk, the party’s broken promise on tuition feeswill haunt them just as much as Iraq haunted Labour, and there will be no decisive recovery for years.

And now they face what could be a very grim 2011. In May, there will be elections for local councils, as well as the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly – and the most positive prediction you can extract from senior Lib Dems is that things will be “difficult”. The referendum on changing our voting system has hardly fired the public’s imagination, and is widely predicted to be lost – which will lead plenty of Lib Dems to wonder what the point of partnership with the Tories actually is. Meanwhile, as the cuts finally bite, senior Lib Dems worry that their support could well plunge even lower, and the message to their activists boils down to that most hackneyed of instructions: keep calm, and carry on.

“Five months into a five year project”. Very well. Let’s see how they do.


Not with maps of swing districts

Sarah Palin releases a video to remind us that she too has been victimised by the senseless act of violence in Tucson… Because she is now under criticism.

Journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that only serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

I actually happen to think that anyone attempting to establish a direct causal link between Palin’s words and Loughner’s actions is over-egging the custard at best. But goodness me! A Jewish woman is lying in an ICU with a gunshot wound to the head, and Palin is making this about her and her enemies; accusing her critics of blood libel.

This strikes me as completely tone-deaf, and a very inapt charge. The criticism she’s under really cannot be compared to the murderous slander Bible-waving bigots and maniacs have committed against Jewish people.

Another thing that gets my goat is that after news broke of the tragedy Palin’s people got to work scrubbing her Facebook and Twitter pages of the now infamous map of swing districts with cross-hairs over them. If she truly believes that her rhetoric was beyond reproach, then I would have liked to have seen her stand by her rhetoric and explain how it has contributed to meaningful political debate.

Instead, one of her spokespeople was caught in a lie claiming that they were surveyors’ symbols. An understanding not shared by Palin:

If you gave her an enema, she’d fit into a matchbox.