Monday, August 3, 2015

When a Cop Hurts One of Us

When I got back from my two weeks in the blue states, and as I slowly immersed myself back into bizarre red state politics, one of the strangest stories was that of Sandra Bland.  I saw the video of her stop, heard of her subsequent arrest, and then ... she was dead.  We appear to be debating whether her death was suicide or not.  I keep coming back to how on earth a police officer could treat a citizen the way Brian Encinia did to Sandra Bland.

I have lots of feelings about officers of the law, going back to being a teen in Warwick, Rhode Island, in the late 60's.  Back then they were shining lights into the car while we were "parking."  And I learned very early in my driving career to be more alert for cop cars than for speed limit and stop signs.  To this day when a cop is driving behind me I go into high alert, worried that even though I am going the speed limit I might get stopped if I venture one or two miles faster, or for something else entirely.

And I am a white-haired white woman.

I can't fathom being stopped for a minor traffic violation and having my attitude questioned.  Or being told to put out a cigarette, in my own car.  I can't begin to imagine having to worry about being taken to jail for minor violations.

I think when all the cop on black killings began to be aired after Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson we all just assumed it had been black men than were being targeted.  Initially it appeared that it was police reacting to what might have been honestly perceived as a dangerous situation, but when a man was shot in South Carolina after reaching for his license during a stop for a seat belt violation, the racism inherent in the choices being made by police became obvious.

Then a group of black teens -- children -- were assaulted by police at a pool party.  We've seen the bits on the news, the "most hilarious" moment when the cop has his Bruce Willis moment.  But take seven minutes to watch the unedited youtube video to capture the horrific reality of what raising a black child in America is all about.  It brings me to tears imagining that there are children in this country that could be treated that way.  

Because I am a white-haired white woman, I tend to be treated with respect by police officers in Charleston, even when I have been speeding.  And when I stepped out of my car to get my pocketbook in the back seat.  I have even had an officer stop and change a flat tire for me.  But I do remember that there was a time back in the 60's when cops were the enemies.  I was a teen in a RI suburb, but as I got a few years older, and became interested in the Vietnam protests and saw the paranoia of the Nixon years, I became aware of the potential for violence in our police force.

So many years ago, and in all that time, violence has continued to be perpetrated against African Americans by cops.  It must be so ingrained in the structure of the police force that even video cameras can't prevent the violence.

There has been such a history of police violence in our country.  It runs so deep and has been so well-protected that I am cynical about the potential for change.  If videos don't stop the violence and grand juries side with the cops, if a woman can be ordered to put out her cigarette in her own car and be arrested, if black men continue to be shot for totally innocent and reasonable behavior, if there are cops who will segregate children by their skin color and treat them as dangerous criminals, if there are police that will unite to protect fellow officers regardless of their behavior, what is there to do?

I imagine that much of it rests with the media.  There hasn't been all that much attention to Sandra Bland.  I don't know if it would be more upsetting if this were true because she is a woman or because the media has gotten tired of spending weeks focused on extreme police misconduct.  Maybe she would be getting more attention if she had been shot on the scene.  We may never know whether there was foul play in prison or if she committed suicide.  I suspect that the arresting cop was attempting to find her emotionally unstable from the moment she questioned his motives.  Calling women hysterical when they question authority has been going on since the Victorian era.  And with the likelihood of publicity, I imagine each cop who oversteps begins to try to figure out justifications for his behaviors at the very scene of his crime.  You could see this playing out as the various police yelled at the black kids at the pool party.

We need to keep shining light on these incidents.  We need to hound the media to continue to focus on all these many crimes against civilians.  With enough pressure and publicity, some towns have begun to change their policies.  It will take changing hiring practices and training and supervisory techniques.  It will take towns whose police chiefs see their officers as part of the community rather than seeing the people in the community as enemies.  It will take a whole realignment of the perception of when violence is necessary, and that realignment is in learning to see and hear what is really going on and truly become peace officers, cops who calm a situation rather than create fear.

When a cop attacks a black child, or an innocent black man or woman, he is attacking the world we live in.  He is creating disharmony, fear and hatred.  He is making it harder for good cops to do their job.  We need to continue to turn the attention of the country to each incident, even as they pile up and because there are so many, until there are no acceptable excuses and the face of the police in America has changed.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Why We Hate Our Government

I came back from my two-week hiatus from red state ignorance to a letter from Federal Blue Cross (FEP).  In a letter addressed to my deceased husband at my address, at which he never lived, I (he) was told that the Office of Personnel Management had instructed Blue Cross to terminate his family health insurance effective 11/16/14, which happens to be the day of his death.

We have all had frustrating experiences with the federal government.  There was the time when I lived in New York and an IRS error resulted in not getting the refund I was due.  After a couple of YEARS of trying to get this resolved, a letter to Al D'Amato (for-god's-sake) resulted finally in a speedy resolution.  Which could have happened far sooner and without political intervention if contacting the IRS had not at the time been like falling into a bottomless pit.

There was another time when the IRS billed me for back taxes and their punitive and insane interest and penalties for a couple thousand dollars of income I had earned as a psychology intern.  That time it took a favor from a lawyer for whom my neighbor worked; a brief phone call in which he explained that the stipend was tantamount to "coffee money" and should never have been taxable income quickly fixed the problem.

Not to overly dump on the IRS, as a psychologist I was one of the very few in Suffolk County, Long Island, that accepted Medicaid.  At a time when the going rate for therapy was $80 - $100 per 45 minute hour, Medicaid was paying $20 for sixty minute hours.  And that alone would not have been enough to cause me to finally end my relationship with Medicaid.  Claims were routinely lost and payments not made, calls took endless tries to complete and ended with a demand that I resubmit and wait another month for payment.  And the threat that at any time all my confidential records could be audited finally sunk the boat.  In the end, I chose to use a sliding fee scale of sorts for low income clients, $5 for a 45 minute session rather than Medicaid's $20 for sixty and all-the-grief-you-could-stomach.  Most others just chose not to accept Medicaid or lower their fees.

Each of us has a story of government bureaucracy, and this one is currently eating away at me.  So let me share it with you.

My husband died in the wee hours of a Sunday morning in November.  On Monday I made my first attempt to contact the Office of Personnel Management to apply for survivor benefits.  After a number of attempts met with a busy signal, I assumed it was a Monday morning thing and instead called Blue Cross.  The BC FEP representative told me I was entitled to benefits through November (which Stephan had already paid for) plus an additional 31 days of coverage at no cost.  Remember that.

What I learned on Tuesday about OPM (lesson 1) is that the busy signal wasn't a Monday morning thing.  It takes something like a half hour of calling and getting a busy signal before you get through.  It's like calling a radio station to win a prize.  Except that when you do get through you receive an automated message telling you there is a half hour wait.

When I reached a human, I reported my husband's death and my request to apply for survivor benefits.  I also told her about my plan to terminate BC FEP on December 31 when my 31 days of coverage was up.  She told me she would send me an application for survivor benefits and when they received it I would be switched to a self-only health insurance plan.  Which retrospectively made no sense.  But which led to lesson 2:  OPM representatives don't listen to a word you tell them.  The assumption is that they've heard it all before, they know what you want, and they are going to give it to you, regardless of your actual verbalizations.

Except that they don't.  Lesson 3 is that OPM loses more information than they eventually have on you.  And they appear to keep no record of your calls, request, and frequently, your paperwork.


After several calls spaced weeks apart to give them time to access whatever they needed to access, a kind representative offered to expedite my application process, meaning the process wherein THEY SEND ME THE APPLICATION.  Then another wait and another call to find that they had not yet received my application and it may take another month.

When they did finally receive and process my application -- and I actually have this piece of paper in my records although I have no recollection of receiving it -- someone at OPM filled out a form authorizing Blue Cross FEP to continue to provide me with coverage that I did not want, and authorizing monthly payment to Blue Cross from my survivor benefit.  That, folks, left me with a $17 per month benefit.  It also left me paying insurance on two plans, as I had applied for and was receiving insurance through the marketplace effective January 1.

My next call was to someone who was sympathetic and assured me that she would immediately put in the request that my health benefits be canceled effected January 1, and assured me that I would receive the amount paid to BC retroactively.  Except that didn't happen either.  The following month, I received a $17 monthly benefit, minus the insurance payment of $198.

Yet another call to OPM, after 1/2 hour on hold, ended with the call getting disconnected the moment I reached a human.  Hours later, the person I finally talked to snapped at me.  Truly.  She told me brusquely that I was getting the coverage because I had failed to fill out the Request to Terminate Coverage Form.  Of course; why didn't I know that?  So she sent me the form, and I immediately sent it back.  I called three weeks later, only to find...

...well, you all know what happened.  They hadn't received the form.  But maybe they have a way of knowing when an applicant has reached her wit's end.  Because I was given a fax number and told to send in a statement saying this was the 2nd notice, and that I was requesting my health benefits to end on 11/17/14.  After giving this a little thought, and knowing what I know knew about OPM, I changed the wording to request the termination effective 1/1/15.

On May 1, I received the full amount of my benefit, plus retroactive payments.

But wait -- you know that wasn't the end of the story.  My deceased husband has just been informed that some idiot at OPM has instructed Blue Cross to terminate his coverage, including the month he paid for before he died, on November 16, 2014.  And they are going after him for any claims they paid out during that time.

I do not believe there is anyone at OPM that can help me.  I do believe that I am going to be held liable, once OPM lets BC know Stephan is deceased but does not authorize coverage as stated by the plan.  My own House Rep. Jim Clyburn has never responded to an email, so I doubt that he would start now.  Tim Scott or Lindsey Graham might do it, but only if they could then crow about how bad the federal government is and demand further cuts.  I tried months ago to find a pro bono lawyer in the state or county offices for senior services, but -- surprise -- no luck.

Now I'll stop whining and tell you why this happens.  The federal government and certain departments are being starved for funds, in the expectation that we the people will be furious and vulnerable to idiots like the Tea Party.  This is simplistic and the problem goes back farther than Ted Cruz.

But think about it:  a department gets lots of funding when it seems to be a good idea.  Lots of people get hired, the public uses its services to the point where it needs to expand.  And then the group that is not in power starts to yell that the government isn't working right and demands cuts to that department.  People in lower levels of government (the ones that deal with us) don't lose their jobs but those with better options leave, technology upgrades don't happen, offices become shabby, workers feel attacked and in fact, they are.  They are not rewarded for good service, and unofficial rewards, like employee holiday parties, are publicized, denounced, then banned.  Supervisors are likewise under the gun and if not already burned out, burn out.  Old workers do what they have to to get by, young workers aren't hired as needed.  When they are hired, they find themselves in an environment that is depressing with work that is repetitive and unrewarding, and are burdened with stupid employee evaluations and unnecessary paperwork.

As with the backlog of veterans seeking health care, most departments in the government that directly serve the people are underfunded, with too few employees and incredibly outdated technology.  Supervisors are neither trained nor encouraged to make jobs easier or more pleasant for their employees.  They continue to require that i's are dotted and t's crossed, by hand and thousands of times over.

Except for the woman who snapped at me because I hadn't filled out a form that nobody told me I needed to fill out, I don't blame the OPM workers.  When government services are seen to be important, and government employees are treated with respect and also given reasonable tasks, departments like the Veterans Administration and the Office of Personnel Management will run more efficiently.  People will get what they need with far less waste of time and resources.

But then again, we will value government, see our tax dollars as wisely spent, and continue to vote for progressive democrats who will continue to promote and establish good government.

But meanwhile, I need to go back to writing another letter to OPM that will fall into that black hole.

*I have recently changed the Comments section of my blog so that it should be easier to post comments.  I would like to invite you to briefly share your stories of frustrations with government (ha ha -- "briefly"). 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

When Nikki Became a Hero

Once again today I heard a news commentator refer to Nikki Haley's heroic stance on taking down the Confederate battle flag.  It has me worried.

You know, they say even a broken clock is right twice a day.  That makes it one more time than our governor has been on the right side of a debate.

We need to remember that while she is basking in national glory, that she will continue to oppose any attempt to regulate gun use, and that while the symbol of the Confederate flag may have fueled the fire of hate, it was the gun purchased by Dylann Roof that killed nine innocent people.  And while we may find that it was a clerical error that allowed the purchase, it is the attitude that our right to carry a gun is to be protected above all else that made the error all that likely to happen.

We also need to remember that Governor Haley has during her tenure here prevented nearly 200,000 South Carolinians from having health insurance through federal Medicaid expansion.  And that she has continued to curtail food stamp eligibility.  And that she has worked unceasingly to prevent workers from joining together to bargain for a living wage and liveable working conditions.

She has never missed an opportunity to remind us that she has brought jobs to the state, but she has given over $1 billion to Boeing, while doing little to encourage small businesses.  Her jobs program has resulted in less economic growth than all those states who do not give away the store to big corporations to win them over.

She has opposed a gas tax during a time of lower gas prices while our roads and bridges crumble, missing a jobs opportunity that would also bring much needed infrastructure improvements.

We need to keep an eye on Nikki Haley.  She is as ambitious as Lady Macbeth, and she has been handed an historic opportunity to take the national stage.  And to those in the media who don't live here with her she has become today's hero.  And she will take full advantage of that, and she will be helped along by those big corporations she has been courting, and by the most radical right-wing of her party.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Supreme's Greatest Hits

The Supreme Court seems to have ended its session and begun summer vacation with a bang.  Three major decisions over the past several days have reflected what I heard one commentator refer to as the most "liberal" court in decades.

To which I did a double take.  But when I thought about it, we did have some really significant wins.

The surprise decision was the one that supported the Fair Housing Act of 1968.  Surprising in light of the demolition of the Voting Rights Act, which gave states the right the do whatever damn thing they wanted to keep selected groups from voting, and which they wasted no time following through.  Chief Justice John Roberts, with his Pollyanna smile, declared there was no need for voting rights protection because racism was dead.  Leaving me wondering what rationalizations he made to justify the red-state rush to legalize voter discrimination immediately after the decision.

Not one to ever learn from his mistakes, Roberts was one of the four who voted against supporting the Fair Housing Act.  But he did weigh in with us liberals on the case that had my heart beating fast.  The state health care exchanges, with federal subsidies, remained intact, leaving a lot of folks like me with our Obamacare.  The vote was 6-3, with the core group of idiots, Scalia, Thomas and Alito holding down the right wing-nut opinion.

For those of you who are thinking Roberts may be sliding to the left, his opinion had nothing to do with the rights of Americans to have affordable health care.  His decision, just like the one in favor of Obamacare three years ago, was purely pro-business.  If you recall back then Roberts' opinion had pretty much everybody's head spinning, including his own.  He twisted and corkscrewed the law, arguing not the obvious one that was in question regarding the Commerce Clause, but that the individual mandate was a tax, and the feds were within their constitutional right to levy that tax.

So.  I'm thinking Roberts knew quite well that the insurance industry would take a crippling blow if it lost all us customers that could no longer afford health insurance without the federal subsidies.  And there are quite a lot of us.

Scalia, on the other hand, and despite his contention that his decisions are based purely on constitutional originalism, consistently bases his decision on what feels good to him.  This is the guy, after all, who believes that the devil is a real person.  So let's assume logic doesn't have as much to do with his thinking process as he would like us to believe.

Along with his imaginings of the devil and what the founding fathers believed we should be doing all these years later, Scalia has the kind of rigid and fragile psyche that just can't take much confrontation.  And so when he writes his dissents (which Chris Hayes noted are extremely wonderful and entertaining, especially because they are dissents) he tends not to sound all that educated, or intelligent, or even rational.

In his dissenting opinion on the Obamacare decision he calls the majority opinion "interpretive jiggery-pokery" and "pure applesauce," legal terms that no doubt go back to the founding fathers.  He snipes that since the Court has backed Obamacare in two major decisions, "we should start calling this law SCOTUScare."  And in an overwrought, pubescent and melodramatic fit, he sums it up by saying, "Words no longer have meaning...."

Roberts predictably let his right-wing flag fly in the marriage equality decision.  No surprise there.  It was purely a human rights case, and human rights will not sway our Chief Justice.  And I was not at all surprised that Kennedy was the deciding vote in favor of marriage equality, as he has voted in favor of gay rights before.

I'm thinking that a couple of things are happening with the Supremes.  Justice Kennedy retains his position as the swing vote.  I believe that he is a romantic, and he likes to feel like he is being wooed.  It also seems to me that he is easily influenced by the new guys on the block.  It happened when Roberts and Alito took up the cause of the right a decade ago, and now we have the left-leaning Kagan and Sotomayor.

Roberts is going to vote pro-business and against human rights.  The only individual he is going to support is the individual corporation.

The most fun these days is watching the narcissistic Scalia as he comes apart at the seams.  And even better, the more that happens, the less likely Kennedy is likely to want to be seen siding with him, leaving him sitting alone at the cafeteria table with Clarence Thomas and Sammy Alito.

Without taking away from these important victories, though, I am concerned about one group of decisions, those affecting women's privacy and health care rights.  Hobby Lobby, which has never blinked about paying for insurance that covers vasectomies, won the right to deny women contraceptive coverage.  Even Kagan and Sotomayor voted against a woman's right to be safe from harassment at an abortion clinic, refusing to support a state's right to determine an appropriate buffer zone from protesters.

At this point, with state and federal legislators pushing ever more extreme anti-abortion bills into law, pro-choice groups are afraid to take a case to this Supreme Court, fearing the complete overturn of Roe v. Wade.  This could happen, but we need to take our cue from the fearlessness and persistence of the LGBT community.  We need to continue to take cases to the Supremes, and we need to find new arguments, just as Burwell did with Obamacare.  We can't stop fighting, and we can't let our worry about the bias of all those Catholics on the bench slow us down or even cause us to hesitate.  As disappointed as I have been in the women's reproductive health care decisions, it is only by showing our strength that they will eventually be swayed.

So have a good summer vacation, Supremes.  We are counting on you to keep us entertained next time around. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Safer to Debate the Flag

Yesterday I posted to a Facebook group in response to a comment about "the flag."  I commented about a concern that I have these days, that is, that while we're all worked up about the Confederate flag, the even more important debate about gun control has gotten left behind -- just the way the NRA wants it.

Minutes later, someone replied in a rage.  She posted something to the effect that first we got her flag and now we want to take away her guns, and added "don't you people ever have enough?"  I thought about ignoring the rant, and then I thought about being intimidated by crazy people with guns.  So I replied that I wondered what was wrong with a debate about guns, and also, who "you people" are.  My first thought was that my picture was on my post and I am very obviously not an African American.  But no, her reply (which I merely scanned as she was getting more wild and long-winded) indicated that the group of "you people" to which I belonged was liberals.

Two days after her press conference about the flag, I heard an MSNBC commentator ask, "Nikki Haley being considered for vice president?"  This was after I had been stewing about what a shrewd political move this was on Haley's part.  Of course, the question at this point is idiotic, but her goals of being on the national stage are evident.

What makes me want to pull my hair out is just how clever her move was.  It may be time to take the flag down, she said, but let's not forget all those people who truly see the flag as a proud representation of their southern heritage.  Really, she repeated, let's not forget those people who love them their confederate flag.  And said it a couple more times.  She pretty nearly said the flag should come down, but she also made it quite clear that it wouldn't be up to her. 

While in Alabama for-goodness-sake the republican governor ordered all four flags removed from the capitol grounds, Nikki is letting us all know that her greatest concern is following the letter of the law.   Wink, wink.  That's the Nikki Haley that has never let the letter of the law get in the way of doing what she wants where her own self interest is concerned.

And as if Alabama hadn't had our heads spinning enough, Paul Thurmond, son of that old racist Strom, spoke eloquently and unequivocally calling for the end to the waving of the flag that represented racism and slavery.

So while Bentley of Alabama and our own Paul Thurmond are proving themselves to be on the right side of history on this one, I'm thinking that this is still a win-win for Haley.  She gets to sound like a reformer while making it clear that her heart is also with her redneck base.  She's going to let idiot senator Lee Bright take up the call for the paranoid and delusional.  As he is quoted in the New York Times:

“There are those of us who have ancestors that fought and spilled blood on the side of the South when they were fighting for states’ rights, and we don’t want our ancestors relegated to the ash heaps of history,” he said. “Through the years, the heroes of the South have been slandered, maligned and misrepresented, and this is a further activity in that.”

I am aware of just how quickly a pleasant southerner can turn rabid when certain trigger words come up.  It once was "Clinton" as in Bill, and then it became "Obama."  I imagine that over the coming months people will start to foam at the mouth over "Hillary."  But there are words like "confederate flag" and "gun control," "taxes" and "unions" that accomplish that same effect.  And republican politicians here in South Carolina have trained their followers well.

I don't think Dylann Roof created the firestorm that is brewing in our state.  It has always been close to the surface.  If we are truly going to "debate" the flag, we are going to see the crazies coming out of the woodwork.  And that leads me to my main point.

Nikki Haley lept at the chance to take her stand with the confederate flag.  She got to sound strong, and she got to move the debate away from gun control.  You may have heard that at a church vigil last week, a call for gun control was met by a roar of approval and a standing ovation -- except for Nikki Haley and Tim Scott, conspicuously seated in the front row.

It is clear that while Haley may shed a few crocodile tears for these victims of gun violence, she is able to pull herself together for the NRA.  Tim Scott, who pretends to be one with the African American community, is on the side of money and power -- as usual -- in this case, feet firmly planted on the same side as wacko Lee Bright, for the freedom to wield weapons.  Scott and Haley made a striking pair, sitting at the vigil for nine dead who would be alive but for the ease with which Dylann Roof could get a gun.

And that's the thing.  While we all fight one important battle -- to take down that flag that represents the enslavement and subsequent fear and hatred for free and equal African Americans, the issue of guns in the hands of the haters is left on the back burner.  Those bills promoting guns in schools and shops and on the street, open carry, lessening of training requirements, Second Amendment Awareness Day, tax free holidays for guns, they aren't going anywhere.  And how do we fight it anyway?  If the angry rednecks are getting ready for a showdown over the confederate flag, what will they do if they think the issue is taking away their guns?

I was unnerved by the strange Facebook attack yesterday.  But I am going to continue to talk about the need for gun control.  You can see, though, how much easier it would be to go after the flag and once again let the whole gun thing go away, until next time.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Still Too Soon...

Since the church massacre in Charleston, committed by a paranoid psychotic young man with a weapon he should never have had, I have been stunned, and then disgusted, and now enraged.  In attempting to do some cursory research for this post, I found that there is absolutely nothing I can say that hasn't already been said.  The same clowns and NRA puppets are coming out and saying the same things they said after the movie theater shooting in Aurora, after the massacre of children in Newtown, after each and every obscene mass murder in our country since Columbine.

When that asshole Mark Sanford was asked about gun control on MSNBC on Thursday, he said, "I think it's premature.  I think that advocates on both sides of the gun debate will use this tragedy to make their case."  He called it a "tug-of-war, if you will, that goes with the world of politics."

I wish I could just say what I am thinking, but the string of obscenities that come to mind just don't advance my position on this, so I won't.  Although obscenity would certainly be warranted in response to the obscenity of Sanford's bullshit.

Fact is, as usual, Sanford is not saying anything new.  I am sure that since Wednesday the NRA has been in high gear, reaching out to all its politicians in South Carolina and the rest of the country, soothing raw nerves, giving Nikki Haley a figurative tissue to dry her eyes.  I'm not sure she was choked up over the tragedy, or over "the humility" she was seeing.  A normal human being might consider that she had been wrong about her staunch advocacy over gun rights; after her all too recent prayer day, she might even wonder if God was trying to tell her something.  But what will come out of this, after she congratulates herself on being there for the families of the victims, is more certainty that what we need is more law and order, as well as more guns.  Just like her buddies at the NRA want her to believe.

It's appalling -- appalling doesn't even approach the word I am trying to convey -- that these protectors of the weapons can pretend to be protectors of the people.  The NRA bullshit spouted by Lindsey Graham about a mother needing a high capacity gun to defend her children, the bullshit by Wayne LaPierre that has been parroted by all our gun-totin', NRA worshipping officials:

This morning The Onion did an angry and ironic spoof, not of the violence, but of the NRA's Charles Cotton who was front and center telling us why we should not cause this tragedy to infringe on our constitutional rights.  In the words of The Onion:

“While we mourn those killed, we should never let an incident like this distract from our defense of [the fact that I myself am a pile of human waste who is fundamentally incapable of responding to the deaths of innocent people without raw, putrid sewage gushing from my mouth].”

And keep your eyes on Lindsey Graham, who is now saying that the reason this happened is the failure of the national background check system.  I wonder why the system failed... maybe it's because the last time it was up for debate in Congress people like Lindsey Graham played politics with it, hoping to slip in some nasty amendments and maybe water down the language.  It seems to me that basically what Graham wanted to do was track people who were mentally ill, and under no circumstances allow universal background checks.

If there was money involved here, I would say keep your hand on your wallet.

But it's only about money for the NRA.  They are again twisting this tragedy around to promote the kind of fear that actually armed people like the young man who committed this horrendous crime.  After Aurora, it took the NRA about a week to come up with the line that it is too soon after the tragedy to debate gun control.  By the time of the Newtown massacre, they were armed and ready, successfully convincing politicians and too many of the fearful public that what was needed was more guns, not less.

And the taste of success was green and gold.  Billions of dollars were made by the arms industry from the blood of innocent and fearful Americans.

So now the lines are well rehearsed.  The NRA has actually, as spoofed by The Onion, assigned blame to pastor and state senator Clementa Pinckney for failing to support bills that would allow people to carry guns in churches.  While Charleston mourns the tragedy, Nikki Haley has come out armed and ready for revenge, saying that the gunman deserves the death penalty.  I don't know what god she prayed to last weekend, but it was not the one that was being studied at the Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Conferencing on Abortion in SC

So, if tomorrow's conference committee does not agree to the proposed amendments on H 3114, that damned twenty-week abortion ban, it won't go away.  I can't promise you that your action will send it to the garbage pile where it belongs.  But if we can get enough of the six senators and representatives on the committee to refuse to go along with the bill, it will be done till next legislative session.

Even more important, we will have sent a strong message to the right wingnuts who believe government should be controlling women's medical decisions.  We will be telling them that we will not be bullied, that reasonable and concerned legislators will not compromise away our rights and our daughters' rights, and our families' rights.

This bill is not about whether a fetus can feel pain, because if it was about that, it would have gone away as soon as the real medical experts weighed in.  It is not about God's plan, and although most of the legislators have been careful not to talk about religion, since we still have the pretense of separation of church and state, "testimony" has been more about presuming to know God's plan than medical science.

The bill is not about defending life, because the very same people who are trying to push this bill through are the ones who believe guns should not be regulated, taxes should not pay to help children of the poor receive medical care or even adequate nutrition, and parents are not entitled to the kind of living wage that would allow them to care for their children.

This bill is about control and punishment.  It is about people who obsess about sex and can only deal with that obsession by seeking to control and punish others.  And it is about people who continue, in the 21st century, to blame women for seeking independence and -- worse -- pleasure.

I was not happy with the amendment that was added in the Senate that would allow exceptions for rape, incest, severe fetal abnormalities and the health of the woman.  Because basically that becomes a law that allows women to do what they have been able to do freely since Roe v. Wade, because it is their right.  The fact that some legislators believe that it is their prerogative to turn this right into a law means that women and doctors must now submit to control by government.  It is a manipulation to impose guilt and pain on women, to force doctors to focus on providing proof to the state rather than give their best medical care, unfettered by regulation.  Hmph.  And these are the people who whine about regulation for everything from weapons to pollution.

What is worse is that fools like Lee Bright and Wendy Nanney just can't abide by women getting away with having sex and being able to get an abortion under any circumstances.  Smarmy people who believe they have God's ear thinking that a woman should be forced to carry a pregnancy that was forced on her.  People who believe they represent "family values" when they force a woman to carry a fetus that may be stillborn or only live hours or days.  And forced to pay the exorbitant medical bills, and worse, forced to take care away from their families in order to carry a fetus that is unlikely to survive.

Harsh, isn't it?  I believe this is why we on the pro-choice side are not as loud and persistent as those who are working so hard to curtail our liberties.  But if we don't speak out, yet again, it is our right to determine our own path that will be taken away from us.  Doctors who perform abortions will be hounded until they decide it is too costly, emotionally as well as financially, to practice.  Our daughters may in the not too distant future be looking at the back alley and coat-hangar decisions that were tearing us apart up until 1973.

So let me ask you one more time to contact these members of the conference committee:

Rep. Robert Ridgeway

Sen. Raymond Cleary

Sen. Brad Hutto

Sen. Katrina Shealy

We are anticipating that these are the committee members who are likely to be more rational and receptive to our call for reason in this matter.

I have sent the following email to each:

At twenty weeks, few women seek an abortion.  Those that do are likely to be making this decision because their health is at stake, or they have learned that the fetus has severe abnormalities.  Some women or girls have been raped, and yes, it may take this long for them to come to terms with this tragic situation. 
It is wrong to force a woman to carry to term a pregnancy that may be so severely deformed that it will be stillborn or only live minutes or days.  It is not for the government, but only for the woman with her physician's medical expertise to come to a decision.  The harm that is done by forcing this path onto a woman and her family is unconscionable.
Please do not allow H 3114 to pass without the exceptions that were added to the Senate version of this bill.

To Senator Brad Hutto, I included the following:
I believe this bill is unnecessary and an insult to the rights of women to medical privacy and freedom.  

I urge you to call or write (or both) each member of this committee, which meets Tuesday at 10.  This may be our last chance to give our crucial input to this horrible bill.