Writing intermittently on life, politics, and society

Posts tagged “US Politics

And next to emerge from the clown car…

Nick Baumann at Mother Jones writes about the latest GOP panty-sniffing exercise. It seems limited government means government limited to policing women – and other undesirables:

Under a GOP-backed bill expected to sail through the House of Representatives, the Internal Revenue Service would be forced to police how Americans have paid for their abortions. To ensure that taxpayers complied with the law, IRS agents would have to investigate whether certain terminated pregnancies were the result of rape or incest. And one tax expert says that the measure could even lead to questions on tax forms: Have you had an abortion? Did you keep your receipt?

….The proposed law, also known as H.R. 3, extends the reach of the Hyde Amendment—which bans federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at stake—into many parts of the federal tax code. In some cases, the law would forbid using tax benefits—like credits or deductions—to pay for abortions or health insurance that covers abortion. If an American who used such a benefit were to be audited, Barthold said, the burden of proof would lie with the taxpayer to provide documentation, for example, that her abortion fell under the rape/incest/life-of-the-mother exception, or that the health insurance she had purchased did not cover abortions.

(Via)

Hey, remember when it was government tyranny to have IRS agents enforce healthcare reform?

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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.


Three-ring circus

I haven’t the heart these days to write much about politics. I’m trying to preserve what little joy and hope remains in me. I may find welcome respite when I take up a new job in March after a really tough year and a bit of underemployment (woo, yay!). That being said I have found it fascinating that contrary to “jobs jobs jobs” the focus of the US House of Reps. has been on making sure women know their place. Quelle surprise!


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.

 


They deal in answers, but ask no questions

Just read an excellent, excellent post on arguments equating abortion with slavery.

If you do take the time to understand the intertwined history of abortion and slavery, it becomes painfully difficult to assert that abortion is wrong.  Because then you must defend the slaveholder who wanted the enslaved woman to birth that child so that he could enslave them both (even as he probably used religion and morality, rather than economics and labor, as his excuse and defense for why one shouldn’t turn to abortion).  Who would be willing to fault the enslaved woman who aborted her fetus because she didn’t want that child to be a slave?  Who would be willing to fault the enslaved woman who aborted her fetus because she physically could not bear the burden of labor and pregnancy?  Who would be willing to fault the enslaved woman who aborted her fetus as a punishment to the man who raped her, barely fed her, barely clothed her, denied her religion, denied her liberty, and whipped her when she worked too slowly, made a mistake, or attempted to flee?  Who would be willing to fault the enslaved woman who aborted her fetus to protect her life and to save the evils of her life from those of her child?  To include the history of enslaved women in the history of slavery and then compare that history to abortion is not easy.

It’s all too easy when you have no interest in the experience of a whole swathe of your co-citizens beyond how useful it is as a cudgel with which to beat your political opponents.


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.


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.