Friday, August 30, 2013

And Now For Something Completely Different

I am a great fan of Chris Hayes' All In on MSNBC.  While not as much so as when he was Up in the wee hours of Saturday and Sunday morning, his show tends to present more intelligent topics and discussions than others on MSNBC.

So imagine my surprise when he tackled the subject of childhood immunization and the measles outbreak in Texas, and not only lost any sense of reason, but presented a one-sided and snarky attack on those anti-immunization fiends (which include myself).

But wait!  I have found that since I became pregnant way back in 1987 and began to research the pros and cons of vaccination, this topic creates the most irrational, hysterical and enraged arguments by those who promote immunization for, well, everything.

I listened through the segment twice, and then wrote a letter to Mr. Hayes.  But it seems that MSNBC does not invite listeners to send emails.

So I am sending out my open letter to Chris Hayes here:

Dear Chris,

I was catching up on All In today, so I apologize for the fact that these comments come several days after the show.

As I listened to your article on immunization, my mouth dropped open. I have heard you be snarky before, I admit I have no qualms about snark when it is called for. But your tone during that piece can only be described as that of a new parent who is having a tantrum because the rest of parentdom is not complying with your need to keep your child safe. I was so astonished by the piece, that I watched it a second time.

You make the same hysterical comments about measles that have been repeated for decades. Presenting no statistics, you define the course of measles as “rash, all over, and pneumonia and in some cases even death.” First of all, the outcome of a case of measles depends very much on the family's health and nutrition. Secondly, measles in infants and children tend to be very mild, and happily result in a lifetime immunity. Whereas, those people going over to Europe and coming back infecting people no doubt were immunized as children, in which case the immunity doesn't last forever. This also endangers pregnant women who were immunized as children, rather than allowed to have measles run its course.

Let me also tell you that measles is not at all in the same category as whooping cough. Pertussis is an extremely dangerous illness at any age. Doctors should remind people to get re-immunized every ten years, and children should be immunized.

Chicken pox, for which immunizationon is also thrust upon unsuspecting parents, is on the other hand no more dangerous than a cold. My son caught chicken pox at about six months old, felt no pain or discomfort and now has a lifetime immunity.

You claimed that failing to have a child vaccinated “imperils the lives of those kids but also imperils the lives of newborns who are not fully vaccinated.” And then later, we “denialists” are “endangering infants and newborns all over the place.” If you really want to have an infant who is safe from disease, let me suggets that the mother give birth at home, as hospitals are far more dangerous than lack of immunization.  And of course, don't go to the pediatrician's office for all those immunizations; that's where the real germs lie.  And please explain to me, because I have yet to hear any rational argument, just how a person who chooses not to immunize their children endangers children who are immunized.

What I heard in this piece was the same kind of hysteria that led people to douse themselves and their children with so much anti-bacterial soap and lotion that they not only killed off needed bacteria but lowered the body's resistance to infection.

I was disappointed to hear you dismiss Jenny McCarthy's claims as just more “anti-vaccination nonsense.” How dare you dismiss a parent who has seen a healthy child become disabled after an immunization. In fact, there were so many lawsuits in New York State in the 1980's-90's, that the law requiring immunizations before entering school was changed to allow parents to opt out with their physician's written approval. We – neither you nor I – know whether the immunization caused the autism, but parents have every right to be involved in making the determination as to whether they will take that risk with their child.

The spurious arguments presented by your guests, who claim lots of scientific evidence but fail to discuss any, might have been countered by an expert on the other side. I can assure you, there are respected scientists on the other side.

Finally, I had to laugh when you said, “20-30 years ago, I don't think there was any pop-cultural misgivings about vaccinating your kid.” This argument has been going on for decades. When my daughter was born, in 1987, there was tremendous debate about the possible harmful effects of vaccination, so much so that, after reading both sides of the literature, I chose not to have her vaccinated until she was school-aged. Her brother, three-and-a-half years younger, was allowed to opt out, and, on our pediatrician's recommendation, had only a pertussis vaccine. Both were wonderfully healthy, and remain so. And if your child gets all her vaccinations, she won't have to worry about getting infected by the likes of those who are not immunized.

For some reason, the debate about immunization causes usually objective and rational people to go all Rush Limbaugh. You probably should read some of the history and science – both sides – of this argument.



If any of my readers know the magic formula to reaching Chris Hayes, please feel free to forward him my comments.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Our Freedom Is Your Freedom

I believe that one of the reasons the war against women's reproductive health care and privacy has been allowed to creep forward over the decades is that women are, after all, members of every other civil rights group.  We fight for the rights of workers, of African Americans, of the LGBT community.

But it is time that we ask our fellow freedom fighters to join in our struggle.  Because our struggle is also one of the right to equal rights, to freedom from government surveillance and control, the right to privacy, the right to health care, education and a good job.

When a woman is unable to afford or obtain contraception and a pregnancy is the result, a teenager drops out of school, a young adult is unable to go to college, a working woman becomes unemployed.  A family is disrupted, emotionally and economically.

The right to abortion became the law of the land, just as contraception is legal, because we do not have a militaristic, religious extremist government.

When laws are passed that force a doctor to provide a woman with false information, when teachers are made to provide false health information, when women are required to have unwanted medical procedures, when laws are created to force health care clinics to close their doors due to impossible and unreasonable restrictions, we need to join together against those forces.

When a woman is prevented from access to affordable contraception and abortion services, that woman's economic future is in jeopardy.  The well-being of her family is at risk.

This is not about being pro-life.  Those who are fighting to deny women their reproductive freedom are those who are also fighting to prevent funding for health and nutrition programs.  They are the same people who oppose any gun control.  They have no moral opposition to going to war.

A father, a husband, a son, a friend, all should be united against a government that would shame and control its women because they have the capacity to become pregnant.  If you don't agree with abortion or contraception, you should fight more than ever for the money wasted on restrictions on women to go to programs that provide a better life.  You should nonetheless understand that whatever your position on abortion and contraception, this is a choice that just doesn't belong in the halls of Congress or state legislatures.

When our government is allowed to legislate control of women's bodies, the rights to freedom and privacy of all of us is attacked.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Forget about the elephant and the donkey.  Imagine instead a growling rottweiler and a houseful of scrappy cats.

Like most Democrats, I am proud of our willingness to think independently.  But this has also become our Achilles' heel.  We mostly go about our business and believe strongly in what we believe in, and acknowledge that others may have a different opinion, and we all have the right to live by our beliefs as long as they don't interfere with another's rights.  We also tend not to go out of our way to fight for interest groups other than our own.

So we have ended up each of us on an island, fighting our own battles, while being outfunded and inevitably outvoted by a group that knows how to unite.  No matter the anti-abortion faction, in the name of being "pro-life," stands by the gun lobby.  And those who are absolutely rabid about cutting the deficit will wholeheartedly support spending whatever it takes to "protect our borders."  Small business owners donate to politicians whose raison d'etre is channeling government money to big corporations.  Here you see united the anti-government forces with those who try to pass laws against blacks (voter ID), the poor (Food Stamps), women (contraception and abortion), LGBT (gay marriage).

And among all those contradictions, they all stand firmly behind their brand:  the GOP.

Meanwhile, corporations control our government while we scrabble to keep or win individual freedoms, each of us fighting our own battles.

Here in South Carolina, our Democratic politicians are afraid to speak of contraception, abortion, sex education.  They throw around phrases like workers rights and job creation without ever uttering that foul and frightening word "union."  Black voters are so aware of the deck being stacked against them that many don't vote; women pretend that their bodies are not being violated by laws that would force them to carry a pregnancy to term or deny access to contraception, as well as by the fact that the anti-abortion movement has pronounced their mission as sacred, declaring the rest of us to be sinners carrying the banner of satan.

We should be united.  The abortion fight is about whether the government should have the power to decide a woman's medical decisions.  The immigration battle is about whether the government has the right to stalk and detain those who "look different."  The battle for LGBT rights is about the government choosing which citizens get individual rights and which don't.  The voter ID fight is to keep those in power who will take away the freedoms of all of the above.  As is the demonization and outlawing of unions.

Because we are not united, we are constantly being attacked, from all sides, and end up lost and demoralized.

We need to be unafraid not just to stand up for our own rights, but for all individual rights.  The African American community needs to stand by women's right to reproductive privacy, and the the unions need to stand by the LGBT community, and their rights to the same liberties as us all.  We all need to fight for the right to vote, because we are really all in this together.

This upcoming election season, we need to demand courage from our politicians.  We need to demand that they support ALL of us, fearlessly.  And we need our politicians to unite when they run for office, rather than continue to behave like a clutter of cats.

And we need to see our politicians stop being willing to sell us out, one constituency against another, or as they like to call it, "reaching across the aisle."

Let's start forming some coalitions, and working for each other as well as ourselves.  If they don't vote for us here in SC, well, they probably weren't going to anyway.  And at least we will be able to be proud to be Democrats.

And when we stand together and fearless, well, you never know what will happen.


Friday, August 16, 2013

If It Worked for ACORN...

Have you heard the scandal about the surfer on Food Stamps?  If you haven't you aren't paying attention.  Crime fighters at Fox News are all over it.  They found a guy who is proud of the fact that he is cheating the government.

And James O'Keefe played a pimp in order to kill ACORN.

We have become a country far too easily duped.  This is the place where Wall Street Banks break the law and figure by the time they get caught they will have made millions (or billions).  This is the land of corporate welfare, where the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil, and Wal-Mart write the rules so that they can legally pillage and plunder.  And create a nation where the numbers of poor and hungry grow each year.

Ronald Reagan invented the welfare queen, and the tall tale worked so well for him that the republican party -- funded by corporate America -- has fed off it ever since.

Because of Reagan's dream, shared by corporate America and the right wing, hard working Americans have been seeing their dreams dashed.  Less likely these days to wish for wealth than health care, insecure Americans prove an easy target for the myth of the welfare queen.

Just as with the other battles we are fighting for what should be our rights as Americans -- the right to vote, the right to a living wage, the right to medical privacy -- as long as we are struggling just to keep from losing those battles, we are unable to focus on the real financial criminals in our society.

As long as Fox News and Markwayne Mullin can get us riled up about the Food Stamp recipient that eats steak, we won't even notice that our children's future is being stolen by the wealthy and powerful.

So we need to keep reminding people of where the real corruption lies.  Maybe surfer Jason Greenslate really exists, or maybe he's another wannabe James O'Keefe.  What he is not, is the person who is draining our economy and living high off our tax dollars.  You will need to look to our Congress and folks like Wal-Mart's Waltons to find the real guilty parties.

Let's help focus on the real problems, and get the American people back on track.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Stuff of Fiction

I am less likely today to believe that American democracy is foolproof than I was before the turn of the century.  Strange circumstances have upset the balance of what should be a strong and balanced system of government.  Until we lived through it, I doubt we would have thought believable the "election" of George W. Bush in 2000 by the Supreme Court.  Without the swaggering and incompetent Bush administration, I believe the perpetrators of 9/11 would have been caught before the attack, and consequently, without 9/11, there would certainly have been no second term for this idiot president and his evil minions.

So when I read Christian Nation by Frederic C. Rich, I did not chuckle at the absurdities of its premise.  Like Philip Roth's The Plot Against America and Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here, this work of fiction sets up an alternative history in which just that strange bit of credible chance leads to the falling of our democracy.

What if John McCain had won in 2008 and then died in office?  In ordinary times we would not foresee a takeover by Christian fundamentalists.  Yet here we are, where during the Bush years promotion to federal positions were granted to graduates of Christian diploma mills and anti-science agendas were pursued with confidence, and some troubling successes.

And now, despite a more rational leader, we have seen states take on the fight to ban abortion, to form state militias, to legislate against science.  We have an immobilized Senate and a radical right-wing House; our Supreme Court majority boldly rewrites the Constitution to an agenda that they claim is conservative, but is actually so only when convenient.  And we have a gun lobby that is untouchable.

We attempt to resist through democratic means the tyranny of these radical forces, who fight tirelessly in the name of their Christian god.  But where we fight with rationality and restraint, our opponents are enflamed not by the light of logic but by the irrational fire of fear and greed and hate and fueled by the dollars of corporate wealth.

Could it happen here?  

It's a gripping book, and I urge you to read it.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Do Not Call -- Really

It took a long time for the millions of us who were continually harassed by telemarketers to convince Congress that if they didn't do something there would be hell to pay.  So, Congress being the mighty law-making body that it is, listened to us, as well as to all their real special interests, and made a toothless law creating a "Do Not Call Registry" that marketers had to respect.  Or not.

First of all, anyone you might do business with can call, even if the call is totally unrelated to the business you do with them.  Secondly, charities and political organizations (yes, consider including them both in the same parenthetical phrase) are excepted.  Which leaves enough of a hole in the law that just about any business can ignore it.

But they don't really need to look for exceptions.  Because it did not take long for businesses to look around, shrug, and say, Jon Stewart mafiosa style, "So waddaya gonna do aboud it?"  Nothing.

I have been retired, and live alone, with a landline.  In other words, I am prime telemarketer customer material.

And most telemarketers don't waste their time on the phone; they have robocalls do their dirty work for them.  So that, if you want to do anything about that call, you have to listen to the message, stay on the line for a human, and then try to get your number deleted from the list.

I've done this.  For awhile, I was getting two to three robocalls a week that began with, "This is a call about your credit card.  There is currently no problem with your credit card account."  Or some such nonsense.  At first, I just hung up and cursed.  But it was so frequent, that I attempted to stay on the line to talk to a human.  Which was almost as difficult as actually trying to contact a human from your honest-to-god credit card company.

You get a menu, and there is a number you can hit that will take your name off the list, sometimes, and mostly it doesn't work anyway.  When I actually have reached a human, and I state that I am on the Do Not Call Registry, I am frequently hung up on before I get to the request to take my number off their list.

These calls happen so often that I believe I am becoming more adept in my search for the solution to this problem.  The last time it happened, and I reached a human, I asked which credit card they were calling about.  The woman began her spiel again, and I interrupted and asked, again, which credit card?  I was proud to say that this stopped her cold for a few seconds, and then she rattled off, "VISA, MasterCard, American Express..."  "No, no, which of my  credit cards are you calling about?"  At which point she hung up.

My goal is to get a callback number so that I can report them to the actual Do Not Call Registry.  Since I'm retired, I figure I have the rest of my life to accomplish this.  And so do they.

Friday, August 2, 2013


Last night, I heard a woman who is running for local office give her pitch.  I had been looking forward to hearing her; from her emails and Facebook comments she sounded like an excellent candidate.

Then she began her pitch by praising God.

When I was once a religious person, which I am no longer, praising God was something we were taught to do privately, on our knees in our kitchen each morning, or in church with others of our faith.  While I try very hard to be a moral person, I no longer believe there is a God who condemns or applauds my behavior.

So when someone publicly is so presumptuous as to brag on their commitment to God, I turn away.  I find it insulting, and in a time when praising God is as easily done as voting against food stamps for the poor, meaningless.

There are politicians who wear their flag on their sleeve while voting against the citizens of our country, and there are politicians, often the same ones, who fail to apply the principles of Christianity while condemning those who do not have membership in that faith.

So prove your belief in Christian principles by your actions, not by your public pronouncements.  Because I believe that the moral principles by which I have attempted to live my life may just happen to be the same principles that you, as a follower of the Christian faith, adhere to.