Friday, September 28, 2012

Privacy vs. Big Business

You know the Department of Homeland Security, that Orwellian sounding group whose raison d'etre is to find new ways to find out everything about everyone, all in the name of keeping us safe from terrorists.  Since they've managed to creep into our body orifices as well as our belongings at the airport, they have moved on.

Soon, if this group has their way, body scanning will be occurring at bus and train stations.  That's right, if you find the procedure at airports personally offensive and invasive, you are also going to lose the "personal freedom" option of the other available forms of mass transit.

EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, was compelled to sue the DHS under the Freedom of Information Act for disclosure of its plans to have full body scanners built and installed, well, all over the place.  Their plans include mobile body scanners as well, so that lets out just walking around.

There has actually been no proven effectiveness of these body scans.  If we wanted to foil terrorists, we would be sure to have our spy agencies be sharp, non-partisan, and cooperative among each other.  If we have not had a terrorist attack since 9/11, it has been due to the fact that the CIA and FBI -- I assume -- have moved into the 21st century technologically, and are not above talking to each other.

Why, then, is there this continued (secretive) push to get scanners out and operative anywhere we might gather?

Follow the money.

Rapiscan Systems is raking in oodles of cash for its invasive technology.  From a modest 2.7 million in 2005, the annual monetary awards are mind-boggling:  12 million in 2010, 7 million in 2011.  Talk about the federal government as job creator.

Despite the tremendous efforts of the people at EPIC, the ability of the federal spy machine to keep a secret, and the momentum of moving millions of dollars make it hard to believe that we soon will not be facing a day when we must go through full body scanners to do our groceries.  And who will pay for all these devices?  You can bet it won't be private industry.  We can't even get the airlines to keep their planes safe on their own dollar.

That's right.  Take another good look at Paul Ryan's National Debt Clock.  You won't see that slowing down soon, with or without Social Security and Obamacare.  Our military-industrial complex got a shot in the arm on 9/11, and it has been and will continue to be too big and too fast-moving to stop.

And it will take our quality of life down with it.

So visit EPIC's website and learn about what's going on with your privacy.  And if you feel so moved, help out with the good fight.

Our elected officials like to throw around the word freedom, but this, fellow Americans, is about the real thing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On Voting Matters

Under the heading of "Your Tax Dollars at Work" our own Governor Haley has us down to the wire with her costly appeal of the US Attorney General's blocking of last year's even more costly Voter ID law.  The Federal Court heard arguments just days ago, and will likely not have a decision until October.

That leaves too many registered voters, mostly older, who have been voting for years not knowing whether they will be allowed to vote in this election.


But there is a loophole that Haley and her minions have not yet closed.

Registered voters who are eligible to vote absentee, and do so by mail, need only to apply for absentee voting status by filling out a form which is available online, or by calling.  They will then receive a ballot in the mail.   After they fill out the ballot, they must sign the back of the envelope.

Once a person has applied for absentee voting status, they cannot then vote at the polls, even if the Voter ID law is overturned.  But this is a way for those who are concerned about the law and their right to vote in this election to be assured that their vote will count.

Also important, ex-prisoners who have served their time have the right to vote BUT they need to contact their county voter registration office to alert them that they are no longer in prison, otherwise they are likely to be turned away on election day.

Since the fiasco over state requirements for candidate applications, and the resulting number of petition candidates, the question arises as to just how to vote for a petition candidate.

It is possible to vote a straight ticket, and then change one or more single votes.  This is important, for example, for those Democratic voters who want to vote for Carol Tempel for SC House 115.  No need to mark each individual box; just pull that big lever (or whatever we need to do electronically), and then also check off Tempel's name.

Now here's a little humor.  Somebody somewhere started a rumor that it is necessary to first vote for president, separately, and then vote the straight ticket.  Now I wonder where that rumor might have come from (Romney-phobic republican candidates perhaps?).

Questions about Voting Rights?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Some Things Never Get Old

It was with some surprise and sadness that I flipped a page on my ACLU 2012 calendar and saw this cartoon:

The great political cartoonist, Herblock, penned this one in 1981.  If you were lucky enough to have been around then, that was when the radical right realized they could make great hay by using the religious right to put them in office.

And so it goes.  Today I heard a news clip wherein John Boehner replied to a question about Romney's now infamous rant on the worthlessness of the 47% by saying, "This election is about jobs."  "Jobs," he added.  And then he repeated, "Jobs."

Yeah, I thought, it's about you keeping your job.  And, recalling the actual 112th House of Representatives, it's about abortion.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


It's true; the republicans are speaking in riddles, and if we don't figure out the right answer we'll be paying for sure.

When they say, "We will work to create jobs," they have actually left out a couple of steps.  What they really mean is, "We plan on giving lots and lots of money back to the really, really wealthy, and we are absolutely sure that eventually they will create jobs with that money.  But not necessarily in America, because, well, that wouldn't be good for corporate America, and they are, after all, the job creators."

When they say, "We want to protect your Social Security and Medicare," they don't add, "for now," but that's what they mean.  In a great moment of honesty, they have begun to add that Social Security and Medicare are safe for those of us over 55.  Then they tap dance around what's going to happen to those of us under 55.  It's kind of bizarre, that they are reassuring some of us that we'll be okay, and not realizing that the end of that thought is that the rest of us are screwed.

When they say, "We are determined to improve the lives of our children," well, they really mean that.  They want to improve the lives of their children.  Not yours or mine.  And how will they do this?  They will make sure that every penny that they own (whether earned by them or not) passes down to their heirs, never being sullied by taxation or obligation.

So listen carefully, folks.  The riddle is in the promise.

PS:  Well, I had drafted this piece before I went on vacation, and came home to find out that Mitt had been caught being honest.  We can all be thankful that he is really a terrible politician.  While they are regrouping, let us all enjoy that brief respite from the Orwellian campaign machine.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Sad Day

We all remember the tragedy and horror of 9/11.

And just in case you may not have noticed the date, you will see that your inbox has touching and patriotic emails from the likes of Tim Scott, and even Jim DeMint has condescended to reach out to us.

It is appalling to me that they take advantage of the tragedy to sound the drumbeat for patriotism, talk about the bravery of the first responders and the loss of lives on that day.

Because when it comes to putting their votes where their mouths are, these people consistently vote against people like first responders, against healthcare and benefits for the military who have volunteered to protect us since that day.  They preach about the value of life and vote against bills that would make our lives safer and more secure, like gun control.  And they brag about how they fight for freedom, and then vote for the right to control a woman's body, prevent her from taking care of herself and her family the best way she can.

Maybe our right-wing Tea Party "patriots" need to do a little more reflecting on 9/11, and a lot less politicizing of it.

Friday, September 7, 2012

About That $16 Trillion

Tim Scott thinks we are all dopes.  He preys on our insecurity by misinforming us about what is wrong with the country, and then promises to take care of it for us.

The man does PR (public relations) real well, unlike Mitt and his shadow, who just can't get the knack of the bait-and-switch.

Tim Scott wants us all to know that that old debt clock is ticking, and that the most important thing in our world is to cut that debt.

But he doesn't want to cut that debt badly enough to pay a fair share of taxes on his considerable income.  When Scott says he wants to guarantee his kids' future, he really does mean his kids, not yours or mine.  Because if either of us knew that investing more into our government would give our children a better education, better health care, and good jobs that will contribute to the futures of their kids, we would do it in a minute.

So we all need to ask Mr. Scott if he understands the meaning of the word "investment."  Because it doesn't just mean the dollars he hoards that grow and grow and grow for him while his debt clock keeps on ticking.  Investment means putting resources into a project in the hopes that it will succeed.  That project is our country, Mr. Scott.  And we invest so that our families will grow, and not just your wallet.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Politics of Obesity

At the risk of offending everybody in the world, I have to say that for me the highlight of the lauded speech by Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention last night was that she hugged a fat woman on the way to the podium.

I had just been thinking about the film clip showing her doing push-ups with the stars, and doing all kinds of other aerobic stuff with any kid in her vicinity, and just feeling left out.  Michelle may be speaking for a lot of people, but I don't really think she speaks for the obese.

The problem is not just a matter of calories and exercise.  It is so much more complex, and yes, it is political.  And those who are not in jaw-dropping awe of "everything Michelle" have, from time to time, spoken to the real problem.

In so many ways, so many of us do not have a choice.  We get up too early, spend too many hours in a car, sit at a desk or do other non-aerobic activities, for not-enough-money to buy quality food and with not-enough-time to cook it if we did.

Don't get me wrong, I have studied this problem much of my life.  I can cook quick and pretty cheap and keep the calories low, I can even exercise, but not for the duration.  Because if you have lived much or your life struggling and juggling, it may come down to the fact that food gives you respite and pleasure.

It chills me to hear the judgments that are made about the obese.  I have friends who very likely eat as poorly as I do, but far less, and believe that I should have to pay a higher insurance premium because of my weight.  Well, we all fell into that trap when we allowed insurance companies to charge more for smokers, didn't we?  And do you think your doctor is just asking out of concern when she questions how much you drink during your check-ups?

This is truly the judgment society, brought to you by the insurance industry, who would love to collect lots of money and have documented reasons to not pay up.

How about stress?  Job stress vs. unemployment stress.  Worries about the future:  yours, your kids', your parents'.  How about how much is gas going to go up tomorrow -- that's a game the oil industry likes to play.

So we admire and reward athletes that stress their bodies to the max, and celebrities that do whatever is necessary to keep their weight down.  Is that really more healthy than my obesity?

I'll be honest; over the years I was single-parenting and spending twelve to sixteen hours a day living out of the car, earning slightly more than minimum wage, I put on weight.  Lots of weight.  Junk food lunches and dinners.  Exercise?  No, thanks, just pour me another coffee, and a drink when I finally get home.

The best thing about that horrible life style is that I stopped watching my weight.  I bought bigger clothes, and I just went with it.  It wasn't till my doctor got through to me about my skyrocketing blood pressure that I determined to diet.

And it's hard, you people that have never had to do it.  It's not just a matter of having the White House chef cook up some tasty broccoli.  Because at this point in my life, I still want the pleasure of good food, and pleasure for me is broccoli with a cream sauce.  And I have had a lifetime of trying to be better with portions.  Can't do it.

But one thing is for sure.  Other fat people out there would love to have a lifestyle where they can afford healthy food, have the time to cook it, can sleep when they are tired and wake up when they are rested.  Don't have to worry about whether they can afford health emergencies or home repairs.  Don't have to worry about their kids finding good jobs or their parents paying for their prescription meds.

And as a child, if you grow up in a home where the thing you look forward to at the end of the day is your mom's home-cooked pasta, or that sweet-and-fattening junk food, chances are pretty good that's what you'll be when you grow up.

If you can't speak to the causes of the problem, then at least let us enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What I Hope Elizabeth Warren Doesn't Say

I am far more excited about Elizabeth Warren's Convention speech tomorrow than about anyone else, including either Obama.  She is the fresh voice that he was in 2004.

But I worry about her.  I worry that she has way too many people who are worrying at her and for her, and crowding her.

I think that was the reason that she had scheduled a $1,000 a head fund-raising event here in South Carolina.  When I heard that I did a spit-take.  Nobody told her, apparently, that even good Democrats here in South Carolina don't have pockets that go that deep.  She would have been far better off, and so would we, had she done the $250 shindig, and stopped over at the College of Charleston's Cistern to say hi and shake some hands.

The Elizabeth Warren who is my hero would have said yes to that in an instant and nixed the $1,000 nonsense.

So with that in mind, I would like to add my two cents:

I hope Elizabeth Warren doesn't tell us in nauseating detail about her family.

I hope she doesn't go on and on about her family's military service and her pride in the military.

I hope she doesn't try to lead a cheer for women.

I hope she remembers to mention Obama, because all those nitpickers that counted Mitt Romney references last week will be back, but I hope she doesn't go on about all the great things he's done for the economy.

Because, to be honest, we all know he hasn't.  His intentions were good, but he was naive, and when he heard that the American people wanted compromise, he believed us.  So he got slammed by the other side, who abhor compromise.

But she is speaking at his convention for a reason.  We believe in her, and Obama knows we believe in her.  She is smart and she is fearless.

So I hope she tells us about why the American economy is still not working for the American people.  I hope she tells us that it is time for corporate control of our country and our lives to come to an end.  I hope she talks about the need to regulate those big-monied interests, starting with Wall Street.

Because if she does that, if she gives a no-frills, this is the way it is speech about where we stand and where we are heading, we'll all be there with her.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Opposite Day at the GOP

We're all pretty accustomed to the flip-flops and distortions over at the GOP, but I think that of late they have surpassed Orwellian flights of fancy.

It was the anti-Obama ad where the Romney crew cut his words so that it sounded like, in 2008, he did not want to talk about the economy:

"...if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose..."

What is notable about this ad is that, instead of trying to dance around the fact, Romney himself basically said, "Yeah, we lied, so what?"

And that, folks, has been the modus operandi for the GOP ever since.

Every day is Opposite Day at the GOP.

Paul Ryan went on the road after the VP announcement condemning President Obama for trying to cut his mom's Medicare.  You know, those cuts he made to private insurers who had been gouging the government through subsidies for the Medicare Advantage supplemental health plan.  He assured us that it is the republican party that is going to save Medicare for his poor old mom.  You know, the snowbird that plays golf in Florida during the winter, just like our moms.  By the way, he also reassured us that, while grandma will be safe, the younger folk will be screwed.

While heads were spinning over that nonsense, the GOP was just warming up.  The GOP Convention, in fact, was a panoply of nuts and lies.

In the backrooms of the asylum is Ralph Reed, pockets full of gold and heart full of hate, preaching to his choir a plan for spending buckets of Supreme Court-approved anonymous cash to wipe out the evil Democrats in every election in every state.

Our own Nikki Haley bragged that it was because she stood up to Boeing that they offered to add jobs to their Union shop in Washington.

Of course, the big lie was the entire theme:  We Built It.  Each heart-warming story involved those hardscrabble Americans, from Chris Christie to Mitt, who all worked their way up from hardship.  With no help from the government???  Celebrating their hard-won success in a convention center that was built with government funding.  And that theme "We Built It" was, by the way, a misquote of Obama's, a clumsily stated tribute to those who built roads and bridges, the American system that fueled the success.

Mitt Romney nearly shed tears over how disappointed he is that Obama's plans to save the economy had failed, followed by Clint Eastwood blaming an empty chair that he mistook for Obama for things like the war in Afghanistan.  The combination of which finally caused Jon Stewart to go ballistic.  Good to know just how much bull it takes to put him over the edge.

For your sanity's sake, watch the whole segment.  Be sure to take away from it Jon's deduction that the republican view of reality exists because "...there is a President Obama that only Republicans can see...."

And if they really want to make the election about "invisible President Obama", he invites them to,

"Go ahead...Make my day."

At last, something about this election season I'll be looking forward to.