More Rape-Related Word Parsing

7 02 2012

I was going to post something a little more fun today, recommendation of a few good short films – maybe I’ll get to it later – but instead I’m taking on Ron Paul for fiddling around with the definition of rape.

 

Yes, we have been over this before. Not with Representative Paul in particular, but with his party as a whole about a year ago when the House tried (and failed) to pass legislation (H.R. 3) restricting federal funding of abortions for low-income women beyond the exceptions in the Hyde Amendment (rape, incest, and protecting the life of the mother) to cover only forcible rape, incest involving a minor, and protecting the life of the mother.  I wrote three separate posts on the topic and also wrote to my congresswoman. Now we’re on the same topic a year later because once again rape alone is not enough of a reason to allow a woman to decide what goes on within her own body. Here’s the clip.

Ron Paul’s position on abortion itself, as expressed here, is actually more about biological facts – that within a few hours or a few days conception may very well not have taken place and that there is no way to tell that early on – is a very reasonable one for a pro-lifer and something I would expect since he is an obstetrician. So what is this bit about “honest rape” then? Is there such a thing? Rape in general is regarded as pretty dishonest and dishonorable. Frankly, this sounds like bit of pandering to me. There is apparently some theory floating around on the right that merely being raped is not enough to warrant a woman not being mandated by the government to bear the resulting child. First  the rape had to be “forcible”,but that didn’t pass. Now with Rep. Paul the rape has to be “honest”. It’s as if they’d like to parse it out of existence. There is also more than a little implied victim blaming here too. The whole idea of women “asking for it” in any number of ways and thus making a senseless act of violence seem more like a deserved punishment for not being a “good girl” was one of those baseless, archaic notions I though we had finally excised from our cultural thought process. I had hoped it was locked away in the same place our society has exiled beliefs that a woman could not sign a contract without a male co-signer and should be discouraged at every turn from pursuing a career because  her place was to be in the home tending to the needs of her children and the whims of her husband. Oh how silly of me.

The real problem I have with The Congressman’s statement isn’t the fact that he’s talking about limiting a woman’s right to choose. He’s an anti-abortion candidate and I’m pro-choice – we’re going to disagree on that. That’s why we have different political parties. My problem is with the this pattern we are seeing more of now in which someone whose sole dominion over her own body has already been violated once has the personal autonomy violated again by the government telling her that her attack did not meet the criteria necessary for the powers that be to just leave her alone and let her make her medical decisions for herself. If it wasn’t an “honest rape”, whatever that is,  the woman (Would they even call her a victim? I don’t know.) should just accept what has befallen her and begin blissfully preparing for her forced motherhood like a “good girl”. When  the argument can be made that some sexual assaults do not qualify the victim to terminate a very much unwanted pregnancy, would that then have an effect on the sentencing of the rapist? If we can begin to dissect the crime of rape into degrees, what stops someone from insisting that some domestic violence cases should also be treated as less of a crime because the victim or victims somehow had it coming? What about hate crimes? Given some of the statements and incidents on the campaign trail I would wonder if crimes against groups that some find it acceptable, even patriotic, to disparage would be treated the same as those  against other segments of the population which it is more taboo to voice a prejudice against? In short it isn’t Congressman Paul’s views on abortion that compelled me to write about his comment, but this idea that not all rape victims deserve to make decision about their bodies.





The Sense Behind the Buffet Rule

26 01 2012

That grandfatherly guy with ukulele in the video is Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and he is a very wealthy fellow. He’s also never made a secret of who he supported politically, most recently President Barack Obama. Last August he publicly weighed in on matters of policy when he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times which got him a lot of media attention. In it he made the argument for a higher tax rate on the capital gains (currently taxed at 15%) which are the main source of income for many wealthy folks meaning that many of those who would be paying the top rate end up paying a rate that is more on par with those at the lowest end of the taxable income spectrum. The White House took the idea which they had also showed support for and ran with it eventually crafting the Buffett Rule – a proposal which would establish a minimum tax rate of 30% on all those earning over a million dollars no matter how they earn their money. This idea resurfaced at Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

Like any other proposal made by anyone at any level of government, it’s something to fight over. The argument against the Buffett Rule is broken into two factions. Some feel that increasing the rate on capital gains for wealthy investors from 15% to 30% would discourage investment because people wouldn’t invest if they had to split their profits 70-30 with Uncle Sam. They also suggest that the downturn in investing would hurt the job market because if people aren’t investing in companies, then those companies can’t grow and that means no job creation, no hiring, and a stagnation of unemployment at our current painful level. I’m not an economics wiz, but I think that sounds a little off and I’m in good company. Mr. Buffett addressed this in his op-ed.

<blockquote>Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.</blockquote>

To put into an average American context, nobody refuses a promotion because they looked at their pay stub, saw all of the deductions that are taken out every week, and calculated how much more would be taken out if they took a higher paying position. Certainly each of us has grumbled about those deductions from time to time, but in the end we would rather make more money and so we would take the promotion and the associated increase in salary. Why would someone who makes money through investing be any different. Why pass up a profitable investment opportunity because of a 15% increase in the tax rate on that investment? They will still be making money and that is the draw of investments.

Other opponents of the Buffett Rule are opponents of the capital gains tax in general and these  critics are further subdivided. Some say that it is double taxation arguing that people invest their money after they pay taxes so to tax capital gains is to tax the same money twice and that is grossly unfair. It would indeed be very unfair if that were the case but it’s not because capital gains are just that – gains, profits, new money, income and thus subject to taxes. The principle investment is not a part of the equation so they aren’t being taxed on the same money twice, just on the money their investment brought in.

Others say that because capital gains have already been taxed as part of that company’s income and therefore should not be taxed once it goes to the investor. There is no gentle way for me to say this, that argument is completely illogical. The money that company pays the people who work for them also comes from corporate revenue which is subject to corporate income tax, yet those workers are taxed on that money and nobody (except the Ron Paul supporters who want no taxes, I guess) complains a bit about it. Investors may not “work” for these companies per se, but they do provide a service – they supply capital – so why should the profits they make from their contributions to the running of a particular company not be taxed while the wages earned by the person whose contribution to that same company earn them a paycheck when it’s all paid out of the company’s (taxed) profits? If you extrapolate this theory out further, almost no person or business would ever pay any taxes. In our current system, our money gets taxed when it’s our income whether or not it has been someone else’s income beforehand. Sorry.

I side with Warren Buffett. Taxing the investments of millionaires at the same rate as the income of a person who works 40 hours a week and takes home, at most, $17 in taxable income an hour is ridiculous. It makes the whole “class warfare” argument a farce when some of the very wealthy are simultaneously lamenting the top tax rate and not paying it. They pay, at most, the same rate as an individual making between $8,700 and $35,350 a year according to the IRS. I don’t begrudge them their success, but I’m certainly not feeling their pain. A millionaire making the majority of their annual income from capital gains should pay a tax rate closer to the rate millionaires who collect a paycheck are paying. How is that class warfare and not just common sense?





Michelle Obama, You Were Right

14 09 2011

I’ve been trying to watch at least part of the Republican debates in the name of remaining well-informed. Frankly,the fact that one of these people might be president disturbs me, but their audience disturbs me more. Last week, in response to a question about the 234 executions carried out during Rick Perry’s tenure as governor of Texas, the crowd broke into cheers. Cheers?!

My issue is not over the death penalty itself. I have my opinions on the issue and I think responsible people can intelligently debate its pros and cons all day long. What I found so jarring was the raucous applause and whoops from the audience. We’re talking about killing people, not a great football play. Whether or not you believe a criminal deserves to die for their crimes, I think we can all agree that executions aren’t exactly cause for celebration.

Last night I had another of those “what country are these people living in” moments. A hypothetical question was posed to Texas Representative Ron Paul about what should happen to an individual who is uninsured and suddenly needs expensive medical care. Ron Paul tends to get a little long-winded, so the moderator pushed him asking if society should just let the man die which lead to several calls of “Yeah!” from the audience. Not as much glee as the death penalty mention some days before, but still creepy.

It isn’t just the fact that the idea of someone dying really pleases a few of these audience members. The thing that blows my mind is that not one of the candidates stepped up to say one of our strengths as a nation is our compassionate nature and that there would be something out there to keep citizens unable to afford insurance from being forced to go without necessary care. Looking out for one another doesn’t mean the “nanny state” is taking over. It means that we are part of a community – local, state, and national. Remember? “E Pluribus Unum”  – out of many, one. It’s on the national seal. (That was our motto before the 1950’s when “god” was added to our pledge to the flag and our money and the national motto became “In god we trust.”) A conservative can still have a soul, but you’d never know it. Empathy is apparently a facet of godless, socialistic, liberalism which must be abandoned as quickly and completely as possible.

In early 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama’s wife Michelle was taken to task by Republicans (and supporters of Hillary Clinton) for saying that America could be a mean country. Well, Mrs. Obama, I have to say that you were at least partially correct. A country which cheers execution, calls for those can’t afford that which will save their lives to lose their lives, and lacks any feeling for those who don’t plump up some corporation’s bottom line is a mean, mean place. The thing is, that mean place is not where I grew up. I don’t even recognize it. When I was growing up, if someone lost their job due to downsizing, lay-offs, and etc they weren’t the problem, whatever lead to their job going away was. A social security check, and the check and medical benefits of a union pension were the well-earned reward my grandmother and many others of the “greatest generation” received for decades of hard, honest work building our modern society. No one ever said they didn’t deserve it or were stealing from their children and grandchildren. Times have gotten harder, but I don’t think getting meaner as a society will solve anything. I’m hoping that logic will overcome whatever makes seemingly ordinary people cheer death and view compassion as a curse.





The Trickle Downgrade

12 08 2011

I have mentioned that I got a job a couple times now, but I’ve never discussed it too much because it’s sort of difficult to do. I record local government meetings for broadcast on a nearby town’s government access television channel. It isn’t easy to write about what goes on at work because you don’t want to offend people or appear to be imparting a bias. Some issues get people’s blood pressure up and, if their statements are taken out of context, they could seem rather foolish. Actually, a lot of politics and debate is context and that’s why you hear so many people in the public eye complaining that their words are being “taken out of context,” and I can almost guarantee you will hear that phrase a lot more as the presidential election process gets moving. With all that said, this information comes directly from a meeting I covered. The meeting was public and I think this little tidbit of information serves as a reminder of how irresponsible it is for elected officials at the national level to play games with important issue like our nation’s economic stability for the sake of pleasing a small portion of the population. There is no ‘I’ in democracy no matter how many flags you wrap yourself in, how many times you say the word “constitution”, “patriotism”, or “common sense”, or how much you know – or don’t know – about eighteenth century colonial history and historical figures.
The town I work for is small, rather affluent, running a small budget surplus at the moment, and – according to the First Selectman – has the lowest unemployment rate in the state. They use the Moody’s agency to rate their credit. When Moody’s changed its outlook for the US economy from stable to negative because of the ridiculous brinksmanship of some in Congress, they changed this town’s outlook from stable to negative as well because a town, city, or state is really only as reliable as the country it’s in. That makes sense, but it still doesn’t seem fair and that’s not the fault of Moody’s. It’s the fault of those in the House of Representatives who decided to hold their breath until they got what they wanted even if it endangered our nation’s economy. These people have been called a lot of things – and I’m about to say my piece as well – but I will be avoiding a couple popular terms. I’m not going to call any elected official a terrorist. That is a very loaded statement that I’m not going to level at anyone willy -nilly.  I also think that calling these people hostage takers gives them too much power. I’m calling them children because that’s exactly how they behaved – like spoiled, undisciplined children throwing a tantrum until they get something that shuts them up for a little while. Is that how America is led nowadays? Really!? By grandstanding and ranting and putzing around instead of getting things done they are screwing over places that they couldn’t identify on a map if they wanted to. A note to these congress people – think before you act, don’t act before you think!

Then again, they may find the suggestion that they think to be too elitist. Fear not for I have other suggestions for what they can go do.





The Debt Ceiling Debate Summed Up in One Photo

21 07 2011

In case you and no idea, I’m a geek – specifically, a political geek. And not just a Daily Show/Colbert Report fan political geek either, but a Politico-reading, Rachel Maddow Show-watching one. Did I mention my job is covering town meetings for Government Access TV? Yeah that much of a geek. The results of my geekiness is that I’ve learned a lot about the debate going on in DC about whether or not to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. I could get into the issue, but I’m not sure anyone would be interested in the opinion of someone who gets no say in the matter. Honestly, I really think this about sums it up.

Nancy Pelosi looks appalled, John Boehner seems on the verge of tears, and the President is pouting. We do not have a deal, folks! Back to the drawing board!





And the Dumbass Award Goes to… The Naked WikiLeaker Guy

6 03 2011

I’ll get back to posting about admirable women later today, but I need to indulge my bruised self-esteem for a moment. Anyone who’s been reading this blog for any length of time knows that things don’t tend to go my way. For those of you who are new I’m overweight, unemployed, living at home, and am extremely pessimistic about much of that changing in the foreseeable future. That kind of outlook can make anyone depressed, but occasionally something happens to reminds me that I am, in fact smarter than some people. When it’s on the comic side, I share it. Such was the case today as I, feeling rather nauseous and “blue” (which, as a synesthete, is actually a warm-tone grey for me, but if I say “I feel grey,” no one knows what I’m talking about), I came across this article from Politico. apparently, Bradley Manning, the Marine Pfc. that is facing preliminary charges in the case of that massive load of State Dept. cables which found their way to WikiLeaks several months ago, decided that a military prison was a good place to have an attitude. The article cites a blog post made by Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, as saying that, in response to being told that his being held in isolation stemmed from that possibility that he would harm himself, Pfc. Manning sarcastically stated that, if he wanted to hurt himself, he could do so with the elastic from his underwear or his flip-flops or just about anything. Well, those in charge took him at his word and now he has to seven hours (overnight) naked for his own safety.

Now, I don’t condone any inhumane treatment of anyone. There will be a trial and a verdict because that is how we dispense justice in this country. I’m not bothered by this though, because what he did is one of the stupidest things I have ever heard of. Saying “I could kill myself with with my underoos if I wanted to,” while in prison and after having been deemed a risk to your safety is right up there on the Idiot Meter with saying “Pardon me, sir, but could you be more gentle? I have an explosive in my rectum at the moment,” to a TSA screener. You will regret that statement in a big, bad, possibly painful way. Those with a duty to protect people have to take these things seriously no matter how asinine they may seem because that’s their job. If he had meant what he said and had made a suicide attempt or hurt himself in some other way there would be an outcry over why this statement wasn’t dealt with seriously. You just don’t make jokes about that kind of stuff in those places unless you want to cause a problem for yourself. This is self-inflicted indignity. This guy decided he’d show those dumb jailers the supreme intellect with which they are dealing… and he got owned because they did their job and took him at his word. He was literally asking for it.

I confer upon Pfc. Bradley Manning the title of World-Class Dumbass for thinking that sarcasm and a feeling of superiority were the way to improve his time in Quantico. Thank you for making my life seem a little better today and for making me laugh.





Because Glenn Beck Makes Me Think of Impending Doom

1 03 2011

I really don’t like Glenn Beck. That probably comes as no surprise seeing as the things he says are destroying the country – namely secularism, cosmopolitanism, liberalism, not feeling bad – even feeling proud – about being smarter than a jar of mayonnaise, and a healthy wariness of unbridled, unregulated corporate power – are things which I tend to support. My issue is not that he thinks that people who think the way I do hate their country (not true) and desperately what to turn the country communist (I do not), fascist (nope), or simply reduce it to a lawless, fiery hub of despair (Not even close) or the fact that he spouts this stuff on TV every day while simultaneously insisting that all other news sources are in on the plot and are therefore not to be trusted. My issue is that he’s mainstreaming ideas that, five years ago, would have been considered tinfoil-hat-level crazy. It reached its zenith for me when he started insisting that these popular uprisings for democracy and freedom – ideas I thought the US supported – was actually a signal that the end of the world as described in the Bible is near because those asking for freedom and greater say in the government pray facing Mecca. Yes, ready your survival rations, convert all your money to gold, build a bunker, and pray (in an all-American, judeo-christian way, of course) like your afterlife depends on it because the end of the world is coming! That used to get TV people fired, now it’s all good. A little doomsday theory with your dinner, Ma’am?

So I started to think about what I would need to sustain myself in case of a tea-people revolt, or a ninja attack, or the coming of judeo-christian God into my happy secular world with the intention of kicking my heathen hiney. (Because obviously the thing to do when dealing with something this “out there” is to make a list.) It’s sort of the whole “what would you take with you to a deserted island’ thing on steroids. I’m assuming I have to be alone. Stranger still are the answers I came up with:

  • Astronaut ice cream. Remember that? The stuff you used to get at the Science Museum? Seems like good survival food.
  • Cheese curls.
  • Chocolate. Specifically Cadbury Dairy Milk and Flake bars and Ghirardelli dark chocolate – the darker the better.
  • A wide variety of fruits.
  • The ability to get tri-state area, “good” pizza, and other food delivered.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts coffee on tap.
  • Peach Ramune.
  • Apple cider.
  • Patrón. 😀 (Olé!)
  • As for non-edibles, I’d need a well equipped iPad 2. That’s my books, video games, music, and just about everything else. I’ll assume there’s internet access wherever I’m hiding – hiding while getting pizza and wings delivered and drinking tequila. Sounds like college.

So, in the event the four horsemen of the apocalypse show up, I’m apparently going to spend that last scraps of my life getting in touch with my geekdom. Yes, it’s completely random and makes little sense. That is how I process this nonsense that is taken as granite hard fact by many in this country. A dozen years ago when people started squawking about the world ending in the year 2000, everyone recognized that as a bit nutty and moved on. This guy says it now and people store food reserves. And if you say “Hmm, I think I smell some bullfunky here, then you’re one of ‘them’ – one of those country-destroyers.” The mainstreaming of fear and ideas that used to be the fringiest of the fringe and making people frightened not only of the future, but of a significant portion of the country’s population day in and day out is why I don’t like Glenn Beck.

And the moral of this story? Don’t over-analyze things which every brain cell you have is telling you are bat shit crazy. You’ll come up with something annoying and asinine.

Oh, come on, this post was begging for a picture of someone in a tinfoil hat.





Admirable Women – The Real Trailblazers

25 02 2011

2008 brought a lot of attention to the role of women in the highest levels of elected office. That’s great – I’m all for furthering gender equity – but we got a bit caught up in how historic a moment it was for women. “Oh. My. God. A woman senator is running for President. A woman governor might be Vice President. Oh, we’re soooooo enlightened.” Yeah, not quite. We’d forgotten that we’ve seen women as governors and senators for a while now and we’d seen them running for President and be nominated as vice presidential candidates before too. Time to take a serious look at all the ’08 hype before we get buried in BS of 2012. I’m not trying to diminish the accomplishments of either of these women, but there are a few things that need clearing up.

Hillary Clinton was sworn in as the junior Senator from New York in 2001 and served in the Senate for 7 seven years until 2009 when she was asked to become Secretary of State by President Obama. So, she served a full term, was re-elected, and was then picked to fill a position within the incoming administration. Yes, that’s impressive. What it isn’t is unheard of – at least the different pieces of it aren’t. Let me explain.

  • Hattie Wyatt Caraway (D-AR), after serving in the Senate for a year to fill the seat left open by her husband’s death, won a special election in 1932 and became the first woman elected to the United States Senate. She won re-election in 1938, but lost the 1944 primary.
  • Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for the office of President of the United States… in 1872. Some say the she doesn’t count because her name was never on the ballot.
  • Ok, if you want to be one of those picky people, fine. Belva Ann Lockwood ran in 1884 and 1888. Her running mate in her first attempt also happened to be a woman.
  • Frances Perkins was the first woman to be appointed to a position in the US Cabinet. In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt named her Secretary of Labor, a position she held until 1945.
  • *In 1972, Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) became the first woman to get delegate votes at national convention for a major party. To date, six women have had that honor – Shirley  Chisholm in 1972, Barbara Jordan (D-TX) in 1976, Koryne Kaneski Horbal (D-MN) and Alice Tripp (D-MN?) in 1980, Martha Kirkland (D-AL?) in 1984, and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in 2008. * (Updated as promised.)

Hillary Clinton is admirable – she’s done a lot and I’ll get into that in another post – but not for being the first woman to run for president, or becoming a famous senator, or being asked to be a high-ranking official in a presidential administration because she wasn’t first. She’s the one that got the farthest along thus far, but there were many who came before her. She took the individual achievements others had attained and strung them all together in one ten-year period – a feat that in itself is admirable.

Sarah Palin has become not only a celebrity, but something close to a deity in the eyes of many of her supporters. I think any sort of rabid political fandom is a little misplaced – they write laws, not pop songs – but the Palin worshipers really take it to the next level not only in their devotion to the former Governor, but also in the level of their disdain for those who aren’t moved to support her no matter how rational or genuine their reasons for not doing so are. To fail to support Sarah Palin is, to many of her diehard fans, to reveal yourself as everything anti-American. Yeah, that’s crazy. So, what has she done. Well, in addition to being chosen by AZ senator John McCain to be his running mate in the 2008 presidential election – the event which propelled her into the national spotlight – she served as governor of Alaska from December of 2006 until her resignation in July of 2009. With the fuss that was made over her governorship and vice presidential nomination, you’d think it had never happened before. Well, it had.

  • Nellie Tayloe Ross (D-WY) and Miriam A. Ferguson (D-TX) both became governors in January, 1925. Mrs. Ross, sworn in of January 5th, succeeded her late husband.
  • Miriam A. Ferguson, sworn in on January 25th, succeeded her impeached husband. Her first term was plagued with allegations of corruption and she was defeated twice before winning a second two-year term in 1933. That term was also tainted by alleged corruption. (Might it have run in the family?)
  • The first woman to win a governor’s race without being previously connected to the office by marriage was Ella Grasso (D-CT) who was elected in 1975 and won re-election in 1978. She resigned in December of 1980 due to a worsening battle with ovarian cancer which she succumbed to several weeks later in February 1981.
  • At the time of the 2008 presidential race, Mrs. Palin was one of eight women serving as state governors.
  • The first woman to be chosen as a vice presidential running mate was Marietta Stow, the running mate of Belva Ann Lockwood in 1884.
  • The first woman to be nominated as a vice presidential candidate for one of the country’s major political parties was Geraldine Ferraro (D-NY)in 1984 when she was chosen by Walter Mondale to be his running mate.

Dismiss this all as “Palin Derangement Syndrome” if you will, but while there are some things about her life that are admirable, after comparing her to the other women who actually broke down barriers in politics, I’m not singing Mrs. Palin’s praises. She is also still rather young as far as politicians go, so she may yet accomplish something of merit, but for right now I remain highly unimpressed with the political career of the woman people are comparing to everyone from Washington, to Lincoln, to Jesus. Sorry!

There are many women who have done a lot with their lives before what they did was common or even accepted. Being politically involved and female is a combination that just came about four, or ten, or twenty years ago. We’ve just gotten better at it.

These are a couple other links.

A list of women presidential and vice presidential candidates , a list of women state governors, and a fact sheet about women in government as of 2011 from the Center for Women in Politics.





The Third Piece of the H.R. 3 Trilogy

5 02 2011

I figured I should let you know the latest on the case of Republicans vs the English language regarding the word rape. Parts 1 and 2 of the saga are here. According to a Politico article written on Thursday, The GOP has dropped the “forcible rape” language from the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. The same is true for putting an age limit on funding abortions for victims of incest. The following is a quote from that article.

The bill’s authors, including Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), say it’s not their intent to change the way the exemption is applied.

“The language of H.R. 3 was not intended to change existing law regarding taxpayer funding for abortion in cases of rape, nor is it expected that it would do so,” Lipinski told Talking Points Memo in a statement.

Call me cynical, but if this particular section of the bill wasn’t supposed to change the our current law, then why was it even added and why was there an obvious attempt to alter the current standard created and upheld by the Hyde Amendment by coining the term “forcible rape”. Regardless of what the purpose of that section of the bill was, it isn’t there now and I’m glad. I don’t like a lot of other parts of this bill and I don’t like that pursuing a social conservative’s dream agenda has taken priority over improving the economic situation for millions in this country, but maintaining our current definition of rape is a start. Hopefully, it’s a reality check for the House Republicans at the very least.

Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show ran a really good segment on the redefinition of rape the night before Politico reported that it was no longer in the bill and it summed things up pretty well. I’m not sure if that had anything to do with that section being cut, but tit was a good segment. Since it refuses to embed properly, this is a link to the clip. Hopefully, this is the last we hear of the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act”. I’m hoping it falls apart before becoming law because, technically, taxpayer money doesn’t go to funding abortions except in the extreme cases dictated in the Hyde Amendment which aren’t being affected and – according to one of people who wrote the bill -never were going to be affected (an explanation I still think is bullfunky) by this new bill. One can only conclude, if they are willing to cut through the sanctimony surrounding the issue of abortion, this whole bill is either a massive waste of time when there are far, far bigger things our congress needs to focus on, or an attempt to limit funds from going to institutions which not only provide abortions – the vast majority of which are not taxpayer-funded and therefore none of the government’s business or anyone less’ for that matter – but also birth control, prenatal care, testing for STD’s, OB/GYN visits, and mammograms. Last time I checked there weren’t large-scale protests about the immorality of low-cost, subsidized STD testing and obstetrical services. I leave you with this picture of silly protest signs because it just seems appropriate.





The GOP’s Choice – Jobs or Redefine Rape

29 01 2011

I woke up to shoveling-induced back pain and the melodious tones of the snoring shiba inu at the end of my bed, so I grabbed my eReader and got on the internet – because why have the ability to go on the internet without having to walk to the computer if you aren’t going to use it, right – and found that somebody had tweeted this article from motherjones.comHouse GOP’s Plan to Redefine Rape. It has to do with changing the current rules about allowing taxpayer money to go toward abortions in extreme cases – when the life of the mother is at stake, incest, and rape. It seems that Republicans feel being impregnated by having had sex against her will is no longer a good enough reason for a woman not to be made to birth her rapist’s baby if she would require federally allotted funds in order to obtain an abortion. In short rape doesn’t really mean rape when you’re on Medicaid. What?! I read it and had to vent about it somewhere. Aren’t you all lucky?

First of all, I would be remiss if I didn’t do a little research. The article linked to the full text of the bill available on opencongress.org and so did I, just so you know I’m not making this stuff up. The bill is not very long and surprisingly easy to understand. This is not a misinterpretation of legalese by a woman with a BA in theater and media arts. Section 309 reads as follows, though the underlining was added by me –

‘SEC. 309. TREATMENT OF ABORTIONS RELATED TO RAPE, INCEST, OR PRESERVING THE LIFE OF THE MOTHER.

‘The limitations established in sections 301, 302, 303, and 304 shall not apply to an abortion-

‘(1) If the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of and act of forcible rape, or, if a minor, an act of incest; or

‘(2) in the case where the pregnant female suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the pregnant female in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.

See, I told you it’s pretty clear, except for one thing – what is forcible rape? I looked up the definition of rape and this is it, according to dictionary.com. Again, the underlining and italics were all my idea.

rape1  [reyp] noun, verb, raped, rap·ing.

NOUN 

1. an act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.
2. the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
3. statutory rape.
4. an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation;violation: the rape of the countryside.
5. Archaic . the act of seizing and carrying off by force.
VERB (used with object)
6. to force to have sexual intercourse.
7. to plunder (a place); despoil.
8. to seize, take, or carry off by force.
VERB (used without object)
9. to commit rape.

With force being part of what defines rape in general, what kind of conditions are being set here? After years of preaching that “no means no”, might we be undercutting that message now. If you don’t think that a savvy attorney would try their best to use the denial of federal funding to terminate the victim’s pregnancy as a tool in their defense, I think you are sorely mistaken. And what constitutes forcible anyway? A physical struggle? How much? Do those who were drugged and raped have to have the baby unless they can afford to pay for an abortion out-of-pocket? What about someone who is mentally impaired? What about a statutory rape? If a 13-year-old is impregnated by a 22-year-old should she be made to bear the child if she or her parents don’t have the money? What if the rape victim was threatened or otherwise coerced into not fighting back? Is that forcible enough or do there have to be physical scars? I think this type of hair-splitting could set us on a course back to the days when there was a type of woman who could be raped – the “good girls” who didn’t party hard, dressed modestly, etc… – and those who could never possibly be raped because they behaved and dressed in a manner that was “asking for it”. News flash – nobody ever asks to be raped. If a woman drinks and/or takes some drugs, it means they’re using drugs or drinking. They aren’t asking to be raped. If a woman has a sexual history, it means they’re not a virgin. They aren’t asking to be raped. If a woman wears something provocative, it means they want to look sexy. They aren’t asking to be raped. After all the time and energy we have devoted to the message of not blaming the victim, whoever she is and whatever her lifestyle, for the actions of her attacker, we may be headed right back there. As if this wasn’t disgusting enough, there’s the other thing in the bill that I underlined. A victim of incest – yes, incest – is only eligible for a federally funded abortion if she is under the legal age of consent. Do we really want to put the victim seeking an abortion on the grounds of incest through anything more than she’s already been through. How the hell was she “asking for it”? Whoever thought we needed alter the definitions of rape and incest as part of our healthcare policy is a really particular kind of ideologue – the creepy kind. In both situations, this proposal would punish individuals who are victims of a crime – a point that is never disputed – for not being victimized enough. That’s just twisted. By the way, this bill has 173 cosponsors. If they get a few more supporters, this could pass the House of Representatives.

The issue also has a socioeconomic angle to it. The bill itself has been proposed not to stop all abortions in these cases, but those in which taxpayer money would be used. Taxpayer money as it stands now is mainly Medicaid, which pays for medical care for those who otherwise can’t afford it. Our tax dollars will also be used for the soon-to-be-created insurance exchange where a person can purchase coverage at a reduced rate. So even if a victim purchased insurance with her own money through this healthcare exchange, her policy would not be allowed to cover an abortion because the rate she paid was subsidized by the government unless she met these new guidelines. If not she would have to pay for the procedure out-of-pocket and the poorer the victim, the less likely she would be to have the money.

Speaking of money, this is supposed to be the congress that was elected to get America’s economy rolling again and get jobs creation up. That was the message that many of these conservative Republicans got in there on. Fine. Whatever. Elections have consequences, but this is what happens when people vote against a politician or administration rather than for a candidate’s platform. Well, surprise! This was an extremely successful bait-and-switch by social conservatives. Their third item of business has not a bit to do with jobs or fiscal responsibility and everything to do with the social conservative vision of what everyone’s morals and life should be. It is not what they campaigned on and there is something disingenuous about trying to start pricing women out of their right to choose (which is still protected by the Supreme Court) before tackling a budget, or the national debt, or most of the other stuff they promised to work on as soon as they got to DC. Furthermore, The Hyde Amendment, the “rider” attached to annual appropriations bills since 1976 which limits the use of federal money for abortion funding to instances of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother, while not a permanent law has worked pretty well as a compromise thus far. Many, including myself, have issues with it, but compared to this mess, it’s definitely the lesser of two evils. At least it doesn’t get all nit-picky about incest. While I am all but certain the Senate will vote down HR 3 (that’s what this bill is called – House Resolution 3) if they go near it at all, it is clearly a sign of things to come.

There’s a follow-up post here and a follow-up to the follow-up here.