Votes, hearings and executive orders abound in this week’s politics roundup. Plus, turns out French politicians call yell just as loud as ours.
Yes, this temporarily violates our T-word embargo, but it’s important enough to include here. Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted to pass on the revamped American Health Care Act (AHCA), also known as “Trumpcare”. The AHCA now moves on to the Senate and, if it passes there, will be signed into law in the Oval Office.
Let’s not mince words here. Trumpcare reinstates many of the worst things about American healthcare from days past. Preexisting conditions could again be grounds for insanely high premiums or even complete denial of health insurance. States can choose to waive requirements protecting those with preexisting conditions, maintaining essential health benefits, or protecting Medicaire funds, among others.
In case that wasn’t already enough to turn your stomach: “preexisting conditions” can include such things as rape, domestic violence, Cesarean sections, and postpartum depression. Planned Parenthood may also lose considerable funding, while senior Americans may face plans up to five times more expensive than those of their younger compatriots.
If it makes you feel any better, the AHCA just barely passed through the House, with a 217-213 vote margin in favor. In the Senate, Republicans have a mere two-vote hold over opponents. Only three Republican Senators need to break from their party to take Trumpcare version 2 down yet again.
However, given that we are living in times of great uncertainty where a reality show blowhard has become President and we seem to be constantly teetering on the verge of The Handmaid’s Tale, you shouldn’t be taking any bets.
Religious liberties EO gives religious groups looser reins
While everyone was discussing the AHCA as it made its way through the House, the President also signed an executive order “promoting free speech and religious liberty”. The actual text of the order is generally vague. Indeed, the ACLU called the signing “an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome”.
However, it may still allow for potentially sweeping generalizations via the judicial branch. Commentators have argued that this new order could give companies and organizations the ability to discriminate against vulnerable employees (such as LGBTQ individuals and their families). They may also deny health care benefits, such as birth control, due to “conscience based” objections.
“Mildly nauseous” Comey would still repeat his actions
In some ways, you can really empathize with FBI Director James Comey. He faced a difficult decision during the waning days of the 2016 presidential election — should he open an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server? Should he keep quiet? Certainly, he must have understood that he was making such a decision in a complex and increasingly brutal political field.
And, yet, he did indeed decide to further the Clinton email investigation, and may very well have cost her the election. At the very least, the FBI investigation did nothing to help her campaign.
Comey still faces considerable scrutiny for his actions in late 2016 and beyond. In fact, he’s said that he feels “mildly nauseous” when he considers how much he may have influenced the election.
During his recent Congressional hearing, however, Comey claims that he would still repeat his actions. He also kept mum on the ongoing Russia investigations and argued for a return of more widespread and potentially invasive surveillance laws.
Turns out, French politics is just as awful as anywhere else
Guess it’s time to finally disavow ourselves of the stereotype of a sophisticated, erudite French aesthetic. Surely, there are any number of people in France or elsewhere who may embody the “sophisticated continental”, to be fair. However, you would have been hard pressed to find one of them at the latest French presidential debate. Guess their candidates can shout just as much as ours.
Protester charged for laughing at Sessions
“Nothing changes instantaneously,” wrote Margaret Atwood in her searing dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. “In a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.”
Desiree Fairooz, an activist with Code Pink, a peace and social justice-focused NGO, laughed during Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing. The now-Attorney General and his team did not take kindly to her reaction, however, for Fairooz is now facing prison time for her laughter.
Fairooz, who was escorted out the hearing after laughing, has been convicted of disrupting Congress and “parading or demonstrating on Capitol grounds”. Others at the hearing disagree on whether or not Fairooz and her fellow Code Pink demonstrators were truly disruptive to the hearing.
Secretary of State Tillerson discusses changes in policy
While addressing employees of the State Department, Tillerson maintained that “things got a little out of balance” thanks to previous efforts at diplomacy and trade. “We just kind of lost track of how we were doing.” Secretary of State Tillerson will presumably maintain course to establish the much-vaunted “America First” policies. However, nationalist and isolationist politics have a tricky history even within living memory.
Tillerson did not directly address some of the concerns voiced by State Department employees, who are leery of impending budget cuts and an unusual wealth of empty top-level positions. However, the Secretary’s remarks were met with applause at the conclusion of his talk.
And, finally your palate cleanser
After all that, you may now be even more keenly aware of the strangeness and absurdity of our times. Perhaps some creepy feminist surrealism can help you take the edge off.
Are you still an aspiring Lydia Deetz decades after Beetlejuice hit the scene? Then check out the work of artist Stacey Steers. This Boulder-based filmmaker may be one of the most patient people in the business. Her short films typically require thousands of cut-outs, even more shots, and a level of fortitude and thoughtfulness that defies expectation.
Steers’ eerie work tackles women’s experiences through a strange but effective lens. Her “Night Hunter” installation, which is now part of the collections at Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art, is especially intriguing.
If you don’t happen to live in New Hampshire, though, never fear. You can view clips of Steers’ work online at her own website. You can even check out a virtual tour of her Night Hunter house online, courtesy of Steers herself. If you’re especially compelled by her work, then also take a few minutes to read a couple of articles reviewing her work.