Author: eloisemintumble

The Bowling Green Massacre*

This week I really wanted to write something humorous. Maybe find a few laugh-worthy sketches and comics. Instead, I’m disappointed. Thinking of this administration¹ I hang my head low.

We had the travel ban, and a clear demonstration by the Trumpster which, to me, goes against everything that is essential to a political system that is fair through checks and balances. I briefly talked about checks and balances here. Essentially, it is the separation of power in government, in the form of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, that allow for checks and balances. This is a good thing: it promotes the security of liberty by balancing and restraining tyranny to preserve freedom.

Now note, it is not just the existence of these branches that is important, but also the ability of these branches to be able to check and restrain the other branches. It is so to prevent any one branch of government from becoming an absolute².

Speaking of checks and balances, you might know of this one guy Jefferson, on his Notes on the State of Virginia he called out that “the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that none could transcend their legal limits, without being effectively check and restrained by the others”³.

So does the class want to take a stab at why the Trumpster fired acting US Attorney General Sally Yates?

Okay, okay, wrong question. I should ask what it means: What it means is that the political branch of government, i.e. the executive, is bent on silencing the judiciary, which exists to check the executive. Yes, let that settle. Think on it. Mr Trumpster said goodbye to Yates because she disagreed with him, instead choosing to replace her with Dana Bonte who agrees with the Trumpster. What we are seeing see a man hiring lapdogs, and yes-men. Is this the government that the people of the United States of America deserve? One which panders to itself? One which silences those who disagree, speak up, and those who question?

Okay, anyone else need a breather? And an Advil?

And to the ladies of The View who here talk about Yates’ dismissal, and whether Sessions’ will be just another yes-man.

* Oh and as for the title of this blog piece, the Bowling Green Massacre, here, here and here are some relevant commentary.


¹ If it is not clear that I am referring to the Trumpster’s administration, then we would much appreciate the address to the rock you’ve been under.

²… an absolute asshat.

³ This if you would believe it is from an actual book: Roger Scruton’s The Palgrave Macmillian Dictionary of Political Thought, p. 89

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Global Gag Order: A Ban on Abortions

You heard it folks: there is a ban on abortions.

Okay, okay, it only applies where federal money is going to international groups that perform or provide information on abortions. I.e. it only applies outside of USA borders. (This is still a major problem!).

Now this is not something new, for many a decade Republicans and Democrats have been going back and forth on this issue. Some might remember it as the Mexico City policy or the global gag order.* It started with Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1984 with stopping the funding for international groups which perform or provide information on abortion. The tug-o-war on this continued from Clinton, to Bush, to Obama. But just because it’s happened before does not mean that it is alright to take these rights away from women.

There are several things about this that get my blood boiling (and fill me with terror and sadness);

  1. This takes away a woman’s right to choose.
  2. This takes away a woman’s control over her own fertility.
  3. This takes away a woman’s right to complete and full advice on family planning.
  4. This in ways censors organisations from giving women all the information, and providing essential care.
  5. This will result in a rise in unsafe abortions, which could result in death.¹
  6. Trivially, why was there no woman in the photograph: Are men eminently qualified to make such decisions about women’s health care?¹

In the face of all of this, what brings tears to my eyes (because of the good in the world) is that the Dutch have stepped in (#ThankYouToTheDutch). They are stepping in to support an international abortion fund which will help to mitigate the some harmful effects of Trump’s atrocious, ogre-defining, uncivil global gag order. The fund, announced by Dutch Development Minister Lilianne Ploumen, will help those groups that wish to continue providing birth control and abortions to women who need it. I do hope other organisations and governments also step up, join the cause, and help provide this essential health care for women.

Population Action International (PAI) describes the ban well: “The only goal the policy will achieve is to punish women in already challenging circumstances by blocking access to essential care.”

And Ploumen’s words are one to remember: Speaking of the Netherland’s taking an independent stance, even if it sets the Dutch government against the Trump administration, she said: “I’m pro-choice and pro-women’s rights. It’s important to stand your ground…We respect the decisions of a democratically elected president, but we’re democratically elected too and we can make different decisions…This is also about millions of women and girls who often have no voice or live in countries where democracy is less deeply rooted, and when they speak up they need our support.”

 


¹ Activists say that Trump’s global gag order will lead to deaths: Read more here, and here, and here where there is also some talk of the new patriarchy.

² Many thanks to the Dutch Government for stepping in with their international abortion fund.

*P.s. we’re noticing a trend: gag-orders galore. For more gag-order related news watch out for Friday’s post by Bookpheonix.

 

Check, please!

You have to feel really low if Trump is chastising you.¹, ²,³

As the year began, behind closed doors the Republican Party voted to weaken the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. Now the story has, mostly, blown over with the Republicans walking off stage, tails between their legs.

If you did not know, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) was established in the wake of a lobbying scandal in 2008. It was set up to investigate corruption allegations against members of Congress.

The secret vote had it come to fruition would have led to the OCE falling under control of a House committee – specifically there would have been a name change (the Office of Congressional Complaint Review was top pick), and it would have become a subordinate body to the House Ethics Committee, which in this political climate is ruled by the Republican majority. The proposed new body would not have allowed anonymous tips from members of Congress, and nor would it have made its findings from investigations public.

Had this made it through, with the Republicans controlling all three branches of government, another layer of constraint on their powers would have been removed as such a vote would have seriously restricted the power, and ultimately purpose, of the OCE. What this means is that another check would have been dismantled.

Checks and balances allow for the separation of power in government, thus ensuring that no one branch may have too much control. In most cases this divides the Government into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial.

Checks and balances are essential to the security of liberty. John Adams phrases this more eloquently as he speaks of the balancing of these branches of government: “It is by balancing each of these powers against the other two, that the efforts in human nature toward tyranny can alone be checked and restrained, and any degree of freedom preserved in the constitution”.

Our governments need systems, entities, and bodies to question, investigate, and check the branches of power. Because in a world where bodies such as the OCE lose their power, we might be looking at a world where corruption and tyranny can run free.


 

¹By no means do we suggest that the Trumpster should be anyone’s moral compass, after all his concerns were based on what he perceived to be of greater value and not one on ethics: tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance…than the OCE which the Donald thought to be unfair

² I did try to find a link to the original tweet, but seven tweets into the Trumpster’s feed and I was starting to feel a tad queasy

³ Instead, here is Trevor Noah’s take, and here are some quick facts about the OCE

 

 

2016: The year of whimsical hair pieces and a Key

Good morning. Or afternoon, evening, or noon where ever you all are.

My, my, did we ever have an entertaining year. Though I suspect many will have more colourful phrases to describe the year that was 2016. Below I briefly touch on only two of our shock moments in 2016: one which involves a whimsical hair piece on an orange head, and the man after Obama’s heart.

Mr Donald Trump, if you had not already heard¹, is all geared up as the 45th POTUS. This was ground-shaking news across the globe. Even days following the Trump victory people walked around the streets in a dazed disbelief. One of the great² things that the 2016 USA Presidential elections highlighted was how non-democratic the land of the free was. As you’ve already read elsewhere, Clinton had the popular vote but Trump snagged the electoral college (come back on January 13th to see more on this!).

In other news, with the wake of Mr Trump’s election victory, came Prime Minister (of New Zealand) John Key’s resignation. By no means am I suggesting that Mr Trump’s victory is the reason for Key’s resignation, but here Dr Bryce Edwards suggests that it, and Brexit, bring some additional stressors, so maybe it played a small part.

In my lifetime this has never happened before: a Prime Minister stepping down early. Strategically this works well for the National Party to trial out someone else in the top job and for the nation to gain some familiarity with a new leader before the general elections in 2017.

Key more or so says that he would not be able to give the job his all to complete his term and carry on into another term, and so he has chosen to leave. This is considerate, strategic but considerate. Though I wonder if we should we let a man who has put his hand up to serve the nation just step down because it’s gotten a bit hard? After all it is a hard job to be a leader to a nation. Aren’t our leaders expected to be made of harder stuff? To stand up and continue, to hold us up, and keep the nation going? But then again is it not right for a leader to step down should he or she feel that they are no longer able to give the nation their 100%? After all what use is a leader who cannot fully support the nation?

So what happens now for New Zealand? Do we have to put up with some replacement who we did not vote for? Ultimately, yes. Under our constitutional conventions the resignation of a Prime Minister between elections does not change the composition of the Government. Currently the New Zealand Government, whilst a representative government, is led by the National Party (the majority) and it is the leader of the National Party who serves as the Prime Minister. With Key’s resignation, the Party has  already selected a new leader for their Party who is now the 39th Prime Minister of New Zealand, as appointed by the Governor-General.

The New Zealand and American governments are built differently. Our politics are different, as are our needs as nation states. With the change in the air I look forward to seeing how New Zealand balances it’s relationship with Trump’s USA, in the face of a new Prime Minister and New Zealand’s growing economic relationship with China. Conversely what will Trump’s America look like as an ally to nations who are not Russia.³

¹ P.s. Please give us the address to that rock, we would much enjoy curling up under it too

² The definition of great used here is not to suggest that it was a good thing, but maybe more along the lines of a ridiculously crazy flaw in the system

³

Lithuanian mural depicts Trump and Putin in liplock

Lithuanian mural depicts Trump and Putin in liplock;  Source: CBS News http://www.cbsnews.com/news/lithuanian-mural-depicts-donald-trump-and-vladimir-putin-in-liplock/

 

 

 

The Fifth Eye

Recently, the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key took a trip to Washington, which included secret  (read: undeclared) trip to the National Security Agency headquarters. This trip seems to have generated new interest in New Zealand’s membership to Five Eyes, some of which has talked about  New Zealand being welcomed back into the fold back in 2009 – a fold that also includes West Zealand (a.k.a Australia), Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Whilst the exact reasons for New Zealand’s some two decade absence are hazy, it is worth remembering that in 1984 then-Prime Minister David Lange barred nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships from using NZ ports or entering NZ waters, and this was succeeded by the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act of 1987.

[Bonus: If interested check out journalist Toby Manhire’s take (read:opinion piece) on the briefing for POTUS (President of the United States) written in the lead up to the official leader meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister John Key].

Initially, the Five Eyes provided signal intelligence, but they have since extended to include human intelligence and defense intelligence. The origins of the Five Eyes can be traced back to World War II and in particular to the plans of five (yes, you heard it hear first: five) nations regarding the post-war world. Where some call constant vigilance the price of freedom, Anna Crowe speaks of documentations revealed by Edward Snowden highlighting New Zealand’s active role and in its light she questions whether Five Eyes is something wee New Zealand wants a part of. A part that has seen contribution from New Zealand’s own intelligence agencies, including the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) providing signal intelligence. Now, the scandal involving Kim Dotcom and the GCSB might be quite fresh in the minds of some Kiwis – ah, all that trouble with aged-off information, or was the information simply meant to be archived? Does this sound familiar? It should, there has been a bit of a kerfuffle in the USA recently regarding the IRS, an audit and some lost emails – more on this from my partner in crime in The IRS Scandal to Date (as at June 21st 2014).

 

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