Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Running with Wendy

I recently wrote about the dirty dealings in Texas by opponent Greg Abbott and his minions (I use that word reluctantly; it gives minions a bad name).  The dirt that they dug up on Wendy Davis amounts to questions about how long she actually lived in her trailer, whether her husband helped fund her Harvard education, and whether she was a good mother.  If that's not a war on women, I don't know what is.

In fact, Karl Rove did it first in Texas for George W. Bush against Governor Ann Richards when he began a rumor that Richards was a lesbian.  He was able, then, to swing a state that would have re-elected Richards on her successful record as governor.  As Rove himself said,

"Look, I don’t attack people on their weaknesses.  That usually doesn’t get the job done. Voters already perceive weaknesses. You’ve got to go after the other guy’s strengths. That’s how you win."
And that's exactly the game plan against Wendy Davis.  The attacks are on her independence and her intelligence.  Oh, and her parenting.

But, as W. himself said,

Wendy and her daughters are fighting back.  But we need to fight with her.  In my state, where the best woman we can come up with for governor is Nikki Haley, and the best democrat is Vincent Sheheen, we need Wendy Davis far more than she needs us.  But I have done what I rarely do, I have put my money where my mouth is.  I have donated to Wendy's campaign, and I hope you reach way out to Wendy in Texas and do the same.

A groundswell of financial support will do even more than words to prove to men like Greg Abbott and Mitch McConnell that baseless and -- honestly -- stupid attacks on women will not work anymore.

I'm with Wendy.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The GOP Search for a Normal Woman

It came as no surprise to me to hear that the GOP had chosen Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State to rebut President Obama's State of the Union.  They have made it clear that they are sincere about proving to women that, well, there are Republican women.  It also came as no surprise that they had chosen a women that pretty much nobody had heard of.  After all, this is the bunch that delivered us Sarah Palin in 2008, and we are all appreciative of that choice.  The GOP could have had another comedic coup had they chosen Michele Bachmann in 2011, but they went and let her represent the Tea Party rebuttal:

Sadly, we all were so focused on the fact that her eyes were trained, in the distance, on those aliens that only she can see that we missed her sincerely spoken words of Tea Party misinformation.  I can only imagine whoever was running the GOP into the ground back then sighing with relief that instead they had gone with male robot Paul Ryan.

But the election of 2012 caused the Republican party leadership to reconsider.  With the words of Todd Aiken and his subsequent loss still stinging, leaders like Bobby Jindal of Louisiana urged his fellow republicans to stop being "the stupid party."  By this he meant, of course, that they should stop letting the American people know what they really think.  As we have seen since then, those old white men continue to loudly fault the poor for their poverty, the undereducated for their lack of success, and women for their menstrual cycles.

What to do, what to do?  The problem being that since nothing is going to convince these guys that they might be wrong, they have apparently come to the conclusion that if women were to hear one of their own speak nonsense, they might not notice that it's nonsense.

So, just as in the not-too-distance past, the GOP found Marco Rubio to talk trash about immigration and Tim Scott to defend the denial of voting rights protections, they hunted and found a woman little known nationally to speak for them.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers has a voting record any Tea Partier would be proud of.  She is a strong supporter of all those rich white men, against not just the Affordable Care Act, but Medicare and Medicaid, prefers subsidies to the rich to subsidies to the poor, and opposes women's rights to medical privacy -- by which I mean abortion and contraception services.  Like her brothers-in-arms, she opposes equal rights and protections for LGBT, undocumented workers, American Indians, and, let me say it again, women.

I am looking forward to hearing what Rodgers has to say tonight, although to be honest I might not be able to get through it.  I am confident though that in Rodgers the GOP has found exactly what they are looking for:  someone to represent the men of today's republican party.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Guns, Bars, Stupidity and Lies

As a result of the horrific shooting of children in Newtown, Connecticut in December, 2012, our SC legislators got right on it with a slew of bills to -- you got it -- allow more guns into more potentially dangerous places, like for example, bars.  We had to laugh when Rep. Mike Pitts sponsored the bill in 2013, and then watched with much less glee when the bill passed in the House.

Even I did a double take when I read his claim that "44 states are having no issues with people that do carry in" (which is shorthand for those of us who don't speak gun for bringing your gun into an establishment).

After having listened to quite a bit of NRA newspeak over the years, I decided to investigate this statement.  In fact, not having "issues" means states with no laws addressing bringing guns into bars.  Many of which don't allow guns to get as far as the parking lot, making carrying into a bar irrelevant.  They don't have laws because up to now it's been OBVIOUS that guns and bars are a bad idea.  So.  Let's go ahead and NOT assume that 44 states are inviting gun-toting folks into bars.

The rationalizations surrounding this bill are cretinous.  A gun is more dangerous locked in a car.  Well, I guess that assumes that some idiot is going to leave the weapon on the seat in full view, maybe with the window open a generous crack, or fully expects that the car is going to get broken into on a regular basis.

What I have to say to that is, you maybe should leave the damned gun at home.  Or if you don't have the common sense to hide the gun and lock the vehicle, you maybe shouldn't own a gun.

Here's another gem.  The gun-slinging citizenry would feel safer bringing that gun into that restaurant.  I don't know about you, but I haven't had the occasion -- yet -- to have to face down someone with a gun in a restaurant.  But I have to assume that a diner paranoid enough to need to carry a gun into a restaurant is NOT a person I'd want to imagine enjoying a meal in the same establishment as I, much less enjoy a meal with.

Now, our less smart brother to our west, Georgia, has already passed such a law.  Over there in Georgia, Jerry Henry of Georgia Carry ("The No-Compromise Voice for Gun Owners")  contends,

“We have had zero incidents of law abiding citizens being in any ‘O.K. Corral shootouts,’ as predicted by the gun prohibitionists.

If by zero, Mr. Henry means several, I guess that would be accurate.  Any idiot, including Mr. Henry, could google Georgia bar shootings and come up with data contrary to his claim.  Okay, to be fair, they might not have taken place in the bar.  So these jackasses went into a bar, did some drinking, had a fight, and then had the good sense to go out in the parking lot to shoot it out.  And fortunately did not have to walk all the way to their cars to get their guns.

Which brings me to another point, besides the ones on our legislators pointy heads.  Not only do bartenders and restaurateurs now have the responsibility to card drinkers and monitor their behavior, requiring them to stop serving people who are drunk, often being blamed for allowing drunks to get in a car and drive.  Now they bear the responsibility for posting when weapons are not allowed AND making sure that if allowed, those carrying don't drink.  Except that some of our clever legislators who can't seem to draw a line without wanting to cross it, think it's just uncivil to not allow someone to walk into a bar or restaurant with a gun and not have one itty bitty drink.

And how about this:  the assumption through all this is that someone who is carrying is going to be trustworthy enough not to drink with his buddies, and if he's allowed to drink, will know when to stop, and if he doesn't stop when he should, will have the good judgment to not get in a fight, and if he gets in a fight, will not pull out his gun.  Until he gets to the parking lot.

To sum it up:  if I don't want to be drinking with Yosemite Sam, I should not frequent bars or restaurants that do not have signs posted prohibiting weapons.  If I do see a sign, I have to assume that the barkeep is going to be making sure nobody's tempted to carry.  And when people carry and drink, I will have to take it as a given that they will show good judgment and self restraint.

We all know good judgment and self restraint are characteristic of drinkers, and I'm just going to assume even more so if they feel the need to carry a weapon in when they stop for a burger and beer.

You know what the whole entire problem is with stupid laws like this?  The problem is that our legislators bear absolutely no responsibility for the consequences.  They cannot be sued, they won't lose their jobs, they don't even have to question their faulty judgment.  And with groups like A.L.E.C. and the NRA keeping their purses fat, they are quite likely to get re-elected.

If this is important to you, and if you walk the streets and shop and eat in the establishments here in South Carolina and are a rational person, it probably is, talk back.

Our legislators do their best to ignore opposing (less remunerative) opinions, but they have email addresses that you can access at  Even better, they have Facebook pages.  Leave a public comment, or send a private message, or both.  Send out a tweet.  Write a letter to the editor, which I believe gets you the best bang for your buck.

And after all, aren't we really talking about the best bang for the buck?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Maybe Not the Best New Thing in the World

Since we should know by now the types of abuses that can be fueled by internet anonymity, it came as quite a surprise to me to find that South Carolina's proposed answer to school bullying is an anonymous reporting website.

As the parent of a boy who was targeted by bullies who made horrific accusations about him when he pushed back, I can just imagine how much fun bullies can have after school on such a website.  I imagine that someone who is afraid to come forward might also utilize the site, but... then what?  Are school officials then responsible for accusing a student with no ability to get access to needed details?  After a student is confronted by school officials, the officials may not know who did the reporting, but the bullies just might figure it out.  And just supposed the complaint is fabricated, will that make our school officials actually complicit in the bullying? 

Once again, this appears to be a situation where an easy solution is proposed because a real solution would be difficult.

Principal Bradley of Aiken Middle School understands that anonymous "reporting" can open up a can of worms, without solving the problem.  That is why at his school, there is a bullying prevention program, and information provided on their website to students as to how to report bullying.

When a child is bullied, the last thing they need is for adults to create greater distance.  Trusted contact is essential, as well as the reassurance that after the reporting they will not be abandoned.  Even in schools where such a website is put up with all good intentions, the pressures of running a school are such that these anonymous cases will become more difficult to pursue than working to have an environment wherein students feel comfortable trusting an adult with their fears.

So let's not be tempted to take the easy way out on this one.  As with any form of violence, and especially with children, adults that are not afraid to reach out to them is what's needed, not more isolation.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Politics of Birth Control

It's not just controlling women, it's controlling races and religions.  And it's been going on in this country for a very long time.

In Bill Bryson's One Summer:  America, 1927, he takes a microscope to everything 1927, from flight to baseball to eugenics.  As I read about the eugenics movement, I thought about controlling women's reproduction and how it has evolved over time.

Margaret Sanger's interest in birth control involved reducing the populations of blacks and Chinese.  Prescott Bush, grandfather of "W.", worked with Sanger in the newly formed American Birth Control League, which later became Planned Parenthood, where he served as Treasurer.  It has been said that Bush's interest in population control had something to do with all those Catholics that were procreating.

Imagine the surprise of all those who propounded about birth control as a means of reducing the numbers of undesirables when in fact this became the means to move those groups into the middle class.  Italians, Jews, Chinese, African Americans and anyone else who did not fit into the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) image were becoming doctors, lawyers, and yes, politicians.  Smaller families meant more disposable income and the time to pursue a career, both for men and women.  And political power.

We have lately been confused by this current push to ban birth control.  Why on earth would the right wingnuts want to create a situation where more of us who lean Democratic have more Democratic babies?  Well, the answer is in political and fiscal power.  When you can't control how many babies you have or when, your options in life, and those of your family, become limited.  The path to college for a girl in high school, the opportunity for travel and knowledge about the world, the chance for a career and career advancement, all are dimmed when a woman is unable to make reproductive decisions.

Of course, when birth control is unaffordable, those rich white guys will still be able to provide birth control for their families.  And when it is illegal, well, the same will be true.  And there may be more of us, but we'll be too busy trying to care for our families to compete for money and power, or even a fair chance at a good life.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Tim Scott for the Workers

I'm not sure which weekly email is funnier, The Borowitz Report or Tim Scott's weekly message.  I know which one is more accurate, and kudos to Andy Borowitz for that.  Whoever is doing Tim Scott's messaging apparently thinks his audience not only will believe anything, but won't notice when he leaves out important things, like facts.

I was excited when I read today that Senator Scott is going to bring back the 40-hour work week.  And then I though, gee this is Tim Scott, I'd better read the fine print.  So I clicked on the link that said "Read more about the Amendment here," and I got what amounts to more nonsense about Obamacare and how requiring employers to provide health insurance to employees is destroying full-time employment, here.  So, to summarize, no guarantee of a 40-hour work week, just another way to keep employees from being guaranteed health care.

Of course, Tim Scott has a lovely paid health insurance plan, paid for by us, who I guess theoretically are his employers.

What I would like to say is that it is insulting for Scott to lie to his constituents.  He is not introducing a bill that will bring back the 40-hour work week.  If guaranteeing health insurance was the thing that was killing full-time employment, everyone would have had full-time employment before the Affordable Care Act.  In fact, when I got my first full-time job in a supermarket way back in the last century, in 1971, months into that job "time-study experts" descended.  Of course that means the harder you work the fewer people you need, and my full-time job was cut to part-time.  During the halcyon days of Ronald Reagan there was another wave of job killing, again nothing to do with requiring health insurance, but with increasing profit.

Here are a few more reality based comments on requiring employers to provide health care:

There has never been a correlation between employers cutting hours in order to avoid paying health insurance.  Now, that doesn't mean that they won't whine and threaten.  And I'm sure there are some employers who will actually follow through.

But employees with health insurance (and benefits like sick pay) are more reliable, and yes, healthier.  Employers who provide decent health insurance coverage (not Walmart) tend to have more respect for employees.  A business that is large enough to fall under the Obamacare mandate should have an employer that is savvy enough to understand that accessible health care is important to a smoothly running business, and able to budget insurance for employees in as an expense.

Chris Haire had a little fun with Tim Scott's nonsense.  I think we should all thank Scott for pretending to care about his working constituents.  After all, unlike his predecessor Jim DeMint, he at least cares enough to lie, whereas DeMint just pretty much ignored us.  Of course, just as with Scott's health insurance plan, his disinformation campaign is brought to us by us, the taxpayers.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Praying for Common Sense

In South Carolina's ongoing political game show, Who's the Best Christian, Wendell Gilliard and a bunch of other Democrats have struck a blow against the rabid faux-religious right-wing.  They have co-sponsored a bill -- yet again -- that would require a moment of prayer each morning in the public schools.  Now, not that I'm saying it's sneaky or deceitful, but Mr. Gilliard contends that 1) it is really a moment of silence which a teacher could turn into a moment of prayer (giving our teachers autonomy they never imagined they could have), and he magnanimously adds that 2) any child who doesn't want to pray can just get up and leave the room.

This is a scenario that allows for so very many possibilities:

      -- A teacher of the Jewish faith could lead a prayer in Hebrew.

      -- A child being raised in the Muslim faith could bring in a prayer mat, set it up pointing toward Mecca, and do his thing.

      -- Those children raised by heathens like myself can go on ahead and do whatever ritual they like, maybe have a snack or read a good book.

Here's another whole quandary:  what to do with the kids that up and leave?  Do they go sit in a detention-like room for a minute and then return to their classrooms?  Who counts down the minute?  Or do they mill around in the hallways while the armed guards we've legislated into the schools watch over them?

And if kids start opting out of prayer, will there end up being a stampede?  Will Wendell be shocked to find out that, given a choice, kids would rather hang out than pray?  Will teachers opt out?

The fact is, it's easier to legislate things like prayer and armed guards in schools than improve schools and pay for quality education.  Here in South Carolina, our legislators would rather pray for a good education than do what it takes to make it happen.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Here's to the New Year, Just Like the Old Year

Don't be afraid to leave your laptops and TV's for awhile; nothing's going to change.  Just as before the holidays, our president is imploring our Congress to do the right thing by the long-term unemployed, and extend their benefits.  And Congress is being the stern daddy, saying we aren't going to give them a thing unless somebody pays for it.

I think that's a great idea.  And I think we should start with Congress.  They don't work too many more hours than a part-time Walmart employee, so we could start there.  Do you know just how many dollars it costs to support a member of Congress?  They have aides and aids so they don't have to read bills and follow the news; we give them time off so they can take care of their "families;" i.e. their political campaigns.  We pay for their meals and health care, their transportation -- limos and drivers, their communications and communications staff, and if you don't believe their time on the golf course is coming out of our pockets, well, you're probably going to vote them back into office in November.  Of 2014.

Imagine if a McDonald's worker, going to school or raising a family, had all those benefits.  Our communities would thrive because they'd be spending that money on good things like college and food and clothing.  They surely wouldn't be putting it into financial assets (whatever they are) that employ no one but some 25-year-old cocky Harvard MBA who gets paid even more than the Congressman he sets up financially.

And how about that farm bill those yahoos in Washington are still fighting over?  It's not that they can't see the relationship between growing food and being able to afford to buy food.  It's just that they don't see Big Agriculture as food, and that's because it isn't.  Those big farms don't grow food for people.  They grow corn for fuel because that's where the big bucks are.  The fields are deteriorating because of lack of diversity and overfertilizing, but that's because it's all about profit.  They sells seeds that can't be reproduced in the fruit that they produce because there is less profit if a farmer can collect seeds for next season.  If it can't be thrown out, if it can be reused, it's just not profitable.

Yet there are real farmers in this country and sadly, they also tend to oppose "handouts" for food stamps.  They work hard, they don't make the fortunes that the big corporate farms make, they are honest and believe in their work.  But many are also willing to use undocumented workers so they can pay them less.  You might say they need to do this to compete with corporate farms, and it is so.  But they are fighting the wrong battle.  Easier to pay desperate hard-working people lower wages than fight Monsanto and ConAgra, who will easily wipe out your farm with their lawyers.

And that takes us back to Congress and food stamps.  As long as they can get us fighting about those folks that can't afford to put food on the table without assistance, they not only have friends for life in the world of big agriculture, but they can pretend to be sticking up for the struggling local farmer.  Which local farmers would not be struggling without government throwing its weight behind the gigantic agricultural corporations.  And the other thing about keeping this "debate" about food stamps going, is that those folks we elected to serve us don't have to.  Serve us, I mean.

And that brings me back to the argument that we need to lower costs in the federal budget before we can fund food stamps.  Not including big agra, which is too big and powerful to defund.  So again, I say that the place to cut is Congress.  Not just the subsidized cafeteria, but the salaries that are frankly too big for someone who claims to represent the people.  We need a special committee to look at all the perks our members of Congress receive and start slashing them.  No perk is too small, because there are lots of them, and they add up.

Considering the way Congress whined in the spring over the inconvenience of closed and cutback airport services after their self-imposed sequestration, and the way certain of them talk about how those folks on food stamps have the easy life, I'd like to see how, say, Paul Ryan would deal with having to take a lunch hour and clock out and go buy a lunch that he doesn't have time to sit down and eat.  Granted it's not like having to skip a meal, but not having a staffer to fetch for him and not being able to take a couple hours to entertain wealthy constituents at lunch just might bring him to his knees.  And I would pay to see that.

Which is another way we can fund government services for the poor.