Sunday, March 31, 2013

Nothing New

While I was away last week, I went off the grid.  I watched no news shows, only turning on my fabulous really large screen TV for DVD's and weather (and okay, Bill Maher because I don't get HBO at home).  I used the internet for the HBO schedule and restaurant menus.  Never checked my email.

But then on Friday evening, I broke down and caught a few minutes of NPR.  My mistake.  Here are the first three items I heard:

Why the Supreme Court was likely to give some version of a states' rights ruling on gay marriage.  Why they couldn't give too much credence to the President's position statement against DOMA -- that would put too much power in the hands of the president.


Number two was the fact that our idiots in Congress were backing even further away from any type of "meaningful" gun legislation.  Even, gods help them, the Democrats.  Harry Reid, it was reported, was being as spineless and ineffectual as ever.  The President was still exhorting Congress to do something the keep us from killing each other.

Finally, the first item on the business report was something to do with a procedure that would make gasoline cleaner.  The fuel industry had loudly proclaimed that this would raise the cost of gasoline by nine cents a gallon.  The EPA claimed the figure was more like one cent, and choosing more fuel efficient cars would make that increase negligible. The newscaster ended by saying that despite the increasing cost of gas, the two most popular vehicles over the past year were gas guzzling pick-ups.

At that point, I turned off the radio to enjoy my few remaining hours of vacation.

Why could there not have been a single item that made me cheer, or even sigh with relief?

Before my vacation, the big news was that Rob Portman had changed his views toward gays because his son had admitted to being gay.  This was some kind of lukewarm hero, who kept his right-wing mouth shut during the election season, and only changed his views, cheney-like, because it was family, not because it was right.  But today when I googled the information, I found that -- no, Portman has not changed his views on gay marriage at all.

Well, thank you for not shattering my jaded world-view.

Next thing I'll be hearing is that Pope Francis didn't really mean that he wants the Catholic Church to be poor, just the Catholic people.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Dear Nikki

Once again, in today's mail, at taxpayer expense, was a lovely response from Governor Nikki Haley to an email I sent.  In it, she affirmed that despite my opinion, she was right, but encouraged me to keep in touch.

Here is my reply:

Dear Governor Haley:

I am responding to your letter dated March 13, in which you reiterated your reasons for refusing to use federal dollars to fund a Medicaid expansion, which would help the poor, unemployed, disabled and elderly of your state.

You stated that South Carolina is rated as only the 45th healthiest state (this after over two years of your governorship!). You use this as the reason for not accepting the federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

I would like to say that the failure of logic in that reply is astounding.

Perhaps it would make sense to look to the states that have higher health ratings than South Carolina (you have 44 to choose from), rather than continue to double down on obviously losing practices.

Once again you have spent taxpayer dollars to respond to an email through the US Postal Service. Additionally, I would like to remark on the way you addressed me in your letter.

I am a Doctor of Philosophy, yet you address me as “Ms.” I am at least glad that you did not opt for Mrs. or Miss, but please be aware that the proper form of address in this case is “Dr.” Also, you added, “Thanks, Agnes,” which I'm sure you consider friendly but actually is quite rude. I am a 61 year old woman, and we have never met. I would no more consider addressing you as “Nikki” than you should sign off by thanking me using my first name.

Since you are from South Carolina, I am surprised that you do not show more respect in addressing others. But then again, you are the governor who is denying health care benefits to the most needy, and for that matter, have sought to disallow any food item that might be considered a treat to persons receiving Supplemental Nutritional Assistance. Oh, and you force state employees to begin telephone calls from people seeking help with the lie, “It's a great day in South Carolina.” So perhaps it is safe to say that respect for others is not much of a consideration for you.

Most sincerely,

Agnes F. Pomata, Ph.D.

P.S.  It is presumptuous of you to sign off  "God bless."

By the way, if you would like to contact Governor Haley, you might be interested in knowing that she has paired up with that fellow she promoted a couple of months ago.

A match made in heaven, or maybe just buddies that hang out together on Friday nights.  Either way, my guess is if you follow the money, that's where it will lead.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Which Vice Would You Ban?

I am wary of the great strides the Obama administration has taken in creating national electronic medical records.  On the one hand, it will make it easier to coordinate treatment when several doctors and specialties are involved.  And of course we won't have to rely on someone correctly decrypting a physician's illegible notes.  On the other hand, if you follow the money here, this enormous invasion of privacy will at some point walk us right into the maw of the insurance industry.

No pre-existing condition, maybe.  But higher premiums if you cross a line someone involved in your health care has drawn in the sand, absolutely.

It chills me to hear my liberal friends support penalties for obesity (my own particular vice).  And let me just add that I was also opposed to higher premiums for smokers.  Raise taxes on cigarettes?  Okay.  But charging an individual more for health care because of a life style vice is the ultimate in corporate control.

When we start to agree to forcing people to share health information (and let's face it, you can't go to your doctor and refuse to sign their disclosure agreement, at the very least because you will be unable to get insurance reimbursement if you don't sign away your right to patient confidentiality), we are opening ourselves up to abuses from all sides.

I have said here before that I would be much happier if Michelle Obama fought harder for living wages and working conditions that allowed parents to be with and better care for their children than by fighting that concept called "obesity".  Nice that she can go out to her garden with some elementary school class and model nutrition.  Harder for a mom who works full time and then has to schlep the kids to after school activities.  Not to mention a parent that works full-time and still can't afford (or have time to cook) healthy meals.

Then there is the issue of which vices are currently scorned. Mike Bloomberg wants to control soda size as well as guns.  We have laws that force us to wear seat belts in our very own cars but cells phones on the road are still okay.

And we should know by now that the vices that are going to be most legislated are those that most affect women.  Want to carry a gun into a bar here in South Carolina?  No problem.  After all, freedom is an important concept here.  But contraceptive freedom?  Suddenly we have caretakers who are going to oversee our sexual activity, and the consequences.

Yes, this is a rant.  There are times when I communicate more rationally, but today I am frustrated and just feel the need to to go on about all the things that don't make sense, and that invade our privacy, and those that proselytize and legislate based on their own personal values.

Here is where I draw my line regarding who's free to do what:  your freedom ends where my safety and comfort begin.  You want to drive without a seat belt, it may be literally your funeral, but it's not my business.  I eat too much, but there are ways my life is much healthier than yours that nobody asks about in the doctor's office.  Don't speed on roads I am driving on, and don't bring your gun out to any public place.

And when I see my doctor, I want to talk to her knowing she is not merely complying with reporting requirements; in fact, our appointments would be more productive without all the now required data gathering.  And it does not matter how well-intentioned national electronic medial records may be, it is a concept that flies in the face of all we know about confidentiality and privacy.  And it will come back to haunt us, whatever our vice.

Monday, March 18, 2013

This Woman's Place Is In the House -- Part II

It's time to take a stand.  Elizabeth Colbert Busch is running for US House of Representatives for District 1.

The primary election is Tuesday, March 19.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. till 7 p.m.

Here's the website for all kinds of voter information:

If you're not sure if you're registered, or you want to be sure you are in District 1, or you want to know where to vote, this is the place to find out:

Voter ID:

If you have a photo ID, you must show it in order to vote.

If you do not have a photo ID, you may show your voter registration card, but you must state the reason you do not have a photo ID, for example, that there has not been time since the law went into effect in January.  You will complete a provisional (paper) ballot.

The most important thing about all this voter ID hoopla is this:


Don't let what you may have heard about the changes in the law keep you from exercising your right to vote.

Now, here is why you should vote in the Democratic Primary tomorrow.

Elizabeth Colbert Busch is the candidate who will represent us in the US House of Representatives.  If you want someone who will vote to:

* raise the minimum wage;
* make health care affordable and available to all;
* improve education for all Americans, from pre-school through college;
* cut out tax loopholes for the biggest corporations and wealthiest individuals;
* improve the quality of our water and air;
* improve our roads and bridges;
* support scientific and technological research that will create jobs and improve our way of life;
* take assault weapons off the streets...

Elizabeth is the candidate for you.

I could go on forever, but if you want to learn more, go to Elizabeth's web site.

And when you vote on Tuesday, bring a friend, neighbor, family member, coworker.

If you have been frustrated with Congress lately, this is your chance to change it!

Elizabeth Colbert Busch

US House of Representatives
District 1
Democratic Primary
Tuesday, March 19

Saturday, March 16, 2013

This Woman's Place Is In the House

If you live here in Charleston, you probably have seen the commercials.  There are approximately a thousand people who are running to get elected to the US House of Representatives for District 1.  All but two are running on the republican side, and all I have to say about that is, let them have at it.

What's really important is that there are two people running on the Democratic side, and a primary coming up on Tuesday -- that's right, next Tuesday, March 19.

The two candidates come from extremely different backgrounds and offer very different points of view on all the important issues.  So I would like to offer a bit of a pastiche of what each of our candidates have to offer:

Elizabeth Colbert Busch has lived in the Lowcountry since 1969.  She is a College of Charleston graduate, and has a resume that frankly is too amazing to be summed up here, so I will refer you to her website bio.

Ben Frasier lives in Maryland, although he hails from Wadmalaw Island.  His origins and experience have been difficult to verify, and as far as I can tell, he currently either owns or instructs at a driving school in Maryland.  Aware of the controversy his many diverse runs for office have caused, he has made appearances over these past few weeks to assure us all that he is "not a plant."

Colbert Busch believes that if we do not invest in educating our children, they will not be ready for the jobs of the 21st century.

Frasier believes that the solution to the jobs crisis is to "keep looking," and that you may need "two or three jobs to survive."

Colbert Busch knows how to develop partnerships with business and education, as she has in her professional life.  She believes that government is a necessary partner that fuels progress.

Frasier believes in less taxes, smaller government, and giving more control to businesses, for example, through naming rights.

Colbert Busch knows that rampant gun violence requires legislation that protects the rights of individuals who carry guns responsibly, while restricting the use of assault weapons and requiring background checks.

Frasier's gun policy is that "you should be able to buy any weapon and use your common sense."

I could go on, but if you google Ben Frasier, you will find plenty of articles about who he is (or isn't) and where he stands on the important issues we face today.

Colbert Busch has gotten the endorsement of civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis as well as our own Representative Jim Clyburn and Mayor Joe Riley.  She has been endorsed by the South Carolina Democratic Women's Council and the AFL-CIO.

On Tuesday, March 19, we need to get ourselves, our friends, family, neighbors and coworkers out to the polls to vote in this incredibly important primary election.  Elizabeth Colbert Busch is the person who can make a difference in our dysfunctional House of Representatives.  Like Elizabeth Warren in the Senate, she will speak out and speak often for the people of this country.

Elizabeth Colbert Busch
U.S. House of Representatives
District 1

Vote Tuesday, March 19
Democratic Primary

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Down Tobacco Road (Again)

I know, I know.  I too reacted in December to Wayne LaPierre's appalling nonsense with a dropped jaw.  But after several months of listening to such garbage from the likes of "dumb as a" hammer Louis Gohmert, I think we should all stop being shocked.  We've seen it all before; we know what it is:


For decades after the link between lung cancer and smoking was identified, we heard the same kind of idiotic illogic from "scientists," legislators, and the tobacco industry itself.  It was certainly an uphill battle, but we won.  We won the right not to have to inhale cancerous tobacco smoke in restaurants, in hotel rooms, at work.

And it was the same kind of argument we are hearing now, about taking away the freedom to carry a gun, the right to protect oneself from government gone awry (okay, that's a slightly different twist, but the bad government thing is the same).  That smokers would complain that they would not be able to enjoy that cigarette at the dinner table -- can you believe how long it took to take that one down?

So when I got an email from Senator Patrick Leahy asking for my opinion on gun control I was happy to send it to him:

 It took decades of fighting the tobacco lobby to win the right to be free of hazardous smoke in public places.

Whatever it takes, however long it takes, we need to fight the NRA until weapons are no longer legal in public places.

People who own cars must register them; gun owners must register their weapons. Training is required to be issued a drivers license; training should also be required for gun ownership.

There should be strict licensing and control of gun sellers and manufacturers, just as there is for alcohol.

Gun control is no more radical than regulation of other potentially damaging items.

There is nothing new or different, or potentially freedom-threatening in gun control.  When the first states required drivers' licenses, the citizenry was up in arms about the usual:  government control, government spying,  unfair taxation, you've heard it all.  Outcry over speed limit laws sounded much like gun owners whining over not being able to shoot in their back yards.  The government taking away our fun!  But even the self-proclaimed "good drivers" have to follow the speed limit laws.

Liquor licenses?  Outrageous.  Laws against driving while intoxicated?  No way.

But there's this:  If our government has the right to require us to fasten our seat belts in our very own cars, then I guess they also have the right to license, register, restrict and outlaw gun use.

And it doesn't matter how many decades it takes to get it done.  Like cancer and tobacco, the proof of the damage to others by people with guns is there.  And gun deaths don't kill slowly, and it doesn't take a scientist to prove that the bullet was the cause.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Nation of Whiners

Isn't it pathetic to see John Boehner trying to look fierce saying, "You got your tax increase.  No more."

Because the couple of percent that those who make over $400,000 a year are having to pay was waaay too much of a sacrifice, and their lives will never be the same as a result.  

And if we then tax estates of a million dollars or more, those poor youngsters who inherit just might have to stand in line for food stamps with the Wal-Mart workers.

And if you've invested a couple of million dollars and have made umpty-million more through that investment, why shouldn't you get to keep every cent of those not-so-hard-earned dollars?

We who have the nerve to fight for a wage that allows us a decent roof, health care, high quality education, and maybe the right to a vacation with our family are really tired of the real whiners.  It's the Mitt Romneys and Paul Ryans, the Rand Pauls and Eric Cantors who are doing the whining.  Why should their money be used to fund public schools that their kids don't use?  Or pay for roads and bridges that are crumbling?  Or pay for health care that...

You know what?  Each of those whiners gets quality health care paid for by us, the taxpayers.  Yet they fight heartily to cut back Medicaid for the poor, Medicare for seniors, and Obamacare for all those of us who have been used and abused by the insurance industry.

They are neither courageous, nor are they patriots.  They are the whiners.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Sequester Backfire

Looking back on it, President Obama signing the sequester bill was a bit like an angry parent sending a child to their room to be with their computer and television.  He pretty much gave the right wing-nuts exactly what they wanted.

When people lose much needed income and benefits, South Carolina's own Tea Party idiots like Trey Gowdy, Mick Mulvaney, Jeff Duncan, and of course our poster boy of denial, Tim Scott, are cheering on the cuts.  Scott has the nerve to call it posturing when the President talks about cuts to police, educators and firefighters.  I guess if a job doesn't directly effect Mr. Scott, it really doesn't matter.

These clowns will come out cheering the austerity measures, and bragging on how they engineered the reduction in the deficit, while people are losing needed income and government services, and subsequently tightening their belts, leading to lost dollars for businesses.  The fact that austerity resoundingly did not work where it was put into place in Europe has no relevance for these fools, who have never felt the need to use facts to make an argument.

It's sad for our country, sad for the state of South Carolina, and sad for the voters who trusted that these people maybe knew what they were doing, and would have the courage to do what was best for their constituents rather than what made them look tough.

Friday, March 1, 2013


This whole thing with the Pope is just bizarre.  No, not the part where he resigns, unless you're thinking it's bizarre for the Pope to exercise such good judgment.  The thing that I'm finding bizarre is that no one seems to know where to go from here.

For days now I've heard people in the media worry about what's going to happen now, now that the world no longer has a pope.  OMG, what are we to do?

Hello, people, this is not the first time the world has been without a pope.  Those old guys die all the time.  As a matter of fact, Pope John Paul I was Pope for 33 days, not even long enough to be fitted for a full wardrobe.  And for that matter, he wasn't even that old, a sprite 66 years.  Nobody could have been expecting that.  Yet who remembers all this whining about not having a pope and what are we going to do now?

Okay, maybe they weren't concerned about what to do now because they had just done the thing a mere 33 days earlier.  But even so, Pope John Paul XXIII, who was my mother's favorite pope, was only around doing the pope thing for five years, one of which he was suffering with cancer.

The thing that's different is that he's still there, which should make it easier; after all, if there's an emergency in the Catholic church (and what on earth would that be?) I don't think he'd mind a knock on the door for a consultation.  This way, if anyone forgets the Church's view on gay marriage or birth control, he could just remind us all.

To my mind, a world without a Pope isn't that different than a world with a Pope.  It's not like the church is going to change it's mind on anything.  Maybe those folks at the Vatican would get to squirrel away a little more savings, not having to feed and clothe the guy, pay for trips to places where he blesses people.  Except they are going to have to continue to feed and clothe the guy, just not in the place the pope lives.

He's going to be living some twenty miles away.  Yes, that's right.  And other than not having to work, he is going to be maintaining the same style to which he has become accustomed.  In fact, after his last official act yesterday, the ex-pope was helicoptered out.  When I heard that, I imagined he was going to be taking a short vacation before settling in to retirement.  But no, he was being helicoptered out to his new residence, 20 miles away.

At least he went out with the same relevance the Catholic Church has exercised in my considerable lifetime.  Screw the fuel, and maybe they could have fed a few starving Romans with the cost of the trip, but, hey, it's the Pope.  I mean, the ex-pope.

On the other hand, let's give credit for knowing when to step down.  There's an old Catholic on a bench in Washington that would do well to follow the ex-pope's example.