Wednesday, March 26, 2014

More About Bicyling and Pregnancy

Yesterday I wrote about the overreaching South Carolina Representative Wendy Nanney's idiotic bill which would require bicyclists and moped owners to get licensed and insured (with the exception of those expendables who are under 15), and her quick about-face after protestations by the cycling association.

It occurs to me that I may have sounded snarky (moi?!) in reference to bicyclists.  That was not at all my intent.  In fact, I believe that we need to make all our streets safe for cyclists.  Good for people, good for the environment.  I have driven too many times, half-awake, in the early morning, swerving to avoid a bicyclist at the last minute, not because they were not riding safely, but because of narrow roads where cars and bicyclers were forced to share too little space.

But the fact is, it is easier for those like Nanney to make laws fattening the pockets of industry, forcing new rules, paperwork and cost on her constituents, creating greater government bureaucracy, and with absolutely no contribution to insuring the safety and well-being of the public.  Easier than making sure that every new and repaved road has safe walking and bicycling lanes.

This is the way it is also for her fight against pregnant women.  Far easier, and apparently more satisfying, to make laws to force a woman to be pregnant than to ensure a better life for women.  The rate of teen pregnancies could be lowered by better education -- not just sex education, but an education that brings hope to teens for a good future.  Family planning, including contraception, would go a long way to provide families with financial and emotional security, so that wanted children will grow healthy.  Guaranteed health care and nutrition may eliminate the need for some of those twenty week abortions, and certainly reduce the rate of infant mortality -- a statistic of which Nanney should be embarrassed.

But, as the saying goes, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  And our representatives here in South Carolina, mostly see their job as making laws to make us do stuff that won't make our lives any better.  Getting a license to ride a bike on streets that aren't safe won't make cyclists any safer.  Making children and women get pregnant and stay that way rather than providing good education and health care is also the cheap way out.  And I mean cheap in the sense of quality as well as cost.

So my apologies to any cyclist that may have been offended yesterday.  It may not appear so at first glance, but you have a lot in common with those girls and women who have come under fire from our fierce and fanatical legislators.  And I will fight for your right to better roads if you will fight for a woman's right to reproductive health care.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

When Nanney Backs Down

This morning I read that the appropriately named Wendy Nanney, House representative from Greenville, had introduced a bill that would require bicyclists and moped operators to be licensed and insured.  "Hmph," I muttered, there goes Mama Nanney again.  I gave a wee bit of thought to what a boondoggle that would be for the insurance industry, one of the groups that our legislators take good care of here in South Carolina, and then went on to other matters.

Hours later the headline in The State informed that after great protest, Nanney had withdrawn the bill.

Now, let's back up a little here.  Wendy Nanney is the legislator that is pursuing with no less than religious zeal the bill that would prohibit abortions after twenty weeks.  She has brought all the power that the Bible and bad science can bear, and many of her partners in crime lined up to co-sponsor the bill.  It mattered not that scientists had proven that the "facts" of her bill were wrong.  And she cared not that women's health and medical care were being invaded and compromised by the requirements of the bill.  Wendy was out to save "lives."

Yet, when she looked out on the street and saw that bicyclists were being careless, and decided that it was her duty to write a law forcing them to, well, take a course and then pay for a license, there was such an outcry that she dropped the cause immediately.

So why are some "lives" more expendable than others?  Why would a woman making decisions about her own body be so much more important than a cyclist riding in a way that endangers themselves and puts others at risk?  In fact, Nanney points out that her bill would only require licensing for those fifteen or older.

Please, please explain to me why a child would not need the safety precautions that an adult cyclists requires???  This makes about as much sense as requiring a woman whose pregnancy is at risk to carry the pregnancy to term, while not making health care available for all pregnant women.

I worry about the mental health of many of our legislators.  It seems that they work so hard to prove their worth that their judgment fails.  And then they are rewarded with way too much power over us.

I also wonder that the Palmetto Cycling Coalition has more political clout than groups like the ACLU and the National Organization for Women.

Or it may be something else entirely.  After all, the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association was quiet while a bill was passed allowing guns in bars and restaurants.  While they claim that was because owners were split on whether they were in favor of the bill, many owners say they were not made aware of the bill.  Of course, the NRA has more clout with legislators than both the Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Palmetto Cycling Coalition (and throw in NOW and the ACLU).

Which must make you want to ask who has so much clout that Nanney and her buddies would tirelessly pursue abortion bans and personhood bills?

As with the NRA, we need to follow the money.  It's not the right-to-life groups, really, that are keeping these horrible bills afloat, year after year.  They are merely the very loud and committed spokespeople.  They are being controlled by groups like the NRA, groups like the American Enterprise Institute, groups run by Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers.  It may not seem like they are being controlled; maybe it is really just the Partnership from Hell.  But it amounts to the same thing.

The people with the money and power, who stand to lose some of that money and power if we unite against issues like living wage and health care, have learned that they can get followers to rise up and pledge their support for the candidates who will further their power agenda.  All they have to do is create a smokescreen of "moral issues."  Nixon did it with his "law and order" campaign.  Reagan's handlers realized that there were millions who could be turned to their advantage by pretending that the quest for power was a religious quest.

And today we have anti-abortion groups, anti-gay groups, anti-Moslem groups, all working to foment fear.  They support the candidates (and the candidates support them)  so that none of us can muster the strength or the dollars to fight the people who control the country:  big agriculture, pharmaceuticals, oil, Wall Street.  Fortunately for bicyclists, Wendy Nanney didn't think their lives were important enough to turn into a cause.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Death to the Death to Obamacare Bill

Amid the flurry of anti-abortion legislation making its distasteful way through the South Carolina House and Senate, there was the Obamacare Nullification bill.  I am happy to say that this week the bill died in the Senate.

There has been so much hot air about the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid Expansion in particular, that it was a pleasant surprise to see so many Republicans bail on it.  I wondered why, and came up with a few ideas.

It seems that the prevalent opinion is that amendments were added that were so icky even some original supporters could no longer back it.  For example, the bill took on an amendment that would forbid anyone in government from helping someone sign onto Obamacare.  It placed such burdensome restrictions on the Navigators -- mostly volunteers -- who help people sign up for health care, that it would likely end the navigation program, which was certainly its intent.  Such additions were so extreme that the Obama administration would likely have immediately pursued a lawsuit.

Another thought I had is that of late there has been a lot of attention focused on this bill, particularly the Medicaid Expansion part of it.  From The Daily Show interview of a Haley lackey ("So your state can't afford to pay 0 dollars?") to a bombardment of facts that made it clear that not accepting government funding for Medicaid was just dumb.  The end-runs Haley et al tried to do in order to say that they had an alternative to Medicaid were all costly and far less effective.

And we had our Truthful Tuesday activists in Columbia, each week, refusing to let this happen quietly in the Senate chambers.  Carrying signs, talking to Senators, and even being arrested in an act of civil disobedience by blocking the roadway to the Statehouse.  Not just once, but each week.  Making news.  And I believe that the knowledge that this was not going to go away may have made some of our legislators just a bit more reasonable.

Finally, it just might be that a few of our legislators are taking advantage of some of the aspects of the Affordable Care Act themselves.  Even access to contraceptives.  Certainly the abolishment of the pre-existing condition clauses that kept so many people from getting health insurance, or thrown off a plan when they needed it most.  And maybe a few legislators have kids under age 26 who are now on the family plan.

I wouldn't go overboard and say that more legislators are seeing the light as far as providing health care to the poor, but at least where they have something to gain, it looks like Obamacare just may be here for awhile.  Even in South Carolina.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

DON'T Let Them Eat Cake!

I can't help it, whenever I think of Nikki Haley (and I try not to, really) the word "brat" comes to mind.  I imagine her stuck in adolescence, flirting with the guys, saying "no" when she means "yes" just to prove she can.

I wish this was just my imagination run amok, but she has certainly carried that attitude into the Governor's office.  For example, in 2012 Haley vetoed a bill that would have provided HPV immunization to girls, with an opt out provision for parents not wanting the immunization.  This even baffled republicans, since in 2007 she had co-sponsored a bill MANDATING the immunization.  This doesn't confuse me at all.  I think it's just Nikki being Nikki, in other words, letting us know that if she can't force us to follow her rules, she's going to take her vaccine and go home.

And then we have Medicaid.  In a career where she is competing with Mark Sanford for the stupid award, she has determined that under no circumstances will she support a no-cost Medicaid expansion.  In a totally humiliating segment on The Daily Show, SC Policy Council President Ashley Landess got to play patsy for Nikki Haley.  She first attempts to explain how we can't afford "0 dollars," and then follows it up by saying government has never had a good idea.  It kind of reminded me of Miss Teen South Carolina back in 2007 trying to field a tough question about why so many American students can't find the US on a map:


...and also leaves me wondering where the former Miss Teen was when the Policy Council President job opened up.

When it comes to food stamps, Nikki wants to make sure poor people aren't having too much fun.  In 2013, she wanted to limit food stamp purchases to "healthy foods," in other words, no cake for you.  However, when she was informed that families on food stamps couldn't afford healthy foods, she shifted gears and now supports an initiative to make poor people prove that they are looking for jobs.

The food stamp program is fraught with conflicting messages, but Nikki brings her own stern mama attitude to the mix.  No precooked roast chickens and no birthday cake for the kids.  We're not going to support the unemployed, and we're not going to help the working poor.

The bottom line is Nikki and her pack don't like people getting something for nothing, and they are going to make sure what they've got isn't easy.  So if you were planning on pinching your food stamps so you can afford a birthday cake for your nine-year-old, expect to get dirty looks from your elected officials.  At least Marie Antoinette was willing to let the poor eat cake.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

In Honor Of Woman's History Month...

In honor of Woman's History Month, our legislators are working on bills that will take South Carolina back to 1960:

It's an era that's never been too far from our hearts and minds.  So go ahead and give your legislator a call as he gets ready to vote on bills that will keep you barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pathways to Censorship

Well, the South Carolina House took a break from is persecution of women yesterday to weigh in on college reading lists.  According to our representatives, a licensed physician needs to be regulated by our legislators and so do our university professors.

Wait a minute!  Are these the guys (and Nanney) who are constantly harping on freedom and how regulation is destroying our country -- God bless America, hallelujah!?  Apparently, this bunch has done a bit of research and found that there are some areas, none of which would adversely affect themselves, where we citizens need to be instructed -- by them.

For example, Wendy Nanney has it on good faith (faith being the instructive word) that at twenty weeks a fetus feels pain.  So she has another God-fearing expert testify to that effect, and wins out handily against the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

And now we have a budget amendment that would have part of a university's funding held up until they ban using "pornographic content" in classes.  Representative Mac Toole from Lexington adds that "pornographic content" is not defined because we will know it when we see it.

Oh, my, if only Molly Ivins were here to do justice to this state of affairs.  She was the go-to gal on ignorance in the Texas lege.  She once said about a state legislator from Dallas:  "If his IQ slips any lower, we'll have to water him twice a day."  And now that I think of it, taking care of infirm legislators here in SC could be considered a jobs bill.

While we are whiling away our time, setting around trying to make ends meet, we do have hard working legislators making sure we don't step out of line.  Freedom is okay, as long as it's accompanied by lots of campaign contributions.  After all, money is speech.  Which is exactly what they want us to understand about our colleges.  The politicians have the money, so they own the speech.

I am thinking this might be one of those instances where we might just sit back and watch censorship in action.  After all, we'll know it when we see it.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mark Sanford and Me

Do you remember with some fondness, as I do, those years with W. in the White House and Mark Sanford in Columbia?  Yes, fondness.  Each Christmas I bought my son a 365-day calendar with a quote from our president -- who knew one man could say so many dumb things?

And as for our governor, before we learned of his hikes across the Appalachian Trail, even then he gave us much cause to feel superior.  I recall tales of his quirkiness, and there is one that comes to mind today:  in his frugality, he insisted that staff use the backs of post-it notes before they could throw them out.

I can identify with that, to a point.  I am also frugal.  Not only have I had to live on a shoe-string much of my life, but I've been able to do it.  And without stealing funds from the government, I add proudly.  Admittedly, using the back side of a post-it note is ridiculous, and a testament to our former governor's bad judgment.  If I don't need to stick a little piece of paper on something, I won't use a post-it note, but instead a scrap of paper.  And I do mean scrap.  It would pain me enormously to use a whole piece of paper when a scrap of formerly used paper would do.

It's not just financial considerations.  I know that part of living in the style to which we Americans have become accustomed requires waste.  Plastic utensils at fast food places.  Old computers and iPods.  Snail mail.  But I do believe it is our responsibility to measure that waste against need.  To me it is unconscionable to use a marker when a pen will do, or a pen when a pencil will work.  Who would buy plastic single serving containers when so many foods sold in groceries and take-out restaurants serve the same purpose?  And yet we waste where we need not every day, every one of us.  Small amounts that add up.

One of the great things about libraries has always been that they maximize use:  of books, DVD's, computers, magazines.  And our own Charleston County Public Library lately contends that the reasons they are pushing for electronic borrowing are financial and environmental.  And yet.

And yet they throw away books that have only sat unread for one year.  Throw them out.  And when voracious readers like myself are looking back even a few years for popular authors like Terry Pratchett or important biographies of say Clarence Thomas, our library no longer owns them.  One of our options is then to have the library search outside of Charleston County, which is called Interlibrary Loan.  It's an amazing program which has always stretched a library's holdings by virtue of exchanging with other libraries.

A few years ago, the free ILL service imposed a fee of $2, in order to partially cover the cost of transporting items.  Given the things our library system spends money on, and how relatively infrequently ILL was used at the time, I grumbled.  But now, with our collection shrinking (which is happily promoted by the director as a good thing), we can either pay the two bucks or skip the book.

Then there are date due cards which were formally date due slips, another blast from the past.  Librarians (like Marian the Librarian) spent hours stamping the dates due into books being checked out.  And then came the mixed blessing of date due receipts, printed slips that listed all the items being checked out at one time.  Waste of paper, harder to use than a card that could be stamped many times, and which would inform us of the date due just by opening the book.  But given the volume of check-outs, maybe a necessary evil.

So the other day I checked out some items.  When I got home, I pulled out the slip that lists the check-outs and due dates in order to throw it out, as do many of you who follow your record online or have developed other ways of keeping track of items to be returned.

Imagine my surprise when I saw, at the bottom of the slip, the following:

Shameless, indeed.

So each time each person checks out one item or many, they will learn that:  "Charleston County Public Library connects our diverse community to information, fosters lifelong learning and enriches lives."

I had no idea.

For every wasteful government project, there is a salesperson who has reeled someone in.  And in this case, someone at our library was convinced that adding the empty blurb to the bottom of each date due slip would... what?  Presumably if you're checking an item out, you use the library.  I would like to meet the person that reads that blurb and says, "Aha, I had no idea."

Actually, I'd like to meet the person that reads the blurb.  I actually showed a friend two slips, one I dug up from 2012, and the one I got last week (I have no idea when they started adding the blurb because I never read the damned things).  I asked her to tell me what was different.  She looked carefully and couldn't come up with anything better than different due dates and different items.  Even when we read the slip, we don't read the blurb.

So please, please, if you have any influence at the Charleston County Public Library, of which I have none, please convince them that this is a waste of money, paper and ink.

And maybe you can suggest that, with the money they save from printing "the blurb" they can remove the Interlibrary Loan Fee.

Thank you.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Religious Intolerance of a Different Kind

Last week I took a break from reality to vacation on Hilton Head Island, still South Carolina, but with pools and spas.  Shortly after settling in the jacuzzi one day, however, I was cornered by a very nice couple who insisted on ignoring the Dortmunder crime caper I had been enjoying.

Of course we began by talking about the weather.  I fully expected the conversation to end with the condemnation of Obama and liberals because, obviously, global warming was a hoax.  To my pleasant surprise,  my new friends instead began to talk about how changes to the earth caused by things like fracking and oil spills would invariably affect the earth as a whole.  Aha, I thought, not from around here....

In fact, they were from Canada in Quebec.  But they had been here for a couple of months already, and had learned how to tread carefully where political opinion was concerned.  Once we had established that I too was of rational mind, they asked the inevitable question:  what's with the southern states?

After an animated conversation, we agreed that the opposition to health care and obstruction of voting rights was just not Christian, and just didn't make sense.

"However," my friend began somewhat sheepishly...

In Quebec, it seems that religious intolerance is actually intolerance of religion.  A proposed "Charter of Quebec values" would require faces to be uncovered, and no religious symbols displayed on a person.  This would apply to all public employees, and also to anyone who receives services from the state.

It may come as no surprise that the Parti Quebecois that is sponsoring this charter is about as radical as... Texas.  They actually support the secession of Quebec from Canada.  There is the Office quebecois de la langue francaise, which group of tyrants send out threatening letters to miscreant businesses who have English Facebook pages; last year an overzealous minister was forced to resign after fining a restaurateur for using the word "pasta" on his menu.

And now there is religion.  Which brings me back around to religious intolerance.  Here we are flogged by Christians who insist that they are being treated unfairly because they are not allowed to control everyone else's behavior.  In France and Quebec, it seems that the solution to being intimidated by religious symbols is to not tolerate any of them.

It seems that the religious intolerance of the U.S. and Quebec (and France) stem from the same thing:  fear of anything Moslem.  Here in the U.S. the majority feels perfectly comfortable banning minority traditions, while in our gentle neighbor to the north, the solution is to ban all religious symbols.

What we need is religion that is confident enough of itself that it does not seek to force its beliefs on others, and is content that all religions are free to express their beliefs.  Or not.

I would like to conclude by saying that I was very happy to have had this informative conversation with travelers from Montreal, although while I'm on vacation I would prefer not to make a habit out of it.  On the other hand, imagining Quebec as a place in which wingnut Rick Perry would feel right at home did give me a chuckle.