Political Roundup 1/28

We’re back with another litany of Congressional chicanery, including a bill to redefine the word “rape” and another to privatize Medicare and another to enslave politicians to corporate money, but don’t worry! There’s a funny Jon Stewart video to balance it all out (that will balance it all out, right?). Happy Friday, guys!

Riots in Cairo and Tunisia – Normally, I limit these round-ups to American politics because it would simply be too unwieldy to include news from across the globe, but the possible overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year administration is of major international significance, and while Egypt is not your typical bellwether, the frustrations Egyptians feel about their economic and social situation are mirrored across the globe.

If you haven’t already read Olivia’s post today about the Egyptian protests or Wednesday’s brilliant post about the Western notion of “the pursuit of happiness” inculcating cultures that traditionally favor a more fatalist outlook, check them out. Also, Huffington Post has a liveblog (at the bottom of the linked post) that’s currently updating every 15 – 20 minutes with developments on the situation in Cairo.

A screengrab from Obama's state of the union address, showing an illustration of a bisected salmon next to him.
It amuses me to think that the world "salmon" has essentially become an inside joke for millions of Americans. And: that salmon looks like it's gunning for Obama.

Normal People React to the State of the Union Address – According to a USA Today/Gallup poll, 65% of Americans had a positive reaction to the SOTU, while 28% had a negative reaction. No word on the other 7% (presumably, they fell asleep during the snoozefest and their opinions are rendered irrelevant). Personally, I felt it was a very measured, even-handed speech that focused on the right topics, but it seemed kind of uninspired.

If you want to read more, The Atlantic has a good roundup of responses from blogs, Twitter, conservatives, liberals, basically the whole length of the social media spectrum. The same post also quotes a CBS poll which questioned 517 random viewers immediately after the SOTU, and 83% of them agreed with the policies Obama proposed in his speech.

Bizarre People React to the State of the Union Address -Sarah Palin apparently thinks that not only is she the first person to realize that “Winning the Future” can be acronym-ed to “WTF,” but repeating the same joke over and over makes it exponentially funnier. Meanwhile, Palin’s toady/apprentice Michele Bachmann gave the “Tea Party response” (I put that in quotes because it’s not a real thing). Issues with what can only have been a teleprompter forced her eyes right of the camera for the entire, awkward, off-putting show.

Jon Stewart riffs on Bachmann and Paul Ryan (the real, appointed Republican rebuttal giver):

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
State of the Union 2011 – Republican Rebuttal
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

Anti-Choice News That Makes Us Want to Move to Europe – In a typical right-winger move, House Republicans have misleadingly dubbed a bill the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” To be clear–women seeking abortion currently cannot “use taxpayer money” (funny how we don’t use that terminology with, say, capital punishment) unless they are the victims of rape or incest. This new bill is trying to narrow those exceptions by legislating a constrained interpretation of the word “rape” that would only apply to women who could prove their assault was adequately “forcible.”

Victims of statutory rape, victims of “date rape” (a term which bothers me for many reasons I won’t go into now), rape victims who are mentally disabled or otherwise unwell, among others, would be barred from using Medicaid or a tax-exempt health savings account to pay for any part of the abortion, and barred from writing off the cost of the abortion as a medical expense on their taxes.

We’ll have a story about this up next week. Until then, let’s try to assuage the pain with laughter/daydreaming: this crap makes me want to relocate to Germany and Selena to Scotland–where would you go?

Other Things The House May Try to Privatize, Besides Your Body – Rep. Paul Ryan (R – WI), the same Paul Ryan from the above Jon Stewart clip and also the Paul Ryan who authored “A Roadmap for America’s Future,” is now the Chairman of the House Budget Committee (which is akin to making Sylvester the Chair of the Tweety Committee) and he’s considering attempting to replace the current Medicare system with a voucher plan.

That’s all just a complicated way of saying he’ll give each senior citizen the same amount of money to spend on whatever they need, and those senior citizens will be able to buy adequate healthcare for maybe a year before runaway health costs make those vouchers nearly worthless.

And One Final Thing the House Did That Seems Questionable – Looks like the House Rep.’s are getting next week off, but they’ve made sure to stir the pot a little before they leave. They voted this week to get rid of government funding for presidential elections, a move that, if approved by the Senate and President Obama, will save $617 million over the course of ten years (by Republicans’ estimate, not the Congressional Budget Office, which hasn’t issued any figures on this bill yet).

The rub, of course, is that Presidential candidates would have to rely on private funds, and in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, corporations already have substantial power to fund political campaigns, through PACs and advertisements, for the candidate of their choice. It’s a recipe for corporate buy-outs and candidate concessions.

Former President George W. Bush is “Through with Politics” – And that includes fundraising and campaigning, people! W. has left the building. Frankly, this is not at all surprising, as his party started distancing themselves from him and his policies practically the minute he was out of the White House. Also, really, once you’ve been president for two terms, who even cares anymore? Sure, if you’re Clinton and your tongue is made of quicksilver and babies’ dreams, you continue putting it to good use, but why would a notorious gaffé-er who, two years out of his presidency, is already totally disconnected from what’s become the grassroots heart of his party, want anything to do with politics anymore?

You know what I’m “through with”? Writing about politics, for today anyway. I’m depressed about all the new legislation I don’t agree with – next week will be a welcome break from the Republican-majority House, so hopefully that round-up induces far less of that nasty, stomach-sinking feeling.

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