Monday, October 24, 2016

When The Need to Know Corrupts the Right to Privacy

The mainstream media continues to get yanked around by the Trump vigilantes.  They have spent the past few weeks pouring through John Podesta's emails, searching for... what?  The comments they are coming up with are notably unspectacular, ideas about Hillary's campaign, reactions to Bernie and then Trump, the kind of stuff that emails are made of.  Free association, ideas, frustrations, and, yes, things that are not said in public.

The media is doing this because they are afraid if they don't they will be accused of favoring Hillary.  And why is that?  They don't have Donald Trump's staff emails to create an actual balance.  What it has done, though, is persuaded the media to distract us from the real issues, again.  As Jon Stewart would say... "SQUIRREL!!"

When did WikiLeaks evolve from being the hero that exposed government lies and deceptions to the tool of the Russian government?  When did they go from vetting submissions for relevance to dumping?  And what on earth is the motivation?

We have forgotten -- SQUIRREL!! -- the hypothesis that Trump has failed to disprove by refusing to divulge his tax records.  What are his ties to the Russian government?  This is the greedy megalomaniac who bought Chinese steel for his buildings to save money.  To what depths would he stoop to gain some advantage by dealing with the Russians?

Glenn Greenwald, who was responsible for releasing the Edward Snowden files, and Naomi Klein, environmentalist and critic of corporate globalization, got together for a truly important discussion of what these email dumps mean to our understanding of privacy.  Some justify the Hillary dumps because she is a powerful person, which begs the question of where that line is drawn.  Who is so powerful that they should lose their right to privacy?

And does that mean that anyone with the resources, from the Russian government to the Kochs, have the right to hack and expose the emails of anyone who they see as sufficiently influential?  Klein points out that her activism has put her in the line of fire, under surveillance by powerful oil industry groups.

If we have the right to eavesdrop on an email conversation, don't we have the right to tap a phone or bug a conference room?  Both have been done, but both are illegal.  With email hacks there is no legal protection; hence, the abandon with which news outlets have gone at the Podesta dumps.

To be fair, this raises the question of other third party releases of information, from the infamous 49 percent quote by Mitt Romney in 2012 to the appalling video of Trump on the Access Hollywood bus.  Would it be fair if someone in the audience during one of Hillary's Wall Street speeches came forward, but not if the same information was released in an email?

I think so.  I think we have had this technology for far too long without commensurate protections.  We need the same strong protections for our communications online as we have (despite attempts at erosion by government surveillance) for our telephone communication.  As we assume we have in our homes.

The failure of government to make our internet secure has a lot to do with government attempts to breach our privacy since 9/11.  Privacy groups have long held that by not allowing private citizens strong encryption, they have made it easier for us all to be hacked by our enemies.  In other words, if our government can get in, others can get in.  It not only makes private citizens more vulnerable, it makes essential government structures more vulnerable, from the Pentagon to our electrical grid.

It has got to start somewhere, folks.  We need to tune in to the importance of the internet privacy issue, and there is no better time to start than now, with Wikileaks gone awry.  We need to have some firm moral and ethical guidelines for where right to privacy ends and right to know begins.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Women's Rights Attacked at the Blink of an Eye -- Again

I had to drag myself away from the Donald Trump reality show to get back to reality today.  The reality being that here in South Carolina, officials are continuing to sneak in changes to abortion regulations that restrict women's rights and demean the dignity of us all.

It was the Post and Courier, as well as other state newspapers, that highlighted that state health officials are considering requiring a husband's consent before a married woman could get an abortion.  When this incredible piece of information hit the news, DHEC quickly walked it back.  They claim that this stipulation was included in error.  Apparently because a husband's consent is only required during the third trimester

At this point I am feeling like I have been hit with so much shit that I don't even know where to go next.

First of all, I can't believe that we have a law that requires a husband's consent to an abortion under any circumstance.  When did that happen???  How do we allow that to go unchallenged?

But then, read on.  In addition to the "errant" husband's consent requirement, there are restrictions on who can perform the abortion: this simple procedure would require a board certified OB/GYN, prohibiting qualified medical professionals from performing an abortion.

And for those women who weren't yet feeling assaulted and discredited by the system, there is mandated testing for syphilis, gonorhea and chlamydia.  That's right, our government is going to make sure you women feel dirty, or at least know that they think you are.  And they would require a Pap smear, a test no longer recommended for women under 21.  Of course, the added punishment is the cost of all the unnecessary tests.

It is egregious that government continues to hammer away at women's right to access reproductive health care, and it takes my breath away that so many pieces of South Carolina's government are involved in the process.  I am thankful that Planned Parenthood South Atlantic has its eyes open to alert us to these abuses.  And I am glad to see our own Post & Courier keeping us informed.

But being informed isn't enough.  We need to strike back each time a proposed regulation would seek to erode our rights.  As we know, each step leads to another step, with the goal being a ban on women's right to abortion, and eventually contraception.

DHEC is accepting comments on these outrageous proposed regulations until Monday.  That doesn't leave much time.  You can fill out their comment form via this link:

At the top of the form select proposed regulation.  Under that choose "Notice of proposed regulation."  Complete personal information and then add your comment.  Here are some sample comments from Planned Parenthood.

Don't let them get away with taking away our freedoms.  Reproductive rights mean better health for women and their families, and reproductive rights mean economic freedom.

And vote!  Vote these misogynistic hypocrites out of office, so we can get down to improving the quality of life in South Carolina and in the U.S.

I know all this is hard work, so take a break on twitter at #TrumpBookReport . You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Nikki Haley's Next Job

I wasn't blown away by Hurricane Matthew last week.  But here's what did blow me away:

Nikki Haley was in control right from the beginning.  She spoke with authority, and did not seem to be considering anything other than the safety of the people of South Carolina.

She did not hesitate to ask for federal emergency funds.

As I headed out on Wednesday morning, ahead of the evacuation deadline, I noted rows of port-o-potties at rest areas to handle (pardon the pun) the overflow.  I saw police and other emergency vehicles out and ready.  And the next day I was not surprised to hear that the I-26 reversal went smoothly.

There were shelters open, lots of them, and frequent announcements made as to where to go for shelter, what to bring, how to deal with pets.  There were phone numbers for people who needed answers or encountered problems, for anything from finding shelter to price gouging.

While I was hiding out, Nikki Haley was making frequent announcements that were broadcast on TV and radio, with her department heads addressing status and progress.  She never failed to thank those who were working hard to protect us.  She took as long as was needed to keep us informed.  And I believed that the efforts to restore us to normalcy would proceed efficiently.

On the way home on Sunday I saw that road crews had indeed been out taking trees and debris off the roads.  There were police at stop lights that were not working.

To sum it all up, Nikki Haley can kick butt when it comes to emergencies.

Unfortunately, when she is able to slow down, she begins to make all those political decisions that hurt the people of South Carolina.  She puts money in the pockets of the rich, individuals and corporations, as she fights to deny the poor medical insurance and food stamps.  She sticks her government nose into the business of legislating women's reproductive rights and wastes taxpayer dollars to create hurdles to voting rights.  Despite the tragic numbers of gun fatalities, she stands firmly against any gun legislation that might save an innocent life.

In other words, when Nikki Haley has the opportunity to philosophize she makes big mistakes that hurt many people.  She shadows the politics of power.  She aligns herself with the wealthy and convinces herself that her reasons are solid.

So, exactly a year after the 2015 floods, the road to Johns Island was again flooded, as I am sure many other roads were flooded, because no action had been taken after the crisis to prevent the problem from repeating itself.  We still have not raised the gasoline tax in order to repair roads and bridges, even though corporations who have been given sweet deals to move here are pulling the plug, quite possibly because of the disgraceful infrastructure.  And then there are corporations who won't come here because of the low standard of education.

But Nikki sees herself a future national treasure, much as Jim duh-Mint did, and just as Tim Scott imagines.  When she is able, she will always align herself with the right-wing, because that is where the money and power lie.

What is to be done about this waste of Nikki's talent?  I propose that she be given a job in the Clinton administration where she doesn't have to profess a philosophy of government, but just simply has a well-defined job to do.  Something where she has already proven her skills.  I am thinking head of FEMA.

Monday, October 3, 2016

When the "Silent Majority" Pushes You Around

It occurs to me that the title of this blog sounds like it could have come from Ghostbusters.  Maybe that is appropriate.  With all the bullshit that is coming from the tiny mouth of Donald Trump and his deplorables, this country needs more than ever a group to help us fight back.

Enter the ACLU.  The American Civil Liberties Union was once a valued part of our democracy.  My father, who came to this country from Italy in the late '40's, and who knew what was going on from newspapers and the evening news, understood the value of the ACLU.  Just as he understood how being a union member was essential to being able to support himself and a family.

But those pointy-headed elites -- I'm talking about the republican intellectual -- joined forces in the 50's and worked to change the very definition of the terms of our democracy.  They found words to undermine the meaning of freedom, in fact, began to use words like freedom to mean something entirely different than, well, freedom.  They twisted the truth and invented falsehoods, preying on fear and lack of education and sophistication, convincing Americans that their enemy was not the corporation, but people who were not like them, whether that difference was race, religion, political beliefs, sexual values.  Unions took their money, not corporations who paid less than a living wage.  The government didn't provide needed services, but controlled their lives through taxation.

And the ACLU was the evil scourge of communism, threatening our American values and our Christian way of life.

In fact, I just googled "attacks on aclu" and the first three citations were by those bastions of liberty:  the Washington Examiner, Breitbart and the Daily Caller, falsely accusing the ACLU of blaming the Christian right and the GOP for the Orlando shooting in June.

Too many of us these days have no clue what the ACLU is really up to.  They don't have the deep pockets of their opponents, and the reigning right-wing government leadership is encouraged to keep it that way.  But these days they continue to tirelessly fight the kind of bigotry that is running rampant in political campaigns and in state as well as national legislatures.

Voting rights, freedom of speech (not the kind that can be bought), women's reproductive freedom, these are only some of the battles being fought by the American Civil Liberties Union.  Here in South Carolina, the team is small but truly impressive.

And on Thursday, October 6, when Charleston County Democratic Women hold their monthly meeting, the Executive Director of South Carolina ACLU, Shaundra Scott, and Legal Director, Susan Dunn, will be talking to us about some of the issues they are currently addressing.

Charleston County Democratic Women meets the first Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Riverview Holiday Inn.  The buffet dinner is $20.  Everybody is welcome, but if you have not yet joined, membership is $25, and of course, donations are always welcome.

You can RSVP on Facebook at Charleston County Democratic Women, under "Events."  It promises to be another informative and energizing meeting.  I hope to see you there.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Don't Blame Us, We Just Live Here

Last night, there was a candidate's forum at Johns Island Library.  The two incumbents, Tim Scott and Mark Sanford, refused the invitation to appear.  That left candidate for US Senate, Thomas Dixon, and candidate for House of Representatives, Dimitry Cherny.

Republican incumbents have a lot of power in this state.  We may be hearing a lot of trash talk about Hillary not meeting the press, but here in SC, republicans in office won't do anything that will shake up their cushy offices.  Take questions from the people?  Debate their opponents?  Actually allow us to hold them accountable, like for the worst Congress ever?

And they get a lot of help in staying in the shadows.

SCETV has refused to hold debates this season, claiming that the seats are not hotly enough contested.  Gee, that's an odd spin on democracy, isn't it?  Don't give the opposing party coverage and then claim it was because not enough people were interested.  Well, the "compromise" SCETV reached after receiving petitions with nearly 1,000 signatures, was that the Democrats could choose to appear on the weekly Palmetto Scene.  Some concession, right?

So folks like Sanford and Scott can go on making public appearances in the name of their offices, on the public dime, and with as much media coverage as they like.  Good luck getting any of the local TV stations to mention upcoming events, or past events, that involve a Democratic challenger.

What's to do?  For one, the SC Democratic Party, should not be acting like what it got for its candidates is a compromise.  It is merely a bone tossed to 1,000 hungry dogs.

Jim Clyburn is running for re-election.  We all know Jim Clyburn.  He has indeed in his long tenure done great things for the state and the nation.  But he has become fairly complacent.  It is unlikely that he will return an email, but his staff has become my de facto pen pal, sending me annoying emails that begin by addressing me by my first name, as though we are indeed buddies.  If they don't outright begin by asking for money, they ask stupid questions like:  "Hillary or Trump?" as a ruse for then asking for money.

We need Clyburn to get the hell out here and start stumping for our candidates.  We need his staff to alert the news media that he will be here with insert terrific candidate's name here.  He may like being a honcho in the House, but we need for him to have some good Democrats in there with him.

And the sad thing is that this year is about as close as we are going to get.  People are fed up by an obstructive Congress, but they don't know why.  They don't know that Tim Scott talks about how he is going to help us all and then votes against a living wage, extending unemployment, raising social security, making health care accessible.  Mark Sanford is the weasel who never actually takes a stand that isn't convoluted (He doesn't like the outrageous things Donald Trump has said, but he will vote for him if he shows his tax return.).  He shows up for public meetings and pretends that he supports whatever will be good for the community, and then goes back to Washington and votes for lowering taxes and cutting needed government services.

I talk about Thomas Dixon and Dimitri Cherny because I know them both.  They have put their hearts and souls into this campaign, into letting people know who they are and what they stand for.  They have done this in spite of a pathetic lack of media interest, lukewarm commitment from the state party, and absolutely no help from the most powerful South Carolina Democrat in Congress.

So when I get those dumb emails from Clyburn's staff, that sound like they want to know my opinion about something absolutely self-evident, I have begun leaving comments about what is relevant to me.  Yesterday I answered "yes" to Hillary over Trump, and then added under comments, "Jim Clyburn will win re-election.  He needs to come to SC and campaign for the other good candidates who are trying to be heard (insert your favorite candidate's name here)."

Or go ahead and call his office, or write, or start a petition.

I have also left a post on the SCETV Facebook page, which is tricky and a bit less satisfying than you might think.  First of all, it isn't easy to find the right SCETV page, so make sure you go to "South Carolina ETV."  When you leave a post it will go on the right hand side of the page.  I don't know if this means nobody at SCETV will bother reading it, but I did note that the comment just before mine was also expressing disappointment that SCETV was not providing the stage for debates.  Anyway, I also went to "message" and copied the same post onto it.  I believe somebody there does read those.

So please go to Facebook and post and message to South Carolina ETV.

And then there is the institution of the library.  Once was a time when Charleston County Public Library did an excellent job of providing not just every book written by quacks like Glen Beck, but also those written by more moderate and progressive authors.  We once had a world-class non-fiction collection.  These days, though, after more than a decade of cutbacks and more cutbacks,  bad decisions are being made about ordering, too few important books, too few copies if any.  And this has been extremely evident through this presidential election.

Donald Trump has "written" over a dozen books, and CCPL appears to carry nearly all of them.  They also purchased a bunch of anti-Hillary garbage, with titles like "Crisis of Character," "Clinton Cash," and "Unlikeable."  But as well-reviewed books about Donald Trump come out, despite requests for purchase, those books have not yet been ordered.  Granted, in these parts there will be more people craving lies about Hillary than the truth about Trump.  But even so, as with SCETV, to refuse to make available important information about a candidate this year is truly an abuse of power.

Here are the Trump books:

Gilded Rage by Alexander Zaitchick
Trump Revealed by Marc Fisher & Michael Kranish

(To be fair, they did get in The Making of Donald Trump by the amazing David Cay Johnston.)

I know we are all busy.  We may not have time to read all these books.  But there are people out there who will read them if they are there.  So please help by calling your library and asking them to purchase those two books.  I made a purchase request on 8/31, and the election is speeding towards us.  Help me get these books to the people of Charleston.

Information.  That's what it is all about.  You can't blame us for stupid voting if we don't have it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Orange-Haired Dog CAN Learn New Tricks

Kellyanne Conway, Trump's newest campaign manager, is indeed the woman behind the man.  She is shrewd.  She tells him what he needs to do in that soothing manner that women have when attempting to tame their abusive, raging partner.  You know, the manner that makes the beast want to change and feel flattered for his cleverness at the same time.

She does it well.  Listen to his recent speeches.  He is not only reading well-written speeches off the teleprompter, he is reading them flawlessly, more so than W. did in his day.  His message is no longer about rage, it is about what he can do for the American people.  You know, those folks who have been mistreated by Obama for eight years.

The Trump method of projecting his hate (back in the day, we used to say he's so good at projection you could run a film through him) seems to be working.  If Hillary calls him a bigot, he calls her a bigot.  I know, it seems simplistic, and it is, but for those who have been fed small doses of anti-Clinton rhetoric for decades, this is just what they are primed to hear.  The first few times I heard it, it made my head spin; now it is just more noise.  And that is what gives it power.

And here is something that I realized just today, an hour before I heard that the gap between Trump and Clinton continues to narrow.  It is the thing we have been missing, as Conway trains Trump to appeal to the more rational of his supporters.

I was scheduling my next appointment at my rheumatologist's office.  I don't even know the nice woman's name, but as she scheduled my appointment, we were commiserating about getting on Medicare, and the expense of the drug benefit plan.  She said to me, well, we may not have to worry about it depending on who gets into office in the next couple of months.

It took me aback, and not just because we have never had a political conversation of any sort.  The best I could respond was that it wasn't likely that Congress would want to spend any money to make drugs more affordable for us.  But with that small exchange, a light went on.

I have not been listening to the new Donald Trump, really.  And neither has the media.  But those long-time republicans out there have been listening carefully.  In the beginning it was the absurd message that getting rid of Mexicans would get us all better jobs.  But it has lately become a list of all the things Donald Trump will give us if we elect him (his newest theft from the Democrats is the line that he will even help those of us who don't vote for him).

The new Donald Trump isn't claiming he will make us millionaires like him.  But he is promising that he will give us good-paying jobs and take care of us in retirement.  He is going to protect the cops and the rest of us from criminals.  And he will make sure we all have good health care.

It doesn't matter a whit that he is not offering any kind of plan, financial or otherwise, as to how he is going to do that.  People are hearing what they want to hear.

So maybe Trump isn't going to build a wall or get rid of Muslims (nudge-nudge, wink-wink, the "deplorables" know he can't say it now, but he'll do it once he gets elected).  Maybe he is just going to be a reincarnation of Bernie Sanders, making sure we all have all kinds of security.

And TODAY Trump lays out his plan to give us all affordable childcare!  No matter that republicans have fought any kind of assistance for childcare whenever a Democrat has brought it up.  No matter that he has no idea how he will fund it.

No matter.  All those middle class republicans who have been feeling dealt a bad hand are hearing that help is on the way.  And Donald Trump is a businessman, and a millionaire, so he will know how to get it done.

This is what the Democrats need to tune in to, quickly.  When he is attacked by Hillary for his gang of deplorables, Kellyanne and her crew will twist it around quite satisfactorily so that it sounds like Hillary is the meanie.  And sure enough, Trump's speechwriter will have his candidate stand up to defend all those good Trump supporters.

Trump, the man of the people.  He thinks he is, and now he is convincing America.

I imagine that Hitler's speeches had that same ring of, "I will take care of you all."  And if you believe strongly enough, you can almost miss the sound of the jackboots.  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

What to Do about the Women

In South Carolina, women don't fare very well.  Whether it is health care, employment, violence, education, reproductive rights... you know what I mean.  And in spite of all the anti-abortion verbiage about protecting women, pregnant women, babies and children remain vulnerable.

On Thursday, September 1, Charleston County Democratic Women will hold its first meeting after the summer hiatus.  The featured speaker will be Jane Perdue of the Center for Women, founded in 1990, and which mission is "Dedicated to empowering and enriching women in their private and public lives."

The end goal is to increase the presence of women professionally and in elected office.  But to get there, so many things have to change.  Our daughters need to be healthy, well-fed and well educated.  They need to live in homes and walk through neighborhoods that are safe.  As they grow older, they need to have the same opportunities for higher education, employment and economic growth as men, and all those criteria need to cut across race as well.

In South Carolina, preterm birth rate is 4th highest in the nation; while the infant mortality rate has declined, there is a dramatic racial divide.  With the state's continued refusal to expand Medicaid, women and children continue to experience the harmful results.  Last year, attacks on Planned Parenthood threatened to shut down a valuable source of women's health care.  Control of our reproductive health means control of emotional and economic well-being.  South Carolina ranks #1 in violence against women.  We are still debating whether or not to allow our schools to provide medically accurate sex education to students.

What all the above means is that here in South Carolina, girls and women are faced with constant hurdles to living a good life.

The Center for Women addresses each of these issues with education and advocacy.

The year of our first woman president should be the year we move the girls and women of South Carolina into the 21st century.

Please go to the Charleston County Democratic Women Facebook page and say you will attend this important meeting on Thursday, September 1, at the Holiday Inn.  Men are welcome, because what improves the lives of women improves all our lives.  Registration is at 6, the buffet dinner is $20.00.  And please take the opportunity to become a member.

I look forward to seeing you there.