Sunday, March 29, 2015

Big Anti-Abortion Rally in the SC Senate

On Wednesday, April 1, the South Carolina Senate is going to hear not one, not two, but four anti-abortion bills.  This will be the Medical Affairs Subcommittee, at 9 a.m. in 207 Gressette.  The bills are: H 3114, S 25, S 28, and S 130.  These are all basically the same bill, the 20-week ban that pretends to be science by claiming that fetuses at 20 weeks can feel pain. 

Is this a last ditch effort to pass one of these god-awful bills before recess?  It has the feel of a back-room plot, with old white men smoking big smelly cigars, doesn't it?  Just determined, before the break for the big religious holiday, to do something to get a wink and a back-slap from their Guy in Heaven.

I would like to understand why there are four of the same bills floating around, some with the same sponsors.  It makes no sense, which is at least consistent with the content of the bills.  Maybe it's a case of dueling egos, but if there is a rationale for flooding the Senate with copies of the same bill, I sure would like to be on top of it.

Let's just hope that a couple of the sane members of this subcommittee are planning some evasive action.

Here's one thing, though.  We can't expect our guys to fight this ugly fight without our support.  And we need those nasty women-haters to know we aren't going to sit by while they plan to keep us barefoot and pregnant.

So we need to call and email.  Every one of them.  Once, twice, as often as possible.

You know those anti-abortion wackos that block the Charleston Women's Medical Center?  The ones who show up at ACLU meetings, Planned Parenthood events, and pretty much any other place where people might gather to talk about preserving individual freedom?  They are tireless.  There aren't all that many of them, but the way they show up, Zelig-like, they seem to be everywhere.

That is the presence -- and the passion -- that we need to project.  Politicians may be bought, and they may have their own pet projects that disregard the needs of their constituents, but if you make enough noise, they will worry about their futures.  And those guys in the Senate who do support women's reproductive freedom and privacy need to know there are gazillions of us behind them, cheering them on.

So here's the thing.

Women of reproductive age, and the men who are also affected by these attempts to control their lives, need to shout the loudest, because they have the most to lose.  Be sure to tell these young women and men exactly what is going on this Wednesday.  The 20-week abortion ban seeks to prevent women from making critical medical decisions about their welfare and that of their families.  After the anti-abortion gang was able to get 24-week abortions banned with their "partial birth" false science, the 20-week abortion ban was next on their checklist.  And be assured that if this becomes law, they will be energized and will pursue ever more restrictive measures.  The goal is not just total ban on abortion, but a ban on contraception as well.

If you can be there on Wednesday, do it.  Your presence at the statehouse will be noticed.

Whether you are there or not, call and / or email the members of the Medical Affairs Committee.  You can do that from by going to the Senate link, and then to the email link.  You can send individual emails, or an email to all Senate members.  I don't think it's possible to overdo your voice or your message.

You can also go to this ACLU link:

Feel free to add your own words to the prepared text.  And don't worry about how well you write; it is the message that matters.

If there is enough noise, it is possible that some committee members will be less eager to push these bills through.

Finally, spread this message through Facebook, Twitter, and your email lists.  The sad truth is that when these terrible bills do pass, it is a surprise to far too many of us.  Let's not let that happen.

And let's not let Lee Bright and Wendy Nanney dictate what happens in our doctors' offices.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The NRA's Hissy Fit

I was catching up on my news watching over the weekend, and an article on Rachel Maddow's 3/20 show caused me to do a double-take:

And even having watched it several times, it still brings tears to my eyes.

This is the reality of gun ownership slamming into America's fantasy.  It is an amazing experiment.  It is more effective than anything the creeps at the NRA have come up with.

And so the NRA and other gun organizations have (no pun intended) gone ballistic.  They are in full whine.  And the irony of it all is quite a thing to see.

They are talking about deceptive advertising and breaking New York City gun laws.  They bring up violations of city codes about displaying guns.  They question whether the city used public funds.

It turns out, the group that conducted this research in gun marketing, States United to Prevent Gun Violence, dotted their i's and crossed all their t's when they planned this experiment.  All legal.  Which won't stop the NRA from trying to find a way to destroy the group.  But as I am writing this blog, there have been 3,180,543 youtube views, and there are likely to be millions more.

On a day when I was feeling pretty discouraged by all the attacks coming from the right-wing in so many areas of individual rights, this was a great victory.

Here in South Carolina this week, on Tuesday, the House is going to be taking up S 3, the Senate's version of the Criminal Domestic Violence bill.  In light of our shameful statistics on domestic violence and shooting deaths -- more than 61 percent of women killed by domestic violence were killed by guns -- Senators Katrina Shealy and Larry Martin included a prohibition on convicted abusers owning or having in their possession a gun.  Although the bill was inevitably watered down to give judges discretion in ordering this prohibition on a case-by-case basis, the bill is still far stronger than the House version, H 3433, which has no language prohibiting guns.

So here we are, with S 3 already passed by the Senate and introduced into the House.  But the House appears to be ignoring S 3 so that they can be credited with passing the inferior H 3433, which will go before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday.  I surely don't understand the fighting over territory that sees so many bills duplicated, but I do believe it enables our legislators to muddy the water enough that they can do damage and take credit at the same time.  Which appears to be the plan here.

That's why it is important to contact House representatives immediately and tell them that we expect them to pass a Criminal Domestic Violence bill that includes strong gun prohibitions.  This is not a Second Amendment issue.  This is about not allowing violent individuals to have easy access to weapons.  This is about protecting families, women and children, and yes, men, from violent individuals the very best way possible.

The video produced by States United to Prevent Gun Violence should be enough to convince us that we can win this fight.  But our legislators need to hear from us.  Today, and as long as it takes.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Abortion Opponents Rehearsed and Camera Ready

This is what I thought about as I tossed and turned for several hours last night:

H 3114, the deceitfully titled, "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," went before the SC Senate yesterday.  That afternoon, The State ran a video of a woman -- and her daughter Savannah's -- testimony.  Wendy Duke is dignified and well-spoken, and her remarks were carefully prepared.  She has written an inspirational book about her daughter's first years, and she is a blogger.  She introduces her daughter early on, and 14 1/2 year old Savannah comes to sit by her while her mother continues.

At 21 weeks, Ms. Duke's doctor informed her that there were potentially severe fetal abnormalities.  At first glance, it sounds like the recommendation was based on the fact that one leg would be significantly shorter than the other.  Listen carefully, though, because it turns out there was also "significant brain abnormality," so the recommendation to consider an abortion was more than responsible and justified.

Before she turns the microphone over to Savannah, Duke concludes, "At 21 weeks gestation, this former fetus' personality had already been established."

Well, no.  And therein lies what is outrageous about this testimony.  An emotional appeal mixing feelings with facts, combining the terms "fetus" and "personality" as though they actually made sense together, just does not belong in the South Carolina legislature.

Duke's comments were followed by a brief religious screed by her daughter.  The camera panned on an anti-abortion pin that she wore prominently, with a photo of something that looked more like a premature infant than a fetus, saying, "20 week preborn child -- Please protect me."

National anti-abortion organizations advising the states have been careful not to frame legislation in religious terms and rather resort to nonsensical  medical terms, hence "pain capable" and my favorite, "pre-born."  We have heard legislators across this country claim such idiocy as because male fetuses have erections it is an obvious indication of pleasure, so therefore must feel pain.  We have been constantly inundated with claims that the fetus appearing to flinch in response to stimuli assumes pain, although pain receptors have not yet been developed.

And here we have the testimony of a truly inspirational parent, and her truly amazing daughter, claiming that without this proposed law, her daughter would not exist.  Also not true.

But it is well orchestrated and heart-wrenching.  And here it is on video, and making it to the State website.

If you read to the end of the piece, though, you will find testimony by another woman, Jennifer Lane, describing the tremendously difficult decision she had to make in similar circumstances.  With a five-year-old daughter, she had to make decisions based on not just the severe brain abnormalities, but also on whether she could care for a child with such limitations while also caring for her young daughter.

It is apparent that Ms Duke had the resources to give great amounts of time, pay for years of medical treatments, and nurture her disabled child without sacrificing her own health.  She was able to provide well for her daughter, and to give her all the support that would assure she would excel in her endeavors.  She is an exceptional woman, but she also had the freedom to assess her situation and make the best choice for her.

Yet here she is judging other women, each with unique situations -- financial, familial, emotional -- by testifying that there should be a law preventing them from being able to make the choice that she was allowed to make.

To their credit, the subcommittee has asked for medical professionals to make recommendations on an amendment for exceptions for fetal abnormalities and the health of the woman.  On the other hand, it assumes that this procedure has been done excessively and frivolously and that a law is needed.  And they also seem to have accepted the erroneous claim that this ban is necessary because of fetal pain.

In any event, the subcommittee will be meeting again around April 1, a fitting time for fools to meet.  And it will give me a few days to catch up on my sleep. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Racism, Sexism or Cancer?

On March 10, the topic on the new Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore was women and power.  He has a segment called "Keeping it 100" wherein he asks weird questions designed to put guests on the spot, and then decides whether their answers have been totally honest.

One question was "racism, sexism, or cancer" (minute 18)  if you could eliminate two, and the other would proliferate, which two?  And Wilmore helpfully suggested that one of them should be cancer.

Guest Chloe Hilliard had to agree, and then decided that the other would have to be racism, because that would affect generations.  Or some such nonsense.

That, in a nutshell, is why women continue to be abused, neglected, used and mistreated.  We are half of all those other subgroups yet, after generations of enlightenment, we continue to believe that every other interest group is more important than ours.

I wondered how refusing to keep women safe from abusive partners did not affect children and their futures.  Or denial of a living wage, food stamps and health care did not reverberate into the community and the following years.  Equal pay for equal work?  How about privacy and freedom in deciding about whether to get pregnant, or remain pregnant?  Is the humiliation and suffering brought upon women by social policy really less important than that of other groups (which, again, overlap with the group labeled "women").

There have been short periods -- the fight for suffrage, the women's movement of the 70's -- in which we stood up and proclaimed that we are as important as any other issue.  And then we gained a few rights, thanked those with the power to grant them, and went back to being polite and grateful.

I wonder how bad things will have to get for women, how many women shot or beaten, how many women imprisoned for having abortions -- or killed by back alley ones, how many women sick, starving or homeless before we rise up again and say no to the arguments explaining why we should bow to higher priorities.

Time to stop compromising.  Time to stop trying to prove how reasonable we are based on our moderate and rational requests for the right to abortion and birth control.  Time to stop suffering.

This is how I would have answered the question of "racism, sexism, or cancer."  I would have chosen eliminating racism and sexism.  Because cancer cuts across the board; that means that everyone will be invested in doing something about it.  And none of the rest of us should have to sacrifice our individual rights so other groups can enjoy theirs.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

When the Right Word Just Isn't Enough

A few days ago, I sent out an email suggesting everybody take a deep, calming breath, and get ready for the SC Senate round of "Let's Pass this Awful Anti-Abortion Bill."  The one that I was referring to was Wendy Nanney's pet, the 20-week abortion ban, that didn't make it through last season.  Wendy can't sleep till this bill gets passed, in spite of her contention that people have been just plain mean to her because of it.  Poor Wendy.  You might almost think that she is the one whose welfare is being threatened by the provisions of the bill.

Anyway, no time to take a breath, because that bastion of freedom for old white men, Kevin Bryant, has just sponsored S 531, a bill to ban "dismemberment abortions."  Or as those gentle folk at "Life News" would say, "Bill to Ban Dismemberment Abortions Tearing Babies Limb from Limb."

They may be barely literate, but they make up for it with hysteria.

As you may recall, fanning the flames of hysteria with misinformation and outright lies was a rousing success in the misnamed "partial birth abortion" battle.  This was thrilling for those whose grasp of science is conveniently misplaced but whose imaginations run to the wildly gruesome.  Personhood may not be as successful because it is too extreme, or it may just be that it doesn't raise the hackles as do phrases like "fetal pain" and the more objective sounding yet nonsensical "pain capable."  Giant paintings on the sides of buses, trucks and billboards may not actually represent scientific accuracy, but they certainly can produce Heironymous Bosch chills up one's spine.

In fact, the obsession with the gruesome, in spite of the professed concern for life, pretty much describes the anti-abortion battle.  Much like those so opposed to gays co-existing in their world that baking a wedding cake sends them into frenzies because of the portent of gay sex, the anti-abortion fanatic can't seem to stop seeing dead things.  Tiny dead things.

In this country, theoretically at least, self-appointed messengers of God are still unable to force people to their will based on warped ideas about religion.  So they are forced to resort to gumming up the works with the pretense of science, gussied up with horrid images.

And it works.

I believe it's time we fight hyperbole with hyperbole.  We need our legislators to get out there and write some bills that really, really stand out.

For example, for some inexplicable reason, domestic violence just doesn't have an emotional impact in our red state.  So, to take a cue from those far more adept at inflaming the masses, how about we call it the "Punching and Gunning Down Women Prevention Bill?"

Or the "Don't Starve Our Toddlers Act" in support of expanding food stamps (can also be used for minimum wage).

If that is too coarse for legislators on our side of the aisle, how about a "Prevention of Medical Surveillance" bill to counter the anti-abortion bills?  After all, we here in SC fear being spied upon almost as much as having our guns taken away.  "Death panels" was so effective in revving up fear of Obamacare that perhaps it could be taken out of mothballs and brought back for a bill to actually regulate insurance companies when the Supremes kill the ACA.  Or it can be used here at home against opponents of Medicaid expansion.

I do think we are too timid, and that is why we are constantly in the position of defending ourselves from the onslaught of rabid verbiage that takes center stage in a battle for our civil liberties and safety.  Until we are able to flood Congress and the State Legislature with equally dramatic bills full of fighting words, we will be at a disadvantage.  Thus far, the twenty-first century has not been the time for a reasoned approach.  To anything. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Tim Scott Conundrum

Proving that it's a great day for Tim Scott if not for his constituents, polling indicates that he is South Carolina's "most popular politician."  I try very hard to understand this phenomenon, as I have never heard him utter a meaningful thought.  But this, I fear, is the secret to his success.

Scott has been groomed by the .01 percent who own this country.  To be fair, he has an obsequious, non-threatening demeanor.  Just as Nikki Haley is the woman the right-wing loves to have speak for them, Tim Scott is the black man that the Kochs want mouthing their values.  And I did hate writing that sentence.  But the fact is, Tim Scott is not going to be the person to ever, EVER question the wealthy and powerful of this country.

He is able to be an Everyman whose polite sincerity makes credible the damaging positions he defends.

Of late he is stepping up on the floor of the Senate to defend the Senate's vote to challenge the National Labor Relations Board's recent streamlining of election rules.  With typical Orwellian panache, the right wing is calling the NLRB rule change the "Ambush Election rule."

Scott paints for us a portrait of those evil unions trying to force employers and employees to bend to their will.  In his speech, he talks about "the hyperpartisan, pro-union entity" trying to tear down South Carolina's "pro-business, pro-employee environment."  In a diatribe bringing to mind a schoolyard whine, he claims that the NLRB's general counsel "made jokes about destroying the American economy and call(ed) members of Congress names."

In that hometown manner we know so well, Scott reminisces about those years when he was a small business entrepreneur, and how if the NLRB had had their way, he would have been forced to take time and money away from his small business, neglecting his life's work as well as his employees, to comply with the new election rules in less than 10 days.  In fact, the rules would allow for elections in 14 days, but what's a few days distortion?  And the push behind the opposition to these rules comes from corporations like McDonald's and Walmart.  The modest rule changes would in fact prevent only to some extent the stalling and strong-arm tactics that have been used to keep workers from learning about and joining unions.

Now, Tim's no dummy, in the sense that he appears to have smart people tailoring his message.  In his weekly email, he highlighted his fight to protect us from the evil union bosses by saying that this rule:

 requires an unprecedented amount of an employee’s personal information to be given to union representatives

 By an unprecedented amount, he means cell phone numbers and email addresses of employees.  You know, contact information.  The employer would be forced to collect information -- which they already have -- and share it with the unions, which is what Scott sees as an unfair advantage.  Of course, what Scott's corporate partners would prefer is that union officials have no access to employees.  And the more time they have before a union election, the more opportunity those corporations have to pressure employees to reject the union.  This is the situation that Tim Scott believes is fair to employers.  In reality, anti-union corporations believe that they own the shop and they own the employee.  All others keep out.  And underneath all the sincere concern, Scott believes this as well.

But the thing about Tim Scott's sales pitch is that he talks about himself as one of us.  His only interest is seeing that we get a fair shake, that we aren't taken advantage of.  So when he does the Orwellian flip, he truly seems caring and credible.

And, fact is, I believe that Tim Scott believes what he is telling us.  And he always will, because he will not hear or believe anything that contradicts those who have taken him under their wing.

And therein lies the danger of Tim Scott.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

...and If You Hate Obamacare...

I am one of those South Carolinians waiting with bated breath for the U.S. less-than-Supreme Court to rule on the Affordable Care Act.  It infuriates me that in this country, so many who are fortunate enough to have health care security will continue to rant and obstruct the program that has given so many of the rest of us the same.  The what's-in-it-for-me crowd is so blinded by greed and rage that they are unable to see how, in fact, making health care a right instead of a privilege has been a major factor in the dramatic upswing in our economy.

We have gone in a short time from an economy crippled by high unemployment, in which the younger job-seekers were shut out because we older folk had to hang on till we were eligible for Medicare.  We stayed with jobs we hated, jobs that hurt our aging bodies, jobs that often did not pay a living wage, so that we could cling to that health insurance that each year cost more and covered less.  Employers called the shots because they knew they had something we needed -- and it wasn't that barely living wage.

The health insurance industry, with a strong house advantage, never lost the insurance gamble.  They took in the young and healthy and priced out of the game anyone who actually might cause them to have to pay out.  The cost of people growing sicker and dying because of lack of adequate health care never showed up on the health insurance industry bottom line.

It is true that the health insurance industry made sure to take care of its own when reform became inevitable.  They made promises in exchange for the ability to make even more money.  They did this by allowing our government to subsidize those fat premiums.  And their lobbyists made sure the public saw the government as the enemy and not the industry itself.

So for pretty much the entirety of President Obama's terms in office, we have been listening to the uninformed parroting the vitriol against health care reform.  I've heard people complain about Obamacare in the same breath that they admitted they were now paying less for coverage.  They rage against "Obamacare" as though it is responsible for the global warming they deny and pretty much everything else (Melissa McCarthy as Tammy:  "Four dollars a gallon.  Thanks, Obamacare.").

It is also true that the ACA has only slowed the rise of health care costs.  Well, if Democrats had spines and Republicans had consciences, we just might be able to tackle the greed of the insurance industry.  I'll bet they could have enough profit without raping the all-too-willing government.  It might even be that regulation of the industry would result in a better product.

But we were left with the worst of capitalism, that bit that decries government involvement, unless of course, it is writing the checks.  If you look closely at your "affordable" health insurance, you will see that the government is picking up the tab for most of what continues to be a ginormous premium.  And yet you still have to pay all those cleverly named additional amounts when you actually need health care.

Yet people like me do have affordable health insurance.  For now.  Because even though all those idiotic votes to repeal in the US House, and despite states with governors with Tea Party dreams like ours, the federal government passed a law that has stood up.  Democracy, right?

But now that libertarian Koch darling, the Cato Institute (support with "the Gift of Stock") is leading the challenge to the ACA in the Supreme Court.  And the hook this time is four words in the law, which may eliminate federal exchanges in states like South Carolina, where we insist that the best way to help people without health insurance is to deny them health insurance.

I only just today learned that argument will be heard on Wednesday.  Most of us, happily insured, are totally uninformed on this fight for our very health and well-being.  I worry that while we look away, we will lose our health care security once again.  And ironically, a lot of those who are going to lose are the Obamacare haters.  Imagine that.