Saturday, June 25, 2016

Compromising Women's Rights, Again

I was alarmed, but not altogether surprised, to hear that one of Hillary's possible VP choices is Tim Kaine.  As I scan through articles about possible VP's, Kaine keeps coming up as the most likely because he is "safe."

Jeez Louise, isn't this the year we ought to finally stop going for "safe?!"  We have learned that that idiot with the ducktail can say any damn thing he wants and only garners admiration from his followers for saying any damn thing he wants.  Remember W???  He was admired because he said whatever came off the top of his head, and told voters if they didn't like it they didn't have to vote for him.

And this is the year -- this was the week -- that Dems led by John Lewis made history by recalling the sixties with a sit-in on the floor of the House.  Finally, finally, we were able to say enough killing, we will risk our careers to do the right thing.  Wow.  That doesn't happen often among Dems.

Meanwhile, Tim Kaine, along with nearly every other damn Democrat, supports the second amendment.  Because you sure can't begin a fight for gun control unless you reassure all the paranoids and wackos out there that you aren't going to take away their guns.  The man from the state that in 2007 ended up with 33 young people dead at Virginia Tech would propose to limit high-capacity weapons to ten bullets.  That means only ten dead as opposed to fifteen.  That's just pathetic.

But I want to talk about Tim Kaine and abortion.  Tim Kaine is one of those I don't believe in abortion but I support a woman's right to choose people.  Really.  What that attitude has gotten us over the years is more and more abortion restrictions as the people who are really passionate about women's rights -- limiting them, that is -- are willing to dig in the dirt to find any wormhole that will allow them to take away another path to access of that right.

The half-hearted support for women's right to choose by those who "don't believe in abortion" has led to an appalling lack of understanding of just how under attack women have been.  It has led to women on the Supreme Court joining with men in a 9-0 opinion to reverse Massachusetts' ruling allowing a buffer zone banning protesters around abortion clinics.  Nine justices saw the protests as a first amendment free-speech issue rather than the harassment and threat to women's rights that they really are.

Hillary had a number of women on her VP list, but the Dems are afraid that having two women on a ticket would jeopardize her ability to win.  I believe it was Amy Klobuchar who was asked by Rachel Maddow whether choosing two women would jeopardize Hillary's chances.  She replied that we have a long history of same sex candidates running together successfully on the presidential ticket.  Hmmm.

And then there is the fear of going too liberal.  Hillary, who won the nomination by claiming that she is a proud progressive.  Imagine the Dems surprise when Bernie supporters don't jump on board because Hillary's VP choice is just another safe moderate.

I am hoping that all the excitement about Tim Kaine is a circle jerk by moderate Dems who want to reassure themselves that Hillary isn't really going to try to shake things up the way her fight against Bernie led us to believe.  I wonder at the media that continues to act like Bernie doesn't count.  After all the people he got out to vote, I have heard it said more than once that he no longer has any power and that he should just concede and get out of the way.  This could be the way the Dems shoot themselves in the foot again, this time, when it seems that we have everything, including a hateful batshit crazy opponent, in our favor.

I like Elizabeth Warren in the Senate rattling all those cages, and apparently she likes it too.  But  Sherrod Brown, another VP possible, is one of my all-time favorite people, fearless and progressive, and with that sexy whiskey voice that I could listen to forever.  And then there are actually a number of extremely qualified women, Klobuchar included.

And that takes me, once again, back to abortion.  If the first woman presidential nominee does not feel confident enough about the fight for women's rights to choose a solidly pro-choice candidate for VP, she will be telling us all that women's reproductive rights are not important enough to fight for, right from the start.  If this is the year of the woman, this should be the year that we no longer allow others to philosophize, proselytize, waffle or opine on how a woman's reproductive life should be legislated.  It is time to stop listening, not just to the opinion of the anti-abortion brigade, but to the moderate equivocators.  For once, we need to start with Roe v. Wade and fight against all the bites that have been taken out of that freedom since 1973.  Ignoring the abortion fight means a lot of women are not going to be voting, because they will see that, once again, politicians are not fighting for them.

Here's another perspective.

How bizarre would it be for someone to say, "I don't believe in being gay for myself, but other people have the right to be gay."  Or, "I wouldn't believe in affirmative action for myself, but it's okay if other people want to believe in it."

It's the "believing in it" that has allowed pseudo science, religious bigotry and false facts to twist legislation around against far too many individual rights.  Women have the right to privacy, to the best medical care available, to a doctor-patient relationship not impaired by government oversight.  They have the right to affordable and accessible health care whether it is for abortion or a head cold, contraception or high blood pressure.

It would be absurd for someone to opine about whether high blood pressure really exists or needs to be treated.  Because opinions on abortion by those against abortion have been given validity, we are reaping hundreds of bad laws.  The laws that have sprung up around when and where a woman can have an abortion, whether she can access birth control, and forcing her to pay; the laws that force doctors to lie or not answer questions accurately about contraception and abortion; the laws that impose restrictions on clinics that force them to shut down; the laws that allow harassment and threats in the name of freedom of speech.  They all come from that crack in the window that lets people whose lives are not affected have opinions on women's reproductive rights.

And all y'all can have your opinions.  I don't have to listen to those opinions if I don't want to.  Unless you are in charge.  This is why we Dems need to fight for candidates that will fight for us.  Without compromise.  Without equivocation.  

And "moderate," "safe" candidates like Tim Kaine just don't cut it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How Deep the Hatred

Bigotry is not new in America.  If you want to read about how politics has been shaped by fear and racism, try Limousine Liberal: How an Incendiary Image United the Right and Fractured America by Steve Fraser.  Or you may be able to, like me, simply reflect on the America where you grew up.

I lived in a little Italian community in a rural town in Rhode Island that became suburban during my childhood and teenage years.  My father, an Italian immigrant, would complain about "the frogs" who lived next door, threaten (privately) to "fix" neighbors who angered him by selling his vacant lots to blacks (I believe he said "negro"), and referred to my boyfriend as "that Jew."  For that matter, my future father-in-law, a Jewish man who was married to an Anglican, was incensed that his son was dating someone not Jewish.  In one rather hysterical family fight, he berated his son for going out with a "spaghetti-eater."  And then he threw the plate of spaghetti he was eating at the wall.

It is odd that those who were solidly members of groups who faced bigotry would be so quick to turn it on members of other groups.  Because I lived in a small Italian community, I did not hear the words "wop" and "guinea" until my first full-time supermarket job, and then it was a self-derogatory joke made by an old Italian meat-cutter.  I can only imagine the world of hate he had grown up in.

I was mostly unaware of any racial bigotry that might have been directed at me.  When I was a school psychologist on Long Island, the director once commiserated with me about Italian men, not realizing that I had kept my family name, thinking I had married an Italian. I believe she thought I was Jewish, as was she.  I am aware these days that I can pass for Jewish and Hispanic, but the features are not so distinct that it is ever a conscious part of my interactions with people.

It is so much a part of our heritage, to mistrust and hate those who are different than us, to feel threatened by their proximity, that we Americans are easy targets for anyone who seeks power.  Hence, the Donald Trump phenomenon.  Which has been brought to us by decades of right-wing rage targeting minorities.

Want to win an election?  Target a minority.

Just as in my mother's day Italians and Irish were called lazy and dirty, so have African-Americans and Mexicans.

Just as Jews have been persecuted for being sneaky and greedy, and for plotting control over whatever "civilization" happens to be feeling threatened, Moslems are now targeted as plotting to destroy "civilization."

Small people with perverse sexual obsessions have always in our society been fond of gay-bashing, when they aren't focused on what goes on in a woman's body without their approval.

As a woman who has not ever had to really face bigotry (only misogyny), I can't imagine how awful must be the threat of being targeted in America.  Show your papers.  Stop and frisk.  Driving while being black.  And Trump's outrages-of-the-day:  "We have to go and we have to maybe check, respectfully, the mosques" (six days ago).  Since he proposed the national database of Muslims last year when he was only a primary candidate, he apparently has realized that as a presumptive nominee, when he suggests taking away a group's rights he now has to do it "respectfully."

South Carolina is not the only proud state to waste taxpayer dollars on "bathroom bills" and bills that would keep out refugees and prevent Sharia Law from infiltrating our courts.  Because right wing radicals continue to foster fear and hatred, we have our own home-grown assault rifle toting paranoids to contend with.  In a totally irony-free atmosphere, state and federal legislators have caused such a panic over our rights and our safety that they have unleashed the very wackos we should be concerned about, who kill in the name of protecting the country from killers.

Fueled by the NRA which is controlled by arms manufacturers, our legislators have once again failed to pass even the most basic gun controls.  Paul Ryan, never before concerned about the rights of people kept off planes because they were wrongly put on the no-fly list is now expressing his concern for people that would wrongly lose their right to buy a gun.  And how about this pretzel-shaped rationale:  by refusing to sell a gun to someone on the no-fly list we would be jeopardizing national security by alerting them to the fact that they are being watched....  Hmm, you mean like if they are told they can't get on a plane???

Which leaves us all waiting for the next mass shooting.  And while we are waiting, innocent people continue to be killed on the streets, in bars, at home.  And the rage goes on. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Using Children

One would have thought that when Carly Fiorina herded children on a field trip into an anti-abortion rally the fallout would have been enough to convince the most rabid anti-abortionist that using children was a line that should not be crossed.

But yesterday, in a move so offensive it has moved the bar even lower, our own governor Nikki Haley signed the 20-week abortion ban into law surrounded by children.

In this extremely clever and contrived photo op, Haley is surrounded by adorable children, the older ones as well as an infant held by one assumes its mother in the background.  The picture was taken at Hidden Treasure Christian School, a school for special needs children.

What I would like to know is:  where did they hide the severely disabled children?  You know, the ones who aren't beautiful, or who might not want to look on attentively at the governor as she smirks for the camera.  I assume they have a few kids enrolled who don't look like they were delivered from the womb on an angel's wings.  Could it be that the message might not have been so irresistible if the children did not look so delectable?

And what is the message?  Here, too, is the evil genius of today's media smart anti-abortion movement.  By posing with these children as she signs the anti-abortion ban, the message is that these wonderful children might not be there if their equally wonderful mothers had chosen to have an abortion.  Haley is demonstrating that those aborted "babies" in fact do have a place in God's world, where people like her and the good folks at Hidden Treasure would love them like their own.

Damn liar.

Just how many children with severe disabilities are born because their mothers had inadequate health care thanks to Nikki Haley refusing to accept federal Medicaid funding?  And how many women have gotten inadequate treatment because there are too few clinics -- don't let's forget, Nikki Haley spent our tax dollars to investigate Planned Parenthood for bogus complaints, and would have these clinics closed, making it even harder for uninsured or inadequately insured pregnant women to have the care they need.  And even more tragically, how many wanted babies do not survive because of South Carolina's refusal to provide adequate health care -- and food and housing -- to all pregnant women?

And, for the record, many, many women choose to bring at-risk pregnancies to term.  The decision to have a late-term abortion is rare.  Without the intrusion of the state of South Carolina, many women weigh their ability to care for a disabled child against the cost to their families, financial means and stresses, and their own emotional resources and supports.  It is obscene to continue to promote the myth that women who decide to have a late-term abortion based on fetal risk factors are callous and selfish.  It is obscene to paint such women as murderers.  And it is a damned lie to imply that this decision is made frivolously, or frequently. 

I would like very much to know how this special needs school selects their students.  Where do the children who are unable to communicate, who cannot learn toileting skills, who need to be fed and moved from place to place?  And what other support does Haley provide for mothers who are unable to work in order to stay with their severely disabled children?  The assumption -- the lie -- is that the decision to have a late-term abortion is frivolous, and what a smug and self-satisfied attitude.  When a woman makes that choice, it is a hard one.  And when a disabled child is born to a woman with little to no support system, here in South Carolina you can bet that rarely are those kids in attendance at Hidden Treasure Christian School.

And then there is the matter of having this photo op and signing this law at a Christian school.  A school that by law and by the tenets of the constitution, is not a government funded or sponsored institution.  Of course, it could be that, were Nikki Haley to try to find such a pleasing picture in a public school, she would have to settle for the actual real-life tough cases of disability, the ones that the Christian school can screen out.  The kids that go to schools that are inadequately funded, with teachers that are underpaid in schools that are understaffed.

If you are reading this blog, you know me, and you know that when I saw the photo and the article yesterday, I was spitting mad.  After I posted the link on Facebook, I wrote a letter to The State.  I would have written one to the Post & Courier but could not because of their 30-day rule.  So I would like to share my letter with you here, and, if you too agree that Haley's message is as inappropriate, cruel and self-serving as the law itself, please join me in sharing with social media, contacting the governor's office, and in writing letters to the editor.

This is what I wrote:

Governor Haley's photo op commemorating her signing of the 20-week abortion ban is abhorrent in so many ways.  First of all, it makes apparent that this has been a religious cause, and not based on science, as its supporters falsely claimed.  And using special needs children in such a way is the lowest kind of publicity stunt, featuring religious indoctrination and coercion of those who are not yet able to make their own decisions, and about a very adult issue.  Signing the bill at a Christian school makes it clear that in South Carolina, there is no separation of church and state:  if you do not believe in the God of Nikki Haley and our legislators, your beliefs will not be honored as reflected by our laws.

I hope that the flagrant misuse of the power of government as represented by this bill signing, makes it that much easier for the Supreme Court to find this law unconstitutional.

Those who are celebrating their victory with the passage of this law have already indicated that this is just the start.  Because this was about extremist religion and misogyny, and never about science, they are not only posing for pictures in a Christian setting, they are planning for further attacks on women's reproductive rights.  Let's let them know that this is a Pyrrhic victory, and the battle is nowhere near over.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Public-Private Partnerships...

...or, a marriage made in hell

I just looked up "public-private partnerships" and imagine my surprise to find that it is such a thing that it is also known as "3P."  If you'd like to read more about it, expect that you will have to look long and hard before you find critiques.

Selling business as the solution to the problem of government had been simmering for a couple of decades before Reagan took up the banner.  The original scheme was thunk up in response to the mid-twentieth century anti-business sentiment, which was provoked, of course, by the greed and corruption inherent in business.

In the mid-70's we went from a strong middle-class (white of course) with good jobs and benefits and plenty of plenty, to the shock of gas lines and shortages of anything from beef to those icky green candies that go into fruitcakes.  We were terrified.  And business, as usual, stepped in to encourage our terror and generously offer to fix the problems that had been created by, well, unions and an overly generous government.

Reagan may have been an idiot, but he was an eloquent idiot.  We who were there remember:

"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to the problem; government is the problem."

"The most terrifying words in the English language are:  I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

"I don't believe in a government that protects us from ourselves."

Those corporations, once smarting from government regulation and the pressure from unions to treat workers fairly, saw their opportunity.  Government was wasting our money.  Government wasn't working.  Government was too big.  Government interfered with our good -- American -- capitalist system.

Just as desperate, angry people are now jumping up on the Donald Trump bandwagon, the promise of lower taxes, more jobs and the opportunity for wealth created the Reagan presidency.  But that did not make government smaller.  While taxes on the wealthy (job creators) shrunk, government services were either cut or due to drastic budget cuts, withered and became ineffective.  The more ineffective became government, the more powerful and demanding became corporate interests.

The government, in order to survive, went a-begging.

These days, we have all learned that in order to function at all, we need to beg corporations to please let us dance with them.  But the saddest part of this sick relationship is that we have been taught to believe that the corporate "sponsor" is the good guy, and that is what is saving us from government incompetence, overspending and waste.  Oh, and higher taxes.

Republicans and Democrats share the responsibility for this.  Democrats may push through programs to improve the quality of our lives -- schools, health care, housing -- but it is those capitalist interests that prevent the budget for the service to be adequate, and force the government to accept the conditions of the corporation.  AND to pay a premium for the privilege.

Government contracts mean big profits.  And republican legislators protect those contracts from any type of government regulation or restriction.

Our own Tim Scott recently bragged about voting for benefits for veterans.  What he did not say is that the bill he supported had the condition that the budget increase would mean a decrease in funds for another program.  And by that, he did not mean cuts to corporate entitlements.

A few years ago, in 2013, I turned on C-Span to a House committee meeting.  At that time, so many unemployed due to the recession caused by Wall Street malfeasance and Bush administration policies, were still unable to find jobs.  This subcommittee was working on whether to extend long-term emergency unemployment benefits, which had been created in 2008.  The geniuses on the republican side were absolutely against raising the deficit by extending the benefits without a cut to offset the expense.  The Democrats suggested that this could be offset easily by closing an egregious tax loophole, one that all claimed should be closed.  Except that the republicans refused to consider it at that time.  Because, as with gun loopholes, there is never a good time to close tax loopholes.

And yet it is the Democrats that get the blame, still, against all evidence, for excessive government spending.  And corporations continue to be hailed as job creators, even as they cut jobs, cut benefits, squeeze unions and outright move to countries where labor is nearly free and conditions unregulated.  Trump a hero?  Could only happen because we have been fed this crap for so many decades we have lost sight of the reality.

With Elizabeth Warren's ascent into the limelight, we finally have someone who is pointing out the obvious fact that the emperor has no clothes, that corporations are not our friend.  Bernie Sanders' popularity speaks to the fact that we have all been waiting for someone to face down the greedy and powerful corporation.

Meanwhile, ads on school buses and naming rights to national parks (which have defensively explained that it would only be benches... and anything else where a sign can be planted) continue to pummel our senses.  Corporations claim that by naming stadiums and monuments they are just helping out by lowering costs, but what a deal.  The government pays to have it built, Dunkin' Donuts slaps its name on it for a small sum and gets the free advertising for the life of the building.

A great deal also in that we the people see the product name and assume they actually paid for the building and isn't that wonderful?

As the income gap stubbornly refuses to shrink, we will wear advertisements on our cars (I have seen a few this year) as well as on our clothes.  In fact, if you think about it as you walk around, there is not much in our lives that is not contaminated by advertisement.  Television is a horror, with nearly more ads than programming, but the same ads repeated over and over and over.

But our government contract with business is particularly horrifying, because it keeps government from doing the job it should be doing.  Government should be protecting our individual rights, leveling the playing field, protecting our environment, keeping us safe.  But with arms manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies wielding the checkbook to willing legislators, we have become servants of hungry and powerful masters, and we have been told that we had better be appreciative.  Because we are so much better off than we would be if government was truly in charge.