Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Nikki's Conscience

Our governor here in South Carolina is no friend of the Affordable Care Act.  She has been paid good money to make absolutely sure that her good friends in the insurance industry do not have to follow federal law.

Last year, she took a million of our hard-earned tax dollars from the federal government and instructed her exploratory committee to find out how to reject the Medicaid expansion.  That's right, the part that would insure lots of poor and currently uninsured South Carolinians, with nearly 100% government funding.  And here we thought Nikki was able to spot a bargain.

Now her legislative buddies are working to pretty much make the whole Affordable Care Act illegal in this parallel universe of South Carolina.  Nullification acts abound this second term of the Obama administration, and it's not hard to cut and paste:  federal health care regulations, gun laws, National Defense Authorization Act.  There is absolutely nothing our federal government can attempt to do to protect us that Nikki and her gang aren't trying to strike down.

In a very lovely letter on quite tasteful and expensive stationery, at taxpayer expense, Nikki wrote back in response to a petition I signed regarding a woman's right to contraceptive choice.  In the tone of a very patient first grade teacher, she explained how there are times when we have to "distinguish between our ability to make decisions about our own health and our ability to make someone else pay for the effects of those decisions."

I don't know.  You might want to read that one over again because my head's still spinning from it.

Nikki -- and I know you don't mind me calling you Nikki because your letter indicates that we are on a first-name basis -- there are whole bunches of reasons why this is pure bullshit.  You may never have had to worry about life and liberty, but there are many of us -- in fact, many who live right here in the state you govern -- who have to worry about those rights.  The right to vote, the right to housing, the right to be able to care for ourselves and our families come to mind.

While your legislators are trying to make sure every pregnancy comes to term, neither you nor they are concerned about what happens to the woman, her child, or her family after birth.  You know, and I know, that this "matter of faith" is an excuse.  When it comes to infant mortality, you are right up there making sure nothing is done about it.

The employers whose rights you defend so shamelessly take our tax dollars, and their conscience really doesn't dictate whether those tax dollars come from saints or sinners, or whether our children have to go to failing schools because more taxes for public schools is where you draw your line.

When our government makes laws, it is not up to me, or you, or your friends in church and business to decide which ones you will follow.  Just as a church or business cannot refuse to serve someone because they are black, or gay, or Hispanic, they cannot pick and choose what services they provide to women.

Shame that a woman in public office, who has been fortunate in her life, has no conscience at all when it comes to assuring that all women have the same rights to life and liberty that she has truly enjoyed.

One final note about your letter.  Perhaps if you did your job in truly good conscience, you would not need to close with "God bless," which sounds a little too much like wishful thinking. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Enemies and Drones

Congress continues to obstruct everything from the confirmation of a Secretary of Defense to resolution of the impending sequestration which threatens to  damage everything from jobs to defense.  Just as they were able to win the House of Representatives in 2010, the Republicans continue to believe that their future resides in the destruction of the Obama Administration.  The contradictions and hypocrisies that lost them the Presidency as well as seats in Congress in 2012 have merely translated to a need to reword the message, and a double-down against the President.

If you have watched any video of South Carolina's own Lindsey Graham lately, you will see a mean, whiny and self-serving man who is out of touch with his constituents as well as with the country he professes to love.  The state which he presumes to represent ranks #13 out of 50 in instances of gun violence, yet he opposes any gun control measures.  He has made false and absurd statements about people whom Obama might be interested in nominating to cabinet positions, from Susan Rice (who had not even been nominated) to Chuck Hagel, lately having the gall to indicate that he would hold up Hagel's nomination based on circumstances totally unrelated to his qualifications.

Amidst upwardly spiraling gun violence, we have no director at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.  Judicial appointments have been routinely blocked, leading to backlogs on dockets across the country.  We have all heard of all the legislation that had once been supported (in fact, proposed) by republicans that has been denounced as soon as it was supported by President Obama.

Are we safe?  If we are, it is not thanks to the republicans in Congress, but because of all the end runs the President has had to make around them.

While today Lindsey Graham might be cheering on Obama's use of drone strikes, the President could not count on Congress to engage in constructive debate around such an important issue.  Because Congressional republicans continue to behave like tantrumming toddlers, tyrants and bullies, Obama could no more ask for help in creating rules for the use of drones than he might have asked for a hand in planning the assassination of Osama Bin Laden.

As a man with great respect for the law, who also takes seriously the task of protecting the American people with as little loss of life as possible, perhaps the use of drones was the only option available to this president.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Arguing About Abortion

Today the Post and CourierPost and Courier published a letter I wrote to them about abortion:

Abortion facts

Women do not like to have abortions. It is a sad and awful decision, taken seriously by women, even when it is not dictated by rape or the health of the woman.
Aborting a fetus does not remove a life from the planet. I have two wonderful adult children who would not be here had I not been able to have an abortion when I was too young to be responsible for bringing that pregnancy to term.
People make mistakes, and often they are big mistakes. More often than not, we learn from our mistakes and become better people.
Many of our legislators in South Carolina believe it is their duty to punish women for their mistakes by forcing them to carry a pregnancy to term.
They have adopted ridiculous language to dramatize this in their bills, including my favorite, “preborn.”
Some have, year after year, proposed a “monument to unborn children” to flaunt their moral superiority on the State House grounds. This year that monument would be of a woman pushing a baby carriage, a travesty not only for anyone who has had to choose an abortion, but to anyone who has lost a child.
Meanwhile, South Carolina continues to maintain a shameful infant mortality rate.
I believe our legislators would do better to spend their time and our tax dollars working to assure good health care for all, and fight for living wages and better education that would lessen the incidence of unwanted pregnancy, and promote a healthy life after birth.

I tend to be a private person, so I thought long and hard about how important it was to do this, and the answer was that it is just that important.  But it is inevitable that there will be rageful backlash.  And this is the problem with this "debate."
Those who have had abortions are often embarrassed, even ashamed.  They have been cowed into believing they have sinned, even worse, killed.
The decision to have an abortion should not occur on a stage, by a legislative body, or in a court.  Those who yell the loudest about freedom tend to be those who yell the loudest and drown out the opinions of others.  They also insist that their freedom includes their right to dictate the behavior of others.
And because we women who have decided to end a pregnancy, or will have to make that decision in the future, are horrified to be put on public display, the advantage goes to the loud, rageful, very much unChristian opponents.
What we have is a fight with only the opponents on the stage.
So what we need to do is stand up without shame or embarrassment and let others know who we are, and that we are not sinners, or murderers or demons.  We need to put our faces to the side of the debate that demands the freedom to make our own decision, so that we may once again have the privacy in which to do so.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

It's Complicated

Let's imagine for a moment that Ben Frasier, perennial South Carolina candidate who is now running for the US House seat vacated by Tim Scott, is not a Republican plant. Suppose that he really is a hard-working man, born and raised here, who really just wants to make his family proud by serving his government.

If that were true, he would still be in way over his head.

Frasier tends to throw out short, simple bits of his political philosophy, sometimes contradicting himself in a single statement.  Like his Republican counterparts, his mantra is smaller government, less regulations, and "lower taxes for everything."  His lower taxes stance is immediately followed by an absolute "no" to any defense cuts and a pronouncement that his "small social security check is not enough."

In a question-and-answer session on James Island last night with his primary opponent, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, Frasier at times appeared to be at a loss for an answer to complex questions, more than once taking his turn to respond by basically saying, "What she just said."

He does have some unusual and concerning points of view:

To the question of how to increase jobs for the poor in South Carolina, he replied "keep looking."  He indicated that the path to reducing home foreclosures was by taking more jobs, and that may mean "maybe two to three jobs to survive."  He added that "illegals underbid (jobs) in business."

On the subject of defense spending, Frasier said at one point that we need to "quit turning our backs on our friends abroad, because soon we'll have none."  Later in the evening, he reasserted his opposition to military cuts because the enemy "could be the person sitting next to you."

Which, although a strange idea, at least concurred with his opinion on gun control (I think).  Frasier is 100% right-wing on the issue of gun control.  He believes "you should be able to buy any weapon and use your common sense."

While Ben Frasier's comments during the course of the evening were often confusing, contradictory and lacked substance, his roots are in the Lowcountry (although most of his time is spent in Maryland).  He is pleasant and sounds sincere.

But the fact is, the issues out there today are far too important, and complicated, to entrust to someone whose heart is in the right place.  His logic is very often flawed, his positions inexplicable.

In contrast to Frasier, Colbert-Busch has a depth of knowledge and understanding of the issues.  She is also a Lowcountry native, and has worked her way up to a career that combines educational research with business partnerships in the field of renewable energy.  This, she says, is where lies the future of jobs in South Carolina.

She is well aware of the need for better quality education for all, and points to the importance not only of improving education for Pre-K through Grade 5, but of not abandoning our children through their middle and high school years.

So in this Democratic primary on March 19, it is critical that we get out the vote, vote smart, and all those neat buzzwords.  We have the opportunity to vote for a candidate who can truly move South Carolina, and the country, forward.

And the choice we need to make on March 19, and then on May 7, is really not complicated at all.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Nikki Cuddles Up While We Pay Up

So who among us is surprised that Governor Haley wants to appoint an insurance industry lobbyist to run the state insurance agency?

Scandal is no stranger to Governor Haley, and no more so than in her relationship with the insurance industry.

In 2011, after less than one year, David Black resigned the post.  With no official statement it was nonetheless not hard to jump to the conclusion that he was reluctant to be the fall guy on Haley's Health Planning Committee, which spent a million dollars in federal health care reform grant money for the purpose of determining that South Carolina would not participate in the health exchange.  In Nikki's own words, the directive to the committee was:

"the whole point of this commission should be to figure out how to opt out and how to avoid a federal takeover, NOT create a state exchange."

Not hard to understand why Mr. Black was unable to stomach the workings of the Haley administration.  Also easy to understand Haley's move in nominating Ray Farmer this time around.  AIA is absolutely tickled that this 32 year insurance insider is now going to the government side.

Fortunately, there has been a bit closer scrutiny of this nominee, but who among us will be surprised when Mr. Farmer gets the green light?

Meanwhile, if you spend much of your free time reeling from the high cost of all kinds of insurance premiums, too many of which are higher than claims and conditions in the state would warrant, our state government is hard at work to get you to stop griping.

No, they are NOT going to challenge the insurance industry.  What they WILL do is give you a tax credit to offset those too large premiums.  That's right folks, instead of getting the wealthy and powerful insurance industry to lower their premiums (and hence, their profit), our state is going to give us back some of our tax dollars.  That's less money for schools and teachers, roads and bridges, police officers, libraries, hospitals, colleges.

So check out the Excess Insurance Premium Credit, brought to you by Governor Nikki Haley, who loves nothing better than using your tax dollars to keep industry fat and happy. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Who IS Lindsey Graham?

I think it's safe to say you can't pin him down.  I remember when he used to be the sane and reasonable of South Carolina's two senators.  Admittedly, it's a low bar, but still.

During the bashing of Sonia Sotomayor during the Supreme Court justice's confirmation hearings, Graham indicated that, while she may not have been his choice, it was the president's prerogative to choose a nominee that reflected his values.  Why then, has he been first in line to beat up on Obama's cabinet picks, even before he has picked them?

Hand in hand with best buddy John McCain, Graham attacked Susan Rice over her Sunday talk show comments regarding the causes of the attacks in Benghazi.  As though she were on the intelligence front lines.  His goal may have been payback for John Bolton, but the intensity and inappropriate timing of the Rice attacks are more reminiscent of Graham's June, 2012, assault on Eric Holder, who was left holding the bag for a secret Bush gun program that backfired.  Interesting that after the outing of Valeria Plame during the Bush years, Graham could get so incensed over White House leaks.

But that Susan Rice deal made Graham look pretty tough, so much so that he went after Chuck Hagel, disappointed that Hagel wasn't the vicious defender of freedom that he would have liked.

On the other hand, as long as we're talking strange inconsistencies, Graham has just gone to bat for our President in the matter of drone attacks.  The man should be able to kill whoever he wants, he's the President, Graham contends.

And then we have Lindsey Graham on gun control:

He impressed no less than Jon Stewart with his argument against restricting weapon capacity:  "Changing the magazine -- I can do that pretty quick."  And seeking to top his own self in the crazy category:  "We need high capacity magazines so moms won't run out of bullets defending their kids."

I think I have the answer, though, to this conundrum that is Lindsey Graham.  It came to me as I was reading Bob Woodward's The Price of Politics.  During the interminable and unproductive fiscal wrangling last year, Joe Biden accuses Graham of messing with him on the payroll tax extension.  According to Woodward, Graham replies,
I'm not fucking with you.  I mean, it's not that I'm beyond fucking with you.  I'm just not fucking with you here.
When I read that quote, I got it.  Our Lindsey Graham's number 1 job is Lindsey Graham.  And that means speaking to his constituency:  those overly-trusting yet paranoid, Fox informed, equal parts American patriot and confederate that have kept him in office all these long years.

And those comments about a President's right to nominate whatever left wing justice he chooses just did not set as well with those constituents as supporting Obama's right to fire them drones.  Votes like those supporting the confirmation of Justice Sotomayor just plain old got his base riled up enough to wander off the base, if you know what I mean.

Those murmurs about a challenge from the right just might be happening.  But have no fear.  Lindsey Graham can "change that magazine pretty quick."  He's proven that he can fight, on any side he needs to be.  He's not worried about sounding crazy, just soft.  And when he says things that don't seem to make sense, that too may be part of the plan.  He may just be "fucking with you."

Saturday, February 2, 2013

He's Ba-ack!

Yes, it's just as certain as Punxsutawney Phil coming up on February 2.  The gnats always come out in the spring, and here in South Carolina, Ben Frasier will surely pop up at election time.  We had been wondering where he was in the fall, but he may have that same kind of sixth sense as our favorite groundhog, because instead, here he is, running in the Democratic primary for U.S. House District 1.

Less successful than our groundhog friend and more annoying than a gnat, his motivations have left some scratching their heads, and others, no less than Jim Clyburn, spitting.  In 2008, Will Moredock wrote that Frasier has "been a thorn in the side of the Democratic party for 20 years."  He is pro-Confederate flag, anti-abortion, anti-gay, and the only sensible reason one would think he has for running as a Democrat is that he is a Republican plant.

In 2004, as a warm-up to Jim DeMint, Frasier ran against Inez Tenebaum in the primary for U.S. Senate.  In 2008, when Alvin Greene was distracting us in the Senate race against DeMint, he wasted Linda Ketner's time and resources by challenging her in the primary for U.S. House District 1.  Which appears pretty much to be his game.

There doesn't seem to be much information about him floating around.  But we do know that he has a residence in Maryland and claims to own a driving school there (he is not listed as an owner, merely as one of several instructors).  His online bio at the driving school site claims that he is a retired federal police officer and has a law degree from the USP Academy, which is NOT the US Police Academy and does NOT offer law degrees, but DOES have very weird annoying sound effects on its site and appears to be located in India.  (Please correct me if I am  wrong.)  And you might also want to get a closer look at the Potomac Driving School.  The customer reviews are worth your time.

He apparently has a residence on Wadmalaw Island, a voter registration card and drivers license in South Carolina, which has been good enough for the SC Board of Elections.

Now if I were going to draw some conclusions from all this, I would have to say the expression "con artist" comes to mind.  Just as Alvin Greene was unlikely to have funded his 2008 campaign, I imagine that running in all these various and sundry races may be very lucrative for Mr. Frasier.

Or maybe not.  Perhaps he is just a concerned citizen who has a law degree and owns a driving school in Maryland and really, really believes that South Carolina needs his Democratic vision.