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.





The Case Against What I Refer To As “Good Christian Driving”

14 12 2010

First of all, this isn’t me railing on Christianity less than two weeks before the Big, Divine, Birthday Party. No, this is about bad driving habits, particularly those of people who feel it necessary to immediately slam on the brakes and allow any vehicle that wishes to cross the road or merge into traffic no manner what is going on around them in an effort to be a nice, good, sweet person. (Incidentally, I’ve included directions so that my explanations make more sense. It might sound a little like algebra, but I promise it’s not.) I happen call this process “good Christian driving” because it reminds me of all of those small, selfless actions that the teachers of the religious instruction classes I took as a child would ask us to do around Advent and Lent. See, it’s nothing derogatory, just me reminiscing of my angelic, child-self. Ok, I’m stretching the term “angelic”, but you get my point.

The image to the left is what can, and often does, result from “good Christian driving”. Even if you’ve never been in an accident because of someone in front of you trying to get one random act of kindness closer to a spot on Heaven’s reservation list, I’m sure you can think of time that this has almost happened. Up until today, the closest I’d come to being an unintended consequence of someone’s goodwill toward others came when I was helping one of my aunts move and someone who had been given a chance to cut across into my lane of traffic drove out and nearly t-boned me because at this particular point on the road, if there is heavy traffic in the lane in front of you (northbound), you can’t see the lane you’re trying to merge into(southbound). Essentially you trust the person letting you cross in front of them and drive blindly into the southbound lane. Not good! The only thing that saved my butt, both from the car suddenly appearing in front of me and from my aunt who was following couple cars behind me was that my chronic “leadfoot-itis” had been tempered by the fact that I had all of my aunt’s glassware rather shoddily packed in the back of my car. The sound of it rattling around back there and knowing that if anything got broken in transit there would be no escape from my aunt once we got to my house for dinner clipped a good 5-10 mph off my average speed.

Today I officially became a “good Christian driving” victim. There was I nice fellow in front of me in a large pickup truck. How do I know he was nice? Well, he let several people (going east) cut through rush hour traffic on a main road (westbound) to get to a side street (northbound). He did so even after the light turned green. How kind! The issue came when, with two cars stacked up behind me now, someone missed the memo that everyone was still stopping even though the light was green and hit the gas instead of the brake. That SUV hit a car, that hit a car, that hit my car. At least one car was towed and at least one person went to the hospital. My mother, my dog, and I are all ok. My pink chariot is too, aside from a messed up back bumper which I’m not too phased by. The car drove home fine and, since I was in no way at fault, I got no ticket. On an unfortunate note, as a result of the traffic backing up from our accident, at least one more collision was caused by a similar chain of events. That’s a minimum of six cars messed up in one way or another and at least one hospitalization all because somebody thought holding up everyone on a busy road when they’re impatient to get home was a good idea.

And what happened to Saint Pickup Truck? Once I got hit – I’m certain he got to watch my mother and me whip forward and my 25 lbs dog bounce off the back of the seats – he was gone. Hell of a good Samaritan, right?

This is for you, Saint Pickup Truck, wherever you are. I have another symbolic gesture for you, but I’ll leave that to your imagination.





That’s It! Sarah Palin, Get The Hell Out Of My Living Room!

1 12 2010

TV personalities are invited into my living room. If I like them, I might grace them with my viewership and make my one woman contribution to their ratings. I might make it a point to watch a show regularly, if it appeals to me. I might even purchase episodes or DVDs. I’m even fussy about my news broadcasts because some anchors are just too damn annoying. If something isn’t entertaining to me for whatever reason, so long. I’m like Luke Skywalker and the remote is my light saber – I will use the force.

But it doesn’t always work.

Try as I might, I can’t seem to avoid the Kardashian sisters completely. They’re just everywhere. I am happy to say I don’t know much about them, but I can tell you their names and probably which are married and other useless bullfunky like that. They’re inescapable. Like football. I’m not a fan football in the NFL sense, preferring the football that actually involves a foot coming into regular contact with the ball, but I can still tell you who won the last Super Bowl. Also, because I was born in America and went to high school, I know the basic rules of the game. Some people and things are just like that. Last year, whether you wanted to or not, you got to know more than enough about John and Kate Gosselin as the nation watched their marriage crumble while the reality television cameras rolled on. In the world of politics, everybody heard all about South Carolina governor Mark Sanford and his Argentinean “soul mate” and saw John Edwards take Bill Clinton’s famous extramarital activities one step farther by insisting that he did not father a child with that woman – which was proven to be quite false indeed. We all heard so much about those events and everyone was saying “Enough! Please!” Well, I’ve reached my media saturation point with someone else.

Dear sweet God Almighty, am I so damn sick of Sarah Palin!

This begged for a picture, but I am in full Palin Overload at this point, so this is as close as I'm getting to putting her picture up here. Bullwinkle is my Sarah Palin Stand-In.

She’s highly opinionated, she’s rabidly conservative, and she is everywhere I look. She needs to get out of my living room – now – but changing the channel isn’t much help. She is mentioned in nearly every US news broadcast. (I’m so thankful we get BBC.) Turn on any Discovery Channel subsidiary and you’ll see the ad for her reality show at least six times in any given hour, so she’s effectively invaded Mythbusters. Browse the internet for anything political and there she is. Her tweets and facebook posts make news in a way many government officials who were actually elected to a particular office can only dream of. She even turned Dancing With the Stars, something else I avoid, into a battle between the right and the left. Did Bristol Palin get as far as she did because of who her mother is (because it’s certainly why she was on the show to begin with)? Did she lose because of all the Palin-haters out there furiously voting against her? Oh, the conspiracy theories abound. Then there is her position as an analyst for Fox News and her reality show fame. You can’t lob a political statement anywhere without it running into some issue she’s been pontificating about over the past few months. Add to that the fact that my own father thinks she’s the best human being to grace this planet since, I don’t know, Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, maybe Jesus, and it’s official – I’m trapped. The American political discourse has turned into Palin World, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of her. Sarah Palin has been the center of national attention more times in two years than Dubya was in his eight years in the White House. Thankfully, I’m not alone in my Palin fatigue. It’s nice to know the entire country hasn’t gone mad, but it’s disappointing to think about how many people may very well be voting for “that reality show lady” in 2012.

And before people start to screech about my obvious liberal bias, let me point out that I haven’t even mentioned her views and where they differ from my own. This isn’t even about ideological stances, it’s about media overexposure. It’s like that song on the radio that you hear all day long and sooner or later you start to not like it. Sarah Palin is getting over-played fast and, with two years until the next election, I think she runs the risk of going overboard with the self promotion even with those who are more inclined to like her. Her strategy of inundating the country with all Palin all the time could backfire. She has high disapproval ratings as it is and in polls conducted by both Quinnipiac University and CNN she loses to Obama in a hypothetical election by eight points – more than his margin of victory against John McCain in 2008. That is not an insignificant thing to overcome and becoming a pop culture nuisance isn’t going to win people over, it’s just obnoxious.





Why Vote?

6 10 2010

Last night, for the second night in a row, in the name of being an informed citizen, I subjected myself to the debates for our state election. The night before it was the senatorial debate which was conducted mostly in that great New England style of intense hatred concealed by well-mannered smiles. Fangs were bared occasionally and then the gentility returned. Last night’s gubernatorial debate was a grudge match, a slug-fest with mics and three-piece suits and without the chair-throwing. I lost count of how many times the two called each other liars without actually saying the word “liar”. It was an annoying, tedious display which makes me wish there were another option out there. I was left with one question bouncing around my mind – with two candidates who I doubt could successfully figure out the way to the restroom, let alone how to sort out the state’s economy, why bother voting? I figured others might be faced with the same thought, so here’s my two cents.

Plenty of people can give good, solid reasons for voting. Some will talk about your patriotic duty as a freedom-loving American. Some can really get going, invoking the images of the service men and women currently deployed in harm’s way, the founding fathers, Abraham Lincoln, God, your mother, apple pie, Uncle Sam, and “Old Glory” to a point where you start looking for a large, robed choir to stand in rows, sway gently from side to side, and start humming the Battle Hymn of the Republic while a bald eagle flies overhead. Others will carry on about getting your message heard, taking a stand, and making DC hear your voice raised loud and proud about <insert volatile issue here>. After a good dose of that, you’re starting to think about marching around outside your town hall carrying a sign with your particular grievance aired on one side and “Fight the Power” emblazoned on the other. Well, while all of that stuff is important, I’m just not that intense. Perhaps I’m suffering from a deficit of patriotism or an overabundance of apathy, but the reason that’s drving me to haul my sorry carcass down to my local polling place, get in the little cubicle thing, and fill out a ballot is a little more pragmatic and a little less theatrical.

It is my personal belief that, if you choose not to vote, you have automatically forfeited your right to bitch about the outcome of that election. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people going on and on about what a terrible person Senator “X” or Representative “Y” is – they’re lairs, they’re criminals, they’re the child of Satan – and then, when somebody asks them who they voted for since their so upset, it turns out they didn’t vote at all. Usually there’s no good reason why they didn’t – just pure, unadulterated laziness. I hate that. I’m left wondering where all their passion was on election day and, even if their arguments for why the political figure in question should be incarcerated are perfectly valid – this is Connecticut after all – it all turns to noise pollution as far as I’m concerned when the complainer admits they never bothered to vote against their current nemesis. It’s hypocritical bull funky, I tell you! So, if you want the ability to firmly plant your forehead against your palm and bemoan the sheer idiocy of your elected officials, get thee to a polling place come November 2nd.

America, please, either get out and vote, or shut the hell up!

Thank you.