Sunday, December 18, 2011

Stacking the Deck against the Stacks

Another terrifying story about the war on libraries, in this case The New York Public Library.  But the fight is the same as ours, on a much larger scale.

What we are told is that to continue to receive funding we must adapt our libraries to 21st century needs.  So what we do is make room for computers by getting rid of books.

We are told that eBooks are the future, and so we take gigantic leaps to pursue this unproven claim.  We take money from the book budget to fund eBooks.  But we can't afford the vast selection of eBooks the way we would fund a paper collection, so we only "purchase" the most popular titles.

"Purchase" does not mean we own the titles, however.  We pay per use; we never own a title the way we own a copy of A Bright and Shining Lie or Profiles in Courage or The Help.

Who make out with electronic media?  The media companies make out.  They do not have to provide physical material, they get to sell it over and over and over again.  How many times it is borrowed is limited by how much the library pays for it.  And once it is no longer popular, it gets deleted from the offerings to make "room" for more titles.

We are losing breadth and depth, whether we are the New York Public Library or the Charleston County Public Library, by selling our souls to the electronic age.

We could insist on keeping the reading rooms and collections we have.  We could apply for increased budgets for electronic resources, public computers and eBooks.  We can fight to maintain the size of the libraries and the library staff.

But we don't.

And as The Nation describes in the article about the NYPL, so many of the changes are done covertly, and the proposals talk about what we "need", and not about what we will lose.

And once it's gone, all we have left are a few more public computers and air.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Choosing to Pay

It occurred to me, as I was listening to the ongoing harangue by America's politicians, that this is an absurd debate that we are having.

We are able to keep taxes low by voting out of office anyone who suggests we might need to pay more for government services.

We don't get to vote for price increases for anything else.  Would you agree to pay more for, say, homeowner's insurance?  (The ever popular dumping ground of South Carolina was chosen to have a rate increase this year, my policy increasing by 18%!)  How about airfares -- how would you vote on doubling fares on the Sunday after Thanksgiving?  And don't forget the cost of food; would raising food costs get your vote?

Yet the service that has always given the most bang for the buck continues to get squeezed, to the point of failure.  Take schools, or the postal service.  And my own personal favorite, public libraries.

Why do we continue to think that we should get to vote down the cost of government services, while paying top dollar for everything else?

Let's take a look at this fallacy, and let's figure out a way to give it the fresh air it needs.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Other 99 Percent

This is not about the Occupy movement.  This is about statistics, a la Jon Kyle.

If you recall, Kyle made a stunning statistical assertion on the Senate floor:

When confronted about this grossly false statement, Kyle's spokesperson asserted that that "was not intended to be a factual statement."

I was reminded of this hilarity when our library director told a department heads' meeting that "99 percent of [this year's staff evaluations] were good and honest."  This after he had instructed all supervisors to lower all ratings.  Including ratings on promptness and attendance, which one would think could be quantified.

So I would like to caution all y'all about people throwing out numbers.  Most of the time they are totally full of shit.  The best calculations are rarely carved in stone; they are approximations and ranges.

When politicians and people in power throw out big percentages that happen to work in their favor, one can only assume they are lying.  The only sensible response to a statement like Kyle's is to answer in kind, as did Colbert on Twitter .

So to our library director, I would like to say,

Doug Henderson drinks a large vodka and chocolate sauce for breakfast each morning.  That is not intended to be a factual statement.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Overextending Babies and Libraries

Apparently, a sales team similar to the one that sold all the libraries in America on the need to install defibrillators in every branch has come up with another brilliant scheme.  It is called Babygarten.  Apparently it has been around for a couple of years.  It's the kind of deal that voters can't say no to, and that library administrators can force on a workforce that is already stretched too thin in the interest of good PR.

Not to be completely negative, there is a place for a program like Babygarten.  It is, apparently, an early learning program.  To be real, it is ridiculous.  It is smart marketing, is what it is.

Babygarten invites parents to come to the library with their "0 to 18 month old" and begin preliteracy training because it is "the emotional bond that is nurtured by a reading ritual".

In other words, it teaches parents to interact with their infants.

As a retired psychologist, I am suspect of "programs" that use big educational words and constructs (see, I just did it) to try to impress people.  Interacting with an infant does not necessarily come easy to a new parent.  But call it what it is:  it is teaching parents to look at, talk to, sing to, and touch their new baby.  If a parent does this from birth, that child will be likely to be more attentive, alert, content, and yeah, all those good things that are likely to make a child want to learn to read at an early age.

But not 0 to 18 months.

So why are libraries being reeled in like eager trout?

Because the government is scared.  We are begging our funding sources to please, please like us.  And we do that with children -- and the big library buzzword: programs.

And it works.  Tell the public you are going to increase children's anything in a library and they will love it, sight unseen.  Uncritically.

But the payback comes in the cost.  Staff is minimally trained and stretched even thinner.  Adult "programs" and materials, i.e. books, are cut to make room for more stuff for children.

This is what happens:

Our library director, who loves children, and all things children, has increased the purchasing of children's books, and decreased the purchasing in the adult collection.  This, despite the fact that circulating children's books now have to be "weeded" to make room for new children's books, far more than a good, growing library needs.  Ask the public, would you like more children's books in the library, and find one person who says no.

Additionally, because our director loves children so much, he has decided to drop fines on children's books on children's library cards.  Sound good?

Except that if you have an overdue children's book, you are no longer allowed to check out another children's book until that one is returned.

Oh, and it turns out that we now have experienced a precipitous drop in fine collection, for which our director has decided he will raise adult fines by $.05 up to $.20 per day.

Overextended?  Maybe, but don't you like us?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Libraries in America

I was moved by the essay in The Nation by William Scott about his experience in building and rebuilding the Occupy Wall Street Library.  In those words I read the struggle I am having with my own small job within what was once a wonderful and growing public library.

Our director blew in like a hurricane a year and a half ago, with a prestigious career (so he says) as director of the public library system in the wealthiest community in the country.  He is well read, not so much in literature and the sciences, but in library trends and innovations.  He is also a politician, and he has found, in our community, people who trust him.  With their library.

I am small potatoes in this job, a retired psychologist tickled to be working in a place where I can do good without having to battle big business (i.e. the health insurance industry).  Libraries have been my life, from my first library card at age 6, through volunteering in every library I could from junior high through college through my children's school years.

And now I am saddened to hear patrons with the same breath, tell me how much they love libraries, and how they remember their first librarian, and how wonderful it is that we are cutting costs with self-check-out.

Our director is bringing us into the 21st century, for better or worse.

So it was with less surprise and more the feeling of another shovelful tossed on the coffin that I learned that we are weeding our collection.  And not just weeding, but extreme weeding.  Because the consultants that were paid to come up with a five-year plan that pretty much endorses what our director has planned since he walked in the door, have said that our collection is too large.

They know because they used the scientific method.  They compared our library to libraries in neighboring states with neighboring demographics.  So, I guess libraries that are underfunded and facing severe budget cuts and have to prove that they are serious about cutting out "waste" in order to continue to get barely adequate funding.

What this means, and what our director is good at, is building up the programs that look wonderful to the public.  Programs is the catchword.  Children's programs is the winner.  Increasing the children's book collection while decreasing adult books, particularly the less popular non-fiction titles.  "Floating" our collection.  This means that books are not sent out to an owning branch, but all belong to the county library, and wherever a book is returned is where it stays until it is checked out again.  Or until it is thrown out to make space.

Because not all branches are the same.  We have small branches (that are called "large branches" much like Starbucks sizes its coffee), that should be made larger, as circulation has multiplied.  People tend to go to the larger regional branches where there is more selection to check books out, and return them to the smaller branch in their neighborhood.  And now that is where they stay.  So that we have, on our slower moving non-fiction shelves, three copies of a book, while we are throwing away a single copy of another because it hasn't circulated in a year.  Yes, one year.

So we are throwing out books. With abandon.  After several months of weeding like crazy, I read that the director has recently announced to his branch managers that he is now reading to really get to weeding.  I couldn't read another sentence.

Then I read this from William Scott's narrative:

Then at 7:30 pm on November 16, the People's Library
was again raided and thrown in the trash--this time by a
combination of police and Brookfield Properties'
sanitation team. The NYPD first barricaded the library
by lining up in front of it, forming an impenetrable
wall of cops. An officer then announced through a
bullhorn that we should come and collect our books, or
they would be confiscated and removed. Seconds later,
they began dumping books into trash bins that they had
wheeled into the park for that purpose. As they were
throwing out the books, a fellow OWS librarian asked
one of the NYPD patrolmen why they were doing this. His
answer: "I don't know."

At my library, I feel like that NYPD patrolmen who, when asked why he is dumping books from the People's Library, can only say, "I don't know."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for Matt Lauer

I hope y'all dvr'd the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, because, as you know, they won't let you watch it on YouTube.  I can't emphasize enough how important the Macy's Day Parade is if you are an American.  It is a unique blend of crass commercialism and sappy patriotism where actual art and protest occasional rear their ugly heads.

Also, if you don't watch, you will miss highlights like the time a few years ago when one of the balloons got caught in a wind and landed on a group of parade watchers.

This year, if you didn't watch, you missed a song from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.  You also missed the US Naval Academy Glee Club singing America the Beautiful on a float made up of the disembodied hand of the Statue of Liberty, which I thought pretty symbolic.  It would have been perfect had there been a word balloon breaking out beside the hand saying, "Help meeee...."

The highlight of this year's parade, hands down, however, was Matt Lauer's introduction of the next group, "...the 65 active duty men and women who compromise the NYPD marching band."

One only hopes that Matt did it on a dare.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 11, 2011

DeMint in a Vacuum

Proud to be from Jim DeMint country again today.  It was that strange Alice in Wonderland kind of experience that happens so often whenever someone from the republic party opens his mouth.

Checked my email, to find a message from Senator DeMint, dated today, Veterans Day.  In it, he goes on about how grateful we should all be to our troops who are risking their lives for us.  Blah, blah, blah.  Contemplated sending a reality based reply, then remembered that that would be like a thought being swallowed by a black hole, and hit delete.

A short while later, I was catching up on yesterday's news, and, quelle suprise, DeMint's name came up.

Seems that yesterday, the day before Veterans Day, Senator DeMint was the only no-vote on a bill to provide tax credits to employers who hire veterans.

Jim thinks this is a "democrat" plot to make him look bad.  And besides, it would be unfair to give an advantage to a guy who just returned from getting shot at defending our country.

Good to know that Jim DeMint has a sense of fair play, even though his command of the English language is questionable.

Actually, forgive my cynicism, but despite the fairy tale spun by the Heritage Foundation, many of the returning veterans are likely to be working class or poor, and many are persons of color.  If those coming back were well-connected, not only would they not be needing the government's help in getting a fair shake, but DeMint would be all over it, wanting to make sure we gave our veterans what they "deserve".

I don't believe that Jim DeMint is a racist.  I believe he is a class warrior.  He will fight and fight tirelessly for those who have, because in his mind, they (himself included) deserve what they have.

So, on the one hand, veterans, Jim DeMint thanks you for your service.  On the other hand, now that you're back, you're on your own.

Friday, November 4, 2011

To Occupy or Not to Occupy

As I listened to the founder of Occupy Charleston last night, I felt a frisson of fear creep up my spine.

This is because this movement is young, idealistic and uncompromising.  These are good things.

But I recalled the last time young people had an opinion and were willing to take to the streets for it.  In 1968, the hippies were against war and capitalist greed, and mocked the old folk who had got us where we were.  They didn't care if it was Hubert Humphrey or Richard Nixon (or Richard Daley for that matter).  They were rejecting and rebelling against the status quo, the comfortable middle class who were sending their sons to Vietnam, the corporations that were profiting from that war, the universities and the politicians that were colluding with the military industrial complex.

They didn't care who won the election; they were both the enemy.

So last night, when the speaker said he didn't really care if Obama got re-elected, or if it took ten years to reach their goals, I shuddered.

I'm older now, lots older.  I may not be around in ten years, but if I am, there is a good chance we will still be controlled by corporations that sleep with politicians and supreme court justices alike.  I will probably have had to work longer before I can collect my social security, which will be too little to pay the bills.  My kids, who are not corporate executive/financial kingpin types, will probably be lucky if they are able to support their families without having to worry about housing and healthcare, and truly fortunate if their children are well educated.

I look at our democratic party, and I see people who are afraid to stand up for democratic ideals.  I see people who are elected promising campaign finance reform, and once elected decide it's not good to bite the hands that feed them.

In South Carolina, I see a party so stuck in its rules that the corruption that was the Alvin Greene debacle of 2010 did not allow them to support a truly democratic candidate from a third party.  And democratic candidates who would not stand with that third party candidate, although we really do know that there is strength in numbers.

I believe that the hippies of 1968 would call that all bullshit, and the Occupy movement would give a downward finger wiggle to anyone running for office who defines their campaign by what is rather than what is right.

I believe Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are candidates this movement can support because they will unflinchingly support the ideals behind this movement.

And it will be a sad, sad day for us all if our democratic candidates are not able to get on board, not because that is where the votes are, but because the cause is right.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Occupy Charleston Y'All

I was delighted to find that Occupy Charleston has its own website.  Visit the site and become a follower.  Let's build this movement!

Even those folks who voted for Jim DeMint are the 99% -- they just don't know they are one of us yet.

Just as the Occupy Oakland protesters shouted to the police, "You are the 99 percent!", we need to let those who have been led to vote on the right that they are indeed one of us.

They too are unemployed or underemployed, their children unable to afford college, or get a job after graduation.  They may have to choose between health care and mortgage, or may no longer be able to afford either.  They are unable to retire although they are exhausted.  If they are employed, they are constantly at risk of losing their jobs or of wage and benefit cuts.

They have learned, as have we, that while their incomes stagnate, insurance costs skyrocket.  They continue to not have alternatives to being gouged by the oil industry because deMint and his ilk continue to vote cuts for mass transportation and alternative energy exploration.  They are unable to get loans because Wall Street is hoarding the billions it has made through gambling with our hard-earned savings.

And when their bodies ache from standing in front of a classroom or behind a sales counter or tending patients in a hospital or nursing home, they too will be told to tighten their belts and wait another year or two to retire, while those earning over $107,000 will continue to not have to contribute a penny over that amount.

So this Occupy movement can only grow, as long as we all fight the lies and let our friends, family and co-workers know that we are all in this together -- we are the 99 percent!

Monday, October 17, 2011

On God and Wall Street

We're hearing a lot from our elected officials about our values, actually, their values, because it is safe to assume from listening to them, that ours suck.  We have heard about what needs to be done to prevent gay marriage, a woman's right to choose whether she needs to have an abortion, and the decay of American civilization by allowing in the creeping scourge of immigrants and other religions.

But I never did learn in church about Jesus speaking out against love for one another, in fact, he lectured his apostles about their judging of a prostitute.  I never heard that Jesus spoke in favor of killing our enemies; in fact, he taught that we should love our enemies, which I find difficult to do when they are telling me the world would be better off without the likes of us breathing its air.

In fact, Jesus' message really was about looking inside ourselves, not about judging others.

The thing that drove Jesus crazy, though, was moneylenders, the ones that plied their trade in God's house especially.  The thing that Jesus spoke up against most was greed, the greed that hurts the poor, the children, the sick and the old.

So I applaud the Occupy Wall Street movement in this country and across the world.  Can it be that we are finally speaking out against greed instead of humanity, and beginning to work together to hold the wealthy and powerful accountable?

I believe Jesus would have been in that crowd.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Depths of Inanity -- and Back

If I am going to be truly honest and open-minded, when I listen to Scott Brown's January, 2010, acceptance speech, I really have to say, "What a charming rogue."  This has absolutely nothing to do with his positions on issues, or how good he will be for Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate.  He is not good for us, not Massachusetts, and not the U.S.  He is heavily funded by Wall Street, and his method in the Senate appears to be to pick apart meaningful bills, so that they are gutted and impotent, when he does not vote to kill proposed regulatory measures outright.

He is  shrewd.  He knows when the tide is turning and a simple flirtatious wisecrack is no longer going to appease the voters.  This is when he acts like he really, really wants to vote for, say, the jobs bill, so why don't they just take the important parts (the parts that are going to look good to the voters) and leave out the bad parts (the parts that are going to actually affect Wall Street and the corporations).

So thank you very much to the person at the October 4 Massachusetts Senate Democratic Primary Debate who asked Elizabeth Warren how she paid for college.  I guess she could have given the long-winded answer about a hard-knock life and working her way through school, but I believe she was so taken aback by the question that her sense of humor kicked in and she replied that "I kept my clothes on".

Of course that became the quote du jour, and of course of all that happened at that debate, that was the comment that Senator Scott Brown was asked to respond to.  Mr. Brown, of the "take my daughters, please" school of humor, lowered the bar further by responding, "Thank god!"

Which everybody in the media then had to comment on.  Ad nauseum.

Elizabeth Warren, who has been fighting -- hard -- for our financial survival against the big banks and corporations that pay for Scott Brown's campaign, now has to learn how to deal with idiot America.  I expect that she will do it with her usual aplomb.  I just wish that, for this important race, it was not necessary.

So allow me to end with Warren's closing debate comments:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

When the Air (Waves) Were Free

I wonder how it happened, back in the olden days, that we ended up with television networks that were free.  I can imagine the Congressional hearings that would go on today, with some hee-haw from the south whining something like, "Do you think it's fay-ure that folks is gointa be able to make those teevee people pay all that money to put on those shows on thay-yure teevees for free?

Of course, it's not free, and never has been, because sponsors have always sponsored television and radio in this country, and sponsored it so that they could profit from it.  And not too long after those wonderful days when Congress decided to give us public radio and television, so we would have a non-commercial source of information and entertainment, those folks that we elected to Congress and the White House decided that it wasn't fair that we should have that for free.  And of course that wasn't free either, because we paid for it with our tax dollars.

But all that did was make us vulnerable, by virtue of our greed and gullibility, to the accusation that we are paying for services we don't use, and why should we?  Always works.  Now we have commercial "public radio" as well as fund-raisers that make us pay for the privilege by having to listen to the fundraisers as well as cough up the bucks.

And of course now we have a different battle for the airwaves, that of internet accessibility.

Those of us who have, of course, just assume everyone has, and if they don't, they should just go buy it.  But once again, those who have cannot fathom those of us without.

When my daughter was a teen, and wanted a car, I had her and her brother sit at the kitchen table with pencil and paper, and I recited the monthly bills.  Then I gave them the monthly income.

My daughter leapt from the table in a rage.

The facts were hard.

And those of us who are still fortunate enough to be truly in the "middle class" just can't imagine that some of us live on $20,000 a year or less, don't have health insurance.  Too many of us live on the edge of the precipice, and yet we pay a criminal amount for our cable television because they figured out how to take away our free t.v. and we need that connection, and yes, that escape.

The haves can't fathom then that so many of us cannot affort that $60 a month to hook up to the internet.  Sure we can buy, many of us, a cheap laptop.  It is the connection to the world that we just cannot afford.

And now we have our members of Congress accusing our President of all kinds of nasty business because he is attempting to provide free wireless internet access to the American people.

They are going to scare us by convincing us that the cost will be prohibitive, like it isn't when it's private, and that the actual wi-fi will -- I swear -- interfere with our GPS.

Could we please smarten up?  Can we stop acting like the great unwashed listening to a snake-oil salesman at a carnival?  Can't we see, just this one time, that these clowns (not to mix the metaphors too badly) are afraid that we will get something for nothing.

What actually happens, just as free t.v. did back in the olden days, is that free connectivity would open up a whole lot of business for those weasels that pay Congress to keep our hands off their stuff.

But, I fear, the appetite for greater wealth and power has gotten so voracious in this new millennium that even that penny to pay the poor in order that they may serve the wealthy cannot be pried from our masters' hands. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Why Whistleblowers Don't

Here in the land of "right to work" it is comical to imagine complaining about a problem.  The primary attribute desired in the work force in South Carolina is compliance.  So over the years I have worked in the low-level, low-pay county job, I have learned only to complain about things that the boss also doesn't like, or that the boss has not himself implemented, or to grumble to those few people who have no management titles or responsibilities.  There are three of us.

Here's a management technique that has proven to increase compliance:  make nearly everyone a manager.  You can give them shit pay, but as long as they are supervising somebody they will have a hand in the pie and defend the workplace.

I have a little job, of little importance, that I do well, and I have at times enjoyed.  I am hanging on by a thread for the remaining years before I can collect social security.  I have learned, over and over and over and over in my life, that complaining, regardless of the validity of the complaint, or how nicely it is framed, does not work.  At best, your boss dislikes and distrusts you, in the middle you may be given more distasteful hours or tasks, and at worst, you could be given a transfer or lose your job altogether.

We've seen the movies about whistleblowers, there have been enough books written about the fates of the complainers.  The handful of big complaints brought to light by courageous people that have actually made a difference is infinitesimal, and the process extraordinarily painful, the positive outcome often negligible, temporary, or nonexistent.

Without consciously being aware of this, most of us minimize our importance, our perceptions, our grievances.  We believe that we are lucky to have a job, our employers are smarter than we are, we have no right to complain.  And if we are lucky, we don't think too much about what's wrong.

Yet, when we hear about something really, really, bad, let's say torture at Abu Ghraib, we are amazed that it happened.  That people were complicit while others looked the other way.  We should be astounded that anybody ever comes forward, because the system is such that there is rarely any good that will come of doing the right thing.

Will you risk your security for the whistleblower?  If the answer is no, or if you can't answer, you have illustrated why whistleblowers don't.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Fear Factor

Our new-found and readily exploited fear and fascination with Shariah law is just the prescription for bringing Hitlers (and deMints) into power.  Religious radicals of the Christian variety believe that it is just as important for them to dictate punishments for what they perceive as our transgressions as do the radical Islamic fundamentalists.  They too would have sinners imprisoned, perhaps killed, for crossing their lines.

Our absurd focus on whether Shariah law would find its way into our courts is occurring at a time when we are genuinely at risk of that precise type of tyranny coming from the Christian radicals.  Troubled pregnant women imprisoned for crack addiction has been a reality for some time.  The hunger to make abortion illegal, along with the consequent absurdities of attempting to impose a definition on life before birth should lead us to wonder what punishments will be determined to fit the crime.

We know that there are those among us who believe that abortion is punishable by death; if life is defined by these religious "scholars" and pseudo-scientists as occurring at conception, there will need to be punishment meted out to those offenders as well.  And who will police these criminals?

Then we need to address the issues of interracial relationships, as well as the religious practices of those who are not Christian.

We are on a slippery slope indeed here, are we not?

If you do not see shades of Hitler and bin Laden in the religious dictates of the Bachmanns and Perrys, then you are not taking their words to their logical conclusion.

Because what our Christian fanatics in this country are proposing, at the same time they are feeding the fears of Shariah law, is a Christian Shariah law.  Or, if you recall, an Inquisition.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

There Goes Another Government Service

Who loses when the right wing finally gets its way and kills the United States Postal Service?

They do manage to make it sound petty that we expect to get Saturday delivery.  And just plain out-of-touch when most of us send letters by email these days.

Let Jon Stewart add a little perspective here:

This would be the time, if we were a nation seeking to do better rather than cheaper, when neighborhood post offices would be allowed to provide a drop-off/pick-up point for private delivery services for a fee, rather than private companies lobbying to kill public mail service in order to lose the competition.

Because government does do it better, and cheaper.  Government provides decent jobs that provide a service that will never, ever be offered by private industry.

USPS provides the same service to the poor and those living in rural areas that it gives to those in the cities and suburbs.  Despite its regular, and it pains me to say it, not unreasonable cost increases, it continues to provide more for less than private companies.

And I have to say that both Jon Stewart and Claire McCaskill miss the point:  this government service still provides a lifeline to those of us without internet, and there are far too many of us out here.  It is not a matter of making the postal service profitable, any more than a public option for health care should be profitable.  It is a service that is necessary and affordable because there is no profit motive.  And we need to be very aware of how out-of-touch most of us are regarding the many, many people who continue to live for, and even because of, their mail delivery. 

And what will happen when our republican Congress does kill the postal service?  Private service will become even more expensive, and will provide less.

This is the same logic, in reverse, that applies to health care. If ObamaCare included a public option, private companies would have been forced to compete with more options and lower costs. Which is why the insurance industry fought like rabid dogs against even the mildest form of a public option.  And why they continue to fight with dollars and bought politicians to kill ObamaCare, and for that matter, Medicare.

I wonder if we will fight back hard enough as the right wing politicians, in the pocket of the corporations, continue to dismantle our government.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nobody Got Rich on Their Own

I was puttering in my kitchen and listening to somebody's MSNBC show, and I heard this voice, that I did not recognize, explaining why the wealthy should be contributing more.

"Who the hell is that?" I said (to my cat), and ran to look at the TV.  Needless to say, it is Elizabeth Warren:

I have not heard anyone, not Bernie Sanders, not Barack Obama, tell this as well as did Elizabeth Warren.

I believe that Warren is the person that we in South Carolina need to turn to, because she is the one with the right answers, and she is unafraid to tell it, pointblank, the way it is.

Not only do we here in South Carolina need to throw our full support behind Warren.  We need to bring her message to the 2012 South Carolina race.

We need to find gutsy, outspoken candidates for the House of Representatives, and for state offices, and we need them to ally with and echo Warren's message.

Democrats now more than ever need to reach across states' lines and gain strength from each other:  from the name recognition, from the financial strength, from the messages of people like Elizabeth Warren.  This is how we will take our state back.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

South Carolina Wages Church v. State Battle Once Again

In the small town of Jefferson, South Carolina, Larry Stinson, the principal of New Heights Middle School decided he no longer wanted to be a hypocrite.  So, instead, he broke the law.  He invited Christian rapper B-SHOC to perform, rather, bring to Jesus, 324 sixth, seventh and eighth grade students.

Pastor David Sanders of Bridging the Gaps Ministries trained event volunteers by advising them to "have prayer with" the students.  His mission is to "save" people, and his website talks more specifically about its origin in taking the gay out of people.

There have been some complaints since this September 1 event, but not so much as to prohibit this principal on a mission from scheduling a prayer event on September 28, and posting it on the school website and Facebook page.

The ACLU has also been contacted regarding New Heights Middle School and its principal's flagrant breaking of the laws regarding separation of church and state.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Another Great Idea that Will Never Happen

I just read an email about my hero Bernie Sanders "new" idea about raising the cap on the payroll tax in order to fund social security.  Here are the usual reasons that this will never fly:

We don't tax the rich in this country, because it is unfair to them.  It is unfair to them because they are the people that make this country great.  They are the job creators, the investors, the innovators.  We, on the other hand, are the folks who ride on their coattails, and we should be grateful for it.

The people who keep getting elected are the ones who are trying to kill the government.  They have been doing it, one program at a time, and if they can't strangle social security this year, they'll try again next year.  And they have the means, and the moral compass of a squid, so they surely will keep trying.

No matter how much Democrats are giving lip service to saving social security, they are mostly in the pockets of the wealthy and nearly as deeply as the republicans.  If they were as convinced about the need for the haves to pay more to raise the rafts of the ever-sinking middle class, they would be shouting as loudly, and being heard as clearly as the Tea Party.  Regardless of the media's fondness for highlighting the crazies.

And then there is the mainstream media.  The media who reports on the screamers, but fails to point out the disinformation that they spread.  We will no more hear on NBC than we will on FOX the facts about social security; if they report on Bernie Sanders' plan to raise the cap on the payroll tax, it is only so they can quote some republican patsy whining about "class warfare" and how we are trying to stifle the "job creators".

Sorry, Bernie, I wish I could be more optimistic.  And I wish we had a country where your ideas could truly be heard without being twisted, so the voters might have a shot at electing more like you.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Elizabeth Warren

I learned yesterday that Elizabeth Warren has announced her candidacy for the Massachusetts US Senate seat.  That would be a proud moment for the state, after the guy in the truck convinced the voters that he was like them because he drove a truck.

Unlike Martha Coakley, Warren is not planning on taking much vacation time -- not that we won't hear about any occasional days off she does take.  She seems to understand how low her opponents will go, and she certainly knows how high the stakes are for them.

A risk for her is that she has seen the ugly in government; she has seen Obama hedge his bets rather than come out tough and determined to do what's right.  She knows Scott Brown has the full support of Wall Street because if she wins this race, Wall Street will look a lot less like Easy Street.

Here in South Carolina, we have a lot at stake in whether Warren gets elected.  Our sleazy right-to-work cheap, freedom for the wealthy, amoralistic moralists will be front and center of this battle, because Elizabeth Warren will fight against those pols who believe states' rights means the right to gut their state.

So they will attack her with all the irrelevant, highly-charged attack words they know, and I've already heard (ho-hum) "elitist"; I'm sure "socialist" has been thrown out there.

And she's been there already, and she's a fighter.

I plan on getting involved in this one, and I hope we all help fight the disinformation war that is going to be going on against Elizabeth Warren.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Privatizing the U.S.

When I hear our president speak about helping business do its work, I get chills.  When he refers to "small business" incentives, I wonder if he is talking about a mom-and-pop, or about a subsidiary of Blackwater – I mean Xe.

If you haven't read Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine:  The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, run to your library, that is, if you still have a library, and check it out.  It's approaching Halloween season, and there is no better time for this scary read.

We have been lured and duped by the wealthy and powerful into hating the government for its incompetence and waste.  If we stopped to think at all about this, we would see just how absurd are both the premise and the argument.

The great waste and inefficiency of our federal government is due, not to federal workers and federal programs, but to the private industries, their lawyers and lobbyists, with which our government's representatives shares its bed.  And its dollars.

The secret to the success of the raping of this country is in scaring people too busy, undereducated, gullible and apathetic to understand that they are being duped.

They say things like, "It is regulation that is killing business", "Raising minimum wage will strangle the free market", "People need to be free of unions so that they can earn a living."


But people who will never make a living wage without union or government intervention scream about those unionized workers who do, rage at the waste caused by the regulators (that try to keep the mercury out of our food and pharmaceuticals from killing us), and worry themselves about the minimum wage worker who is preventing them from getting that raise.


But it works.  On MSNBC, during the recent republican debate, I saw an ad, featuring a young, handsome, quite sane looking and sounding individual talking calmly about illegal aliens, and ending in the punchline that we need to do something to stop LEGAL immigrants NOW.

And during that republican debate on MSNBC for gods' sake, where were the ads with the progressive messages?

I know: our side doesn't have the money and the incentive to fight as hard and as long.

So read The Shock Doctrine.  At least be educated as to the extent of this fight.  It didn't start with Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, and people like Barack Obama, in the name of compromise, are furthering the cause of disaster capitalism every time they speak of government aiding business rather than helping people.  And we need to understand it in order to stop it.