Congress. I Don’t Even.

It’s been a while since I posted anything about politics. You can thank Congress for this one.

It’s kind of stupid that I even feel the need to write this, isn’t it? I mean, not that I feel the need, but that I am compelled to feel the need. It’s stupid that parts of the federal government are shut down because someone is throwing a temper tantrum on Capitol Hill.

In case you’ve (perhaps understandably) willfully ignored what’s been going on but are kind enough not to willfully ignore this post, here’s the deal: parts of the government are shut down right now because a faction of Republicans in the House wanted to force through a bill that would fund the government with riders attached that would require changes to the Affordable Care Act. Or, as people trying to malign it started calling it a while back, Obamacare.

Because Obama is obviously synonymous with everything terrible in the world, in their rhetoric. And maybe you agree. And you have that right.

See, I’m not saying the Affordable Care Act is perfect. I’m not even saying you have to like it in order to read this post. Rather, what I’m saying is… how the FUCK do we get to a point in government where one faction of one part of Congress can hold up FUNDING THE GOVERNMENT because they don’t like ONE law?

Here’s what: The Affordable Care Act was passed by a majority vote in both the House and the Senate in 2010. A lot of people didn’t like how that went down, and I get that. But it went down nonetheless. Majority vote. Bicameral legislature. Passed. Then signed into law by the President of the United States. (Not President Of People Who Like Him But Not People Who Don’t. We don’t have that office.) When there was shouting about constitutionality, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law, by a 5-4 vote, with the deciding vote cast by typically conservative Chief Justice John Roberts.

In other words: done deal by democratic due process celebrated by Americans since 1776.

Since its passage, Republicans (probably not all of them, I know) have tried literally 42 times to defund the Affordable Care Act. And last night, they tried for the 43rd time, by attaching caveats on the ACA to the bill that would determine federal funding of the government.

That’s not representative democracy. That’s hostage-taking for ransom.

And then today I see Michele Bachmann, who didn’t make much sense in 2011/12 and still doesn’t, hugging on a veteran who was just trying to visit the World War II Memorial in DC (which was technically closed, but fortunately some people decided not to be ass-hats and let these men in), and claiming that she and her colleagues were “just trying to protect the lives and health care of these wonderful (smooch on the cheek) men.”

I don’t know why, but I draw a line at condescending to an entire nation while literally hanging on an elderly man who helped save the entire fucking planet from tyrannical government, and then 70 years later managed to get himself together for a flight from his home to DC to visit a memorial that honors the service members who fell alongside him, only to find that the asshole government has said, “Sorry, park’s closed,” and then suffer the bullshit camera-mugging nonsensical antics of a politician who couldn’t be moved to say, “I’m so sorry that my wing of my party is standing in your way.”

My grandfathers fought in that war. Every time I see that memorial, or the stories of the men visiting it, I miss them. There’s  no way in hell I’d let Michele Bachmann or any other self-serving politician of any party anywhere near them at that sacred place.

Alright, I’m done with the Michele Bachmann part of this.

The larger point, you probably have figured out, is that I can’t believe we’re willing to allow a faction of our government to shut down the operation because they don’t like a law they already passed. There are procedures in place for repealing laws, or parts of laws. Attaching riders to critical unrelated bills are not part of those procedures.

And before you tell me we aren’t willing to allow it, tell me whether you’re willing to find out who voted to shut down the government and what their motives were, and whether you’re willing to vote them out next November.

Those service members who visit the WWII Memorial arrive on what are called Honor Flights, by the way. Maybe Congress should take a few.

Stop! In the Name of Love

I have gone back and forth about doing this post because I mean really, does this need to be belabored?

Oh, wait. Yeah. It kinda does.

The Supremes have spent the last two days hearing oral arguments (which sounds dirty, but isn’t) about California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state, and the Defense of Marriage Act, which President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996, defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. The issue, as it almost always is with the Supremes because they’re obsessed, is the laws’ constitutionality.

The thing is, this is one of those issues for which it seems a lot of Americans don’t care at all about the constitutionality. Which is what makes it pretty unusual, since we’re always harping on that particular document, and usually with good reason.

I’m interested to see how this comes out (haha, I said “comes out.” Like gay people.) because this is a situation in which personally find that a strict originalist view of the Constitution will bear out the fact that the document says… um… nothing about who can get married and who can’t.

Ruh-roh Rustice Scalia.

I mean, it does say that black people are only 3/5 human… but I don’t think the strict originalists are really keeping to that definition. The 13th Amendment took care of that. And then the 14th Amendment says:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

And Article IV, Section 1 says:

Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.

Which means if I, a straight person, were to get married in New York, it would have to be recognized as a valid marriage everywhere else. But Congress can establish whether the marriage was legit in the first state.

Now, I’m not a Constitutional scholar. I’m not even a lawyer. Not one single credit hour of law in college. I worked at a law firm part time for a little while and I dated a guy with his JD, but I don’t think that qualifies. But I am a citizen… considered unequal until 1920 and sometimes even now, since I’m a woman, but we’ll forego that particular argument at the moment, I’ll stick my thumbs in my ears and wiggle my fingers because I own property, and we’ll just settle on I’m a citizen. So the Constitution is important to me. And I don’t see an argument against same-sex marriage in it. So I guess it’s good that the Supremes have been contracted to figure it out.

I find that almost every argument against same-sex marriage is based on religion. As I have said many, many times in this blog, I fully respect a person’s faith, regardless of what it is, because I expect the same respect for my faith. I certainly don’t expect to change anyone’s minds. Instead, what I’d like to do is to point out something I think is a simple but pivotal aspect of this discussion:

The law is not about religion.

A friend of mine on Facebook unwittingly started a conversation about this the other day. One of his friends, who appears to be a fundamentalist Christian, pointed out three passages in the Bible that he felt supported his belief that same-sex marriage should not be allowed. I read the passages, one of which was in Leviticus (the third book of the Old Testament/Torah) and reflects a pre-Christ view of a harsh and punishing God… and two more, which were from Romans, a book in the New Testament attributed to Paul. My friend’s friend was gentle and respectful in his points, but based his entire argument against same-sex marriage on religion and these passages.

A minimally scholarly understanding of the Bible demonstrates the difference between the Old and New Testament tones in Christian belief, as well as the fact that Paul was not an apostle of Jesus and never knew Jesus when He was teaching, but came to his conversion after Jesus’s ascension. So technically, his writings were inspired by his faith, but not directly taken from Jesus’s words.

It’s easy to get caught up in the understandings of faith and forget the fundamental truth of this same-sex marriage question: that it is about whether same-sex couples should be afforded equal rights and protections under the law. And, more broadly, but no less significantly, it’s about whether the federal government should control marriage in any way… a question that, to some degree, is answered by the federal benefits extended to married heterosexual couples.

It’s not about religion. No matter how much someone believes that same-sex relationships are against God’s laws, or will, or word, or design, the questions of Prop 8 and DOMA are not about religion. They are about law, and the Constutition, and citizenship.

There are varied interpretations of those, too, of course. That’s why we have the Supremes. But on Tuesday, I found a passage I had forgotten existed despite the fact that it’s inscribed on a wall.

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

Those words are inscribed on the wall of the Jefferson Memorial. Because he wrote them.

He also was one of nine men who wrote the Constitution.

I think, understanding that religion does not govern the rule of law and the outrage of some does not mitigate the rights of others, Thomas Jefferson would agree…

…It’s time.

 

 

 

On the Seventh Day of Christmas

On the seventh day of Christmas, Congress surprised absolutely no one and managed to still work a win-win.

It was late afternoon when word came that the House would not vote on any deal to avert the “fiscal cliff.” The Senate went ahead with a vote in the wee hours of 2013. I don’t remember the movie well enough to know whether that makes the House Thelma or Louise, but what I do know is this: that move (or lack thereof) was totally expected. And not really because they wanted to stand their supposed high-ground. It was more because of posturing.

I know. It’s shocking.

Here’s the thing: by waiting to vote, the Republicans in the House, and particularly those who signed some sort of (tax-free!) soul-selling deal to Grover Norquist (who says it’s to the American people, but whatever), can remain avowed not to vote in favor of a tax increase. If the deal the Senate reached late last night contains tax increases, the House Republicans can vote on a re-jiggered deal that reduces the percentage by which those taxes are raised… thereby…

wait for it…

voting to…

… are you ready?

…”cut” taxes.

Semantics, really, but important ones to politicians. In the end, the Democrats will still get some of the new revenues they want, but the Republicans can still say they never voted to hike taxes. Even though essentially they will be voting to do so… but less. They can get away with the distinction because they would not have voted to avert the fiscal cliff by the deadline, thereby “officially” hiking taxes before they voted to retroactively reduce them.

Irritating, right? When there was so much at stake? But I think everyone used the term “fiscal cliff” exactly the way I just did: with quotation marks around it. These kinds of deadlines are always fungible, and almost never as dire as they’re built up to be. Congress made the law that the across-the-board spending cuts would trigger automatically to try to force themselves to do something. But anyone who’s been on a diet knows what that means. Nothing, in the end. You can tell yourself that if you eat a piece of chocolate, you have to work out for an extra half-hour, but will it really make a difference if you don’t? Probably not. Congress knew that all along. And even if they did make a deal well before the deadline, it was never fated to be anything so substantial that it would solve the problems we face financially.

Why is that? Because they’re awfully hard to solve. Back to the diet analogy: if you weigh 1,000 pounds, trying to get down to 200 seems pretty well impossible, doesn’t it? So you lose 20 and see how it goes.

Welcome to 2013.

The debate isn’t going to go away.  You’re going to keep hearing about the spending problems, the debt ceiling, the deficit and more. And it’s only partly because Congress isn’t willing to do the hard things required to get things seriously back on track. The other part is that getting seriously back on track is going to hurt. Everyone. A lot. And until we as the American people are willing to make some serious sacrifice – in Social Security, in Medicare, and in a lot of other areas – yes, including the incredibly bloated defense budget that has been a sacred cow for far too long – we’re going to keep peering over that cliff.

Happy New Year. Same as the Old Year. At least as far as federal funds are concerned.

american flag

A Note Before You Vote

You didn’t think you were going to get to Tuesday without another political post from me, did you?

Just a few things to think about before you head to the polls… provided you didn’t vote early.

Who Do You Really Dislike?
Not as in hate. As in, if you have a problem in the political sense, with whom does that problem truly sit? Here’s why I ask: we do a great job making a big deal out of the presidential election. And we should. It’s hugely important. But it’s not the only important thing. There’s also Congress.

Food for thought: Since January 2009 when President Obama was inaugurated, his lowest approval rating was 41% (March 2012). His highest was 57% (May 2011 – right after Osama bin Laden was killed).

Since January 2009, Congress’s lowest approval rating was 10% (August 2012). Its highest was 39% (March 2009).

That means that President Obama’s very lowest approval rating was better than Congress’s very highest. And when the nation was least happy with him, he had still satisfied four times as many people as Congress had.

My point is, a shocking number of people don’t know who represents them in Congress. Given that, they can’t possibly know what that person stands for, how they vote, what positions they take in politically touchy situations, from whom they take money, to whom they’re beholden. So why are we all so angry when they don’t do what we think they should?

The country’s problems are not all about its presidents, and we should pay much more attention to our representatives and senators. If you want to see who your congressperson is, go to www.house.gov/representatives/find/  and you can plug in your zip code to find out. If you want to know how they’ve voted on issues and bills, go to www.opencongress.org. Do it before Tuesday, because they’re all up for re-election. Congressional representatives are elected every two years. If you discover too late that you don’t like what you see, you have two years to keep track of them and get it right next time.

What’s Really A Distraction?
One of the most common refrains this campaign season has been that insert Issue That’s Hurting Party A — here – is a “distraction” put up by Party B. But not everyone finds the same things distracting. In fact, some of us find some of those so-called “distractions” pretty important. There is more than one issue facing this country. It’s not just about the economy. It’s not just about jobs. It’s not just about regulation or deregulation. Or taxes. Or education. Or immigration. Or women’s health. Or abortion. Or federal funding for programs. It’s about all of those things, and to say otherwise is insulting. Don’t dismiss an issue out-of-hand simply because you didn’t feel like listening to the discussion. And don’t allow your leaders to do it, either.

And Speaking Of Self-Interest…
One of the things that disappoints me most about people in general and about American politics specifically is that everything happens because of money. I don’t just mean campaign fundraising or Congressional budgets. Money pushes policy we would otherwise think objectionable on more than one level. I think it’s compromising our (dare I say) moral standard as a union. This is particularly true of political decisions that hurt the communities they affect, rather than helping them. For example: the casino built on the west side of Columbus, Ohio. The west side is poor. The casino is there because the people were powerless to stop it, unlike residents in other parts of the city. And the area around it has only declined. Similar example: Atlantic City. Been there? It’s a hole. The flash of the lights keeps your attention away from the crumbling infrastructure and dilapidated homes. (No jokes about Sandy, please – I have a deep connection to the Jersey Shore, despite my opinion of AC.)

And more and more, we as individuals seem to think only of ourselves. It’s natural to vote one’s interests, but there seems to be a growing insistence that one’s own interests be the only interests one must consider. “Give me everything, or give me death.” Sometimes I find myself wondering whatever happened to the inspiration that came from President Kennedy’s simple call: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Let’s not forget that this is a nation forged in the interest of the greater good, and for everyone’s rights equally. Not just yours.

Yes, Your Vote Does Count
It’s easy to get discouraged when your political leanings are opposite those of your fellow state residents. It’s easy to feel like no one will miss your opinion at the polls. But in a population of 1,000, twenty such opinions can change a race entirely. Yep, just two percent. In 2004, President George W. Bush only got 3,000,176 more votes than John Kerry. Two percent.

But about 21,000,000 registered voters stayed home.

So this is it. I’ve smacked you around with political posts for more than 16 months. I’ve gotten myself worked up. I’ve chased my tail and shaken my head. I’ve done my best (through absolutely no mandate at all from any of you) to share what I hoped were informative and at least mildly entertaining breakdowns. And now we have arrived at the doorstep of yet another moment in American history.

Be part of it.

Vote.

Early Voting: My First Experience

I suppose the second cup of coffee was ill-advised.

I still haven’t closed on the house. To recap: it was set for Tuesday. Then the Atlantic Ocean got all pissed off and the lending banks were like, “Whoa.” Then it was going to be Wednesday. Then it was going to be Thursday. Then it was “looking like” Friday. Then  they said, “it’ll almost definitely be Monday.” Now I’ve just gotten a call saying it’ll probably be Wednesday, because the appraiser insisted on a second look after the storm. Which doesn’t make sense, because shouldn’t that be the inspector?

Fine. Whatever. I just need to lie down.

I had a therapy session with Ali Velshi today, appropriately. I have realized in the last two visits with him that one of the tells of my anxious highs is that I talk a freaking mile a minute. I already talk fast, but whew. My previous therapist (Ali Velshi is my second) used to point it out to me when I was “zooming.” Ali Velshi hasn’t really taken that tack yet, though I did catch him eyeing my foot as I twirled it around and around and around while I talked to him. Unfortunately, what I do for a living and the people I work for are very unforgiving, and that is actually the greater part of the stress. Everyone gets stressed buying a house, and plenty of people have had far worse setbacks than I have. Hell, I could have closed on a house at the Jersey Shore on Friday. It’s work that compounds the problem for me.

Yesterday, after I ran out of boxes and bubble wrap, I turned around in circles in my living room a couple of times before I told myself aloud that I could go vote. And so I did.

What an entertaining hour that was.

It bears noting that this is my first time voting in my particular area, where I’ve only lived for two years. Sadly, this means I have nothing with which to compare the amusement of yesterday’s outing. Usually, I walk in on election day around 9am and it takes all of 15 minutes. Early voting isn’t really my thing – I prefer the patriotic, Sorkinesque rush of the shared First Tuesday In November experience to the wah-wah that it becomes after people have already done their civic duty days or weeks in advance. But alas, since the bank, work, Mother Nature and the universe are conspiring to kill me on or before November 6th, off I went.

If the signage can’t properly direct me to the where I should park for early voting, we’re off to a bad start. Just sayin’.

Eventually, though, I found the appropriate lot, and entered what used to be a school building and is now used for police and fire training to find an environment not unlike what I imagine Soviet Russia to be. Which, you have to grant, is ironic.

Don’t get me wrong. It actually went very smoothly. But first, we were corralled into a former gymnasium full of rows of chairs. Everything was painted cinderblock. Colors were drab. The chairs were Machiavellian. (I’m mixing metaphors. Deal with it.) We all had to sit next to each other – no empty chairs between voters, for the sake of the republic. And I’m fine with that, but not everyone else was. The election officials kept asking, “Is this an empty seat?” as if it were some sort of outrage.

Every so often, they’d take the first row of congregants. The rest of us didn’t know where those people went. It was kind of scary. But when they’d take the first row, then everybody had to get up and move exactly one row up from their previous seated position.

Can I tell you something? It’s troubling that not everyone can handle this kind of “upset.”

The woman next to me was one of those people.

“What?! Oh, hell naw. No. Why it have to be like this?” she wanted to know.

Lady, just effing move up one seat. This is not hard. Do it.

While a small child wailed behind me and her mother continued a conversation on her cell phone, we played the musical chairs game. Sans music. I will admit that my eyes were directed almost entirely upon my phone during this wait, but only because I forgot to bring a book. Then I heard someone saying, “Take care, now,” while the click-clack of her heels reverberated through the room. I looked up.

It was the mayor.

Meh. Back to my phone. Interestingly, though she’s popular and has done a very good job (and is not up for re-election this year), no one jumped up to talk to her or shake her hand. She just walked on through.

She looks good, though. Lost a lot of weight. G’ahead, girl.

Some couple who might have come from an Eastern Bloc country kept trying to jump the line. This nearly caused bedlam. I don’t know if they genuinely didn’t understand the process or what, but I found myself mildly irritated with the people who were unhappy about it. We still all get to vote. Who the hell cares if they vote before you? 

It’s interesting to see the passions ignited at a polling place. Apparently, not only is it essential that we are given our right to vote; it is also essential that we are given our right to vote in the precise order of which we entered the building.

Settle down, y’all. Russia ain’t near closed yet.

Eventually, I was in the front row. When it was time to move me and my compatriots, we went to another holding cell, where a few people got upset about the order in which we were lined up and I remembered that I should probably just sit quietly and not try to fix anything. This is the part where random people started trying to tell the election officials how to do their jobs.

Hold up. You couldn’t handle moving up ah row. You think you can tell an election official how to keep an orderly line? You still get to vote. Even though I’m pretty sure at this point that you probably shouldn’t.

After another waiting period, we got to move into the actual voting area. There: more line issues. Apparently it’s difficult to form a line. This is the part where I started worrying about the entire voting process and wondering if dictatorship wasn’t really the best way to go. But the election official easily found me in the list of city residents and handed me my electronic card. Then I joined another line (all lines were marked by – of course- gray tape) and waited for a Trapper-Keepered voting machine to become available.

If you’re a regular reader, you know I’ve done my homework, so actually voting didn’t take long. There were no glitches with technology. All went well. I handed in my electronic card and left the building.

Some people in the parking lot tried to drive out the wrong way. I briefly pondered whether the police directing traffic should find out their names, go back inside, find their voting cards and pull them due to a total lack of intelligence.

But no. That’s not how this country works. Never has. It does not matter whether you are smart or not. Frankly, not everyone is blessed with the same degree of sense, common or otherwise. But everyone is granted the right to vote.

God bless America.

And I mean that.

******
PS. Know what I did while I waited to vote? Joined Twitter. Grudgingly. Follow me over on the right where you see the little birdie.

 

The Race For Second

Alright, so I’m late. I didn’t really mean to be, and I was questioned about it, but I’m here now with the probably-no-longer-material-to-you wrap-up of the vice-presidential debate.

The night began with Vice-President Biden practically blinding everyone with his teeth. The thing about the vice-president seems to be this: he’s totally authentic. You don’t have to like him, but you don’t get the sense from him that anything he does or says is insincere. When Mitt Romney grins, let’s face it, it seems put-on. When President Obama grins, sometimes it seems a little swaggering. But when Vice-President Biden grins, he just seems to be having a heckuva good time. The Irish love a good debate. Or argument. Or bare-knuckled old-timey fist fight in which they wear pants held up by a string around the waist.

For the record: I attribute 98% of Mr. Biden’s personality to his Irishness. That includes facial expressions.

And, as it turns out, the facial expressions were what might have boosted both the interests and the ire of viewers. If you’ve watched Mr. Biden for years and years, you know that he often expresses his thoughts with his face. (I do it, too – it gets me in trouble – and in this and our Irishness, I am a kindred spirit.) If you pay attention beyond the grins, you see his eyes go Laser Mode almost immediately after the grin disappears. When that happens, I think it means the grin was the first offsetting reaction to frustration, aggravation or anger. Like a mirthless chuckle.

Most of the times Mr. Biden busted out the Cheshire Cat, it was because he thought Rep. Paul Ryan had said something untrue. A lot of those times, he was at least half right.

Now, given the nature of politics and humanity, both men said stuff that was at least partially untrue throughout the night. To me, the most glaring untruth from Mr. Biden was the claim that the administration didn’t know the deaths at the US consulate in Libya were a terrorist attack in the early days afterward. Why do I think that’s glaringly untrue? Because I posted that government investigators were looking into signs that it was terrorist attack less than 48 hours after it happened, and I didn’t make that up. I’ve never understood the administration’s pushing of the stupid freaking YouTube video as the entire cause of that event. It does no one any good: it portrays Muslims as a bunch of ignorant savages ready to riot and kill at the slightest provocation; it makes the government look vulnerable to something as simple as a YouTube clip; and it ignores the actual problem at hand in the region, dumbing down a multi-national push for democracy currently stuck in the “unstable” position into nothing more than a viral video gone supernova.

So what about the most glaring untruth from Rep. Ryan? Sadly, it’s not an original line. It was when he called the Affordable Care Act a “government takeover of healthcare.” The healthcare law relies on private industry. In fact, it wouldn’t work without private industry. Its founding principle is that private industry exists and should continue to exist. The Republicans came up with a zinger line for the electorate back in 2010 and they’re still fiercely hanging on, but it’s simply a total falsehood.

Of course, there was a lot more to the debate that was far more nuanced, and for me as a viewer (and a wonk), it was, really, a fantastic political event. It featured a great deal of detail on both sides, but if we have to judge which candidate was the more specific, it would have to have been Vice-President Biden. Several times, Rep. Ryan was unable to be specific, although he made it appear on the surface as though he was, laying out  “bullet points” that comprise the Romney/Ryan plan. They sound great, but it’s impossible to back them up with specific action because it can’t be done without the full cooperation of Congress, and no one knows if they’ll get that. If you question that statement, consider this: a good chunk of the Romney/Ryan plan includes cutting back on tax deductions, credits and loopholes. Let’s see if Congress is okay with giving up significant drawdowns of the mortgage tax break. That’s not a hypothetical. It’s in the plan.

Ever since the Romney/Ryan campaign started pushing it, I’ve questioned their insistence that they will create 12 million jobs in four years. That insistence, and that number, is based on hoped-for results from non-specifically determined pathways, again, relying on the cooperation of Congress. Says a Romney ad: “First, my energy independence policy means more than 3 million new jobs, many of them in manufacturing. My tax reform plan to lower rates for the middle class and for small business creates 7 million more. And expanding trade, cracking down on China and improving job training takes us to over 12 million new jobs.”

Well… he’s said nothing about how. On what does that energy independence plan depend? How, in particular, do those three things in the last sentence really push his plan over 12 million? And you’ll notice that the seven million jobs rely on the aforementioned hoped-for tax plan.

And by the way: 12 million jobs in four years amounts to about 250,000 jobs per month. Romney himself has said that a normal recovery would grow jobs at 500,000 per month.

Why am I talking so much about Mr. Romney when I’m summarizing a debate between Mr. Ryan and VP Biden? Because Romney’s tax and budget plans come largely from Mr. Ryan.

Mr. Ryan said job growth in September was slower than it was in August. Both numbers were small, but he was wrong. In August the economy added 96,000 jobs. In September, 114,000. He was right that both numbers were smaller than the additions in July:  163,000. What no one seems to talk about is what we were warned about back in February and March, when jobs numbers were higher than expected: it was because of the mild winter, and it would mean lower job creation numbers in the summer.

There were a lot of interruptions in this debate, coming entirely from Vice-President Biden. If you don’t like the Vice-President or the President, or if you don’t like politics much at all, you probably didn’t care for the argumentativeness. But Mr. Biden did his job in this debate. He came out firing on all cylinders and ready to challenge the inaccuracies that might come from his sparring partner. That’s exactly what President Obama did not do in the presidential debate the week before, and he paid for it. Mr. Biden hit hard at Mr. Romney’s “47%” mess… something the president didn’t mention once. He hit hard at the things that were blatant misstatements, like when Rep. Ryan claimed his Medicare plan had bipartisan support and that its cosponsor was a democrat from Oregon (in reality, there is zero support from democrats; the original Oregonian democratic co-sponsor withdrew his support after Ryan revamped the plan). Mr. Biden may have been what some people consider rude, but when the facts are at stake, sometimes couth deserves a wide berth.

But if politics are perception, Mr. Ryan definitely came off as calm, informed, articulate, prepared and controlled. I personally found some of his at-the-camera speeches a little rehearsed and robotic… something Mr. Biden never projects.

In the end, if we have to pick winners and losers, there are three ways to break this debate down. The first is in terms of actual information and facts, and in that, the debate was pretty much a tie. Both sides lied a little (although Mr. Biden lied less than Mr. Ryan) and both sides were very knowledgeable. If it’s about style, and you prefer calm to contention, then Mr. Ryan had the edge. The third is about party performance. Both men did their top-of-ticket running mates good on the night, but Mr. Biden made the greatest strides because his team had higher to climb after the president’s disappointing performance the week before. He got the president’s base to come down off the ledge while proving the Romney/Ryan team dishonest on a few points.

As always, I encourage you to read the transcript or watch the debate, which was 90 minutes. And here is the link to politifact.com’s fact-checking page.

 

The Thinking Voter’s Debate

There are a lot of people who haven’t paid much attention to the presidential race so far. They may know for whom they’re voting, but base their decision on very little education. For them, last night’s debate mattered.

They might be voting for Mitt Romney.

Unless they like PBS, which he promised to desubsidize as part of a plan to defund everything he deems unworthy of borrowing money from China. Despite professing a love of Big Bird. Who immediately ended up trending on Twitter.

That’s a lot of programs on the chopping block, so if you’re a fan of things like art and culture and  umpteen other less touchy-feely things subsidized by the government, you might be a little concerned by this.

Mr. Romney clearly outperformed President Obama in last night’s face-off in Denver. The debate was civil, there were no fireworks, and it offered a lot of detail and lots of mentions of Bowles-Simpson (actually officially Simpson-Bowles), which people who don’t pay attention to politics may have never heard of. (It was a bi-partisan commission formed in 2009 to make no-holds-barred suggestions for how to trim spending and the deficit. Neither candidate loved it 100%, but both candidates liked it to some degree.)

For those who haven’t paid attention to politics, this would have been the problem with last night’s debate: it was info-heavy, which is exactly what they want but not exactly what keeps their interest… since, by virtue of not having been paying attention, they don’t know what the candidates were talking about.

Let’s talk about the most common refrain we’ve heard throughout the campaigns: job creation.

Mitt Romney says if he’s elected, he’ll help create 12 million jobs in his first term. How he’ll do that remains mostly a mystery, though he says that fostering energy independence will create four million of them. His ideas for energy independence include increasing the production of “clean coal.”

“I like coal,” he declared simply.

And I laughed out loud because it sounded so much like Brick Tamland’s “I love lamp.”

He did not mention green energy initiatives at all.

The president has long been about fostering new energy alternatives, and he does claim that, while he supports green energy initiatives, drilling for oil is up under his administration. And it is, but as Mr. Romney pointed out, it’s up on private land. On public land, it’s down significantly.

I’m not going to turn this into a debate over energy, but the Obama Administration has made it very clear that it’s time to actually do what we’ve been talking about doing since the 1970s and create energy alternatives. His Republican counterparts, including Mr. Romney, don’t want to do it because it doesn’t have a big enough profit margin. It’s clear on which side the planet loses, and frankly, on which side consumers, in the short term, lose. If you want to think long-term, you go with the president’s plans. If you want to think consumer short-term, you go with the Republican plan.

But it’s difficult to argue that any amount of job creation would be meaningful without an increase in American manufacturing. To that end, both candidates want to decrease the tax rate on American businesses, particularly manufacturing, in order to encourage them to keep their business here instead of outsourcing jobs. The president wants to drop the corporate tax rate to 25%. It’s currently 35%. The president also said that, right now, businesses get a tax break to ship their jobs overseas. Mr. Romney replied that he has no idea what the president is talking about.

This is where I had the  biggest problem with the president’s performance. If you were watching on a network that provided a split-screen at that moment, you saw the president make a face that I inferred to mean, “Well if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you don’t know enough.” But he never verbalized it. Time after time, there were clear disagreements that the president never took the opportunity to voice, corrections he never tried to make. I don’t know why. But that was frustrating to watch. 

Mr. Romney said his plan for America basically has five parts: energy independence, open trade, ensuring skills for work in part by having the best schools in the world, championing small business and a balanced budget.

Sounds fantastic. How?

Didn’t really say.

But Mr. Romney did come to this debate extremely well-prepared. He cited specifics in numbers that went a long way toward informing Americans about what is going on in the economy, and the president simply repeated two: Romney’s supposed plan for five trillion dollars in tax cuts along with an increase of two trillion in military spending that he said the military hasn’t asked for. It’s a decent argument, because his point was it can’t be done without revenue (and Mr. Romney has refused to consider tax increases of any kind). The problem is that Mr. Romney responded that he does not have a plan to cut five trillion in taxes, and the president never laid out his reason for using the number. He just repeated it.

What I found interesting about Mr. Romney’s assertions, though, was that he insisted that he would not reduce the “share of taxes” on the wealthiest Americans. This is a new verbage. This is the first time in the campaign that he has said this. What he means is that, while he would decrease the income tax level for the wealthiest Americans, they would wind up paying just as much because he would also close loopholes and decrease available deductions, exemptions and credits. It’s not a stretch to understand why he might not have mentioned this before: either he didn’t have the idea before, or it’s a little scary to American homeowners to hear they may lose the tax deduction for their mortgage pr maybe even – dare he? – pay a higher tax rate on capital gains. Mr.Romney did not say which deductions and credits he’d change, but in the past when questioned, he has said he would have to work with Congress to establish them. That adds the layer of uncertainty: he can say this is what he’ll do, but he can’t do it unless Congress agrees, and though he may have a friendly Congress, it will be hard to get them to go along with things like decreasing the amount of tax deduction available for mortgage loan interest, for example.

His implication is that it’s a zero-sum game, which it’s not, but it was another specific citation that made Mr. Romney look like he knew more about the economy than the president did.

It’s not that the president gave no specifics in the debate. He said he wants to hire 100,000 new math and science teachers and create two million slots in community colleges to give people opportunities for less expensive higher education. He said he’s cut taxes on small businesses 18 times. He said the average American family has seen its tax burden decrease by $3,600. And he drove home the point that Mr. Romney’s plan for closing the loopholes, trimming the deductions and credits, etc., will not be enough to pay for his plans for tax cuts and to pay down the deficit as he says he wants to do. Plus he says independent economists have determined that under Romney’s plan, the average American family would pay $2,000 more in taxes per year… for nothing.

He’s saying it’s impossible to get the fiscal debt down without asking for more revenue. It’s not a new point, but this was the first time he got to explain why Mr. Romney’s plan won’t work, even if it does get through Congress.

The other specific conversation I found intriguing was the one about tax rates for small businesses. The president says that, for 97% of small businesses, the tax rate will not increase. But Mr. Romney pointed out that the three percent that’s left employs 25% of American workers. And he says the increase on that three percent, from 35% to 40%, will cost 700,000 jobs.

I don’t know where he got his numbers; he didn’t say. But the president didn’t argue, though I sensed he wanted to.

That’s a point you have to argue.

What he did say is that Mr. Romney defines small businesses differently, and that somehow under Mr. Romney’s definition, Donald Trump owns a small business. I don’t know what that means and he didn’t explain it.

What the president did explain was that he hasn’t been shy about trimming wasteful spending in the federal government. He pointed out that he’s eliminated 77 programs, 18 of which were for education, because they just weren’t doing enough. He said he’d cut $50 billion in waste and trimmed a trillion dollars from the federal discretionary spending budget – the largest since Eisenhower was in office.

Mr. Romney went a long way to clarify his lack of extremism when it comes to regulation. He expressed very clearly that he understands that regulation is necessary in order for capitalism to function well. What he didn’t balance with that is his laissez-faire approach to failing markets. He reiterated that he wouldn’t have classified banks as “too big to fail,” and while that’s a good populist approach, it doesn’t take into account the fact that if those banks had gone under, they would have taken millions of jobs and investments with them. It also reminded the attentive viewer that Mr. Romney would not have bailed out the auto industry – arguably the single most important manufacturing industry the country has left – an industry that reported last month that its sales are up… 41% for Toyota, 12% for Chrysler, 2% for General Motors (Ford was flat) over last year.

And the president did hit back on Romney’s point with a bottom line that’s hard to debate: when the economy crashed in 2008, was it because there was too much regulation? No. It was because there wasn’t enough, and things were allowed to run wild. So he made sure that every bailout given was returned 100% plus interest (he’s right), and he instituted the toughest reforms since the 1930s.

You’ll recall that’s directly after the stock market crash of 1929.

Much has been made among the punditry about the president seeking reelection with the highest rate of unemployment since FDR. That stands to reason, doesn’t it? He’s also dealt with the greatest economic crisis since FDR. I went looking for a breakdow”n of unemployment rates in presidential election years and couldn’t find a comprehensive list that dated back before 1956, but I’d be willing to bet that Mr. Obama and Mr. Roosevelt were the only presidents who had to run when unemployment was above 7%. It’s an arbitrary comparison that I believe a thinking voter has to dismiss.

And that’s really the key here, as it always is. The voter has to think. The voter can’t fall for things that seem substantial but aren’t. Today, I found this post on Facebook: “What our economy runs on is free people pursuing their dreams. That’s what makes America work.”

That’s a meaningless jumble of words meant to stir patriotism without thought. The American economy runs on a lot more than that. The post came from the Romney campaign.

Think before you “like” a candidate.

The Lost Art of Campaigning

As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.

Something profound has happened in American history. Oh, we’ve seen the signs since the country was founded – campaigns have always been ugly… brutal, even… lies spread every which way about every candidate in every form of communication. That part isn’t new.

What’s new is the lies now spread about the American people.

It’s insidious. Even as much as I follow politics, I didn’t see it clearly until now.

Somewhere along the way, presidents and presidential candidates have forgotten that, in the White House, they must be the president of everyone, not just of the people who voted for them. They have become willing to throw entire groups of people away, to offend their sensibilities, their beliefs and their convictions, for the sake of currying favor with those other Americans who hold opposing views.

Elections have become less about pitting one candidate against the other and more about pitting one group of Americans against another in the name of a candidate. We’ve heard it called “the politics of fear,” and that’s accurate, but it’s usually a phrase flung forward by a candidate using it to scare their supporters away from their opponent. We’ve heard it called “class warfare” – a term that amuses me, since the last uncounted years demonstrate that class warfare has always been waged – but usually on the poor instead of the rich.

We are now in a time when greatly offensive words uttered in private fundraisers and recorded are called “inelegant” instead of what they really are: the truth of a candidate’s feelings accidentally spoken aloud. It is as true of then-candidate Obama’s “guns and religion” as it is of Mitt Romney’s “victims.” That these things were said doesn’t surprise me. Both comments offended me. In campaigning, I’m willing to call it a wash. But in the intent to govern the American people, what it truly is is a name-calling. A categorization of some Americans into “those people.”

And so when it happens, a candidate or a president has two choices: stand by it and essentially claim it as your true feeling, or back off from it and apologize for offense. Mr. Romney has done the former; the president, the latter. I don’t know which one is more sincere or more admirable, but I do know which one acknowledges offense and error (albeit after the fact).

It is no coincidence that these uncovered utterances happen at private fundraisers. It is, after all, money that is king in a republic meant not to have one. It is in front of $30,000-a-plate diners that candidates are willing to make those less elegant feelings known, so they can gather funds from the people who agree. Until they’re in office, they speak only to friendly audiences.

But of course, all candidates, all people, have their biases. We’ve heard it in decades-old tapes of Presidents Nixon and Johnson in the Oval Office. It is the information age, the age of global media and the internet, that have laid those biases bare in campaigns in recent years. Maybe nothing has really changed at all, and it’s just that we know about it all now. But the Observer Effect tells us that the act of observing a phenomenon or event changes the phenomenon or event. So the fact that the American people can now hear and see these biases will change the way campaigns are run, the way we vote, and the way we are governed.

It was the Great Communicator, the Republicans’ sainted and oft-invoked Ronald Reagan, who first understood that we were coming into a global media atmosphere. His speeches stirred the masses because they found them inspiring. Are we inspired now by the messages we hear? And if so, what are we inspired to do? Are we inspired to support a candidate because he reinforces our distrust of a group we consider opposed to us?

If so, that’s the wrong way to be inspired. On either side. And it is our responsibility to be aware of that.

Somewhere in the fairly recent past, politicians came to believe that the key to getting elected is to make us distrustful of one another. It’s what spurred the sea change of the 2010 congressional elections. It is what’s driving this presidential campaign. It is an engine of its own, churning so mightily in Congress that it is propelling those who used to be moderates either out to the margins or out of their offices voluntarily, if not by elective force. Politicians believe that this is what we want.

And we’re proving it, every time we vote a moderate out of office. It may be the single greatest unintended consequence of American government: the sacrifice of our government’s ability to work together.

I didn’t divulge the name of the person I quoted at the beginning of this post for a reason. He was a contentious figure, one regarded as vitriolically partisan. And he was not a politician. I didn’t divulge his name because I wanted to see how many people who might philosophically disagree with him would in fact agree with at least this statement, without knowing the speaker’s leanings. Sometimes I think we could use more of that kind of decision-making – the kind that eliminates party or platform, that takes “those people” out of the message and speaks simply to common sense, even though common sense can differ.

It was common sense, and a common goal of independence and the betterment of man, that created this country.

Perhaps that is what we need to sustain it.

 

 

Benghazi

Four Americans are dead, including an ambassador. I am frightened and terribly saddened by what has happened, which looks, in Libya, increasingly like a planned attack to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11.

And I have lost all respect for Mitt Romney.

My regular readers will know that I have spent a lot of time watching, reading, analyzing and writing about the presidential campaign, starting with the very first Republican primary debate. And along the way, I have been careful to be informative, and sometimes funny, and often snarky, but I usually have not revealed for whom I would vote in the end. That’s partly because I am fair-minded, partly because I don’t think my readers want to read a bunch of partisan acrimony, and partly because I truly didn’t know for whom I would vote.

I made up my mind a few months ago, and without saying what my decision was, I can tell you now that I will not be voting for Mr. Romney, because he demonstrated to me in his response to the incidents at the Cairo Embassy and the US Consulate in Benghazi that he does not understand what it means to be commander-in-chief, nor does he remember what it means to be anything other than a campaigner.

The Obama and Romney campaigns had agreed: for the 24 hours of September 11, 2012, there would be no negative attacks on each other.

At 10:09pm that day, the Romney campaign released a statement. It was in response to a statement issued by the Embassy in Cairo hours before. That embassy’s statement dealt with what the Embassy sensed was mounting unrest over a film from an American producer that depicts the prophet Muhammed (in itself offensive to Muslims) as, among other things, a philanderer. Here is the full statement from the Embassy, which was first picked up via internet around noon on Tuesday, EDT (6pm Cairo time, and 12 hours after it was initially released):

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

Six hours after the statement’s initial release, protestors had gathered around the embassy. Four and a half hours after that, the embassy confirmed that its wall had been breached and its American flag removed. Thirty minutes after that came the reports of clashes at the US Consulate in Benghazi and the possible death of one US official.

It was five hours after that that Mr. Romney’s campaign released his statement. It was embargoed until midnight, meaning no one was allowed to publish it until then – so the campaign could adhere to its agreement not to attack the president on September 11th.

But the campaign lifted the embargo at 10:25pm.

Here is the campaign’s full statement, posted on its website:

I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi.

It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

(There is a timeline of events at the end of this post; I urge you to read it. I think it will clarify much of what’s happened. I think you’ll find some of it very interesting, and I suspect we will hear much more about the first and last elements of the timeline in coming days.)

We could parse whether the Embassy’s statement was sympathetic to the attackers or not. The factual problem was this: one minute after Mr. Romney’s campaign released its statement, the White House told Politico that it had not approved the embassy’s statement, and that the statement did not reflect the position of the US Government. The Obama Administration had not made that statement – it was made by a public affairs officer at the embassy on his own.

But that wasn’t all that was wrong.

My visceral reaction when I first learned of what had happened and what Mr. Romney had said 15 hours before my post remains with me now: You do not come out with an attack on the president in the midst of an immediate crisis in which American lives are in danger or lost. I do not care that it’s the height of a political campaign. I do not care who is in the White House, Republican or Democrat. You voice heartfelt empathy for those who are in danger, those who have died, and their families. You stand in unity with all Americans, and you reiterate that justice will be served.

And then you shut the hell up, because you are not the President of the United States, and you do not know nearly as much as he knows.

But it didn’t stop there. The next morning (Wednesday), and in fact all day long, Mr. Romney, faced with questions of whether he had spoken too soon or been too critical, doubled down on his statement, insisting that he was right, that the president was wrong, and doing so even after the early-morning confirmation that four Americans were dead, including Ambassador John Christopher Stevens.

Mr. Romney, like anyone else, has the right to disagree with a decision from the president. But given that he wants the job, he should act presidential. And his behavior is not presidential, nor is it well-informed. It is stubborn, it is brash, it is disrespectful and it is tone deaf.

I am so, so saddened that this is where we are.

Mr. Romney’s statements were designed as a play for votes.

This is not a time to play.

******
A timeline of the events leading up to, including, and following the incidents in Cairo and Benghazi (Source: Fox News)

Monday, 9/10. 11:46pm – Video by Ayman Al Zawahiri of Al Qaeda surfaces, mourning death of a top Al Qaeda member killed in a June drone strike. Zawahiri calls fighters to avenge his death. Video cuts to file footage of Zawahiri’s brother, Mohammed Al Zawahiri. Analysts note the choice of footage

Tuesday, 9/11 (early) – Embassy in Cairo prepares for expected protests over anti-Islam video made in US. Associated Press quotes US official: “Embassy security had sent most staff home early after learning of the upcoming protest.”

6am (noon Cairo) – Cairo embassy officials release statement about video condemning “continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.”

noon – Statement seen online, linked on Twitter

12:15pm – wires alert that Cairo protestors are scaling walls of embassy, tearing down US flag and replacing with Islamic flag resembling Al Qaeda flag. Witnesses report hearing chants of “We are all Usama.”

4:29pm – Embassy official’s tweet confirms breach of wall

5:00pm – Wires report clashes at consulate in Benghazi, Libya; reports that one US official may be dead

6:30pm – Cairo Embassy tweets “This morning’s condemnation (issued before the protest began) still stands, as does our condemnation of the breach.”

10:09pm – Romney campaign releases statement embargoed until midnight: “I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi… It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

10:10pm – Obama administration tells Politico that the Cairo embassy statement “was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States Government.”

10:25pm – Romney campaign lifts embargo on Romney statement

Wednesday, 9/12, after midnight – original Cairo embassy statement, subsequent tweets removed from embassy website and Twitter account

12:09am – Obama campaign spokesman emails reporters: “We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack.”

5:30am – Confirmation that US Ambassador to Libya John Christopher Stevens and three other staff members are dead in Benghazi attack

9:00am – Sec. Hillary Clinton speaks at State Dept., says attack was “by small and savage group,” not the Libyan government and not Muslims as a people

10:16am – Romney addresses attacks and his own criticism, reiterating and defending previous statement

10:42am – President Obama address from Rose Garden, condemns in “strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack.”

12:30pm – Intelligence officials confirm Ayman Al Zawahiri’s brother Mohammed was at protest in Cairo

 

In Which I Have (Almost) No Real New Things To Say

Plant Matter
Update: I got a call from my stupid apartment management company’s property manager, who was very nice and I think believed me when I said I hadn’t received a letter from her because I don’t get my mail at my address. (It’s true, I don’t. But I did get the letter. I just ignored it.) Anyway, she said she hated to make the call and she herself thinks it’s dumb, and then, sotto voce, “can you go buy some tables and bring me the receipt and I’ll take care of it?”

Well. That’s hard to argue.

She set a limit of $30. My plants are now sitting on overturned storage cubes stacked three-high. I don’t like them, but whatever. I can use them for other stuff later, or give them away. They’re also about four inches too short, so I still need a way to boost the plants to exactly the height of the railing and thumb my nose.

“Don’t tell your neighbor we’re doing this,” she said to me.

Oh, I’m totally telling the neighbor.

The Proper Way To Have A Car Accident
Update: The car has been repaired without argument of any kind from anybody. I continue to be amazed at this. Oh, except for one quibble…

Me to car shop guy: “Everything looks great. Just one thing: there’s a V6 decal on the bumper, and my car’s not a V6.”

Car shop guy: “But we got that off your car.”

Me: “No, my car’s not a V6.”

Car shop guy: “We got that off your car!”

Me: “Nnnnooo, you got that off someone else’s car.”

Car shop guy: “That decal came off your car. I have pictures. Pictures never lie.”

Me (getting testy): Sir, I’ve had the car for six and a half years. It’s not a V6.”

Car shop guy (looking at pictures): “…Well this is embarrassing.”

They fixed it.

Paradox
Update: Still pissed at Jack.

That is all.

Awe-Inspiring. Not In A Good Way
Update: Still pissed at Rep. Akin for being a fucktard who doesn’t know A) where babies come from, and 2) that there is no distinction between “legitimate” rape and any other kind. Except now actually more pissed, because he got defensive about four hours after his allegedly heartfelt apology and insisted he had only used one wrong word in one sentence, one time. When in reality, he used bunches of wrong words in three sentences, all strung together, which he continues to mostly defend except for the part about rape maybe not totally sucking. Which he’s still, frankly, a little dodgy on. Meanwhile…

Theater of the Absurd
Update: …the election conversation has gotten caught up in the debate over abortion and rape, and there are people who find this “distracting.” Well, I find that insulting. Because there are, in fact, other issues in the country than the economy, and those issues must be dealt with as well, and when lawmakers are arguably closer than ever to repealing Roe v. Wade (which I don’t think will actually happen for all sorts of reasons, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try really hard) and they’d staked their hopes of regaining control of the Senate in large part on Rep. Akin’s presumed win over Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri, the country needs to talk about abortion and rape. Especially since Rep. Akin co-sponsored a bill with Rep. Paul Ryan and — wait for it — more than 100 other congressional representatives (list below if you’re curious) that used the phrase “forcible rape” as an exception to abortion law. The bill never defines what “forcible” means.

I do not make my position on abortion clear, one way or another, on this blog. But the reason I find this important to talk about is that implying that a rape need be “forcible” in order to validate a woman’s desire for an abortion throws the burden of responsibility for the rape back on the woman. She must now prove her attack was forcible in order for it to “count.” Well, by definition, rape is the act of sexual penetration against the victim’s will. Pretty much means they were forced. What qualifies as “forcible?” Weapons? What about bare hands around her throat? What if there are no weapons but the guy says he’ll kill her if she doesn’t comply? What if she freezes? What if she can’t scream? What if her boyfriend does it? What if it was her husband?

Telling women what they can and can’t do with their own bodies is one thing. Telling them what men can and can’t do to their bodies is another.

I’ve never been raped. Thank God. But I did have a stalker, who I couldn’t identify, and who had access to my building. And I can tell you this: every night, when I came home, I knew he might be inside the building, waiting for me. And I thought about what would happen if he came up from behind and shoved me inside when I opened my apartment door. I thought about what might be the best ways to get away. I thought about how I might be able to fight him off. I thought about whether I should take a different tack if he had a gun, or a knife, or if he tried to strangle me, or if he just said he’d kill me. Or even if he didn’t threaten my life at all.

No one should ever have to explain to the government why her rape was “forcible.”

And no lawmaker should ever think she should.

********
Co-sponsors of the original version of H.R. 3, in which “forcible” rape is required:
http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr3

Note: at the bottom are listed those who joined the bill after its first version. The word “forcible” was removed after the first version. Also note: this bill deals with federal funding for abortion, which may explain some representatives’ reasons for signing on.