Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Forgotten -- Again

What has been lost in the buzz about the astonishing Supreme Court decision upholding the individual mandate in Obamacare is the part of the decision that affected those who benefit from Medicaid.

Once again, the poor, disadvantaged, and those who have fallen on hard times, have been forgotten.

The part of the Affordable Care Act that was rejected by the court was that which extended Medicaid coverage, paid for with federal dollars.  Rather, it was decided that each state could decide whether to take the federal dollars and extend coverage or not.

Of course, we all know where that leaves the poor in states like South Carolina.  And we should all be ashamed for relegating them to a footnote in today's historic ruling.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Complicating the Issues

I like to think of myself as above average in my awareness of important political issues.  I try to listen and read objective accounts and expert analyses.  On the other hand, I do indulge in MSNBC, because there are times we all just need to have the simple version.

I know that one of the tactics well used by the republican party is that of complicating the issues.  If you can make it murky, you can make it sound more threatening.

I have been trying to understand the Violence against Women Act.  It really isn't all that complicated, but you would never know that by reading about it.  Anywhere.

There are excellent analyses of the act, from its inception in 1994 to the current opposing Senate and House versions of the reauthorization act.

But the details make me bleary-eyed, and guilty for feeling that way.

Imagine the average voter.

So let me try to simplify it.  I may be wrong, but so will Fox News.

It appears that the difference between the existing Act and the proposed reauthorization in the Senate is the inclusion of LGBT, immigrant, and Native American women.  The repellent House version of course, does not include those minority groups.

I have counseled battered women, living with their abusers, or forced out of their homes to a shelter, as well as those who have successfully left their abusive partners and struggle day by day to make it emotionally and financially.

Believe me, the cards are stacked against women who have been abused.  Even with the existing protections, they are constantly thwarted by the judicial system, by financial institutions, by their religious leaders, and by plain old misunderstanding and bigotry.

I don't believe for one minute that the republicans in Congress have a good reason for the exclusions they have put into the new bill.  I believe that their purpose is merely obstructionist.  If the Senate Democrats were to appear willing to pass the bill with the House exclusions, my guess would be that there would be further roadblocks, much as occurred with Obamacare and pretty much everything else the Democrats have tried to move forward.

So what do we do?  We need to think in terms of an abused woman, not abused women.  We need to understand what happens on a day to day basis when a woman is raped or battered, how she attempts to survive the violence, and the barriers that are put in her way.

Meeting women who had been the victims of violence and working with them in therapy was the best education I could have had, other than having to experience it myself.  I got to see courageous women attempt to free themselves and their children, and each roadblock that was put up to force each of them back.

And so should we all.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Deafening Silence

I remember -- it wasn't all that long ago -- when the likes of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell were screaming about Obama creating high gas prices that could be cured by cutting taxes and approving immediately the Keystone Pipeline.

And let us not forget Newt and his campaign photo ops:

BUT WAIT!  Did I really just pay $3.03 per gallon?  Could the price of gas really be plummeting?  Without the pipeline???

In fact, Reuters just predicted lower prices into 2013.

So apparently that means that, if Obama was responsible for the high price of gas, it must be time for him to take a bow.

Yet, not only have I, not surprisingly, heard nothing from the Republican herd, I have heard nothing from the Obama camp.  This would be the time for a few well-placed wisecracks about the president being responsible for the price of gas...

...wouldn't it?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Score One for Big Brother

In the Post and Courier yesterday, there was an article about a murder being caught on camera downtown.

Isn't that great?

Actually, both perpetrator and victim had been guilty of criminal acts, including assault, in the past.

Do we really need to be spied upon when we already have the information to catch the bad guys, just because we are unable to prevent known criminal activity from escalating?

This is a case of 9/11 all over again, where all the warnings were in place, that Bin Laden and al Quaeda was planning an attack on American shores, that foreign nationals were learning to fly planes but not to land them, that those foreign nationals had in fact entered or remained in the country illegally.

Yet we allow ourselves to be frisked without cause not only in airports but on the streets, to be videotaped in our day to day lives, under the pretense of being kept safe.

Actually, it doesn't keep us safe, it just helps identify the people who have harmed us after the fact.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Welcome Bobbie Rose!

Wrapped up in my own little world, I have been walking around thinking, "I wonder who's running against Tim Scott..."  Today I found out.

Bobbie Rose describes herself as a "liberal, progressive Democrat", and in my mind, in South Carolina, that means you need to stand tall and be fearless.  You need to not be afraid of the names that the right-wingers will call you, and the false accusations that will be made.  As a woman, you need to be unafraid to say exactly what "women's rights" means to you, you need to be unafraid to fight for the right of a woman to own her body.

You need to be able to stand up for freedom of religion, not the freedom of the religious right to dictate our lives.

You need to be able to defend good government, and responsible, much needed, taxation.  We need schools and teachers that are paid a living wage, we need well-funded libraries.  We need roads and bridges, and we need to bring our public transportation into the 21st century.

Corporations need to be responsible employers and taxpayers, and not billionaires shopping for cheap labor and a free ride in South Carolina.

Our Representative needs to keep our harbor from being exploited by the oil industry, and respect and support science and innovation.

I am thrilled to throw my support behind Bobbie Rose.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Keeping Whom Honest?

I've been wondering what's been going on with Jim DeMint.  Sure he sends us "Freedom alerts" to let us know what he is voting no on in order to make sure his constituents, i.e., Christians and Corporations, continue to be free to stomp on the rest of us.  But here it is, election season, and I haven't heard him referred to as a kingmaker, not once.  Not like Mr. D to keep his cards close; he's more the kind that thinks it's important to share his wealth (of knowledge) with the common folk.

So I was tickled to hear that Senator DeMint was on the panel questioning JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon about the loss of 2 billion dollars.  I was not disappointed.

Dimon was no doubt anticipating a dressing down, much like the 2008 scolding of the auto industry CEO's who flew in on separate jets to tell Congress they were broke.  Or maybe the kind of all-out vitriolic attack like that directed at Attorney General Eric Holder just days earlier.

Was he in for a surprise.

Our own Jim DeMint pretty much apologized to Dimon, put his arm around him and comforted him, basically saying, "It could have happened to anyone."  In fact, he and the other Class Clowns on the republican side appear to have strategized that this was the perfect time to point out just how much more incompetent was the U.S. Government.

The result should have been embarrassing, except for the fact that these men know no shame.

Wouldn't it be great, though, if DeMint et al were forced to appear before Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, who would hold them accountable?

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Left On the Wrong Side

I would be amazed to hear all my compatriots on the left praise Mike Bloomberg for his brave move to limit the size of sodas, except that I've heard it before.

Seat belt laws were possibly the first invasive moves heralded to protect us from ourselves.  Random stops, barely rationalized for drunk driving, were now being permitted to assure seat belt compliance.

What I never got was why the law had the right to peer into my car to make sure I was buckled, when motorcyclists were out there big as day and unbuckled.

What I did get, though, was that seat belt laws were the darlings of the insurance industry, who presumably saved great amounts of money when the law "saved lives".

This need to protect us from ourselves, when pushed to the extreme, has gotten and will continue to get, ridiculous.

If you want to protect us from ourselves then you also need to make laws preventing:

-- Bicyclists from riding on roads with 50 mph speed limits;

-- All you can eat buffets;

-- High school sports.

I could go on and on, because basically, we all do things that are potentially dangerous.  I am amazed when I am barreling down the highway that there are not more accidents, yet we continue to drive legal speeds that could kill us (even with seat belts).

Mountain climbing, water sports, even tennis has become brutal and unsafe.

So why stop at seat belts and Big Gulps?

Because we should be defending the freedom to make our own decisions about the risks we take, and the accessibility of information allowing us the ability to make educated choices.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Keeping Us from Gulping to Death

Big Brother may be late, he's slow but persistent.

Our need to have the government keep us safe began well before the 1980's, but it was in or around that time that our men in blue began, with the blessing of Mothers Against Drunk Driving -- the aptly named "MADD" (and I don't mean angry) -- to hold alcohol check-points.  It was infuriating, it was frightening, it was illegal.  That is, it was illegal until the courts approved the right to stop and search --our bodies -- for alcohol level, without cause.

It amazes me still that we allowed that to happen.  But the alcohol nazis knew that it was easier to get the police out there doing random alcohol tests than to get the police and the courts to do something about people who were actually driving dangerously, and observedly, drunk.  All these years later, check points demean but don't prevent drunk driving.

One thing that those searches did accomplish, however, was to open the door to other illegal searches.  Next were cameras at intersections, making sure we all stopped at those stop lights, and then on city streets, because they would keep us safe from crime.  Like heavy petting in public.

When 9/11 shocked the hell out of the American people, there was nothing they -- the government -- couldn't do enough of to make us feel safe.  Search our bags, then our shoes, and eventually, no surprise, when all that wasn't working, our entire bodies.  Each time there is a news article on airport security, and some bimbo gets interviewed saying, "I don't care (if they have to search my 2-year-old son or my 80-year-old mother) as long as they keep us safe," I marvel at the stupidity, gullibility, and fearfulness of the American people.

And here we are:  in New York, police are free to stop and frisk a person walking down the street, in Arizona, the fact that they say "please" doesn't make it any less horrifying that you must always leave home with papers proving you are a U.S. citizen.

When Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York, and a hero of Macbethian proportions, stopped smoking in public places, I approved, only because the smoke one breathes out is the smoke another breathes in.  Just as in gun control, if you are walking around with a gun it may be decorative but the only possible use is to shoot it.  So why is it that Bloomberg can keep people from smoking but is helpless to change gun laws?  A question for another day I'm afraid.

But today it's the War on Obesity that makes me quake with fear of what's in store.  The insurance industry has been using the pretense of protecting us from ourselves for some time, and now online, your doctor and the world now knows how many glasses of wine you drink and whether you or any relative is or was diabetic.  It is only a bit obnoxious when Michelle Obama, dressed down in designer clothes and fit and muscular, appears in public with just-picked carrots and lettuce, but we are certainly crossing another dangerous line when a law limits the size of a soft drink.

As with drunk driving, it is far easier to make such a law than to educate people as to the hazards of unhealthy eating.  As with the TSA "security" checks, making such a law means that other people are taking care of our business.

I don't think this law is likely to last long.  After all, if you can limit the size of a soda, you can regulate the amount of alcohol served to a customer in a bar.  And regulating business as opposed to an individual is just not done in this country in 2012.

But I have been wrong.

Simple solutions are, like the Big Gulp, the way things are done here.  Overweight?  Your mayor will make you pay more for the extra sugar.  And your insurance company will cash in by charging higher premiums at the scale.

And you can bet that when the story is in the news, some idiot will be interviewed saying, "I'm just glad Mayor Bloomberg is keeping us safe."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Suspension of Reality

One of the most impressive news items of the day is the buzz about the TSA workers in Florida.  Their crime was failing to do the required random screenings of passengers.

I, for one, applaud these brave men and women of the TSA.  From my flying experience, I can only assume that shirking their duties resulted in far smoother operations at the Fort Myers Airport.

Isn't it time we started to yell, loudly, and non-stop, about the TSA harassment, done in the name of our very own security?

Because if we do not riot in the streets, this situation will continue to worsen.  Our liberties, our personal space, will continue to be assaulted by new weaponry, in the name of security.

But what is being called security is in fact capitalism at its best.  It is millions upon millions of dollars in government contracts to private industries, to do research, to create technology, whose sole purpose is to make money for the industry, and whose by-product is the taking away of privacy and dignity.

Safety?  Not likely.

So thank you for sacrificing your jobs rather than continue daily to act out the criminal absurdity of the TSA.  Please note that no lives were lost in the shirking of responsibility by these former employees at Fort Myers Airport.