Thursday, April 30, 2015

What on Earth Is This TPP?

I have C-Span as my default TV station, so that whenever I turn the TV on, there it is.  That doesn't mean I watch it; in fact, as the republicans have gained more power in Congress, my tolerance for listening to the bullshit has diminished.  Today, for example, when I turned on the tube, there was John Boehner, whining that all the House Democrats are opposing their own president on this bill, and President Obama ought to get his team in line.

I like coming in in the middle.  I play a little guessing game with myself, to see how long it takes to figure out what is going on.  Usually, though, when I turn it on, there is one lone House member going on about something, and without looking, I try to guess whether it's a republican or a Democrat.  I'm pretty good at it, too.  I can do it in about three seconds.  You don't have to know what they are talking about, because they use the same words for everything.  This could probably be a good drinking game.

Anyway, there was that idiot Boehner today, going on about how the President needed to reign in his party.  All of a sudden he was doing kumbaya with President Obama.  I had an idea what it was all about, but other than signing online petitions, I hadn't been all that involved.  But we really should be.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership -- known now as TPP because who has time to say Trans-Pacific Partnership? -- is a trade deal.  If you liked the way NAFTA worked, you will love TPP.  We were told back then the same things we are being told now.  This will be a job creator by increasing exports and will just be super for the economy.  Except what happened with NAFTA was that it allowed businesses in the USA to move to Mexico where labor is cheaper.

Here's another really weird outcome, which I read about in an important book about climate change by Naomi Klein:  This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (a book that the New York Times reviewer said was, "a book of such ambition and consequence that it is almost unreviewable.")

Because of current trade agreements between Canada and foreign governments, Ontario was forced to repeal parts of its 2009 Green Energy and Economy Act, which had in fact created jobs and improved the environment.  The European Union and Japan took Ontario to the World Trade Organization because the Act favored the local economy.  Ontario lost more than the court case.

This makes as much sense for our country as selling roads and parking meters to foreign governments and private corporations to make a quick buck so you don't have to tax the wealthy.  Being too much a part of this new global environment these days means becoming even more vulnerable to the forces of capitalist greed.  It means giving up a community's right to determine it's own fate, sometimes giving up important economic ground, losing the ability to make its own decisions about safety and the environment.

This is not a trade agreement between countries; this is a trade agreement that will be controlled by the big corporations that are sinking millions into our elections so that people like John Boehner can push for trade advantages for the powerful.

This may be good business for John Boehner, but I am heartened that the Democrats are pretty much opposed.  Just as did Bill Clinton, President Obama is being lured into a compromise that will make our economy weaker in order to be beef up his world leader creds.  But just as with the Keystone Pipeline, Obama needs to honestly look at how this agreement could tie the hands of local communities, states, and the federal government in critical environmental and security issues.

Meanwhile, get out a six-pack and try your hand at guessing what's going on on C-Span.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Not as Dumb as They Look

Yes, we all laughed at John Boehner yelling "Hell, no!" on the House floor after Obama's win.  And then there was the fiasco after the 2012 republican loss wherein they all stood in a circle and jerked off to the tune of, "We have to figure out how to say the same thing, but make it sound different."  You know that tune.  Just like Tim Scott's voting record, the republicans have gotten away with blocking and stalling any Democratic program that might succeed.

But wait.  Last week heralded a new day for bipartisanship, as Congress passed the bill that would "permanently" fix the threat of doctors refusing to accept Medicare due to lower rates of reimbursement.  Jon Stewart mocked the national moment of joy expressed at Congress at last getting together to do their job.

I am wondering, on the other hand, what we gave up in order to get those fools to agree.  Because what has been happening in Congress lately is a series of compromises that make the republicans look like real leaders while our Democratic goals and programs are being eroded.

Take the Human Trafficking Victims' Fund that just passed the Senate with 99 votes.  In March, this bill got bollixed up because the creeps in the republican party tied it to an anti-abortion amendment.  Fortunately somebody woke up and read the bill, and the media attention killed that sleazy plan.  Or so we thought.

These days, it seems that everybody wants to stop human trafficking, although it seems to me that this has become a term that can mean anything to anybody, and I doubt that the republican supporters are really planning on helping Mexicans who have been abused by coyotes after paying their way into the country.  But whatever we think it is, fighting human trafficking is so hot that a bill was even passed into law and signed by Governor Haley in South Carolina on April 2 of this year.

In the Senate, the compromise over which everyone is taking bows, involves splitting funds in a way that in no way no how can money for "health services" be spent on abortions.  Never let it be said that a Democrat would be unwilling to compromise when it comes to a woman's right to have an abortion.  Been abused?  Raped?  Coerced?  Have some "health services" sans abortion.

And then there is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which could be subtitled "a million ways to die at the hands of the republican congress."  The plan seems to be that the more Senator Elizabeth Warren works to increase protections from big banks and their hi-jinx, the more creative become the wordsmiths in the republican party, assisted of course by Wall Street, ALEC, and all those other helpful denizens of the one percent.  So as Warren calls for more regulation and demands for accountability, the House has passed a bill which would require additional advisory boards (including what they call "small business") and to offset the cost of these boards, has PUT CAPS ON FUTURE FUNDING OF THE CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU.

So thanks, Ronald Reagan, your plan to strangle government continues to thrive.

All I am saying is, this new era of "bipartisan politics" that has dawned in Washington is Democrats being roped in and hornswoggled.  If you want to know what is really going on, follow the comments of those who are opposing all these great moments in unity:  Bernie Sanders, Maxine Waters, Elizabeth Warren.  Now is the time to find the truth-tellers on the left, and not those who are either so naive or so concerned with being re-elected that they will compromise away the things we have fought for, like financial reform and women's rights.  When you see a 99-0 vote, ask yourself what we've lost, because the chances are pretty darned good that we have.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Men Debating Abortion Moves Forward

In an excellent summary of the insane debate going on in the South Carolina Senate over H 3114, the bill that would ban abortion at twenty weeks, we have the cretins explaining science and morality.  Lee Bright continues to tear his little heart out over the thought that 20-week fetuses are feeling pain.  No doubt he spends many nights lying awake thinking about those same fetuses being denied the right to experience sexual pleasure in the womb.  Danny Verdin, another example of imaginations gone wild, can't get past the pain a fetus must be going through during an abortion.

Jeez guys, you must have been a riot in your high school biology classes.  Should we really have men who are so prone to hysteria that they readily distort facts be making legislative decisions about... well, anything?

And while they relate to a fetus as though it is a cute little kitty, they have absolutely no concept of pain in reality.  The pain of a woman whose pregnancy has gone horribly wrong.  The pain of carrying a fetus who has severe abnormalities to term, and then giving birth to an infant who also will THEN live in pain until death.  The pain of a woman being unable to care for herself or other family members because she is being forced to carry a life that it has been determined will require the draining of resources, emotional and financial.  The tragedy of forcing life when maybe God has created a system wherein some pregnancies fail so that others can flower.

False science and hysteria rule the day in Columbia.

But we have some fearless souls on the other side who are attempting to bring reason and proper analysis to this fascist enterprise.

Senator Joel Lourie sums it up:

“We’re a bunch of men sitting up here trying to tell a woman whether it’s right or not to terminate a pregnancy at 20 versus 24 weeks. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves that we’re going to impose our own value system and interfere with the relationship between a woman, her physician, her spiritual adviser and her family.”

We're not even talking about the fact that that infinitesimal percentage of doctors who have testified as "experts" in favor of this bill have had center stage against professional organizations like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.  We've had testimony by people who have said they "just know" a fetus at twenty week feels pain.  Proud to be a member of such an august legislative body that would consider that "evidence."

But then there's God.  The legislators themselves have toned down the religious rhetoric, substituting it with false science claims so that they can pretend they are keeping church and state separate.  But there has been more than enough religious fervor that has crept in via "witnesses."

So that the argument is not really whether a woman should be allowed to decide for herself about terminating a pregnancy.  It is really about the fact that because some women of faith chose to have the baby, all women should be prevented from having a choice.  It is because small-minded hypocrites like Lee Bright want to be heralded by the church as the man that saved "unborn babies" from being "killed" while defending abusers rights to carry guns.  It is about misogynists like Danny Verdin telling us that allowing exceptions to a 20-week abortion law for rape and incest would be encouraging women to lie.

Basically, it is the ugliest of motives, control of women, combined with voyeurism and government surveillance, that gives continued voice to these abortion bills.

This twenty week abortion ban, that in a world ruled by reason and true concern would have been laughed out of any governing body, will come for a Senate vote soon.  The criminal domestic violence bill, which would truly save lives, is being held hostage while those same "pro-life" legislators fight about whether abusers should have their guns taken away.

But we can still be heard.  We can thank and encourage those Senators who are fighting for women's right to reproductive health and privacy, and we can write and call our own State Senators to tell them in no uncertain terms to vote no to this bill.

Thanks to Brad Hutto and Joel Lourie and others who are fighting to keep the government out of women's private lives.

Go to the Statehouse website to send an email to let each senator know how you feel about this bill.

This is the email I sent to all senators:

I urge you to vote NO on the bill that would prevent women from deciding on whether to have an abortion after twenty weeks. Science has proven that at 20-24 weeks a fetus has not developed the ability to experience pain.

Also, this is an extremely rare procedure (estimated 30 per year) which occurs in the course of wanted pregnancies where fetal abnormalities are detected.

This should be a decision between a woman and a medical professional.  Government intrusion in such a private and personal matter is unacceptable.

Vote NO on H 3114.

I hope you will all join me in making your voice heard.

Read more here:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Time for Racism Is Nearly Over, Now Get Ready for Misogyny

You know it's hard to make my head spin these days.  But that it did when I heard that Wayne LaPierre, hypocrite and warmonger extraordinaire, said the following at the NRA's national convention:

"Eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough."
Since the quote made it internationally, it appeared I wasn't the only one who noted that Mr. LaPierre had outdone himself in the categories of ignorance and gall.  The demographically symbolic head of the NRA -- old, white male -- must have chosen his words carefully, so that most of those hearing the speech would cheer at the attack on both current and potentially future presidents without really understanding just how over-the-top it was.  That's our Wayne, too smart for the common folk.

But those who really heard the words, and thanks to New York Times reporter Nick Corasaniti who tweeted them, are no doubt still considering their significance.

As we talk about racism and continue to politely ignore misogyny, it is just astounding that LaPierre would be so blatant.  Not too many steps removed, in fact, from using the words "nigger" and "bitch."  Which I imagine he feels free to use in a smaller room.

Is this election season going to be one where overt hatred of women is going to be allowed and accepted the way the not-too-veiled birth certificate "controversy" was part of the anti-Obama rhetoric?  While reporters are chasing Hillary around and debating the correctness of her lunch choice, will anyone address the sexism that is already flying?  Will we allow through our silence jackasses like Wayne LaPierre to disqualify Clinton by virtue of her sex?  Will we be silent when ugly comments and photos circulate social media?  Or will we start shouting in outrage?

Because with LaPierre's crack, we should already be shouting.  It's not going to get any better.  Hillary can handle it; she's been proving that for decades.  But we as a country cannot.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Underground Racism

It seems fair to say, despite the pontifications of Chief Justice John Roberts, that racism has not come to an end.  I wonder why nobody has asked him to share his wisdom regarding the shootings of black men by white police officers.  It must have something to do with that ginormous buffer zone the justices have protecting them from the actual real world.  Which also explains why we would never expect Clarence Thomas to have to worry about white cops.

It was inevitable that we in South Carolina would have our turn in the national spotlight over a police shooting.  In fact it happened too briefly a year ago, and other times before that.

I was surprised to hear an MSNBC reporter yesterday note that of over 200 police shootings in South Carolina, none were convicted of a crime.  I recalled the terrifying dashcam video of last summer's shooting of an unarmed black man who was reaching for his license and registration after being stopped for not having his seat belt on.  It turns out that the officer involved was fired and charged with assault and battery, but not yet tried.  It seems we need to keep a close eye on that case.

Because it should be obvious to anyone other than five members of the Supreme Court that racism is alive and well.  And not just in the south.  The stereotypes of dangerous black men and black women who live high off the welfare system haven't died; they had just gone underground.  It may be that it took a black president to bring the paranoia out in the open.  And it took authorities like the majority of the Supreme Court to give their blessing to racially motivated aggression.

Where was all that racism before it became legal to deny blacks the right to vote via the voter ID bandwagon and selectively limiting polling places, hours and locations?  And we hadn't had quite such a rage against people on welfare and food stamps since Ronald Reagan's bullshit about the welfare queen in the Cadillac.  While the media was enjoying the Obama birth certificate nonsense, the racists were beginning to crawl out from under their rocks.

As a white woman, I can testify to the fact that there has always been racism.  Because every now and then, someone would say to me something along the lines of "You know what they're like."  Wink, nudge.  I find it bizarre, and yet, if you're like me, when it's happened to you white folk who are reading this, you may not have said, "No, I don't," or, "Yeah, probably like me."  We don't confront the crazies because, well, they are crazy.  After all, they've made assumptions that all we white folk are like they are and believe what they know to be fact.  So, like me, you probably backed away from the conversation, maybe discretely shaking your head as you went.

We know the racists are out there.  We know the stereotypes.  The only way to change that nonsense is for white and blacks to live, work, go to school with each other.  We've known that for a long time.  And yet even when schools are integrated it is pretty likely that the social groups aren't.  And even a liberal democrat such as myself finds that I am in a social group with white women.

So we self-select.  But we still need to talk among each other.  We need to share space.  And most important, we need to stop the racists from perpetuating the racist myths.  We need our politicians to stop playing to our fears.  We need to insist that our judges don't hold ridiculous stereotypes.  We definitely need to screen those who hold racist beliefs out of our police forces and our schools.

My mother used to tell the story of a teacher in her elementary school (circa 1925) who hated Italians.  She thought they were dirty and stupid.  As my mother walked down the stairs, this teacher gave her a little kick to help her along.  We've mostly all been there.  These days it's the Hispanics who are called dirty and stupid.  Segregating ourselves from others who are different, stereotyping those we don't know well enough to understand, this may be the human condition.  But we are all in a position to step up and stop the nonsense when it happens.  The media needs to do it, the courts need to do it.

But I don't see that on the horizon.  Fox News, the right-wing politicians, and big corporate powers like the Kochs have too much to gain by fueling the hate.  Until our authorities step up, as Lyndon Johnson did when he said no to racism and put his full power behind the American law and a true belief in equality, we will have to whip out the cell phones and make the cops wear body cams.  It won't end racism, and the cameras won't be enough.  We've had blacks shot and strangled on camera, and the cops gotten off by not-so-grand juries and prosecutors who were on the side of the cops.  It will take vigilance, protests, media focus to stop the killing of innocent blacks that has gone on throughout the country's history.  It is good that the tragic killings of Trayvon Martin and of Michael Brown in Ferguson woke us up from our delusions.  But we need to understand that those talks that dads have with their black sons about the police have always gone on, and we need to know that the society that makes that necessary has got to change.