Sunday, January 31, 2016

Charleston's Democratic Women

As you may know, Charleston County Democratic Women has been around a long time, fighting for the rights of all South Carolinians.  They are working to make us more aware of the ongoing battles at the Statehouse for women's rights as well as healthcare, education, a living wage and the right to live free of racism and gun violence.  Membership and donations support like-minded candidates, so that we can change the pathetic record of rabid right-wing radicalism in our legislature.

The next meeting of CCDW is this Thursday, February 4, at 6 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Riverview.  The featured speaker is Will Moredock, author and columnist.  Will has been reporting on the weird, wacky and often offensive twists and turns of our state government for well over a decade.  His latest book is a collection of articles from 2002 to 2012 entitled Living in Fear: Race, Politics and the Republican Party in South Carolina.

Will has spoken passionately for women's rights, and is an advocate for reproductive rights, which, since the secretly recorded and heavily edited Planned Parenthood video, are even more under attack by state and federal legislators than they had been in previous years.  Our state legislature currently has twenty or more bills pending that would curb the rights of women to pursue legal abortions in South Carolina, and even restrict the ability to donate fetal tissue to research.

But the attack is not just against women.  It is against African Americans, the LGBT community, college students, workers.  Families, children, the poor, all are under fire from a legislature with the mantra of no taxes.  Small government is cited in denying Medicaid to the uninsured but doesn't apply at all when it is women's right to medical privacy that is being considered.  Bad state government is the reason South Carolina ranks 45th in financial security.

CCDW is planning on keeping us all informed about what is going on in Columbia, and in spearheading some grass roots actions in order to fight all those bad bills, and promote the good ones.

I hope you will be there on Thursday.  We can fight the insanity if we work together.

Charleston County Democratic Women
February Meeting
Thursday, February 4, 6:00 PM to Socialize
Program Starts at 6:30!
Holiday Inn Riverview in Charleston
Optional Buffet Dinner is $20

Our Featured Speaker will be Charleston Author
Will Moredock

Living in Fear is a selection of his writings with a focus on the way that racial fear has shaped the politics and culture of our state. Also included in this collection is Will’s 7,000 word essay on the origin and future of these fears.

A South Carolina native and Charleston resident, Will is a veteran journalist with stints at The State Newspaper in Columbia and Creative and Loafing in Charlotte. From 2002 till 2012, he wrote a weekly column on South Carolina politics and culture for Charleston City Paper.

His work has appeared in newspapers around the country including the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer and Charlotte Observer. He is also the author Banana Republic Revisited: 75 Years of Madness, Mayhem and Minigolf in Myrtle Beach and The Storm – A Story for Children.

Monday, January 25, 2016

With Friends Like Vincent

While the wackos in the SC legislature are gleefully making hay out of the lies about Planned Parenthood, we were smacked in the head by a new bill from our own state senator, Vincent Sheheen.  S 1001, titled simply 'though not elegantly, "Abortion," will provide that


Vincent Sheheen, who ran for governor for the second time against Nikki Haley in 2014, had a reputation for leaving the room rather than vote on abortion bills.  Many Democratic women, including those who worked hard to get him elected, confronted him on his lack of support for women's reproductive choice.  In a meeting I attending in 2014, he told the gathering that he would defend women's right to medical privacy and their right to get the best medical care available.

You might say that S 1001 really isn't an attack on a woman's right to choose to have an abortion.  Vincent comes across as a nice, even a gentle guy (which may be why Nikki was able to slice and dice him -- twice).  And many Democrats come to his defense saying that he is just being true to his Catholic faith.

Let me ask this:  if a Muslim were to propose a bill based on their faith, would Sheheen's defenders step back and make excuses?  This is very much the slippery slope that comes of allowing decisions of state to hinge on religious belief.  In fact, too many of our Christian politicians have been a party to a slew of bills that would set Muslims apart in the practice of their faith, in their right to privacy, in our judicial system.  This is because too many operate on the false assumption that our country's rule of law is actually at one with Christianity.

So, back to S 1001.  It doesn't prohibit abortion (there are quite enough bills, at least fifteen in this session, that would do that).  It merely prohibits accepting money for fetal tissue.  Except for a couple of things.

First of all, there is already a federal law that prohibits profiting from fetal tissue.  However, it is acceptable -- as it is in any business -- to receive reimbursement for the cost of the collection, storage and transportation of fetal tissue.  Once again, our legislators seek to inhibit the right of those who provide abortion services, by creating a different -- more intrusive and costly -- set of rules than they might for other businesses, say, a gun dealer.

Secondly, the bill uses the word "abortion" in its title, and twice in its heading uses "aborted fetus" rather than the more appropriate "fetal tissue."  Dog whistles, anyone?

Finally, since the hoax video that provided the red meat for sleazy pols like Carly Fiorina and Nikki Haley to attack Planned Parenthood, a bill like S 1001, which has absolutely no purpose, further enrages a base which chooses to be uninformed about the reality of Planned Parenthood's work.  The hoped-for result is likely not just organizations opting out of being reimbursed for fetal tissue (as did Planned Parenthood), but an end to the donation of fetal tissue.

And that is where Sheheen has gone beyond anti-abortion into the realm of anti-science.  There are women who decide to have an abortion and ask that the fetal tissue be donated to scientific research; in an unhappy situation, they at least will be contributing to help others.  Important research is being done with fetal stem cells in Alzheimer's Disease and spinal cord injury, and more.   And this SC legislator is joining ranks with liars like Fiorina to enrage the uninformed further.  

Which leaves so many of us asking, "What the hell is with Vincent Sheheen?"  This is not just a matter of a Catholic avoiding a controversial vote.  This is an active attack on the dignity and the privacy of a medical establishment dedicated to the care of women's reproductive health.  Further, this is an attack on established science, in an area where lives can be saved with fetal stem cell research.

Here's what I think.  I think Vincent is running for re-election in 2016.  He may be feeling a little insecure after his gubernatorial loss two years ago.  And he is indeed a conservative in a conservative district.  He may be convinced that he is not conservative enough.  So, run as a Democrat and live like a republican.

I hope that as you read about this bill, you take action to let Senator Sheheen know that his action is an affront to Democratic women, many of whom have worked for him, throughout the state, in his two bids for governor.  We had doubts because of his seeming inability to separate his religious beliefs from his political office, but we took him at his word and supported him.  And in sponsoring this bill, he has failed in his duty.  Tell him he should remove the bill, or he should decline to run as a Democrat.

Ask our party officers to confront Sheheen with this affront to the stated ideals of the Democratic Party, and to the women of South Carolina.

In a year when we stand strong in the battle to defend our legal rights to reproductive freedom, there is no excuse for being silent as a member of our party takes steps to restrict that freedom.  Further, we should have no patience with elected officials who actively seek to restrict scientific discovery, especially in medical research.

I am hoping that there is someone in the 27th District that will primary Sheheen, and that a true and unafraid Democrat will get elected in his stead.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Lee Bright Method

In the interest of bringing the country, or at least the state of South Carolina together, let me extend my admiration to some of our more persistent legislators.  Regardless of how many of us are living below the minimum wage, how many children go hungry, how many pregnant women have inadequate heath care, how many of us are killed by guns and die on bad roads, these admirable politicians always have time to dig up another anti-abortion bill.

And it doesn't matter whether the words make sense, or not.  They copy those bills right from the national playbook of organizations for which truth has no meaning, like the Life Education Council, that wants to keep facts from pregnant teens and women.  Or the National Right to Life Committee, whose website provides "information" on partial-birth abortion and fetal development.  Or the Pro-Life Action League, which "saves women" as well as "babies."  Not a single one of which organizations promotes better health and education for pregnant women, only the words to prevent them from making their own well-informed decision.

So kudos to Wendy Nanney, whose mission in life has been to force women to carry pregnancies to term after 20-weeks, under the misinformation that fetuses feel pain at twenty weeks.  The pain aspect doesn't seem to matter to Wendy when it comes to a woman having to give birth to a severely defective baby that dies minutes after birth, at enormous emotional cost.  And financial cost as well, because Wendy Nanney voted against the Affordable Care Act and is against the federal expansion of Medicaid.

Lee Bright may be a dull reflection of his name, but he stays up nights thinking about women and girls having sex and then getting abortions.  I'm not sure which of those images -- the sex or the abortion -- turns him on more, but we do know that he is obsessed with the topic.  He, as well as fellow obsessives Larry Grooms and Kevin Bryant, can always be counted on to send in another bill, even if it is exactly the same bill as one he submitted weeks or months earlier.  I imagine he gets so excited he forgets.

What we end up with is a stunning fifteen or more anti-abortion bills in our legislature for 2016.  The absurdly titled "Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act" continues to take up space this year, but we have new bills with excruciating titles.  There is the "dismemberment abortion" bill.  And the blood-curdling "Defunding the Abortion Industry and Advancing Women's Health Act".  The most recent insult is the "Women's Ultrasound Right to Know Act."  This in a state with high rates of death by guns, including that of children shooting themselves and others.  And in spite of a serious upswing in traffic fatalities as the price of gas goes down and people like Lee Bright refuse to raise the gas tax to repair roads and bridges.  A state that in 2014 ranked 41 in teen pregnancy, despite the national trend of lowered teen pregnancy -- hey, somebody's got to hold down the bottom, right?  And we can be sure that when Lee gets his way, the rate of infant mortality in South Carolina (currently the 14th highest in the nation), will go even higher.

But I would like to, again, look at the positive.  Anti-abortion advocates are ignorant and small-minded, misogynistic and -- have I said ignorant?  They may be all that, but they can focus.  And I believe that the rest of us (the silent majority) should take our cue from that.

Mia McLeod has introduced an important new bill that speaks volumes to the issue, which is an overabundance of bills focusing on women's bodies.  Her bill has caused some republicans to squeal, claiming that, unlike the thousands of bills that have invaded women's reproductive systems, it is a waste of time, "entertaining but kind of sad."  I take umbrage at that.  This is the legislature that has been investigating Planned Parenthood for a non-existent donor tissue program, and even though no state dollars fund Planned Parenthood.  So we would have to go a long way to find a bill that wastes more time than our esteemed republican legislators are willing to waste.

Mia's bill makes a great deal of sense, and could lead to less of a need for all those anti-abortion bills, saving the state lots of time and dollars.

First of all, it is important to make sure that, before taking such drugs, erectile dysfunction is not a psychosomatic problem, so the bill requires a referral to a sex therapist.  Just common sense.  Along with this, though, it will be important for the therapist to provide information about how erectile dysfunction drugs might lead to unwanted pregnancy.

Also, in order to protect the patient, the bill would require a cardiac stress test, which is critical in light of serious possible side effects, and necessary if our legislators indeed want to protect us from sexually caused problems, like heart attacks, oh, and pregnancy.  So it is obvious that along with the stress test, a physician would be required to notify the patient of all potential side effects.  I would also add a waiting period so the patient will have time to think about his responsibility when agreeing to take ED drugs.

Finally, the bill requires a notarized affidavit from at least one sexual partner stating that the patient has experienced erectile dysfunction in the last ninety days.  I believe, however, that the affidavit should also require that the partner state that having sex with the patient is agreeable to her.  After all, how many unwanted sex acts as well as unwanted pregnancies have been caused by men using erectile dysfunction drugs?

Our SC legislators know that, as important as the will of God is to us, it is a no-no for them to bring that up as a reason to pass a bill.  So what they do is bring in witnesses to testify that the bill is the will of God; for example, when the mother-and-daughter team testified that God had intervened to prevent mom from having that 20-week abortion, making it obvious that no other woman should have the right to one.

So let me take it upon myself to state the obvious.  Men should know that if God wanted them to have erections, He would have given them erections.  Erectile dysfunction is a message from God, just as our legislators contend is true of pregnancy.  We have no right to mess with God's intention to keep men from having sex by allowing them to have boner drugs.

The most important thing about this bill is that it should open an until-now closed floodgate.  Not only should all reasonable legislators in the House run to co-sponsor that bill, but there should be a version of that bill in the Senate.  With co-sponsors.

There should be dozens of bills in both House and Senate that truly protect women.  I'm talking about bills called the "Women's Medical Privacy Bill," and "Preventing Government Surveillance of Women Act."  The "Doctor-Patient Privacy Bill."  "Equal Rights for Medicaid Patients."  The "Keeping Government Out of the Doctor's Office Act."  "Government Interference in Medical Procedures Ban."

You get the idea.  So, legislators, we women are fighting for the right to the best medical treatment available, and for privacy in that treatment.  It is up to you to step up with Mia McLeod and get some bills introduced.

If it were Lee Bright, that's what he would do.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Stupids Run for President

As if there weren't enough to worry about, I am reading Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath by Ted Koppel.

In light of President Obama's final State of the Union tonight, I am going to say that the parade of creeps -- and their supporters -- lined up to take charge is the stuff that nightmares are made of.

Based on the performance of the circus act known as the Republican Congress, we are in big trouble.  We currently have our crazy uncle holding the purse strings to our country, their kids are all eight-year-old bullies, and because they are religious freaks who don't believe God wanted them to use birth control, there are a lot of those bullies around.  They may not be smart, but they know how to riot and they are allowed to carry guns.  They may not understand how the world works, but they know how to line up at the polling place and push that button that says "R."

Those right wingnuts in Congress have taken the shock of 9/11, followed by war and a "great recession" and used those horrific events to train the bullies to set their sights on a black president, a woman leader in the House, and the poor and minority people of this country.  The Tea Party voters may not be good at math, but they make up for it with enthusiasm:  wipe out food stamps and NPR and we can get rid of that nasty federal deficit.  Build that wall and we'll have good jobs again, get rid of Muslims and all those white people carrying guns will stop shooting up theaters and churches.

I recently caught a minute of a Rand Paul event on C-Span in which one of those geniuses in the town hall crowd was railing about a government that can't control companies that pollute the environment with things like oil spills.  I should have taped it, because I still don't believe I really heard it.  "You idiot!"  I shouted at the woman.  "Don't you know who that IS?"  Rand Paul, who would get rid of the EPA, who believes government regulation is bad, bad, BAD.

It takes me back to the beginning days of the Obama administration, when the Tea Party turned up to protest in DC, complaining about the poor public transportation, which had been caused by Tea Party budget cuts.

Which brings me back to cybersecurity.  Because while fools like Ted Cruz are implying that "carpetbombing" our enemies will keep us safe, those who truly control the country, like Wall Street and all those companies that have their hands on the electric grid, can't be made to share their vulnerabilities with the federal government or each other in order to make them safe from cyberattack.  Like Nikki Haley a couple of years ago, I imagine once our enemies attack Congress will give us a free year of credit reports.

We're holding on to our guns while the smart psychopaths are working on the capability of pulling the plug on our government and industry computers.

And our candidates for president?  Clueless.  What they do know is how to get the crowd riled up.  Much like Barnum and Bailey, they know there is a sucker born every minute, and those suckers are happy to wave their guns and get in line at the voting booths.

And, by the way, I'd like to stop hearing that these are people who have been hurt by economic downturns.  Take a look at the people turning up to cheer for Cruz and Rubio.  They are teachers and small business people, they are trading in their economy cars for trucks and SUV's again, and they never have to worry about whether to see a doctor or repair the roof.  They are pissed off because they have been given permission to be pissed off, and it feels good to have someone to blame, even if they aren't entirely sure what they are angry at.

And if that's how to get elected, our bunch of republican candidates are happy to point them in a convenient direction.  The Stupids are not only running for president, but are waving their guns and cheering, and lining up to vote.  

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Ironic Cherry Reads...

$2.00 a Day:
Living on Almost Nothing in America
by Kathryn J. Edin & H. Luke Shaefer

This is the kind of fraud that occurs among our poor:

* Selling food stamps (@ 50 cents on the dollar) to get the electricity turned on

* Trading sexual "favors" in order to buy food

* Selling a child's social security number to be claimed on someone else's taxes when you have been unemployed in order to pay the rent.

These are some of the ways people survive when they live on $2 (or less) a day.  And yes, that happens in this country, more so since Bill Clinton's heralded welfare reform, which was supposed to be tied to work opportunity.  Alas, all those jobs and training programs failed to materialize, but the small cash subsidies for the poor disappeared as well.

It has become so hard to receive TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which replaced welfare) that many aren't aware that it is available, and many others that are eligible stop trying to apply.  The essence of this failure is that the money goes to the states, as well as the discretion to use the federal funds, often cutting the amount that should be going to the poor.

But they are out there.  Children who sleep in cars or are subject to family or non-family member's sexual abuse in order to have a roof over their heads.  Women who cannot keep a low-wage job because there are no safeguards when she takes a sick day for herself or a child and gets fired.  School failure.  Hunger.  Suicide.

Our legislators have closed their eyes to this national tragedy, preferring to believe that the welfare reforms of the 90's have ridden us of all those welfare cheats and given jobs to any who want to work.

Over the past year the working poor have found their voices.  The absurdity of working full time and not being able to afford housing, living on SNAP benefits while working for the largest and wealthiest corporations, going to work sick, being sent home when business is slow, all those have led to the point where workers will take the risk of organizing and striking.

But that is not the point of this book.  While we see the minimum wage slowly rise, those with no cash at all continue to live a Dickensian nightmare.

I am happy to say that the Charleston County Library has several copies of this book on its shelves, as well as in electronic format.  It's a small but powerful book, and I urge you to read it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Nikki Does the State of the Union... Rebuttal

Gods help us, she is seen by those who don't have to live with her as a rising star.  She is attractive and personable, more flirty than Fiorino, but she can turn ugly when she feels the need to slap someone around.  She's our own Governor Nikki Haley.  And the powers that be in the republican party have awarded her the rebuttal to the State of the Union.

We can be sure that she is already trying out her lines.  We know what she is going to say before President Obama has even put pen to paper.  It won't be any different than anything any other republican would say, but she's got the charm and charisma lacking in so many in the GOP (as we say in the South, "she cleans up real nice").

And we can assume this is a tryout for the larger stage.  Maybe VP?  The republicans can take a bow over appearing to have a party open to women, although what Nikki is to women is pretty much what Tim Scott is to blacks, which is, bad news.  With friends like Nikki Haley, we women don't need enemies.

So, since we know what she is going to say, and when she is going to say it, I think the Democratic Party of South Carolina (and all us non-official Democrats) should be armed and ready to rebut the rebuttal.  We need to fire on social media, with tweets at #nikkihaleydoesntspeakforus and posts on Facebook -- and for you young people and techies, all those other social media sites I don't have time to learn.  When you post on Facebook, include @nikkihaley and send a tweet to her twitter page (I think that may be possible...).  And share.  And retweet.  Spread the word, Nikki Haley doesn't speak for us.

My guess is she is likely to talk about guns.  She will talk about Obamacare.  She will talk about fighting ISIS.  It will be about FREEDOM, because it is always about freedom.  And government spending and overreach.

Now freedom and government spending and overreach play right into our hands, because her government wants to control women's health care, and invade the privacy of those of us who look like they aren't... well, white, and prevent the poor from being able to earn a living wage by making unions illegal.

Oh, my, so much to tweet about.

I wish I knew more about social media.  What I do know is that it is a very powerful tool for countering tyranny.  So we here in South Carolina don't have to let @nikkihaley pretend to represent us.

The President's State of the Union will be on Tuesday, January 12, at 9 p.m.  It tends to run an hour or slightly longer.  The rebuttal is thankfully shorter, but in 2015 there were a whole bunch of them.  So far, we only have Nikki.

Let us all know your ideas and let's be ready to roll on January 12.  Because...


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Democratic Women

With terrorist groups using Donald Trump's hate speeches to encourage terrorism, I would like to suggest a little diversion from the terrifying idea that he or any one of those idiots could be our next president.  It is truly too soon after the Dubya years to contemplate.

Instead, let's take a peek at our own SC State Legislature, and the schemes and pranks they have up their sleeves for the coming legislative session.

We do have heroes stepping up to file a bunch of gun control bills (oops, I mean "gun safety"), and a particularly brilliant and much-needed erectile dysfunction bill, the usual nuts and bolts are spewing the usual old-white-christian-male nonsense.  I wish December saw them spending more time celebrating the joy of Christmas and less time ruminating on how to take away the rights of all us residents of Whoville.

We have a bill that will protect pastors from the ever present threat that they will be forced to perform a marriage ceremony on a gay couple.  There's the one that keeps popping up that would make absolutely sure that our judges will not practice Sharia Law in our South Carolina Courts.  And one that will protect us from being overrun by refugees; once they have food and a roof over their heads, I imagine the fear is that the next step will be to establish their own little governments.

Then we have one that would require every school district to display the words "In God We Trust" in every single school in the state.  Since they'll be spending the tax dollars on plaques instead of educational materials, maybe our pols figure a miracle is the only way our kids are going to get educated.

Of course, the real red meat for our right wingnuts is women's reproductive rights.  How can Lee Bright focus on decorating that tree with little mangers when he is imagining all the infinitesimal little tiny babies in all the women and girls that might not be born?  And his buddy in all things despicable, Kevin Bryant, can't hardly say his prayers for imagining what goes on in a woman's body when she has an abortion.  Let's not forget Wendy Nanney who represents all the women who want to control women, and her fact-free "pain capable" anti-abortion bill which is likely to start the session right where it left off in June, attempting to force its way into passage.

As half-time of the two-year legislative sport approached, Kevin Bryant tossed out a bill that would ban "dismemberment abortions."  And chomping at the bit, during the prefile period, a whole plethora of lunatics signed on to the comedically entitled "Defunding the Abortion Industry and Advancing Women's Health Act."  Thanks to the Americans United for Life this bill is spreading around the states like ebola.  So as well as pretending the goal of killing Planned Parenthood is to save "babies," the anti-abortion movement has now taken the absolute galling stand of claiming they are protecting women's health.

Well, here's my point.

We need to fight these idiots.  They are very small, bitter people who are incapable of seeing the irony or the falsehood of any of this legislation.  The same legislators who would like to force women to bring a pregnancy to term work just as hard to make sure that she does not have adequate health care.  In the case of working to kill Planned Parenthood, they also want to make sure that women of limited means don't have access to birth control.  Many of them will fight to prevent medically accurate sex ed.

Gee, it's almost as though the radical right wing wants to punish girls and women for having sex by making them bear children.  And then make them work a low paying job with inadequate child care.  And then blame them -- and the kids -- when they have problems.

Family values just don't get screwier than that.

Here in Charleston County, we have a group of Democratic women that are fighting for sanity in our legislature.  They support representatives that will work for us, that will fight to protect us from the rabid and rage-filled radicals of the right.  And this year they have a goal of joining forces with us to advocate for us in Columbia.

Charleston County Democratic Women (CCDW) meets once a month, on the first Thursday, at the Charleston - Riverview Holiday Inn.  You don't have to be a member to enjoy the $20 buffet dinner and the speakers, and you don't have to be a woman.  You do have to support the goals that will make lives better for women, which in fact, will improve all our lives.

Membership is $20 annually, and January is membership renewing time.  While the cost of the meeting pays only for the dinner, membership goes toward supporting the candidates that will move us forward in South Carolina.  Better education for our children, freedom from reproductive tyranny for women and families.

On Thursday, January 7, the speaker will be Dr. Donna Johnson, first female Chair of the MUSC Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.  She will talk about why South Carolina gets an "F" in women's care.  And what we can do about it.

Start the year off right by supporting Charleston County Democratic Women, and by joining in the effort to make legislative changes that will in fact advance women's health, and improve the lives of all of us.

You can find Charleston County Democratic Women on Facebook, and get more information about Thursday's meeting.

I hope to see you there.