AFD 61 – Non-Functioning Democracy

Latest Episode:
“AFD 61 – Non-Functioning Democracy”
Posted: Tues, 29 October 2013

What is a democracy? Bill and Sasha talk Texas voting laws, then Bill critiques the DC fiscal paralysis and comments on guns in America.

Additional links:

http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/10/16/2788321/budget-crises-jobs/

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/10/17/2789931/threat-women-texas/

http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/d/download_file_39242.pdf

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/ag-holder-number-of-mass-shootings-in-u-s-have-tripled

http://www.theglobalist.com/social-cost-u-s-guns/

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/10/25/2835741/virginia-tech-cuccinelli-mcauliffe-guns/

Turkish pundit: Hide your baby bumps, future moms!

Some men are too stupid to live, let alone express opinions.

A Turkish commentator and religious lawyer has caused a firestorm in Turkey by saying that it’s “disgusting” for pregnant women to be seen in public and in the third trimester they should never be outside unless in their husbands’ cars where no one can see them.

“Declaring your pregnancy with drums is against our understanding of decency. You cannot walk on the streets with such bellies. To get a bit of fresh air, a woman in the seventh or eighth month of her pregnancy can go around a little in her husband’s car in the late afternoon,” Inancer, who is also known to Islamic circles as an expert on Sufi mysticism, said. He went on to add that despite this, pregnant women of all shades are to be seen everywhere in Turkey nowadays, including on television, and added, “This is shameful, shameful! This is not realism, this is vulgarity.”

He followed up later by saying he stood by his remarks because pregnant women in public would dissuade young women from having babies.

Pretty sure if that were true, humans would have died out 200,000 years ago. 

AFD Ep 36 – Progress Small and Large

Posted: Tues, 29 Jan 2013
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Description: Bill updates us on the Senate rules reform, discusses a strange Federal Appeals Court decision, talks to guest commentator Sasha about women in combat, covers a proposal to change the Electoral College to help Republicans, looks at protests in Egypt, discusses the tragic loss of the Timbuktu libraries this week, and previews the coming immigration reform battle in Congress.

AFD Ep 34 – David Waldman on Filibusters

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Description: After a lengthy hiatus, Bill returns to the air with an in-depth interview on filibuster reform with David Waldman, a commentary on the issues facing the new Congress, an explanation of the French military campaign in Mali, and a note on the US timetable in Afghanistan. Sasha also chimes in for a discussion of the status of women in American politics at the start of 2013.

Have we accomplished anything in Afghanistan?

Proponents of the second escalation of US troops in Afghanistan still insist there’s something tangible we’re fighting there for and that we’re protecting. With every passing day, I find this harder and harder to believe. Recently, for example, I argued that with no viable state funding source, the US could be underwriting the Afghan Army for years and years with no end in sight — unless we just stop. This raises the question of why we should keep doing it right now.

Some surge supporters have specifically cited women’s rights as a reason for the US not to leave Afghanistan now. Well, welcome to 2009 because that argument stopped being legitimate a few years back since the US-backed Afghan government has been doing its damnedest to roll back any ephemeral gains that women made after the fall of the Taliban government in 2001. Most blatantly has been the approval of a bill legalizing marital rape, but it’s just been one drop in the bucket. From Meteor Blades for DailyKos last week:

After the fall of the Taliban everyone wanted to come and work for women’s rights, they were proud to say they were here to help Afghan women. Slowly, slowly this disappeared. Maybe the international community saw that we had two or three women in the cabinet, and thought, it’s ok, now they have their rights. But we have lost everything, from those cabinet positions to the donor attention. Women are not a priority for our own government or the international community. We’ve been forgotten.

   —Shinkai Karokhail, member of parliament, Kabul, June 4, 2009

 
The international Human Rights Watch has published a devastating 96-page report on the situation for women in Afghanistan. “We Have the Promises of the World”: Women’s Rights in Afghanistan explores the reality of everyday life for Afghan women, somewhat improved since the Taliban was forced out of the government, but still rife with intimidation, forced marriage of young girls, rape, including gang rape, and murder, including assassination of high-level women activists. Police and courts and other government machinery is still quite hostile to women, and not just in back-country areas or those where the Taliban has made a resurgence.

 
There’s a lot more in his piece on the HRW report and none of it looks good. Yes, it will almost certainly worsen if we leave, but this is a no-win situation. I don’t advocate simply abandoning the women of Afghanistan, but we’re not doing much to help them as it is right now. And the folks at Human Rights Watch don’t expect the US to focus enough attention on women under the new strategy. That means we’re betraying the women even without leaving, as we’ve been doing to the Afghan people at large ever since the invasion. But I don’t think anyone can legitimately make the argument anymore that we shouldn’t leave because we would be abandoning the women of Afghanistan. No, it’s too late to say that. We’ve already abandoned them.

So, have we accomplished anything positive and enduring in Afghanistan since 2001? Because we can cross women’s rights off the list.

This post originally appeared on Starboard Broadside.

Democratic candidates and Choice

There’s been a lot of controversy within the Democratic base over the Stupak Amendment, which we’ll be covering more later. Essentially, it’s an amendment by the so-called “pro-life Democrats” in the House and would place de facto restrictions on abortion accessibility if it passes both chambers of Congress. Without going into the amendment itself much, I wanted to look at a point this raises on the role of the Choice issue in the Democratic Party and how it relates to Democratic candidacies.

I obviously can’t speak for all base Democrats, but I think many of us made the critical mistake of underestimating the potential influence of the anti-choice/pro-life caucus within our party in Congress. For example, Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA, elected 2006) has been a pretty good Senator so far, but everyone knew he ran as a “pro-life Democrat,” but most of us especially outside Pennsylvania probably thought very little on that point. Of course, some liberal pro-choice activists were rightly worried because Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the major 1992 Supreme Court revision of Roe v. Wade, refers to Bob Casey Sr. who was then the Governor of Pennsylvania and supported a fairly strict abortion restriction law — and it was reasonable to wonder if the father’s views were shared by the junior Senator from Pennsylvania.

As it turns out, yes that appears to be the case:

Now some Senate Democrats, including Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, are pushing to incorporate the same [Stupak] restrictions in their own bill. Senior Senate Democratic aides said the outcome was too close to call.

 
I sincerely hope that the Senate does not pass the Casey-Nelson version of Stupak into the Senate health care reform bill (and the signs suggest that it won’t succeed). But that’s not even what I’m looking at here.

The problem as I see it is that I and many others assumed that at the federal legislative level, abortion law was largely a settled matter for the most part. I know many activists who are dedicated in particular to this issue didn’t share that view, but I’m willing to admit they were right and I was wrong on this. I figured that if the Republicans had used nearly uninterrupted control of the whole Congress for twelve years and the White House and the House for six years, but had failed to outlaw abortion, then it was pretty much secure. There were restrictions such as the misleadingly named “partial-birth abortion ban,” but the Republicans were upfront about their hope of banning abortion and they failed. I assumed that pro-Choice Democrats, who do form a majority of the caucus, would be able to keep the “pro-Life” Democrats in check.

So for Casey and other candidates, I figured there was probably very little chance for them to put their views to a vote, and if it did come up I forgot that pro-life Republicans and Democrats would be able to vote in unison to form a majority as they did on the Stupak House amendment. It almost seemed like some Democratic candidates who took pro-life pledges might just have been pandering with no intention of casting damaging votes. And I think I was wrong.

That leads us to a question on how to view pro-life candidates in future. Obviously there are a lot of Democrats who have more conservative opinions on abortion, and that means there’s a role for pro-life candidates. On the other hand, and more importantly, I think a majority of the Democratic base supports the right to choose and women are certainly a majority of the Democratic Party’s membership nationally. The Stupak Amendment is a political problem for the party because it makes it look like the party is “throwing women under the bus,” as many have said in the past few days.

I think we may have reached a day of reckoning on this issue. The Democratic Party is going to face severe electoral difficulties if it doesn’t quickly resolve its position on abortion rights. In future election cycles, I think that activists, the ones who donate their time and money to elect Democrats, are going to be extremely wary of engaging with candidates who oppose the right to choose. We’ve now seen that they’re a real threat to the right to choose, not just a stated or theoretical threat. This is an intra-party policy contradiction that the party leaders have kicked down the road for years. That doesn’t look like an option anymore. Unfortunately, this has never been an issue that party leaders like to discuss openly, even though it needs to be discussed.

This post originally appeared on Starboard Broadside.