Monday, December 29, 2014

How Libraries Die

Back in the day when libraries were funded because books were thought to be important, here in Charleston we had a generous -- and sensible -- book purchase policy.  Eight copies -- one for each large and regional branch plus Main -- were purchased for pretty much anything that wasn't totally obscure.  Before our current director hit town, there was a copy at each branch.  Since he decided we had too many couriers carrying books back and forth, and for that matter, too many books, there is no longer an owning branch.  When you return a book, it stays wherever it was returned.  So there may be five copies of a book in tiny James Island, and none at St. Andrews Regional.

Since so many of us request books online these days, the tragedy does not so much begin with those older books, although it certainly ends there as they get discarded prematurely.  People that go into the library to borrow books encounter the New Books section first.  And many of us, even those who do most of their shopping online, browse those New Books.  That's where they see titles they would otherwise never know about.

Except that over the years our library has cut back on their purchases.  Especially for books that are not best-sellers.  You can always find copies of Bill O'Reilley's latest tome, but some books disappear before we ever see them.  Painful, awful decisions about what books not to order, and of what books to order only one copy.

For example, and this is enraging me as well as breaking my heart, is the book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt.  Even though there is a dearth of books about abortion rights, and the reviews of this book by this established author have been quite good, making the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2014, Charleston County Public Library owns ONE copy.  There are only four holds on this book, so it is unlikely that more copies will be purchased.

And here's the thing.  With only one copy, far fewer patrons will know it exists.  When they browse those new books, they won't see it.  When those holds are exhausted (in two months), there will only be one copy of this book on the shelf at one branch.  People who browse the shelves won't know it exists.  People who are interested in abortion rights won't know it exists.  And if that one copy doesn't get lost or damaged in its short life as a New Book, it will go off into the non-fiction stacks to die.

Imagine this happening on way too many topics.  Not only do we not have the opportunity to learn about these important new books because we don't see them on the shelves.  We fail to see topics that might catch our eye, stir our interest.  We become smaller.

And that is what is happening as we downsize our libraries.

Here is what you can do:

1.  If you hear about books like Pollitt's Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, place a hold on it at the library.  A long waiting list gets the attention of the people who do the ordering and they are more likely to order more copies when the topic comes up again.  They may even order more copies of the current book if the waiting list is sufficiently long to prove an interest.

2.  If they don't order more copies, call, email, visit and ask them to order more copies.  Don't let them get away with making decisions about topics that affect our communities, and our lives.

As our library shrinks down to best-sellers and cookbooks, please join me in the fight.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Say No to the Stinkers

The battle over the passage of a budget clearly demonstrates why we need Elizabeth Warren in the Senate, not in the White House.  In the past, when those last-minute, late-night budget bills came for a vote just before Christmas (or any other) break, you could count on House and Senate members holding their noses and voting yes.  Especially Democrats.

But Warren found those two stinky amendments snuck into the bill, and blasted both houses of Congress for even considering passing the legislation.

One of those most offensive amendments would repeal a critical part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation that would hold banks responsible for risky derivative trading rather than the federal government.  The other nasty little piece of work would raise the limit on amounts of campaign contributions that can be made to either Republican or Democratic national committees.

Since Bill Clinton, the Democrats in Congress and the White House have been more than willing to compromise in order to get things done, and the hustlers in the Republican party have been all too happy to hold the government hostage in order to pass legislation that continues to weaken the middle class while increasing the control of the plutocrats.

But Warren has said NO.  And in the House, Nancy Pelosi must be delighted to finally have a senator stand with her in this fight.  Since Ted Kennedy's death, there have been progressive voices, but none has held the attention of the media and the American people as has Elizabeth Warren.  She is an orator reminiscent of Barack Obama, and she has the intellect and determination to carry the argument.  She may be the one to cause weak-kneed Democrats in Congress to stand taller.

In the sorry state of the Democratic Party since the 2014 mid-term election, we could do no better than to have Elizabeth Warren locate our missing voices.  Blue dogs may even figure out that being Republican lite is not the way to rouse the American voter.  It may be that even here in South Carolina Elizabeth Warren's strength and willingness to fight for true democratic values on the national stage will help our battle weary progressives move into the political spotlight.

So let us all take advantage of this opportunity.  Now is the time for our state and national progressive leaders to be loud and stand tall.  Instead of whining about all those anti-Obama, anti-LGBT, anti-women and family bills that a few rabid legislators are introducing at the state house and in Congress, let's urge those good people that are there to take the offensive.  We need them to introduce bills and amendments that assert and protect our rights, every one of us.  We need to stand together with all the groups who have been attacked and form a solid coalition that will not sell out one group in a sad attempt to protect another.

We have been losing ground for years out of fear.  2015 could be the year that we stop being afraid and fight back, if only we look to leaders like Elizabeth Warren to light the way.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Not Too Bright, But Busy

Arlo Guthrie once said about Ronald Reagan that he doesn't mind our President nodding off because, "The more he sleeps, the safer we are."

These days I am wishing that folks like South Carolina state senator Lee Bright would take a few naps.  He has been using his pent-up anger and frustration at being passed over for Congress (in favor of the ultra-liberal Lindsey Graham) by redoubling his efforts to fill the state dockets with the same worthless bills he failed to get through in the last legislative session.  In fact, he has thus far already sponsored some forty bills.

Why this self-aggrandizing good Christian can't take a break for the Christmas holiday just defeats me.  He sure could stand to say a few prayers for guidance.

The bills he has sponsored (and co-sponsored with fellow idiot Larry Grooms) are mostly anti-abortion and pro-gun bills, with a smattering of anti-Obama.  Not too bright, and no new ideas, but enough vitriol to keep all his right-wingnut supporters happy -- well, actually, to keep them angry.  Maybe if he can raise the level of ugly just a little tiny bit more he'll be able to oust Graham in six more years.

Lee Bright's dream for South Carolina is a state where the fed'ral gub-mint keeps its hands off our weapons, and the state is free to stick its business in women's private parts, if you know what I mean.  Don't need the feds to help make sure the women -- and the girls -- stay pregnant and stay home; South Carolina has been fighting hard to maintain that status quo all by its own self.

No new ideas from Lee Bright

Here is what I want to know:  why do our reasonable legislators (and we really do have some) always seem to be in the position of chasing after the nutcases?  People like Lee Bright clog our legislature with destructive bills, bills that attack freedom of religion, right to privacy, the right of licensed medical professionals to provide the best care without government interference, the right to be safe from people of poor judgment carrying weapons, the right to vote.  We could wallpaper the State House with bills that seek to prevent the state of South Carolina from having to follow federal laws.

I would like to see our reasonable legislators (have I mentioned that we do have some?) pre-filing bills that would enforce federal health care laws and force the governor to accept Medicaid funding, assure voting rights to all, bills that would require that the government not invade the privacy of women in their doctors' offices, and that medical professionals are allowed to practice freely and without fear of government intervention.  How about bills that keep guns out of public places?  And bills that require additional police training in use of physical force and weapons so that citizens no longer risk getting shot by a panicked officer as they reach for their license and registration.

We don't need to always be finding ourselves on the defensive.  Our legislators need to be as passionate about protecting the rights of South Carolinians as are idiots like Lee Bright about taking away those rights.

So sharpen your pencils and get out the paperwork.  Maybe while Lee Bright is at Christmas mass schmoozing with the holy rollers we can get some good bills filed, and give him and his buddies something to keep him so busy he won't have time to file another stupid bill.
Praying for a good idea

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

At Least Make It a Good Excuse!

A few days ago, I naively posted on Target's Facebook page that "Target should be closed on Thanksgiving so that employees can enjoy the holiday with their families."  I wondered if Target would take down the posting.  But no need.  A couple of days later, by email I was informed of the following comments:

"I'm shopping Thanksgiving."

"Why do (sic) care if they open or not?  It's their business."

and the ever popular:

"Some people actually want to work."

At least Facebook Target shoppers remained civil.  Maybe that barrier would have been crossed if I had been arguing against opening at whatever wee hours on Black Friday.

In retrospect, I am surprised and glad that my posting only elicited those three comments.  I was disappointed that not a single Target fan posted that they were happy to wait till Friday to shop so that employees could take the day off.  Anyway, in the interest of raising the level of discourse, I would like to make a few suggestions to others tempted to defend the practice of shopping on this family holiday.  I would like to suggest that the excuse at least be kept in line with the spirit of Thanksgiving.  For example:

"My employer pays me so little that I would be unable to buy my family presents if I didn't shop those Thanksgiving Day sales."


"I work seven days a week and getting Thanksgiving off is the only chance I will have to shop for Christmas."


"I am not really shopping; I am spreading goodwill to the unfortunates who are employed by (state name of mean-spirited company)."

I truly hope you will stay away from the Thanksgiving Grinches on the holiday, and maybe even on the curious but aptly named "Black Friday."  Spend the day with family and friends, or by helping those in need.  Spend the day alone reading a good book, watching a football game, taking a brisk walk on the beach, catching up on sleep.

There really is no television or computer sale that is worth taking people away from what was once known as the last commercial free holiday... or was that Halloween?

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Ironic Cherry... Reads

On Living While Dying

I have all my life been afraid of dying.  When a year and a half ago, my husband told me he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I became determined to grow up and face my fears, and deal with the inevitability of being mortal.  The way I confront things is mostly by reading.  Since then I have read books from Mortality, Christopher Hitchens' amazing chronicle of the cruel progression of his cancer to Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, about her husband's illness and death.  I read The Cancer Chronicles by George Johnson and The Memoir of a Debulked Woman by Susan Gubar.

I learned two things over the year.  The first is that cancer sucks and it is ugly.  It got down to, as I would think about my husband's suffering, muttering, "fucking cancer."  I also learned over the year, I think, how to accept that it -- death -- happens to all of us.  We all get there, one way or another, and then it's done.  And it's okay.

Because it is not only about the cancer and the suffering.  We all age from the time we are born, and in the beginning we improve the way we function.  At some point, our body begins its reversal, things fall apart, and we eventually die.

In some bizarre alignment of the stars, or at least the DVD's that had just come in to the library, I spent five days watching movies that directly and poignantly dealt with dying, including Cloudburst with Olympia Dukakis ("I'm almost eighty; nobody lives forever."), Top of the Lake ("You don't have any worries because when you die you'll be gone; it's the others that will be left."), and a wonderful foreign movie with a dying child which title I'm sad to say I can't find.  And two others sprinkled in that also distinctly involved death and dying.

As my husband suffered through three different and unsuccessful chemotherapy regimes, I believed I was beginning to understand and accept my own inevitable dying, as well as his.  Finally, over the last two months of his life, I read three wonderful books, two written by physicians, and the last a book of essays by Terry Pratchett.

Internal Medicine: A Doctor's Stories by Terrence Holt is a collection of fictionalized accounts from the start of his medical training.  Accounts of surprising misdiagnoses, twists and turns in the relationship between doctor and patient, and poignant stories about patients, families and doctors as they approach death together.  New to hospice rounds, the doctor needs to be taught by hospice nurse and patient how to attend and how to treat the whole person.  Patients comfort doctor.  And the best doctors are always listening.

Atul Gawande has been writing game changing books about the practice of medicine for years.  His latest, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, was prompted by his father's path to facing the limitations of aging.  Beginning with the physical deterioration of our bodies, Gawande explores through stories of family and patients, the paths that we choose, or that too often choose us.  He talks about how medicine has wrestled the process of death away from the dying at great cost, and then describes the various paths that are truly open to us.  The development of more humane and human homes for assisted living and hospice care, the way physicians can learn to talk to patients and families so that they can better hear and help achieve the needs and desires of those nearing death.  The book shook the earth for me, as I read it in the last days of my husband's life.

Sir Terry Pratchett is infamous for his fantasy series, The Discworld.  At age 56, he was diagnosed with early onset dementia, a particular type that causes increasing difficulty with perception and motor skills even as he continues to write (with the help of human, mechanical and computerized aids).  A Slip of the Keyboard is a collection of essays.  A good portion of the book is about writing, touring and Discworld.  He has since his diagnosis promoted Alzheimer's research and there are essays here about his frustrations with his illness and with the limitations of treatment.  Finally, he has become a strong proponent of the assisted dying movement, and talks about the need to be able to die with dignity and how various countries have developed the means.

If you read nothing else that I have described, please read Internal Medicine, Being Mortal, and the third section of A Slip of the Keyboard.  If you only have time for one read Being Mortal.  These three are so, well, human.  I am happy they are there to help us wander through our lives and the lives of our loved ones, and guide us to better understanding, and better decisions towards dying with dignity, and living as well as possible to the end.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Just as Silly

I'm having flashbacks to the Republican loss in 2012.  Remember when, immediately after the election, they were all talking about what they'd done wrong, that they must not have been reaching the American people, and then they came out the other end with the idea that it must be that they had to change, not the message, but the way they sold that message.  Say what???

So let's move forward to 2014.  Here are the Democrats, all demoralized, wondering what they did wrong.  All talking to each other having meetings and forming committees, trying to figure out why people didn't come out to vote for them.  It seemed like they almost nearly just about had it figured out.  Maybe it was because they hadn't represented the issues that Democrats were supposed to stand up for.  Maybe they were trying too hard to soften the message, to distance themselves from the President.  Maybe they had failed to talk to the voters about all the successes the Democrats had, in spite of Republican obstruction.

In fact, I'm hearing one Republican strategist say he can't understand why the Dems ran away from their successes, were afraid to talk about all the people that were now insured, the low unemployment rate, the declining deficit.  And Rachel Maddow is pointing out how the Dems that won in this really bad year were the ones that actually ran on Obamacare, the environment, saving Social Security, you know, Democratic issues.

So here we are a week and a couple days later, and I hear that Mary Landrieu who is in a runoff race for her Senate seat, is trying to push her opponent's bill to approve the XL pipeline before the end of the session.  Huh???

And here's a Harry Reid story:  apparently he is reluctant to get all those Obama judicial appointments -- and that all-important attorney general appointment -- through the Senate while the Democrats still hold the majority.

So what have we really learned from this year's midterm disaster?  Well, President Obama has figured out that if he plans on enacting all those things he promised in his two election campaigns, he's going to have to do it without the help of his party.  And the Republicans have learned to keep doing what they are doing, because it really scares the Dems and keeps their base happy.  The Democrats who didn't get it to begin with seem to have learned nothing.

With people voting to approve gun control measures, and legal marijuana, and gay marriage, the only big success stories from the candidates were those who ran a campaign on solidly progressive issues, like Al Franken.  Even the two guys who were beaten in an NRA-sponsored recall election in 2013  in Colorado for their gun control legislation had their day.  The voters re-elected them to the seats they had lost such a short time ago.  And Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper who promoted that gun control legislation has also won his re-election.  And my goodness, in the Arizona town where the school board voted to remove pages from an honors level science textbook that discussed abortion, the electorate sent those recently elected idiots back to their caves and elected candidates who actually approved of educating students.

Maybe voters aren't really paying attention to what the candidates stand for.  So when the candidates are afraid to be outspoken and challenge their opponents, all we have to go on is the rumor, scandalous headlines and idiotic ads.  No wonder then that voters are often able to vote smart on issues, but just pull that big "R" when it comes to candidates.

I just don't think that Wendy Davis or Alison Lundergan Grimes understand that where they fell short was where they backed off from being a Democrat.  And it seems that Mary Landrieu will learn too late that pushing the pipeline isn't what will make people head to the polls to support her in the runoff.

Silly times, tragic consequences.  

Sunday, November 9, 2014

When All Else Fails

The morning after the election, the first person I saw to speak to was my orthopedist's assistant.  As she set up the paraphernalia for the shots I was getting to renew my knees for awhile, I asked her if she had voted Tuesday.

She looked abashed, apologized and said, no, she hadn't.  She was busy, she worked all day....  "If you had voted, would you have voted Democrat or Republican?"  She hedged, saying she really didn't know who was running.  This was probably true, but given my Hillary tote-bag, my guess is she was trying to avoid telling me she would have voted Republican, because that's the way her family has always voted.  Just guessing.

Alexandra Pelosi is a documentary film maker.  She interviews people in malls and parking lots, asking them what they know and what they think about what is going on in politics.  What she does is brilliant in its simplicity.  In September, on Real Time with Bill Maher, she talked about what people didn't know about the upcoming election.  People did not know who their congressman was or who was running in various races.  What they did know was that if they voted they were going to vote "R."  Please go to the above link and watch (around minute 2'30") the interviews.  It is far more informative than anything our Democratic leaders have come up with to explain why they lost last week.

Since November 4th, we have had panels and meetings, interviews and discussions of all sorts, with different kinds of experts trying to explain why the Democrats lost.  What has been missing  -- WHAT HAS BEEN MISSING -- is asking the voters.  I don't think knocking on doors before the election does much to raise the chances of a person voting for a candidate; it seems that they usually agreeably promise to get out and vote for whoever is asking.  But now that the election is over, wouldn't it be a good time to knock on doors, stop people at the mall, have conversations at local meetings?  And this time, wouldn't it be a good idea, instead of telling people why they should vote for a Democrat, maybe it would be a good idea to not just ask them whether they voted and who they voted for, but to ask them what is important to them.

One of the things the Republicans are really good at, is pretending they are your friend.  If you didn't know better, they would really seem to be listening.  I can't get Jim Clyburn or Vincent Sheheen to answer an email, or even snail mail, but Nikki Haley not only signs her letters (typed on very nice stationery) but adds a little personal "Thanks for writing!"  We laugh at Haley and commiserate with state employees forced to answer the phone by telling the caller that "It's a great day in South Carolina!" but isn't it shrewd to even force her employees to present her personal happy face to anyone who calls.  She may not have given a hoot what a visitor had to say, but most of us know that she opened her door and met with anyone who wanted to speak with her (maybe she doesn't any more, but she sure got a lot of publicity when she did).

Our Democratic Party invites us to send money, and occasionally come to meetings and fundraisers, but send an email and ask them to give you a call.  If the Democratic Party doesn't have anybody there that wants to know what I think (and I am very free with my opinion), what about all those Democrats that don't get out to the polls because they just don't think anybody cares?

We Democrats know what is best for you, the voter, and it really pisses us off that you don't think it's as important as we think it is.  Maybe that's what we are doing wrong.  Maybe we need to spend some time, before the next election cycle, asking and listening.  And resisting the temptation to jump in and lecture and explain.

Here's one last thought.  Most of us are tired.  We work hard, we pay our bills, we do our best to be there for our families, and then we try to enjoy some of our free time.  Why would we take time to plow through all the politics -- and politics can be boring, meaningless, or just mean -- when we could be doing something that feels good?  When Barack Obama ran in 2008, he gave us something different, something special.  He really did give us hope and the promise of change.  He reached people that we are no longer reaching.  Our candidates seem to be scrabbling to promise high school graduates technical jobs rather than the opportunity to reach for the moon.  Our opponents are the ones promising the tech jobs.  Maybe we should be working harder to promise the moon.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Racism and Reverberations

First thing I want to do (as do we all) is vent.  The republican party has had big balls and they have been bouncing them around since Obama's landslide six years ago.  We all laughed when Boehner said, "Hell, no," but it worked, and it has worked ever since.  Today I heard Michael Steele say that Obama should just try to approach the new Congress, nicely, regarding immigration.  Really???  Did this image occur to anybody else:

Whenever they say "hell, no" they reinforce their power and confidence, and when we waffle, we are seen as unsure of what we think will work and maybe even a little shady.  It began with health care when Obama backed off from the public option; our Blue Dogs added a few nails to the coffin when they failed to throw their support behind the Affordable Care Act.  And with a few exceptions we have been seen as cowards that will do anything to survive ever since.

Worse is the slurs and insults directed at the President by the opposition, and the Democratic flight to safety in response.  When Bill Clinton was kicked around, we can say he gave Newt and his gang the ammunition, not only by his sexual misadventures, but by dancing around the truth and outright lying about everything from not inhaling to whether he had sex with that intern.  Barack Obama has had no such dark deeds in his background; he has an enviable family life and was frank about past casual drug use and even his cigarette habit.  Unable to dig up any hidden bodies, the idiot brigade resorted to making up racist nonsense about a Kenyan birth.  But once they did, the noise reverberated for years.  The racism that has accompanied this president's years in office has been overt more often than not, and barely masked at other times.  And the Democratic Party predictably failed to stand together confidently to back our President.

And we can thank the media from both sides and in the middle for helping to keep the echo going.  Anything for a story.  Anything, that is, but the issues.

Speaking of which, if we were to talk honestly about the issues, this president has done some heroic things against great odds, including the auto bailout, handling terrorists with intelligence and calm and making gains with sustainable energy that have been too little publicized.  He has also made some serious mistakes by siding with Wall Street over Main Street, stepping up deportation of undocumented immigrants and excessive border control,  and  giving the NSA a free hand with domestic spying and failing to protect whistleblowers.  But there has not been a president who has done great things who has not also shown a tragic flaw, as did LBJ with civil rights juxtaposed alongside the Vietnam war.

Sadly, we have been hearing the media talk about Obama's unpopularity for some six years, almost through his re-election.  We have all believed it because it has been said so often by so many.  Rather than simply and rationally disagree on certain of the issues, we Democrats have allowed ourselves to reject the President on the whole, to the delight of the republican party.  And I have to say, it has not just been us red staters.  And the midterm election disaster was what we ended up with. 

Barack Obama is a great statesman and an admirable politician.  I believe that if he were to run a third term, he would once again be re-elected, and he could do it on all the good things he has done during his time in office.

So it was tragic when Alison Grimes, once running ahead of McConnell, chose to refuse to admit that she voted for Obama.  So many ways she could have said he was and is the best man for the job, although she disagreed with him on energy and would always vote what was best for her constituents.  Instead, she bumbled and looked embarrassed.  The media ran with it, and the republicans did not need to do anything other than look smug.

And the absence of the President during the campaign -- noted often and loudly by the media -- was what was wrong with these midterm elections.  Yes, there are other factors that affected the outcome, and I would like to talk more about those at another time.  But had we stood proud and tall with the leader of the country, who has after all, done some amazing things with a country that his predecessor had pretty nearly flushed down the toilet, we would no doubt be on the other side of history these next two years.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Some Last Thoughts (Before I Vote)

Unsurprisingly, in the last day before the midterm money leads by, well, a lot.

Take Lindsey Graham, for example.  Graham has proven that he is slick and, I have to say, pretty creepy.  He can sit back and sound like your kindly uncle who knows what is best and well, he's just going to do it, because it's good for you.  Like increasing the social security retirement age.  But don't forget that he has also taken some unpopular stands and went up against a slew of opponents in the primaries and, well, he slew them all.  Why?  Because he's willing to work with those on the other side.  Huh.  Of course, like that wise old uncle, he tells you that you're going to have to give something up as well.

Here's the thing you need to remember about Lindsey Graham:  he is a manipulative s.o.b.  He actually said, in his moderate voice, that the reason we needed to vote for him is that it will take a republican to work with the crazy republicans that keep blocking progress in Congress.  And in case you thought you had heard him wrong, he said it again.

And then there is the megalomaniac Tim Scott, who sees himself as sent by God (in the guise of Nikki Haley).  He is dumber than dirt, and maybe even dumber than his predecessor, Jim DeMint, but he has been polished to a shine even brighter than his nice suit.  People I actually know think he is smart, and that he sounds good in public.  Maybe I just haven't been around enough to see him preaching to his congregation.  But I listened to the debate, and he may have been rehearsed, but he was wooden, as though even he didn't believe his stock phrases anymore.  And I saw his ad, the one where he brags on pretending to work next to "everyday people," of whom he apparently no longer counts himself.  And I've heard his lies, like about how he voted to reduce the interest on student loans.

And then there is Nikki Haley.  Smarmy and flirty, who has wowed all the big bucks, basically because she will do absolutely anything they want her to do, and even more.  South Carolina under her watch has sold itself to big corporations and refused to feed, insure and educate its poor.  She has worked to deny those who might oppose her right wing plans the right to vote, and she has cost us millions of dollars to fight this battle in court.  She is mean-spirited and vindictive, and she can flash a phony smile better than just about anybody I know.

Then we have idiots like Mike Fair, who wears his stupidity with pride and calls it faith.  He single-handedly stopped our state legislature from moving health and sex education into the 21st century because the old ways are good enough for him.  Of course, he and fellow idiot Kevin Bryant also provided us with better comedy than you can find on cable TV when they argued for putting the Bible in the Columbian mammoth bill.  

But we've also got a few tough choices, but choices nonetheless, and some where we have to hold our noses to give it our best shot, and some where that doesn't even help.  Parenthetically, when someone distasteful is running unopposed, or unhappily you just can't vote for either candidate, don't leave that space blank.  Write-in "None of the Above" so your vote will count.

Do not despair, though, because we do have some good choices, and even some very good choices.

We don't have to let Mark Sanford breeze by without opposition, because Dimitri Cherny is running as a write-in independent candidate.  He's a good man, and I would love to see Sanford's face if Cherny with no financial backing or name recognition made a decent showing.  

Brad Hutto has fought against great odds to unseat Lindsey Graham.  What I like about Hutto is that he is not trying to hide the fact that he is a Democrat, and that he supports the Affordable Care Act, and even President Obama.  It took guts (and I hear some persuasion by the state party) for him to agree to step up.

Bakari Sellers is running for Lieutenant Governor, and he is smart and caring.  He has traveled around the small towns in South Carolina introducing himself to people and talking about what he can do to improve life for South Carolinians.  He has been endorsed by Charleston Mayor Riley, among many others.  I have to say that I watched the debate, and Bakari's comments were a breath of fresh air compared to those of his opponent, you know, the guy who thinks we should all volunteer for service jobs so people like him don't have to pay taxes.

I haven't mentioned Gloria Tinubu here because she is not running in Charleston or for a state-wide office, but she is an amazing woman running for Congress in the 7th district.  She is brilliant and outspoken, and although she lost in 2012, she is determined that she is going to try again so that she can fight for her district, the state and the country in Congress.  If you know anybody from the 7th district, tell them to by all means get out and vote for Gloria.

Last but certainly not least, Joyce Dickerson has had to fight to be heard throughout this race.  She has run on a shoestring, and in spite of the lukewarm support of the Democratic party (famous for failing to support good candidates in past years).  She won the primary against two male candidates in spite of suggestions by male Democratic leaders that maybe she should step aside.  She is not just the underdog in this race against Tim Scott, but she is the underdog that we should all be fighting for.

Joyce Dickerson will not be swayed by power or money.  She knows who her constituents are in South Carolina:  the struggling middle class, seniors, veterans, children.  She knows the issues:  low wages, lack of health insurance, failing schools, unemployment, crumbling roads, student loan debt.  There isn't one of us who would not benefit by having Joyce fighting for us in the Senate.

It was a big step, going from Richland County Council to the U.S. Senate.  But, unlike Tim Scott, she is doing it without the dollars and support of corporations, lobbyists, and of course, Governor Nikki Haley, who gifted the seat to him two years ago.  And unlike Nikki Haley, she is a woman who will fight for women, and her candidacy has made me proud.

So, I'm happy to say, we do have lots of reasons to vote.  It may be that many of these great candidates don't win because they are fighting enormous odds.  But they have fought, and it has cost them a huge chunk of their lives, and people have contributed to their campaigns because they believed in the message, and that we need this change.

Given all that, the very least we can do on November 4 is vote.  And bring some friends and family members.  And if enough of us turn out, well, you never know....

Saturday, November 1, 2014

When Even Holding Your Nose Doesn't Work

I am proud of being a Democrat, mostly.  There are times when they do make it difficult.  For example, about a week ago, I went to my mailbox and found what turns out to be the nastiest piece of campaign crap I have received this election season, which certainly says a lot.  Worse thing about it, is it came from a Democrat.  Well, not exactly "a Democrat."  It came from one of those shadowy groups in which individuals don't have to own up to their ugly message.

This is what I received:

Don't be surprised if the first word your eyes are drawn to is the word "Negro."  And it's not a coincidence that both lunatic Cliven Bundy and Thomas Legare are in similar poses.  What's going on here is guilt by association.  Now, I don't know Thomas Legare, but I do know that he is a longtime businessman in Charleston County, and the thing you don't do in Charleston is toss racial slurs at people who live and work here.

Anyway, the text affirms, not that Legare is a racist, but that he supports racist, anti-American radicals (which in Fox Newspeak could be just about anyone).  Again, I do know that Legare has said some crazy stuff in support of Cliven Bundy.  But the association here is that his support of Bundy makes him racist.  Are you fired up???

I tend to distrust political ads and I like to know where they come from.  So I looked up the upstanding-sounding "Lowcountry Leadership Initiative," the group that paid for this mailing.  Turns out that this is a new political action committee formed to raise money for candidates who support the controversial completion of I-526.  When I first looked it up, there was an October 20 Post and Courier article by Diane Knich, in which the reporter stated that not much was known about the group.  But on October 28, the intrepid Knich followed up with more specific information about the pursuits of the PAC.  Lots about the politics, but, imagine that, still nobody owning up to being a part of the group.

Well, I would be ashamed to admit to it as well.  And so should Anna Johnson, the County Council incumbent running against Legare.  Last weekend, I sent her an email asking her to denounce the group and the mailing, and just as with Ms. Knich, I received no reply.  And the most recent mailing by this group doubles down, calling Legare a "Tea Party radical" who "sided with racist Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy in an armed standoff with our own federal troops."  In which they either got carried away with their rhetoric, or they maybe wanted us to believe that Legare was right there with Bundy.   

It appears that Anna may be finding herself in a bit of a shit storm; by siding with the wrong bunch, I believe she herself has crossed the line of common decency here in Charleston.  Over the years since she has been convinced that completing I-526 is a good idea, she has not only suddenly been dressing a whole lot better, but has found herself bitterly opposed by former supporters.  This deceit and dirty dealing by Lowcountry Leadership Initiative has not helped.

Tragically, Anna has also done some good with the County Council, by supporting much needed social programs.  For this reason, I had planned on holding my nose and voting for her on Tuesday.  But I will speak against dirty politics and I draw the line at giving my vote to someone who has been bought by a group of such sleaze that they work anonymously, and with no ethical constraints.

So on Tuesday, I plan on leaving Charleston County Council District 8 blank.  I urge you to also take a stand on this race, which represents the dirtiest of dirty politics.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Two Smart Candidates ... and Tim

This is what the debate for South Carolina US Senator was not:  it was not slick (despite the matching suits worn by Tim Scott and moderator Charles Bierbauer).  There were not a lot of fancy words or high-minded philosophies.  After all, this was South Carolina.  Instead, the responses by all three candidates were predictable, and if we did not know the candidates, left us with very little information other than how comfortable each was in front of the camera.

It turns out that the women, Independent candidate Jill Bossi and Democratic candidate Joyce Dickerson, shared similar views on most topics.  Both are strongly pro-women, pro-choice, both in favor of strengthening benefits for seniors and veterans.  They also (along with Tim) threw out the ever-popular "secure our borders" and "improve education" because who would not?

If you know Joyce at all, you are probably aware that she is not a formidable public speaker.  She has the tendency to occasionally mix up words.  But her understanding of politics and her democratic beliefs are strong ones.  I can see her in the Senate fighting for the middle class, as well as for those who are struggling to earn a living wage, and for children with inadequate health care and nutrition, and students who are unable to compete because of our government's unwillingness to commit to education.

If the race had been between Jill Bossi (I) and Tim Scott (Tea Party Republican), Bossi would get my vote easily.  But what concerns me about Bossi is her emphasis on her willingness to compromise, to find the middle ground, in an America where there have been too many compromises to an uncompromising right-wing.  Our middle ground is far right of where it was in the 60's and 70's, and our environment, our health care, our education, our infrastructure, have all suffered the results.  Bossi emphasizes her business creds, and I fear that once in Congress she would be all too eager to lean toward the big business dollars and lobbyists that would come her way.  Jill Bossi says she wants to institute a "fair, flat tax," a term that sends chills up and down my spine.

Tim Scott, on the other hand, for all his grooming by the big guns that control him, when left to his own devices, will talk about pretending to work alongside "everyday people," clueless as to the condescension.  Right from his introductory comments, he talks about wanting to be in the US Senate so he can spend time with his family, and help build a future for his nephew.  Clumsy, maybe, but he pretty much lets us know with this Freudian slip that the rest of us "everyday people" don't feature much in his consciousness.  Matter of fact, please go to C-Span and listen to his introductory comments, because I just can't do them justice.  You really do want to hear him say in regards to Washington, that if it weren't for relatives, people wouldn't like him at all.

But let's please get back to the issues.  Actually, not the issues, just the platitudes, because that is what Tim is all about.  Somebody invented something called an "Opportunity Agenda" for Tim, and if you listen to him talk about it, you will walk away wondering just what he's going to do to create all this opportunity.  Because he won't tell you.  The answer to the economy is creating "certainty" and "stability" in the workplace.  Now you know this doesn't mean certainty and stability for the workers.  This is just Tim Scott bullshit for cutting corporate taxes and deregulation.  Which has continued to drag us into the dark ages since Ronald Reagan's handlers first packaged it for the American people.

Of course, Scott called upon the evil Obamacare and was even told to bring up Dodd-Frank, as in "Dodd-Frank and Obamacare" as reasons why our country was failing.  Like Mark Sanford debating the cardboard Nancy Pelosi, this is a matter of throwing out red meat to the snarling and brainless base.  I am hoping that more than a few of us heard him and said, "say what???"  Apart from just the stupid pat phrases, there were the bizarre "facts," like that our corporate tax rate is ten points higher than the rest of the world.  Or that through Nikki Haley's leadership Spartanburg and Greenville are at nearly 100% employment.  And responding to the comment about his missed votes, that he has a "99% voting record" -- whatever that means.

Scott goes on to say that he "voted to reduce interest rates on student loans," which plain old made my head spin around.  So I looked it up.  HR 4628, prettily called the "Interest Rate Reduction Act," also repeals parts of the Affordable Care Act...

  establishing and appropriating funds to the Prevention and Public Health Fund (a Fund to provide for expanded and sustained national investment in prevention and public health programs to improve health and help restrain the rate of growth in private and public sector health care costs). Rescinds any unobligated balances appropriated to such Fund.  

This bill had something in it for nearly everybody to hate, from those on the right that opposed keeping student loan rates low, to those on the left who opposed this sneak attack on essential parts of the Affordable Care Act.  In fact, the only group that officially supported the bill was the Christian Coalition of America.  Which made it good enough for Tim Scott.  Funny, though, how Scott made it sound like it was the student loan part of the bill he was supporting and not the strangling Obamacare part....

Oh, my, I wish I was a better writer, I could write a comedy and a tragedy on Tim Scott.  What's most important about the Senate debate for me, however, is that I got to hear just how lame he is next to the two smart women running against him.  I also had the chance to hear Jill Bossi, who was well-spoken and has lots of good ideas.  But not enough.

Joyce Dickerson may not have had time to rehearse for the debate because she appears to be spending every moment of her waking day running to different parts of the state to introduce herself to voters.  She is running on a shoestring, and doesn't have the staff to prep her and polish her.  But I prefer my candidate without the polish.  She is knowledgeable and caring, and she is not in it for the money or the power.  She is not likely to sell us out for business interests, and she understands the difference between healthy compromise and caving in.

So I will continue to support Joyce Dickerson, and I hope you will as well.

Joyce Dickerson
for US Senate

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tim Scott's Anti-Environmental Agenda

Hooray for Tim Scott!  Once again, he has received an award -- and just in time for the upcoming election -- for his service to, well, to the wealthy and powerful.  In Newspeak, it is called, The Award for Manufacturing Legislative Excellence.  With emphasis on the word "legislative" of course.  What it means is that our Tim has worked hardest of all hard-bought legislators to make laws that protect big business.

You might not be surprised to learn that the National Association of Manufacturers is associated with our friends the Koch brothers.  Their agenda is also not much of a surprise:  they are anti-environmental regulation and have fought efforts by the government to control greenhouse gas emission.  Most recently, they lobbied to exempt certain external power supplies from complying with federal energy standards in February of 2014.  Yeah, Tim!

It's been a bit like word-puzzle fun to get an email from Tim about an award and trying to figure out what it really means, but not that much of a challenge.  As usual, Tim doesn't ever break new ground.  He pretty much does what all those fancy corporate lobbying groups tell him to do.

But I am tired of our state being held hostage by ALEC and the Kochs.  Our workers are underpaid and there are too many unemployed (latest figures show the numbers creeping up in spite of the nation's continued downward trend).  We sacrifice improving schools and roads and bridges so we can cut taxes on big corporations who are willing to do business in South Carolina if we treat them real good.  Too many in South Carolina are needlessly uninsured and suffer poor nutrition because Tim continues to vote against programs that would give his constituents a fighting chance.

Tim Scott and his buddy Nikki Haley have gotten pretty tiresome.  Their press releases are lies that cover up their true alliances as we continue to hold down the bottom rungs of any measure of education, health, public safety.

This is why we need to talk up the November 4 election.  Lots of our friends and family don't know it's coming up, and too many don't think it is important.  With only two more years of the Obama administration we need to give him a Congress that will support his environmental, health care, and immigration initiatives.  We need to give him a Congress that does not force him to compromise on programs that will truly move us forward.

Joyce Dickerson is a woman who will accomplish that in the US Senate.  She has been fighting to be heard over all the cash that is flowing on the other side, and she needs our help to let others know who she is.  She is the candidate that will work for better health care, better education, better services for seniors and veterans.  She will fight so that we all can earn a living wage, and so that women have the same rights as men.  She will protect our rights to privacy and a safe and healthy environment.

So please, spread the word.  The time is getting short and this election is too important to skip out on.  Use Facebook and Twitter, send out emails, call your friends and family and talk to your co-workers.  Tell them how Tim Scott's votes have kept them from improving their lives and those of their family.  Let's not let the phony awards get in the way of the truth.

Joyce Dickerson
for US Senate
November 4

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Owning the Bad News

It was inevitable.  Obama's economic push could only work in red states for so long before our own backwards economic policies dragged us back down.  We've been listening to Nikki Haley brag on -- and take credit for -- South Carolina's declining unemployment rate for some time now.  I wonder if today's news about its recent upswing will cause her any problem, message-wise.

Here's where our Democratic candidates should be jumping in, first of all, to let us voters know that this has happened.  And then they need to offer the logical explanation, and the logical alternative.

Where candidates like Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky have stumbled has been in their fear of owning the best policies of the Obama administration.  In fact, employment began growing due to stimulus dollars, and has continued to grow because of programs like those he has undertaken to encourage alternative energy initiatives as well as protecting the environment.  Good for business, good for jobs.

Imagine where we might be if Obama had not had to waste time and tax dollars fighting a Congress which Republican members have had as their sole priority blocking administration initiatives.

Because of old-timey Republican philosophy, we have continued to have wealth stagnating in the reaches of the top one percent, while the consumers who are the actual "job creators" are unable to spend dollars they don't have.  Robert Reich describes in his documentary Inequality for All the "virtuous cycle" of economic growth that occurred up to the 1980's, followed by the "vicious cycle" that has resulted in the economic stagnation and increasing inequality that continues to this day.

What is frustrating is that the evidence is clear.  But we continue to spiral downhill due to lies and misdirection by right-wing politicians.

Take, for example, Nikki Haley.  Her policies have not been able to stop some economic growth in South Carolina in the past six years, but the bad ideas she has been pursuing have caught up with us.  The jobs she claims she has brought to the state have been not enough to counterbalance the drain on services that have resulted from her tax giveaways.  Bad business like refusing to accept Medicaid expansion dollars not only hurt uninsured individuals but result in loss in business due to employee illness, public safety issues, and loss of thousands of jobs in the health sector.

And then, of course, we have Tea Party's poster child, Tim Scott.  As long as he is prospering, he will promote any program groups like ALEC and the Koch Brothers are trying to sell.  And sell they do.  Scott's message sounds like Reagan's Morning in America, pretty words that belie the bad policies during the 80's "trickle down" years that began our decline from prosperity.  And if you look at his pro big business and anti middle class voting record, it becomes obvious why those polices just don't work.

So as we see our unemployment rate creep back up, let's spread the word that it's because of the bad policies of politicians like Nikki Haley and Tim Scott.  We have a state that stands to grow and prosper if only we are able to understand why we are in decline even as national employment continues to grow.

We have some great candidates and despite the occasional ambivalence of our state party and shoestring budgets, the word is getting out about them.  Joyce Dickerson is one candidate to watch.  She is not afraid to speak up about what has been wrong with our state, and what national policies need to change to get us working and thriving again.  The thing is, that with Tim Scott's wealthy supporters, it is all too easy to miss this strong, wonderful opponent.  I am hoping that we all will do our best to spread the word about the election coming up on November 4, and the difference between our Democratic candidates and their fiscally backward opponents.

Joyce Dickerson
for US Senate

Let's make sure our elected officials own the bad news they have created through their bad policies, and let's elect candidates that will truly make a difference.

Friday, October 17, 2014

What's In It for Me?

Corporations and their right-wing patsies have figured out that the way to win is to make it all about us, even though it's really not.  They make all their pitches about what we have to gain, and more important, what we have to lose, if we don't vote for them.  Those of us who don't vote often believe that it won't make a difference, that both parties are the same, that nobody represents them.  When we Democrats fail, it is often because we waffle about our principles so that we don't offend anyone, or we talk about them too broadly so they become meaningless to people who are struggling with day to day problems.

There are a lot of differences between the parties and the candidates, and they are not abstract.  They reflect the issues we are struggling with every day.  Who gets elected in November is going to determine in very real terms whether our lives will get better or we will just get by.  This election affects dramatically every person of every age.

So here it is, the pitch:

College graduates:  Republicans are opposed to allowing the refinancing of student loans, forcing graduates to carry high-interest rate loans for years.  This means being strapped with debt before they have even been able to make their way in the workforce.  The high interest loans involved are either owned or guaranteed by the federal government, so this is money that our government is making from what should be an investment in a student's future.  Debt from everything from mortgages to credit cards can be refinanced.  Big banks are allowed to borrow at 0 percent from the government.  Why are students forced to pay exorbitant rates on their loans?  Because the Republicans do not want to increase taxes on the millionaires and billionaires that fund their campaigns.

Women:  Oh, so many issues are so critical for the well-being of women in South Carolina.  Our state and federal legislators continue to force votes that would prevent women from accessing affordable birth control.  Preventing women from having family planning will result in not just unplanned pregnancies, but the stress involved with not being able to control decisions about college, jobs and marriage.  It will result in job insecurity.  Men should be outraged that legislators would remove from the family decisions that so directly effect emotional and financial well-being.

Parents:  School choice is the pseudonym for privatizing.  Basically all the many schemes offered provide inadequate financial allotments to most while the wealthy can continue to send their children to the expensive private schools. This false promise also drains money from a public school system that has never been funded adequately here in South Carolina.

Seniors:  Republican fear mongering about Social Security and Medicare is also all about privatization.  Back in the '80's, social security cuts were enabled by the promise of IRA's, which were supposed to herald in a future of wealth and prosperity, but actually just made us all vulnerable to the greed and speculation of Wall Street.  This false promise also allowed corporations to bargain away our pensions.  Cuts to Medicare have and will continue to damage a system that was once a great safety net, forcing seniors to spend more on health care at a time when they should not have to worry about whether they will be able to pay to survive.

So many issues:

Food Stamps:  Too many people are working and not earning a living wage.  Food stamps not only feeds the poor, but keeps dollars flowing in our communities.

Medicaid:  Not wanting everyone to have health insurance is just plain cruel.  But it is also stupid.  Even without the panic over Ebola, the inability to treat a medical problem before a contagion spreads, or a treatable illness becomes terminal, is costly as well as inhumane.  And again, providing health care also provides jobs to our communities.

Minimum Wage:  All the arguments against raising the minimum wage are really about not wanting to raise the wages of those who are making more than minimum.  Because Republicans really do know that a rising tide lifts all boats.  What they really don't want to see is all wages rise in response to the raise in the minimum wage.  Greedy and stupid?  Sure, but these are the politics we have been suffering under since the 80's.  If you are not working for minimum wage, and you're still struggling, you should be fighting -- and voting -- for raising the minimum wage.  And again, raising the minimum wage puts more dollars into the pockets of those who will spend it in their communities.  So if you are a business person, you too should be wanting everyone in your community to be making a living wage.

Voting Rights:  We all know people who won't be voting because they are afraid they will be confronted (and embarrassed) at the polls.  Let's get out there and vote to protect everybody's rights and elect people who will not need to use intimidation to win.

Gun Control:  Those who are most vulnerable in general tend to live in areas where there is more danger of gun violence.  The Second Amendment argument is pure nonsense.  But the mostly republican lawmakers who refuse to make the streets safe for all our citizens need to be voted out of office.  Our police officers should be voting for legislators who support reasonable gun controls; their lives are on the line as well.  And with shootings by officers in the news, we know that the more guns on the streets, the more stressful the job, and the more likely they will have to live (or die) based on a split second decision.

I could go on and on.  There are so many issues that really do affect us every single day.  I urge our candidates to talk to people not about issues that don't seem relevant to them, but to relate the legislation they would pursue to what it means for each of us, every day.  And when we talk to others about the upcoming election, if we talk about how each issue ripples out to affect us all, we might just motivate people to get out and vote.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

And THIS Phony Award Goes to... Tim Scott

I don't usually have so much to say on one subject that I do it in two consecutive days, but I have just learned from Senator Tim Scott that he has just been awarded the "Taxpayers' Friend Award," and, well, it was just too juicy to resist.

Yesterday I wrote about how I nearly choked while forcing myself to watch Tim Scott's TV ad about how he has been hanging around us "everyday people."  Call it masochism, but as one of the simple folk, I subscribe to Senator Scott's email newsletter, in order to be better informed as to what headaches the royalty are experiencing on my account.  Usually it has to do with battling that great beast, Obama.  But at times Scott feels he owes it to us to share the good news.  Which, of course, has to do with him, not us.

When Scott was running for the House of Representatives two short (or maybe too long) years ago, he was conveniently awarded the folksy sounding, "Standing Up for Seniors Award."  He got that by insisting that we seniors would be far better off if we got off our butts and supported ourselves for a couple more years, and if we stopped letting the government coddle us the way it coddles Congress.

Quelle surprise!  The award was given out by a group called RetireSafe, whose name really referred to the fact that you should climb into bed and pull the covers up if you really wanted to be safe from these guys.  They are a group of right wingnuts that make buckets of money for Big Pharma; they are still out there doing their best to keep us away from drugs that don't maximize profit for their members.

As Arlo Guthrie once said, "Some things change; some things don't."  This year's "Taxpayers' Friend Award" is brought to Tim by the National Taxpayers Union (yes, a union),  one of those groups that like to throw around words like "freedom" a lot.  Their goal, of course, is to cut taxes, the byproduct of which would be to cut government services.  Oh, but they fail to mention the cutting services part.  Tim calls it a "nonpartisan advocacy group," which is what you do when you have a bunch of rich partisans giving you an award and you want to lie about it.

Anyway, I want to end once again by saying that Tim Scott is a phony, and I wouldn't believe him if he told me what day of the week it is.  What I would do is urge everyone who really does work hard and pay taxes and try to do the best they can to support someone who really will work in Congress for us.

Joyce Dickerson
Not afraid to speak her mind.

Joyce Dickerson has been and will continue to fight for our individual freedoms -- as opposed to Tim's battle for corporate rights.  The right to earn a living wage, the right to health care equality and privacy, the right to a good education, which requires investing in good teachers and good schools in order to invest in our kids.  The right of veterans and the unemployed to get back on their feet.  The right of each of us to vote.  The right to have our government work for us, and not against us.

Don't forget, the ETV SC Senate debate is on October 28.  Listen for yourself, and spread the word.

Joyce Dickerson
US Senate