Monday, October 24, 2016

When The Need to Know Corrupts the Right to Privacy

The mainstream media continues to get yanked around by the Trump vigilantes.  They have spent the past few weeks pouring through John Podesta's emails, searching for... what?  The comments they are coming up with are notably unspectacular, ideas about Hillary's campaign, reactions to Bernie and then Trump, the kind of stuff that emails are made of.  Free association, ideas, frustrations, and, yes, things that are not said in public.

The media is doing this because they are afraid if they don't they will be accused of favoring Hillary.  And why is that?  They don't have Donald Trump's staff emails to create an actual balance.  What it has done, though, is persuaded the media to distract us from the real issues, again.  As Jon Stewart would say... "SQUIRREL!!"

When did WikiLeaks evolve from being the hero that exposed government lies and deceptions to the tool of the Russian government?  When did they go from vetting submissions for relevance to dumping?  And what on earth is the motivation?

We have forgotten -- SQUIRREL!! -- the hypothesis that Trump has failed to disprove by refusing to divulge his tax records.  What are his ties to the Russian government?  This is the greedy megalomaniac who bought Chinese steel for his buildings to save money.  To what depths would he stoop to gain some advantage by dealing with the Russians?

Glenn Greenwald, who was responsible for releasing the Edward Snowden files, and Naomi Klein, environmentalist and critic of corporate globalization, got together for a truly important discussion of what these email dumps mean to our understanding of privacy.  Some justify the Hillary dumps because she is a powerful person, which begs the question of where that line is drawn.  Who is so powerful that they should lose their right to privacy?

And does that mean that anyone with the resources, from the Russian government to the Kochs, have the right to hack and expose the emails of anyone who they see as sufficiently influential?  Klein points out that her activism has put her in the line of fire, under surveillance by powerful oil industry groups.

If we have the right to eavesdrop on an email conversation, don't we have the right to tap a phone or bug a conference room?  Both have been done, but both are illegal.  With email hacks there is no legal protection; hence, the abandon with which news outlets have gone at the Podesta dumps.

To be fair, this raises the question of other third party releases of information, from the infamous 49 percent quote by Mitt Romney in 2012 to the appalling video of Trump on the Access Hollywood bus.  Would it be fair if someone in the audience during one of Hillary's Wall Street speeches came forward, but not if the same information was released in an email?

I think so.  I think we have had this technology for far too long without commensurate protections.  We need the same strong protections for our communications online as we have (despite attempts at erosion by government surveillance) for our telephone communication.  As we assume we have in our homes.

The failure of government to make our internet secure has a lot to do with government attempts to breach our privacy since 9/11.  Privacy groups have long held that by not allowing private citizens strong encryption, they have made it easier for us all to be hacked by our enemies.  In other words, if our government can get in, others can get in.  It not only makes private citizens more vulnerable, it makes essential government structures more vulnerable, from the Pentagon to our electrical grid.

It has got to start somewhere, folks.  We need to tune in to the importance of the internet privacy issue, and there is no better time to start than now, with Wikileaks gone awry.  We need to have some firm moral and ethical guidelines for where right to privacy ends and right to know begins.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Women's Rights Attacked at the Blink of an Eye -- Again

I had to drag myself away from the Donald Trump reality show to get back to reality today.  The reality being that here in South Carolina, officials are continuing to sneak in changes to abortion regulations that restrict women's rights and demean the dignity of us all.

It was the Post and Courier, as well as other state newspapers, that highlighted that state health officials are considering requiring a husband's consent before a married woman could get an abortion.  When this incredible piece of information hit the news, DHEC quickly walked it back.  They claim that this stipulation was included in error.  Apparently because a husband's consent is only required during the third trimester

At this point I am feeling like I have been hit with so much shit that I don't even know where to go next.

First of all, I can't believe that we have a law that requires a husband's consent to an abortion under any circumstance.  When did that happen???  How do we allow that to go unchallenged?

But then, read on.  In addition to the "errant" husband's consent requirement, there are restrictions on who can perform the abortion: this simple procedure would require a board certified OB/GYN, prohibiting qualified medical professionals from performing an abortion.

And for those women who weren't yet feeling assaulted and discredited by the system, there is mandated testing for syphilis, gonorhea and chlamydia.  That's right, our government is going to make sure you women feel dirty, or at least know that they think you are.  And they would require a Pap smear, a test no longer recommended for women under 21.  Of course, the added punishment is the cost of all the unnecessary tests.

It is egregious that government continues to hammer away at women's right to access reproductive health care, and it takes my breath away that so many pieces of South Carolina's government are involved in the process.  I am thankful that Planned Parenthood South Atlantic has its eyes open to alert us to these abuses.  And I am glad to see our own Post & Courier keeping us informed.

But being informed isn't enough.  We need to strike back each time a proposed regulation would seek to erode our rights.  As we know, each step leads to another step, with the goal being a ban on women's right to abortion, and eventually contraception.

DHEC is accepting comments on these outrageous proposed regulations until Monday.  That doesn't leave much time.  You can fill out their comment form via this link:

At the top of the form select proposed regulation.  Under that choose "Notice of proposed regulation."  Complete personal information and then add your comment.  Here are some sample comments from Planned Parenthood.

Don't let them get away with taking away our freedoms.  Reproductive rights mean better health for women and their families, and reproductive rights mean economic freedom.

And vote!  Vote these misogynistic hypocrites out of office, so we can get down to improving the quality of life in South Carolina and in the U.S.

I know all this is hard work, so take a break on twitter at #TrumpBookReport . You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Nikki Haley's Next Job

I wasn't blown away by Hurricane Matthew last week.  But here's what did blow me away:

Nikki Haley was in control right from the beginning.  She spoke with authority, and did not seem to be considering anything other than the safety of the people of South Carolina.

She did not hesitate to ask for federal emergency funds.

As I headed out on Wednesday morning, ahead of the evacuation deadline, I noted rows of port-o-potties at rest areas to handle (pardon the pun) the overflow.  I saw police and other emergency vehicles out and ready.  And the next day I was not surprised to hear that the I-26 reversal went smoothly.

There were shelters open, lots of them, and frequent announcements made as to where to go for shelter, what to bring, how to deal with pets.  There were phone numbers for people who needed answers or encountered problems, for anything from finding shelter to price gouging.

While I was hiding out, Nikki Haley was making frequent announcements that were broadcast on TV and radio, with her department heads addressing status and progress.  She never failed to thank those who were working hard to protect us.  She took as long as was needed to keep us informed.  And I believed that the efforts to restore us to normalcy would proceed efficiently.

On the way home on Sunday I saw that road crews had indeed been out taking trees and debris off the roads.  There were police at stop lights that were not working.

To sum it all up, Nikki Haley can kick butt when it comes to emergencies.

Unfortunately, when she is able to slow down, she begins to make all those political decisions that hurt the people of South Carolina.  She puts money in the pockets of the rich, individuals and corporations, as she fights to deny the poor medical insurance and food stamps.  She sticks her government nose into the business of legislating women's reproductive rights and wastes taxpayer dollars to create hurdles to voting rights.  Despite the tragic numbers of gun fatalities, she stands firmly against any gun legislation that might save an innocent life.

In other words, when Nikki Haley has the opportunity to philosophize she makes big mistakes that hurt many people.  She shadows the politics of power.  She aligns herself with the wealthy and convinces herself that her reasons are solid.

So, exactly a year after the 2015 floods, the road to Johns Island was again flooded, as I am sure many other roads were flooded, because no action had been taken after the crisis to prevent the problem from repeating itself.  We still have not raised the gasoline tax in order to repair roads and bridges, even though corporations who have been given sweet deals to move here are pulling the plug, quite possibly because of the disgraceful infrastructure.  And then there are corporations who won't come here because of the low standard of education.

But Nikki sees herself a future national treasure, much as Jim duh-Mint did, and just as Tim Scott imagines.  When she is able, she will always align herself with the right-wing, because that is where the money and power lie.

What is to be done about this waste of Nikki's talent?  I propose that she be given a job in the Clinton administration where she doesn't have to profess a philosophy of government, but just simply has a well-defined job to do.  Something where she has already proven her skills.  I am thinking head of FEMA.

Monday, October 3, 2016

When the "Silent Majority" Pushes You Around

It occurs to me that the title of this blog sounds like it could have come from Ghostbusters.  Maybe that is appropriate.  With all the bullshit that is coming from the tiny mouth of Donald Trump and his deplorables, this country needs more than ever a group to help us fight back.

Enter the ACLU.  The American Civil Liberties Union was once a valued part of our democracy.  My father, who came to this country from Italy in the late '40's, and who knew what was going on from newspapers and the evening news, understood the value of the ACLU.  Just as he understood how being a union member was essential to being able to support himself and a family.

But those pointy-headed elites -- I'm talking about the republican intellectual -- joined forces in the 50's and worked to change the very definition of the terms of our democracy.  They found words to undermine the meaning of freedom, in fact, began to use words like freedom to mean something entirely different than, well, freedom.  They twisted the truth and invented falsehoods, preying on fear and lack of education and sophistication, convincing Americans that their enemy was not the corporation, but people who were not like them, whether that difference was race, religion, political beliefs, sexual values.  Unions took their money, not corporations who paid less than a living wage.  The government didn't provide needed services, but controlled their lives through taxation.

And the ACLU was the evil scourge of communism, threatening our American values and our Christian way of life.

In fact, I just googled "attacks on aclu" and the first three citations were by those bastions of liberty:  the Washington Examiner, Breitbart and the Daily Caller, falsely accusing the ACLU of blaming the Christian right and the GOP for the Orlando shooting in June.

Too many of us these days have no clue what the ACLU is really up to.  They don't have the deep pockets of their opponents, and the reigning right-wing government leadership is encouraged to keep it that way.  But these days they continue to tirelessly fight the kind of bigotry that is running rampant in political campaigns and in state as well as national legislatures.

Voting rights, freedom of speech (not the kind that can be bought), women's reproductive freedom, these are only some of the battles being fought by the American Civil Liberties Union.  Here in South Carolina, the team is small but truly impressive.

And on Thursday, October 6, when Charleston County Democratic Women hold their monthly meeting, the Executive Director of South Carolina ACLU, Shaundra Scott, and Legal Director, Susan Dunn, will be talking to us about some of the issues they are currently addressing.

Charleston County Democratic Women meets the first Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Riverview Holiday Inn.  The buffet dinner is $20.  Everybody is welcome, but if you have not yet joined, membership is $25, and of course, donations are always welcome.

You can RSVP on Facebook at Charleston County Democratic Women, under "Events."  It promises to be another informative and energizing meeting.  I hope to see you there.