Writing intermittently on life, politics, and society

Posts tagged “Gallows Humour

While we’re drawing parallels

As I’m too busy (read: lazy) to do much posting, and I love a bit of snark, I thought to share a post from commenter El Cid over at Balloon Juice on the latest news from Winconsin. Parallels between Scott Walker and authoritarians like the recently ousted Hosni Mubarak are not new, but I think El Cid provides us the opportunity to make a particularly good one, that is sure to curl the lips of you dirty effing blame-america-first hippies:

That Hugo Chavez sure is an evil authoritarian for getting the parliament to give him emergency decree powers.

He’s a terrible enemy of democracy, and the US needs to keep funneling money to fund the opposition to make sure this awful authoritarianism doesn’t spread to other countries in the hemisphere.

He was given this power by his lockstep ruling bloc of the national assembly, who act simply as his toadies so that Chavez can carry out his radical goals unfettered. And now he will have 18 months to lock in whatever laws he and his preferred legislature want so as to keep the next legislature from undoing these fait accompli.

Chavez used the pathetic excuse of massive floods displacing almost 150,000 people to ram through acts such as providing housing to flood victims. As a dangerous precedent, before even getting his new powers, he used the excuse of the most severe drought in a century to forcibly regulate hydro-electric power generation and use.

Critics say that next will come measures designed to disempower and gut the opposition in the legislature, whose numbers don’t make a majority but are a rivaling minority. After all, Chavez cynically pushed this through before the next assembly session, when the minority opposition will have up to 40% of seats.

The assembly passed sections allowing the Supreme Court to review the decrees and the citizens to revoke any decree via referendum if 5% of voters petition it.

In this country we would simply never accept such authoritarian measures used to push through executive acts in a rushed manner so as to disempower the minority opposition to oppose them.

Here, in a country which appreciates the principles of democracy, our leaders would never use the mere majority of the legislature to ram through laws giving the executive vast powers or to weaken opposition forces throughout a state or nation. No one would even think it possible for one of our leaders tocompletely ignore the objections of a minority holding up to 4 out of every 10 seats.

Our politicians would wisely reserve the use of emergency powers for responses to minor budget deficit issues, and would apply them to such common-sense purposes as removing rights to collective bargaining, or to remove elected officials by executive order, or to immediately award profitable taxpayer-funded contracts to hand-chosen private interests without a fair and open bidding process.

America needs to act, and act quickly, before Chavez’ manipulative authoritarianism can spread to any other nation with leaders hungry to grab such concentrated power.


The chutzpah

Que bola! I had to laugh:

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, praised the role of social networks such as Twitter in promoting freedom – at the same time as the US government was in court seeking to invade the privacy of Twitter users.

Lawyers for civil rights organisations appeared before a judge in Alexandria, Virginia, battling against a US government order to disclose the details of private Twitter accounts in the WikiLeaks row, including that of the Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir, below.

The move against Twitter has turned into a constitutional clash over the protection of individual rights to privacy in the digital age.

Clinton, in a speech in Washington, cited the positive role that Twitter, Facebook and other social networks played in uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. In a stirring defence of the internet, she spoke of the “freedom to connect”.

The irony of the Clinton speech coming on the day of the court case was not lost on the constitutional lawyers battling against the government in Alexandria. The lawyers also cited the Tunisian and Egyptian examples. Aden Fine, who represents the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the leading civil rights groups in the country, said: “It is very alarming that the government is trying to get this information about individuals’ communications. But, also, above all, they should not be able to do this in secret.”

The court case, which is turning into a cause celebre in the US, centres round the release of tens of thousands of Pentagon and state department classified documents by WikiLeaks. Outraged by the leaks, the US has set up a grand jury in secret, based in Alexandria, to investigate whether grounds can be found for a criminal case against WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange. As part of that investigation the grand jury ordered Twitter to disclose the details of the accounts of WikiLeaks and three people said to be linked to the organisation.


Elections have consequences

I totally forgot that the Republican Party will take over leadership of the US House of Representatives. The 112th congress shall open with Rep. Goodlatte Bob Goodlatte leading a reading of the US Constitution.

Given the endless ridiculous investigations being planned by Darrell Issa, and the pledge to repeal healthcare legislation, I always expected the 112th congress to be a three-ring circus. If this interview of Goodlatte here is anything to go by, I shan’t be disappointed.

According to Goodlatte:

This historic and symbolic reading is long overdue and shows that the new majority in the house truly is dedicated to our constitution and the principles for which it stands.

Now I read this as alluding to a major contrast with the old majority – an arrogant insinuation at best. And the type of fumduckery that politicians get away with in the he-said-she-said style of reporting into which much of the US media has devolved. Pleased that the interviewer was having none of it.

As soon as O’Donnell asked Goodlatte about sitting Supreme Court Justices, I knew I was in for a giggle. I’m glad he got clowned, though it’s a pity the interview was on MSNBC. The Americans who voted for this fellow Goodlatte and his ilk need to know the kind of people they’ve put into their legislature.

The Irish bailout

It looks as though the EU and IMF have swooped in to make sure Ireland’s creditors get their money.

The Guardian is shrill:

There is a real danger of Irish society being hollowed out, with a discredited political elite holding nominal power and no legitimacy while an angry, disoriented, heavily indebted and increasingly poor population chase dwindling jobs. Ireland needs social and political renewal as much as it needs economic recovery.

… Sounds familiar.

Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler…

Nevertheless, I feel the need to knock back a few after reading these stories on Afghanistan.

The most alarming, but not entirely unsurprising read:

Afghans in two crucial southern provinces are almost completely unaware of the September 11 attacks on the United States and don’t know they precipitated the foreign intervention now in its 10th year, a new report showed on Friday…

The report by The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) policy think-tank showed 92 percent of 1,000 Afghan men surveyed in Helmand and Kandahar know nothing of the hijacked airliner attacks on U.S. targets in 2001.

“The lack of awareness of why we are there contributes to the high levels of negativity toward the NATO military operations and made the job of the Taliban easier,” ICOS President Norine MacDonald told Reuters from Washington.

And I had to laugh at this:

But many residents near Kandahar do not share the view. They have lodged repeated complaints about the scope of the destruction with U.S. and Afghan officials. In one October operation near the city, U.S. aircraft dropped about two dozen 2,000-pound bombs.

In another recent operation in the Zhari district, U.S. soldiers fired more than a dozen mine-clearing line charges in a day. Each one creates a clear path that is 100 yards long and wide enough for a truck. Anything that is in the way – trees, crops, huts – is demolished.

“Why do you have to blow up so many of our fields and homes?” a farmer from the Arghandab district asked a top NATO general at a recent community meeting.

Although military officials are apologetic in public, they maintain privately that the tactic has a benefit beyond the elimination of insurgent bombs. By making people travel to the district governor’s office to submit a claim for damaged property, “in effect, you’re connecting the government to the people,” the senior officer said.


There is no bottom to this cesspool

  1. The very model of a major clusterfuck.
  2. … and they’ll none of ’em be missedthey’ll none of ’em be missed.

We’re all in this together

Though it seems some more than others.

The UK government’s proposed cuts to housing benefits have me giving them the side-eye. Here’s my understanding of what the coalition want to get through parliament:

  • A cap on the allowance for people who rent in the private sector of GBP 250 a week for a 1-bedroom flat, 290 a week for a 2-bedroom flat, and 400 a week for a 4-bedroom house.
  • Housing allowance to be calculated against the 30th percentile of local rents rather than the median local rent.
  • Inflationary increases in housing allowance pegged to the Consumer Price Index, which is lower than the Retail Price Index.
  • A cut of ten-percent to the housing benefits of people who’ve been claiming Job Seekers Allowance for more than a year.

This will save the government about GBP 990 million by 2014-15.

I’m down with the idea that Old Blighty needs to get its house in order with regards to its finances, however when the preferred strategy for drumming up support for those money-saving policies involves picking on the least powerful members of society, I have a habit of becoming skeptical of those policies.

The Prime Minister had the following to say about the proposed changes:

Our constituents working hard to give benefits so people can live in homes they couldn’t even dream of? I don’t think that’s fair.

Cameron is giving succour to the impression that people receiving housing benefits are scroungers living in upmarket properties on the backs of the tax payer. According to this article in the Guardian, figures from the homelessness charity Shelter show only one in eight claimants of housing benefit is out of work. Furthermore, I can attest that rents in the city can be absolutely ludicrous. It’s no surprise that 89% of the households receiving more than GBP 400 a week in housing benefit live there.

For years successive governments have done little to increase affordable housing, effectively forcing people into expensive private accommodation, with rents going up because of the increasing demand, and the housing bubble. And now when the bill comes due, we are subjected to sophistry on the supposed lifestyle choices of poor people who happen to live in expensive areas of London, rather than the policies and wider structural issues that led to this situation.  Perhaps MPs ought to remove the logs from their own eyes:

Is it “fair” that normal people are expected to move to areas they can afford and travel in to work but MPs are not? Should we perhaps expect MPs under 35 years old to share London living arrangements, in the same way housing benefit claimants will be under the proposals?

Is it “fair” that lots of members of the Cabinet have not only claimed expenses to pay their mortgages on fast-appreciating assets but furniture to put in them too? In case you were wondering David Cameron claimed more than £1700 per month in mortgage interest for two years, and more than £82000 for his second home over four years. And for that matter is it “fair” that, while most people pay their own travel costs, MPs get the taxpayer to provide for theirs?

You have to laugh.