Friday, October 17, 2014

What's In It for Me?

Corporations and their right-wing patsies have figured out that the way to win is to make it all about us, even though it's really not.  They make all their pitches about what we have to gain, and more important, what we have to lose, if we don't vote for them.  Those of us who don't vote often believe that it won't make a difference, that both parties are the same, that nobody represents them.  When we Democrats fail, it is often because we waffle about our principles so that we don't offend anyone, or we talk about them too broadly so they become meaningless to people who are struggling with day to day problems.

There are a lot of differences between the parties and the candidates, and they are not abstract.  They reflect the issues we are struggling with every day.  Who gets elected in November is going to determine in very real terms whether our lives will get better or we will just get by.  This election affects dramatically every person of every age.

So here it is, the pitch:

College graduates:  Republicans are opposed to allowing the refinancing of student loans, forcing graduates to carry high-interest rate loans for years.  This means being strapped with debt before they have even been able to make their way in the workforce.  The high interest loans involved are either owned or guaranteed by the federal government, so this is money that our government is making from what should be an investment in a student's future.  Debt from everything from mortgages to credit cards can be refinanced.  Big banks are allowed to borrow at 0 percent from the government.  Why are students forced to pay exorbitant rates on their loans?  Because the Republicans do not want to increase taxes on the millionaires and billionaires that fund their campaigns.

Women:  Oh, so many issues are so critical for the well-being of women in South Carolina.  Our state and federal legislators continue to force votes that would prevent women from accessing affordable birth control.  Preventing women from having family planning will result in not just unplanned pregnancies, but the stress involved with not being able to control decisions about college, jobs and marriage.  It will result in job insecurity.  Men should be outraged that legislators would remove from the family decisions that so directly effect emotional and financial well-being.

Parents:  School choice is the pseudonym for privatizing.  Basically all the many schemes offered provide inadequate financial allotments to most while the wealthy can continue to send their children to the expensive private schools. This false promise also drains money from a public school system that has never been funded adequately here in South Carolina.

Seniors:  Republican fear mongering about Social Security and Medicare is also all about privatization.  Back in the '80's, social security cuts were enabled by the promise of IRA's, which were supposed to herald in a future of wealth and prosperity, but actually just made us all vulnerable to the greed and speculation of Wall Street.  This false promise also allowed corporations to bargain away our pensions.  Cuts to Medicare have and will continue to damage a system that was once a great safety net, forcing seniors to spend more on health care at a time when they should not have to worry about whether they will be able to pay to survive.

So many issues:

Food Stamps:  Too many people are working and not earning a living wage.  Food stamps not only feeds the poor, but keeps dollars flowing in our communities.

Medicaid:  Not wanting everyone to have health insurance is just plain cruel.  But it is also stupid.  Even without the panic over Ebola, the inability to treat a medical problem before a contagion spreads, or a treatable illness becomes terminal, is costly as well as inhumane.  And again, providing health care also provides jobs to our communities.

Minimum Wage:  All the arguments against raising the minimum wage are really about not wanting to raise the wages of those who are making more than minimum.  Because Republicans really do know that a rising tide lifts all boats.  What they really don't want to see is all wages rise in response to the raise in the minimum wage.  Greedy and stupid?  Sure, but these are the politics we have been suffering under since the 80's.  If you are not working for minimum wage, and you're still struggling, you should be fighting -- and voting -- for raising the minimum wage.  And again, raising the minimum wage puts more dollars into the pockets of those who will spend it in their communities.  So if you are a business person, you too should be wanting everyone in your community to be making a living wage.

Voting Rights:  We all know people who won't be voting because they are afraid they will be confronted (and embarrassed) at the polls.  Let's get out there and vote to protect everybody's rights and elect people who will not need to use intimidation to win.

Gun Control:  Those who are most vulnerable in general tend to live in areas where there is more danger of gun violence.  The Second Amendment argument is pure nonsense.  But the mostly republican lawmakers who refuse to make the streets safe for all our citizens need to be voted out of office.  Our police officers should be voting for legislators who support reasonable gun controls; their lives are on the line as well.  And with shootings by officers in the news, we know that the more guns on the streets, the more stressful the job, and the more likely they will have to live (or die) based on a split second decision.

I could go on and on.  There are so many issues that really do affect us every single day.  I urge our candidates to talk to people not about issues that don't seem relevant to them, but to relate the legislation they would pursue to what it means for each of us, every day.  And when we talk to others about the upcoming election, if we talk about how each issue ripples out to affect us all, we might just motivate people to get out and vote.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

And THIS Phony Award Goes to... Tim Scott

I don't usually have so much to say on one subject that I do it in two consecutive days, but I have just learned from Senator Tim Scott that he has just been awarded the "Taxpayers' Friend Award," and, well, it was just too juicy to resist.

Yesterday I wrote about how I nearly choked while forcing myself to watch Tim Scott's TV ad about how he has been hanging around us "everyday people."  Call it masochism, but as one of the simple folk, I subscribe to Senator Scott's email newsletter, in order to be better informed as to what headaches the royalty are experiencing on my account.  Usually it has to do with battling that great beast, Obama.  But at times Scott feels he owes it to us to share the good news.  Which, of course, has to do with him, not us.

When Scott was running for the House of Representatives two short (or maybe too long) years ago, he was conveniently awarded the folksy sounding, "Standing Up for Seniors Award."  He got that by insisting that we seniors would be far better off if we got off our butts and supported ourselves for a couple more years, and if we stopped letting the government coddle us the way it coddles Congress.

Quelle surprise!  The award was given out by a group called RetireSafe, whose name really referred to the fact that you should climb into bed and pull the covers up if you really wanted to be safe from these guys.  They are a group of right wingnuts that make buckets of money for Big Pharma; they are still out there doing their best to keep us away from drugs that don't maximize profit for their members.

As Arlo Guthrie once said, "Some things change; some things don't."  This year's "Taxpayers' Friend Award" is brought to Tim by the National Taxpayers Union (yes, a union),  one of those groups that like to throw around words like "freedom" a lot.  Their goal, of course, is to cut taxes, the byproduct of which would be to cut government services.  Oh, but they fail to mention the cutting services part.  Tim calls it a "nonpartisan advocacy group," which is what you do when you have a bunch of rich partisans giving you an award and you want to lie about it.

Anyway, I want to end once again by saying that Tim Scott is a phony, and I wouldn't believe him if he told me what day of the week it is.  What I would do is urge everyone who really does work hard and pay taxes and try to do the best they can to support someone who really will work in Congress for us.

Joyce Dickerson
Not afraid to speak her mind.

Joyce Dickerson has been and will continue to fight for our individual freedoms -- as opposed to Tim's battle for corporate rights.  The right to earn a living wage, the right to health care equality and privacy, the right to a good education, which requires investing in good teachers and good schools in order to invest in our kids.  The right of veterans and the unemployed to get back on their feet.  The right of each of us to vote.  The right to have our government work for us, and not against us.

Don't forget, the ETV SC Senate debate is on October 28.  Listen for yourself, and spread the word.

Joyce Dickerson
US Senate

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pretending to Be ... You and Me

You know I fast forward through TV commercials, but when I saw Tim Scott I slowed it down ... then I rewound it ... then I did it again ... and then I wrote it down.  Then I shut my mouth, which had been hanging open for some time.

Here's the appointed Senator:

"I've gone all throughout South Carolina, doing everyday jobs with strong, everyday people, so that I could understand their dreams, their passions and what inspires them.  I've bagged groceries, I've waited tables, cut chicken and swept floors..." (group of well dressed, mostly white older folk milling about, hanging -- casually -- on his words, laugh), "...even separated clothes at the Goodwill.  And what I've learned is so powerful....  Everyday people understand that they have been empowered by the greatness of our country."

First of all, what is this "everyday people" crap?  Obviously he is talking about us.  Which sets us apart from... Tim Scott.  Oh, he throws in the word "strong" so it doesn't sound condescending.  Only because he is being condescending.

Well, Tim Scott apparently has been out in the upper reaches for so long that he felt the need to come down to commune with us "everyday people."  He's bagged groceries.  The man has "even" separated clothes at Goodwill.  Excuse my French as well as my redundance, but what a condescending piece of crap.

And the human props in the ad:  one African American woman (might as well kill two demographics with one stone), one Hispanic looking man, dressed as though he's just come from his middle class job.  And an assortment of middle-aged, pleasant looking and prosperous white men.  Imagine the auditions.

But back to the rousing speech.  Because we are about to find out what our fellow Tim has learned that is "so powerful...."

I'm figuring that after a few eight hour shifts "cutting chicken" (and is there a Tyson poultry plant hereabouts?) and sweeping floors, he's probably gotten an earful.  No doubt he's heard about how hard it is to get a day off to take care of a sick kid, not to mention stay home with the flu.  Or maybe his co-workers have proudly told him about their kids who graduated college but can't find jobs, or have been having a hard time paying down their student loans.  I'm thinking he must have heard lots of stories about living on the wages from that job sweeping floors, and about trying to find the money to pay the month's rent as well as the car repair.

But NO.

What our Tim Scott has learned in the time he spent with those people he obviously has to go out of his way to meet these days, is that "everyday people understand that they have been empowered by the greatness of our country."

Well, let me just say this about that.  Tim, you really need to not just push those brooms around when you go out to be with us "everyday people."  You need to listen to what we are telling you.  Because you are really the one who has "been empowered by the greatness of our country."  The rest of us have just been getting by, one day at a time.  We worry about our family's health, our children's "minimally adequate" education, our jobs -- which, I might add, don't come with the great benefits that your job provides.  We worry about whether we will make it to retirement age before our tired old bones give out, and whether we will have enough in our monthly social security checks to get by.

You, Tim, are smarmy and self-satisfied.  You have had those rich folks praising you for so long you actually believe the crap they are telling you.  They are paying you, and showering you with praise and fake awards, so that you will continue to vote to give them power without responsibility so that they can continue to make buckets of money while us "everyday people" struggle with all the things that can go wrong in our lives, while you spend a couple of hours pretending you are one of us.

Paul Ryan tried that once during his vice presidential campaign.  He pushed his way into a soup kitchen, pretending to clean already clean pots and pans, in order to create a photo op.  Tim Scott is using the same political playbook.  And I truly hope it works as well for Scott as it did for Ryan.

Back to Tim's pandering TV ad.  This disgusting ad ends by calling him "A senator for all of South Carolina."  Well, no, he's not.  He's not even much of a senator for most of South Carolina.  He is a man who has his head set on getting ahead, so he can hobnob with his wealthy friends.

So lets spread the word about the woman who is running against this puffed up hypocrite.  We need to elect someone who truly knows what her constituents are going through day to day.  We need someone who understands what it is like to be afraid of losing a job, to worry about your child's education, to work hard for too little pay.  We need someone who will fight for us.  That someone is Joyce Dickerson.

Joyce Dickerson
...and she's not afraid to speak her mind.

She doesn't have the buckets of money flowing into her campaign like Tim Scott has, because she doesn't cater to the wealthy and the big corporations.  So you might not see a lot of ads, but mark your calendar to see her debate Scott on ETV on October 28.

And spread the word.

Joyce Dickerson
US Senate

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Dickerson v. Scott on November 4

In September, in another blog, I wrote about Joyce Dickerson.  For those of you who may not know, there is an election coming up, on November 4.  And you may know that there is an election, but you may not know who is running against Tim Scott.  The answer is, Joyce Dickerson.  And the reason you may not have heard of her, is that all the money, I mean, all the big money, is on Tim Scott.  He is being financed by all those cats from all those foundations that have the word "freedom" in them.  You know, freedom as in don't mess with my freedom to keep making big bucks and not have to be responsible to anyone for how I do it.

Well, in the time it has taken for Nikki Haley, who has never met a big donor she didn't like, to appoint Tim Scott to take care of her supporters in the US Senate, he has become a Big Name in politics.  Not because he is smart, because he is not.  Not because he makes tough choices, because he doesn't.  Not because he cares about the people of South Carolina.  Tim Scott's claim to fame is that he is an African American.  Yes, the media loves Tim Scott for being an African American senator the same way they love Nikki Haley because she is a woman governor.

But Tim Scott, like Nikki Haley, are rubber-stamp Tea Party conservatives.  Scott has been, since his appointment by Haley, groomed by the right wing, and he is delighted to do their bidding, and to believe that he is doing it for the good of the people.  But if you look at his voting record, there is no question whose camp he is in.

He may send out flowery emails on all the days that commemorate our veterans, but he does not hesitate to vote against anything that might improve their lives when they are done fighting for their country.  He is quick to tell how he was raised by a hard working mother who sacrificed to help him get where he is today, but he will flush down the toilet any bill that might give other children that same chance, or make the going a little easier for the moms that raise them.  He has learned to talk about how he is pro-small-business, but small businesses take a back seat to the big corporations that control him.

And then there is Joyce.

Even our own Jim Clyburn couldn't quite figure out why a woman would want to run against two men in the SC primary election.  But she knew why she needed to run, and without a whole lot of help, she beat her opponents.  She is outspoken and unafraid, and she will be heard.

Joyce Dickerson is uncompromising when it comes to working for the middle class and the disadvantaged.  She understands that freedom includes the right for a woman to determine her own reproductive health care, and without the intrusion of the government.  She knows that supporting the veterans isn't just about waving a flag and sending out emails on Veterans Day, but about making sure they have health care, and jobs or the opportunity to train for jobs that will provide them a living wage when they get home.  She will fight for a living wage for workers and the right to affordable health care.  Joyce will make sure that our children don't go hungry, and that they will be educated in good schools by well-trained and well-paid teachers.  Improve our roads?  Keep the oil barons out of our port?

What Joyce's candidacy means to me is just about every issue that matters.  She's not afraid to speak her mind and follow that up with action.  I can imagine her on the floor of the Senate, and being interviewed about critical issues and votes.  She is a woman we could be proud to have represent us in South Carolina.  What a breath of fresh air!

So, if a breath of fresh air is what you think we need, please be sure to vote.  Equally important:  don't be afraid to talk to friends, family, co-workers, neighbors about the upcoming election.  Ask them what they are unhappy about, and then tell them how Joyce Dickerson will work to change those things.

Joyce Dickerson for US Senate


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Why We Vote ... And Why We Don't

Given the fact that we are free to complain as much as we want about our politicians, it's just sad how little we know about what they do.  Political success these days, with help from the Supreme Court, is determined by public relations, which is brought to us by... money, lots of money.

And yet, if we wanted to learn about our candidates, we have so much information at our fingertips.  Project Vote Smart has a wealth of information about candidates, including voting record and ratings by organizations.

And yet, if not for a plethora of TV ads, most of us would have no idea there is an election coming up.  And those of us that do know, and plan on voting, may not have a clue who the candidates are, or their stand on the issues.

Man oh man, this is not the time to vote with your eyes closed.  Nor is it the time to skip voting.  We have had too many years of the rich getting richer and the poor losing voting rights, health care, and wages to stay silent.

Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Nancy, is an amazing documentary film maker, who wanders around shopping centers and parking lots across America asking people questions about politics.  In an interview with Bill Maher on Real Time on September 26, she said, "...people do not know there is an election."  Those who said they were going to vote rarely knew the candidates.  If they said they were going to vote "for the republican," and Pelosi asked about specific issues, she comments that "...if you go through the laundry list (of issues), they don't know what a republican is."

So here's the thing.  We need to tell people there is an election on November 4.  Our politicians need to get personal, and talk not just about the issues, but about how the issues are going to affect them.

They need to know that by South Carolina not taking federal Medicaid dollars, not only are our tax dollars going back to Washington, but people here are getting sick and costing us all whether it is in time lost from work or children going to school with contagious illnesses.  When state and federal government try to make laws regulating a woman's reproductive health, this is government interference in family decisions.  When our lawmakers refuse to allow our college graduates to refinance their student loans, they are burdening our young adults as they are trying to begin their adult lives.  And all of the above taxes our economy and stresses our families.  And wastes taxpayer dollars.

We need to get specific.  Because when people talk about the issues, and their personal stake in those issues, they are talking about Democratic values.  They just don't know it yet.  And when they realize what is personally at stake, they may just make the effort to get out and vote.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blue Dogs Going Down

I was surprised to hear that Alison Lundergan Grimes has fallen behind that idiot Mitch McConnell in the polls.  How is that possible?  McConnell has done more to disrupt the workings of government for the people of his state than just about anyone except Tim Scott in the Senate.  Maybe it's because she begins a new ad with, "I'm not Barack Obama," and then says that she disagrees with him on "guns, coal and the EPA."

Well, I'm here to say that she may have just gotten a whole lot of supporters to decide to stay home on election day.  There appear to be in Kentucky actual liberals who don't equate gun control with tyranny but with increased safety and a reduction in crime.  They may also think that coal should not be their children's future; they just may want their kids to grow up without the threat of cancer and climate disasters; they might want to see renewable energy be the source of jobs in Kentucky.  And as for getting rid of the EPA, well, we've heard that old song a lot, but we didn't think we'd hear it from a fellow Democrat.

We don't need another blue dog Democrat undermining the progress the current president has worked so hard (against the tide of Congressional ignorance) to promote.  And I don't think the voters in Kentucky are going to get quite as excited about someone who promises to be McConnell-lite.

Hearing Grimes promise not to be like Barack Obama raises some other questions.  For example, while she supports equal pay for women and help for victims of abuse, she fails to mention whether she supports a woman's right to reproductive freedom and privacy.  I shudder to imagine her failing to support access to birth control and abortions, but can you really trust someone who opposes environmental regulation?

Just as here in South Carolina, we have had to make some tough choices, and Grimes is a sight better than McConnell, but it is disturbing to see members of our own party attempting to curry the favor of those who oppose Democratic principles.  And I have to think that I am not alone in my disappointment.  Those of us who understand the consequences of not voting will grit our teeth and pull that lever for the Democratic candidate.  But sadly, a lot of those who are less informed will go with what they know rather than someone who is trying to sound like them.  And way too many others of us will just stay home.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Prayers Not Required

Yesterday I was at Charleston's Blue Jamboree, where too few Democrats turned out to hear some very exciting candidates.  One young man was particularly stirring.  He is smart and heartfelt, and it would do us proud to elect him in November.  But he ended his remarks by asking us ALL to pray for him.  Well, I plan on doing my part, but praying is not included.  Many of you know that I am an atheist.  Over the years, as I have felt more and more bombarded with Christian "goodwill" I have felt it incumbent to let others know how they can stop treating us as nonentities.

So when he was done, I went to the young candidate and waited to speak.  He turned to me and went to hug me, a little, round white haired lady who surely wanted a hug.  I said to him, "I think you're great, and I hope you get elected, but I want you to know this:  I am a good person and a strong Democrat, but I am an atheist, so I won't be praying for you.  I hope you'll remember that next time you speak."  He recovered nicely and I patted his arm, and walked away.

I felt really good about speaking up for myself, and for those of us who are of the atheist "persuasion."  But when I got home, I began to feel... guilty.  I'm sure I put him on the spot, and I'm sure he misunderstood, and I could have just not said anything....

But here's the thing.  Even well meaning Christians, and you know who you are, often forget that the rest of us (non-Christian and non-religious alike) are out there.  Here in the south, I've gone to town meetings where they skipped the Pledge of Allegiance, but said The Lord's Prayer.  I know those blowhards in the Supreme Court believe they have gotten where they are through God's grace (How else would idiots like Clarence Thomas and Sammy Alito have gotten on the bench without a miracle?), but I maintain that I can get through a day without being blessed by the person at the Dollar Store checkout counter.

What atheists have that religious folk should aspire to is an awareness of our boundaries, and a respect for the feelings of others.  That tends to be our strength and our weakness.  Because of all things, I would feel guilty about informing this young politician that I don't pray.  And yet, had he not emphasized that he wanted ALL our prayers, I may well not have said anything.
But the fact that we atheists do not believe in god or gods does not mean we don't "believe" or "have faith."  I was disgruntled when President Obama, in a rather lame attempt to reach out to his atheist supporters referred to us as "non-believers."  We believed in democracy and in his goodness enough to get out and vote for him.  We had faith that once elected he would mostly work to do the right thing.

I am frankly tired of being silent while Christians assume we should have school prayer, and offer prayers at public meetings.  Praying doesn't indicate a good person any more than wearing a flag pin defines a good American.  We tolerate all the references to Christianity throughout our lives, and at the same time all the whining about how Christians feel left out.  But that minimizes us. Atheists should not accept being minimized by our teachers, our employers, our candidates, our government. 

Women and minorities are minimized in much the same way; our beliefs and needs are not seen as being equal.  When we confront those who neglect or control us, we are told we are overreacting.  We are not.

So with all due respect, you politicians need to find a different way to ask for our support than "pray for me."  I respect that prayer is an important part of your life, but it is not a part of mine.  That does not make me irrelevant or wrong.

When I first moved to the South, I was really thrown by people who end an interaction by saying, "Have a blessed day."  It made me angry that they would just assume I would want them to bless me.  Later, I tried to toss it off by thinking that I should reply, "Wow.  I didn't know you had that power."  But now I just try to ignore it, because I don't want to waste that emotional energy being outraged at someone who doesn't know any better.  But there are some who need to know, because in the end, they will make decisions that affect me.

So it comes down to the fact that I had to speak out and to this candidate I say:  I hope you are the person I think you are, and that my comment will give you a little insight into others who think differently about life than you.  And that you will recognize that we are all here, trying to do the best that we can.