Protest the celebration of the Lost Cause

The Sons of Confederate Veterans are celebrating the 150th anniversary of South Carolina’s secession from the Union and the start of the Civil War by holding a $100-a-ticket “Secession Ball” on Dec. 20 in Charleston.

The NAACP and allies will protest the event by holding a candlelight vigil followed by a meeting and viewing of part of film Birth of a Nation. Park at the Emanuel AME Church at 110 Calhoun St.; please arrive by 4:15pm. The vigil will take place at 4:30pm at the Gaillard Auditorium. For details, call 843-813-3363.

A preview of the ball? SC Sen. Glenn McConnell with re-enactors at the National Federation of Republican Women’s Conference in September.

Haley assembles a team to stop unions

by Harvey Elwood
Orangeburg, SC

One of the areas that most concerns people today is the economy and where we are headed. With unemployment high and more and more Americans having to work later in life to earn a living, perhaps it’s time to re-examine why some Americans are still able to retire early and make way for the next generation to step into the positions they leave behind.

It’s not unusual today to find people still working well into their late 60s and early 70s, even after they are eligible for Social Security.

On the other side, many other Americans don’t have to wait on Social Security, they aren’t too worried about it, and they are able to retire and enjoy life long before they need to rely on it. Some have parttime jobs, even though they still enjoy a full pension at age 40. These folks work just to stay active.

Meanwhile, some people aren’t even looking for work. They are simply enjoying life on their own terms.

These factors, of course, depend on where they worked, for whom they worked, and whether they had a pension plan that allowed them the pleasure of early retirement. In some cases, whether or not they belonged to a union played a role in their ability to leave the workforce before 65.

Last week, I read in the papers that Gov.-elect Nikki Haley is already putting up a fight against working people and the unions that represent them. Haley has asked a lawyer, Catherine Templeton, to head the state’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Haley did so not to help the working men and women of South Carolina but to better represent the business interests of our state.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have Catherine Templeton on our team,” Haley said. “Catherine understands that LLR’s mission should be to serve the businesses and taxpayers of our state. She’s taken on unions and knows our state’s right-to-work status makes us more competitive.”

Haley apparently wants Templeton to keep the employees at Boeing from unionizing. Prior to Boeing’s announcement that it was moving its Dreamliner plant to North Charleston, its employees here voted to disband their union. Haley apparently believes Boeing’s employees hope to reunionize.

It’s also interesting to note that Haley has tapped former BMW spokesman and government liaison Bobby Hitt to be commerce secretary. Hitt, a former editor with The State newspaper, is undoubtedly capable of spinning a story to convince the public that unions are bad for the people. And when his job in the Haley administration is over, he will most likely return to a very lucrative business salary and package deal, but I could be wrong.

Hopefully, newspapers across the state will open up a fair-and-balanced dialogue about unions so that the people will be better informed about the issue in its entirety.

Life is not about lawyers, government, or businesses. It’s about the working men and women of America. Without business, where would any of us be — but if it was not for the people, where would business be?

It’s about time the people knew and fully understood both sides of this important debate. After all, public opinion is often shaped by ideas from the public at-large, and sometimes government is persuaded to follow that opinion, especially when the number of people supporting it is large enough.

We should ask ourselves these questions: Are unions still good for America? Should the employees of Boeing be allowed to unionize?

When it comes to these matters, we the people should have the final say, not Haley and her team.

Harvey Elwood Jr. of Orangeburg is a retired educator of government. Educated in South Carolina and New York, he served in local and state government and taught in South Carolina and New York at the secondary and collegiate levels. He may be reached by e-mail at helwood38@hotmail.com.

New study debunks research suggesting abortion causes mental health problems

Studies claiming to find a relationship between abortion and subsequent mental health problems often suffer from serious methodological limitations that invalidate their conclusions. In a new analysis, Julia Steinberg, of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Lawrence Finer, of the Guttmacher Institute show that the findings of a 2009 study by Priscilla Coleman et al—which claimed that women who had reported an abortion were at an increased risk of several anxiety, mood and substance use disorders, compared with women who had never had an abortion—are not replicable.

Steinberg and Finer’s analysis, just published online in Social Science & Medicine, examined the same dataset as Coleman et al. (the National Comorbidity Survey) and found that in every case, the proportions of women experiencing mental health problems reported by Coleman were much larger, sometimes more than five times as large, as Steinberg and Finer’s results. The Coleman findings were also inconsistent with several other published studies using the same dataset and sample.

“We were unable to reproduce the most basic tabulations of Coleman and colleagues,” says Steinberg, postdoctoral fellow at UCSF. “Moreover, their findings were logically inconsistent with other published research—for example, they found higher rates of depression in the last month than other studies found during respondents’ entire lifetimes. This suggests that their results are substantially inflated.”

“Antiabortion activists have relied on questionable science in their efforts to push inclusion of the concept of ‘post-abortion syndrome’ in both clinical practice and law,” says Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute. “Our inability to replicate the findings of the Coleman study makes it clear that research claiming to find relationships between abortion and poor mental health indicators should be subjected to close scrutiny.”

Steinberg and Finer also examined other well-established risk factors for post pregnancy mental health problems, such as preexisting mental health disorders and sexual or physical violence before the abortion, and found that women who had had multiple abortions were more likely to have experienced these risk factors prior to the abortion than women who had had one or no abortions. Once they controlled for these factors, they found no significant relationship between abortion history and subsequent mood or anxiety disorders. These findings support the view that previous mental health status, and not abortion experience per se, is the strongest predictor of post-abortion mental health.

Bumpy road ahead for America’s seniors

By Becci Robbins
SC Alliance for Retired Americans

For advocates working to protect the health and well-being of America’s seniors, the recent failure of the Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to muster the votes to send its proposal to Congress was a relief, although that’s likely to be short-lived. The proposal included cuts to Medicare and Social Security, as well as raising the retirement age to 69, a move that would hit hardest those with physically demanding jobs.

Such disregard for older Americans is unbecoming of such a wealthy nation. But it’s no surprise, as the report echoes the larger problem of Congress choosing at every turn to promote the interests of Wall Street over Main Street. Sadly, US Rep. John Spratt, who served on the Commission and supported the proposal, betrayed the retirees in the 5th District who helped keep him in office 28 years.

It was a missed opportunity. As Chairman of the Budget Committee, Congressman Spratt knows better than most that Social Security has not added a dime to the deficit and shouldn’t be used to fix a problem it didn’t create. He could have opposed the proposal as a parting gift to his constituents — and to inspire his Democrat colleagues to stand for the Party’s core values of protecting the least of us. Instead, he squandered his key vote to appease the Washington establishment.

While the report was DOA, lawmakers and pundits say it provides a road map out of the deficit ditch. Seniors would do well to buckle up for what promises to be a bumpy ride. Just Friday, amid talk of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, Congress rejected a one-time $250 payment to retirees who, for the second year in a row, have been denied a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA).

That’s not being fiscally responsible. It’s being morally bankrupt.

SC retirees laud defeat of Social Security cuts

Commission Proposal Unfair to Retirees

In response to the defeat of recommendations by the leaders of the National Commission on Fiscal Reform and Responsibility today, SC Alliance for Retired Americans President Julie Harbin issued the following statement.

“South Carolina retirees temporarily dodged a bullet when Commission members today rejected their co-chairs’ proposal to drastically cut Social Security benefits and increase the retirement age. We should never try to balance the budget on the backs of current and future retirees, particularly when Social Security has not added one cent to the deficit.

“Now that the Commission has closed its doors, we hope that we can have a more honest debate on federal spending. While it was encouraging to hear panel members acknowledge there is no link between Social Security and the deficit, it was also galling that many of the Commission members pushing draconian cuts in Social Security are also the ones leading the fight to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

“Social Security is one of America’s greatest success stories, one that has kept generations of seniors out of poverty. We hope that today is the beginning of a new chapter in the debate on the future of retirement in America, one that seeks to strengthen – not weaken – the economic well-being of millions of seniors who are struggling to make ends meet.

“Social Security did not create our nation’s fiscal problems, nor should it be used to fix them.  On behalf of the members of the SC Alliance for Retired Americans, I want to thank the Commission members who had the courage to stand up for our nation’s retirees and workers.”

Network group Sean’s Last Wish honored with national award

Honorees Acknowledged at Local Award Presentations Across the Country With $5,000 Grant; Featured on USA Network On-Air and Online

Continuing its highly successful multiplatform campaign to address social injustices and bridge cultural divides, USA Network, along with its MVPD partners, today announced the 2010 recipients of the Characters Unite Awards. Eight winners were selected from hundreds of nominees for their successful efforts in combating prejudice and discrimination while increasing tolerance and acceptance.

“Congratulations to the extraordinary characters who, in the face of adversity, have worked tirelessly to instill tolerance and acceptance in our communities,” said Bridget Baker, President, NBC Universal TV Networks Distribution. “With our affiliates, we’re proud to celebrate the Characters Unite winners and the efforts they lead.”

Timed to USA Network’s  “Characters Unite Month,” each honoree will be acknowledged during a hometown award ceremony and will receive a $5,000 grant from USA Network and participating local MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributor) to donate to his/her project or related nonprofit organization. Additionally, honorees will be featured on-air and online in a PSA featuring Reshma Shetty, star of the USA Network hit seriesROYAL PAINS.

Nominations for the Characters Unite Awards were submitted by the public on charactersunite.com. In addition to the awards, Characters Unite Month includes: an original Characters Unite-themed documentary; on-air promotion and Public Service Announcements (PSAs); extensive digital content, such as a new Facebook game application; star-studded community storytelling events and education workshops in partnership with The Moth; and a new national poll.

2010 Characters Unite Award Recipients:

Michael Arterberry, New Fairfield, CT (Charter Communications) Founder and Executive Director, Youth Voices Center, Inc.

Michael Arterberry founded the organization Youth Voices Center and its Power of Peace program to improve the quality of life of young people by encouraging conflict resolution, teamwork and respect of others who are different, resulting in schools and communities that are safer and more productive places for youth.

Jessica Estevez, Riverview, FL (Bright House Networks) Director of Programs, Community Tampa Bay

As Director of Programs for Community Tampa Bay, which works with individuals, groups and organizations to create an inclusive society strengthened and empowered by its diversity, Jessica Estevez develops and manages leadership and diversity education programs for high school students, designed to empower them with knowledge and tools to help them combat social injustice.

Milia Islam-Majeed, Chino, CA (Time Warner Cable) Executive Director, South Coast Interfaith Council

As Executive Director, Milia Islam-Majeed oversees the South Coast Interfaith Council, which is comprised of approximately 150 churches, synagogues, mosques and more that promote mutual understanding, respect, appreciation and cooperation among people of all faiths and cultures. Previously the Program Manager of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Leadership Development Center in Plainfield, Indiana, she was also recently part of an interfaith program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State where an American delegation of six scholars and community leaders were invited to Indonesia to participate in interfaith dialogues focusing on religion and society.

Elke Kennedy, Greenville, SC Founder, Sean’s Last Wish

Elke Kennedy founded Sean’s Last Wish, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of hate crimes and to combating hatred, bullying, violence and bigotry, following the tragic death of her son due to a violent hate crime.  She travels the country to share her story and to educate the public about prejudice and how discrimination leads to hate and senseless crimes.  She also teaches people the importance of hate crime protections and tirelessly advocates for greater resources to investigate these crimes.

Amy Lazarus, Washington, DC (Comcast) Executive Director, Sustained Dialogue Campus Network

As Executive Director, Amy Lazarus works to develop everyday leaders who engage differences as strengths to improve their campuses, workplaces and communities as part of Sustained Dialogue Campus Network (SDCN), which is comprised of students from colleges and universities around the country who are using dialogue to alleviate their campus’ social tensions and make their communities more cohesive.

Jan Lilly-Stewart, Charleston, WV (Suddenlink) Director and Co-Founder of Fair Shake Network

As Director and one of the founders of the Fair Shake Network, a grassroots advocacy association dedicated to a “fair shake” for people with disabilities, Jan Lilly-Stewart works to provide information to policymakers and the public on issues pertaining to people with disabilities, and to support those who are disabled by engaging in legislative advocacy.  Jan has spent more than 25 years working with those who are disabled in counseling and advocacy positions.

Ryan Roemerman, Des Moines, IA (Mediacom) Executive Director, Iowa Pride Network

Ryan Roemerman co-founded Iowa Pride Network (IPN) as a student at the University of Iowa, leading the effort to establish an LGBT center on campus. He has since developed IPN into a nationally recognized state organization that works directly with students, helping empower them to start and enhance gay-straight alliances in their high schools and colleges, while building a statewide network that offers support, mentoring, educational, advocacy and networking opportunities.

Kyshun Webster, New Orleans, LA (Cox Communications) Founder, Operation Reach

Kyshun Webster founded Operation Reach, an organization in the Lower Ninth Ward that engages, empowers and inspires children, youth and families through innovative, community-based learning opportunities.  He has built Operation Reach into a national organization, which has programs that reach 12,000 children and youth each year across the south.  The organizations’ many programs include Gulfsouth Youth Action Corps to play a leadership role in the restoration of youth programs and services after the hurricane, as well as a “cradle-to-career” pipeline of programs designed to promote educational success among youth regardless of socioeconomic background.

Learn more about the 2010 Characters Unite Award Recipients at charactersunite.com.

The Rich Get Rich and the Poor Get Poorer

Hunger and Homelessness in America

By Tom Turnipseed, Columbia SC

“There’s nothing surer; the rich get rich and the poor get poorer,” was a slogan of the roaring 20s. The famous phrase was adapted from “Ain’t We Got Fun,” a popular song recorded in 1921.  So what’s new in America in the first decade of the 2000s?

Nothing! America’s top 72 wage earners averaged 84 million dollars each in income last year, according to Social Security Administration data.  The richest 1 percent of us earned 24 % of the nation’s total income, the highest since 1928, just before the Great Depression. On the other hand, 14.3 % were living in poverty in 2009, according to the U. S Census Bureau.  50 million people from 17.4 million families are so poor they couldn’t buy sufficient food last year.  About one million children from more than a third of these households missed meals regularly according to a recent study by the Department of Agriculture.  At dinner, families gather to share together. But for the children, dinner time can be the cruelest part of the day. Almost 1 in 4 of them doesn’t know when they will have their next meal.

Because there is a high turnover and many homeless people stay hidden, homeless and hunger counts are only estimates. The Department of Housing and Urban Development reported a count of 643,067 homeless persons nationwide on a single night in January 2008. 1.6 million used emergency shelters or transitional housing during 2007/2008, suggesting that 1 in every 50 persons in the US used the shelter system at some point. 170,000 families lived in homeless shelters. With home foreclosures at record highs and continuing unemployment, homelessness is increasing.

Republicans in the U.S. House have blocked a bill that would have extended jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed beyond the holiday season. About 2 million people will lose their benefits if they are not extended, according to the National Employment Law Project.  The blocked benefits would save the jobless from hunger and homelessness during the most severe recession since the 1930s and boost spending in the economy that will generate more jobs. Long-term unemployed workers are likely to spend their benefits right away on rent, food and other necessities, and create jobs in our economy. The Congressional Budget office estimates the “multiplier” effect of spending $65 billion on unemployment insurance extensions will increase gross domestic product $104.7 billion which translates into 488,000 payroll jobs.

The plutocrats controlling our government with campaign contributions and slick lobbyists oppose extending benefits to unemployed people. They fight to keep their unjust tax cuts and sit on the billions in bailout cash they received that we were told would save the economy and create jobs for poor and unemployed people. U. S. companies reported after-tax profits of $1.22 trillion last quarter, the highest on record dating back to 1947, according to the Department of Commerce.

When will some of their government bailout welfare for the rich trickle down to poor and working people?

My wife, Judy, and I are sponsors of an organization called Homeless Helping Homeless and volunteer at the local winter shelter.  And, along with about 35 other people from diverse backgrounds, we have fed an average of 150 mostly homeless and hungry people every Sunday afternoon for the past 7 years at Finlay Park in downtown Columbia. Each server brings a dish or two–turnip greens, mac and cheese, fresh fruit, banana pudding. Pastries are donated by local super markets.  Our picnic provides a nutritious and tasty meal for the homeless and many of the servers.  We are known as Food Not Bombs, a national organization that encourages feeding hungry people rather than supporting military madness.

Our a-frame sign, set up near the entrance to our picnic, has a famous quote from a speech by former General and President Dwight Eisenhower that describes the military industrial complex:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

The U.S. defense budget is $720 billion, which includes the Pentagon base budget, Department of Energy nuclear weapons activities and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We far outstrip the rest of the world in defense spending, surpassing the next closest country by more than eight times.  The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reports that the U.S. military budget accounts for 43% of the world’s total military spending.

If we heed the words of Eisenhower and stop the madness we call war, if we require the wealthiest to pay their fair share, then perhaps we can end hunger and homelessness in America. There will be food, not bombs, and we will no longer destroy the hopes of our children.

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and peace activist in Columbia, SC. His blog is tomandjudyonablog.blogspot.com.

Activists to hold roundtable talks on health care, Debt Commission and coming legislative session

The public is invited to an afternoon strategy session on Nov. 20, 1-3pm, at the SC Alliance for Retired Americans’ annual convention, which will be held at 2025 Marion St., downtown Columbia. The Alliance will hold an executive board meeting 10am-noon. The meeting is open, but only board members may vote.

At 1pm the public is invited to join in a roundtable discussion on what health care changes mean for South Carolina. At 2pm we will have a forum on the President’s Deficit Commission and its pending recommendations to Congress on Dec. 1. Participants will include: Dr. John Rouff, director of SC Fair Share; Frank Knapp, President SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Sam Baker, professor of health care management and policy at University of SC School of Public Health; Lynn Bailey, health care economist; Rep. Joe Neal, leader in the legislative Black Caucus; Donna Dewitt, President of the SC AFL-CIO and Brett Bursey, Director of the SC Progressive Network.

The coming months offer organizing challenges and opportunities for activists in the Palmetto State, and it’s important that we coordinate efforts to maximize our effectiveness. The event is free and open to individuals and organizations advocating for the state’s most vulnerable citizens. For more information, email scalliance@mindspring.com or call 803-957-9740. Find the SC Alliance at scretiredamericans.org and on Facebook.

Hey, Congress: Listen Up!

Rally for Social Security

Nov. 22, noon-1pm

Strom Thurmond Federal Bldg, 1835 Assembly, Columbia

The President’s Deficit Commission will offer its recommendations to Congress on Dec. 1. Sadly, Social Security is on the chopping block even though it has not contributed a cent to the deficit — unlike funding two wars, Wall Street bailouts and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Take a few minutes of your lunch break to tell the Commission and Congress: HANDS OFF SOCIAL SECURITY!

Tea partiers prefer secession rather than health care for the poor

By Tom Turnipseed
Columbia, SC

Tea Party oriented Republicans who will control the US House of Representatives want to repeal “Obama Care”. Southern Republicans like Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and US Rep. Zack Wamp of Tennessee have threatened Secession from the Union because of federal mandates in “Obama Care”.

In South Carolina, Republican Sen. Glenn McConnell is President Pro-Tem of the South Carolina Senate and one of our most powerful politicians. He also opposes Medicaid mandates. Recently, officials of South Carolina Health and Human Services asked McConnell to help continue funding health care for poor people. He replied, “ When the money provided by the state for Medicaid is gone, the insurance program for the poor must simply stop providing services.” “Your obligation under the constitution … is to the taxpayer of this state and not to bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.” South Carolinians pay both state and federal taxes that fund Medicaid, but by refusing to allocate $1 billion of our state tax revenue for this program over the next decade, South Carolina will lose $ 4 billion from the federal government for health care for 656,000 poor people, who are disproportionately black and children.

Tea Party states’ rights activists say their struggle against health care continues the struggle of Jefferson Davis and the secessionists in 1860. Rev. Cecil Fayard, chaplain in chief for the national Sons of Confederate Veterans, said “The War Between the States was fought for the same reasons that the tea party movement today is voicing their opinion.”

Sen. McConnell opposed removing the Confederate flag from atop the South Carolina State House in 2000 and finally brokered a compromise that placed the rebel flag in front of the state capitol at the Confederate soldier’s memorial monument. McConnell is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Secession Camp #4, and a Civil War re-enactor who owned a Confederate memorabilia store in Charleston. He founded and Chairs the Hunley Commission that raised a Confederate submarine from Charleston harbor. The Commission is restoring the sub for the Hunley Museum in Charleston with $22 million that is coming from state and federal funds according to their fund-raising organization. McConnell was recently photographed in Civil War military regalia with two African- Americans dressed as slaves at a meeting of the National Federation of Republican Women in Charleston. The Sons of Confederate Veterans work closely with the Confederate Heritage Trust.

The Confederate Heritage Trust is putting on a play and grand ball in Charleston on December 20th, celebrating the Secession of South Carolina from the United States in 1860. Neo-Confederates claim that secession was an issue of states’ rights rather than slavery but William Preston, a secessionist leader in South Carolina, said, “Slavery is our King; slavery is our Truth; slavery is our Divine Right.” South Carolina’s Declaration of Secession refers to Northern States; “Those States…have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery…They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes.” Several thousands of those slaves from South Carolina served in the Union army in the Civil War that was started in Charleston by South Carolinians when they bombarded Fort Sumter in April, 1861. At least 618,000 Americans died in the Civil War.

I was also a champion of the lost cause of Dixie. In 1964-65, I became the first Executive Director of the South Carolina Independent Schools Association. Now emphasizing academic and athletic excellence, originally the private schools were created to allow white children to avoid racial desegregation in public schools in counties with large populations of blacks. Several were named for Confederate figures like Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Wade Hampton.

I was an aide to George Wallace and then his National Campaign Director (1967-1971). Confederate flags were waved and racial slurs shouted at Wallace rallies throughout the country. My great-grandfather was a Confederate soldier and my grandfather was a Klan member. I named my only son Jefferson Davis Turnipseed. I was a racist who used my Confederate heritage to deny my racism.

I returned to South Carolina in 1972 and helped organize a coalition to reform electrical utility regulation that included African Americans. Electric rates for low volume residential users were 5 ½ times higher than for industrial users and a disproportionate number of the mostly poor low volume users were black. The rate hike hearings offered an opportunity to bridge the divide between poor blacks and whites. Our successful coalition helped me realize how prejudiced I had been against black people. I became an anti-racist activist and was elected to the SC Senate by an interracial coalition of everyday people. I am a life member of the NAACP, and was a leader in the effort to remove the rebel flag from our State House. Our law firm was co-counsel in a successful suit against the Klan for burning a black Baptist Church in South Carolina in 1998. These terrorist Klansmen waved the Confederate flag as they destroyed the church.

If a prejudiced devotee of Dixie like me could change, maybe there is hope for Secessionist Tea Partiers to change and allow poor black and white folks to have adequate health care.

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and peace activist in Columbia, SC. Read his blog here.

It’s time to ratify new START

By Lt. General Norman Seip

For almost 20 years, the U.S. has had inspectors on the ground in Russia to conduct inspections and surveillance of the Russian nuclear arsenal. Now we don’t. Since December of last year, the treaty that enabled us to keep tabs on Russian warheads expired, and our inspectors came home.

The Senate will have a lot on its plate when it resumes action after the election but their top priority should be to follow the advice of U.S. military leadership, ratify the New START Treaty and put U.S. inspectors back on the ground in Russia.

As a former Air Force Commander, I managed over 30,000 active duty personnel and had to make decisive decisions to protect our nation’s security. This treaty should be ratified for a simple reason—it makes America safe.

The New START Treaty replaces a measure negotiated under the Reagan administration and signed by President George H. W. Bush, which for the first time put into practice President Reagan’s directive that we should “trust, but verify.” In addition to providing a state of the art verification regime that builds on two decades of experience monitoring Russian weapons, the New START Treaty makes modest reductions to both Russian and U.S. arsenals and provides vital transparency and stability the relationship between the countries whose arsenals account for 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.

It is because the New START Treaty makes America safer that it has the overwhelming support of U.S. military leadership and national security experts from both political parties.

Over the course of six months of hearings, senators heard testimony in support of the treaty from the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of the Missile Defense Agency charged with overseeing U.S. missiles and missile defense. They heard supporting testimony from officials from the last seven administrations, including George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, among many others.

In addition, seven former STRATCOM commanders wrote to Senators, urging them to promptly ratify the treaty. A recently published open letter in support of the treaty included the names of Colin Powell, Frank Carlucci, Madeleine Albright, Chuck Hagel and John Danforth among its signatories.

Some critics claim that the treaty limits U.S. missile defense capabilities. This isn’t the case. Robert Gates and Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly, Director of the Missile Defense Agency testified New START “actually reduces constraints on the development of the missile defense program.”

After months of vetting the treaty in more than 20 hearings with hundreds of questions answered, all substantive issues have been addressed.

When the Senate reconvenes it will have been almost an entire year since U.S. on-site inspections of Russian nuclear weapons and infrastructure were suspended.  Our uncertainty grows and our security shrinks as each additional day passes.  In testimony STRATCOM Commander Gen. Kevin Chilton, STRATCOM noted “If we don’t get the treaty, [the Russians] are not constrained in their development of force structure and … we have no insight into what they’re doing. So it’s the worst of both possible worlds.”

Now it’s time for the Senate to act.

A total of 67 votes are necessary to pass the treaty making the votes of all Senators critical for ratification. This treaty is a straightforward, nonpartisan issue of security with overwhelming support from the nation’s military. Senators — it’s time to ratify New START.

Lt. General Seip was the former Commander of 12th Air Force and served as Chief of Standardization and Evaluation at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina.

Outside groups – many relying on anonymous donors – help Republicans gain in Congress

The priciest midterm election in U.S. history saw a Republican tide sweep numerous Democrats out of office, as voters anxious about the state of the economy ousted more House incumbents from office than any time since 1948. While several money-in-politics axioms held true, money was not a panacea for embattled politicians.

In only about 85 percent of House races did the candidate who spent the most experience victory on Election Day, a relative low in recent years, according to a preliminary analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. Candidates’ spending correlated to success in 29 out of 35 Senate races – or 83 percent – that had been called as of Thursday morning.

By comparison, in 2008, the biggest spender was victorious in 93 percent of House races and in 86 percent of Senate races. In 2006, top spenders won 94 percent of House races and 73 percent of Senate races. And in 2004, 98 percent of House seats went to candidates who spent the most, as did 88 percent of Senate seats.

Moreover, most self-financing candidates again faltered this cycle. And significant investments from outside groups helped elect more than 200 federal candidates. In two-thirds of races where outside groups spent at least some money on advertisements and other political communications, the dollars spent supporting the winner, coupled with amounts spent opposing the loser, exceeded dollars spent supporting the loser or attacking the winner, according to the Center’s research.

“Those that went to the polls Tuesday showed enormous dissatisfaction with the status quo and voted, once again, for change,” said Sheila Krumholz, the Center’s executive director. “The money changed too, surging as much as 40 percent over 2006 levels to our predicted $4 billion by cycle’s end. Despite the competitive political climate and the lowest House reelection rate in 60 years, however, the vast majority of incumbents and candidates who spent the most were still reelected.”

Read OpenSecrets.org’s comprehensive post-election report here.

The Center for Responsive Politics is the nation’s premier research group tracking money in federal politics and its effect on elections and public policy. The nonpartisan, nonprofit Center aims to create a more educated voter, an involved citizenry and a more responsive government. CRP’s award-winning website, OpenSecrets.org, is the most comprehensive resource for federal campaign contributions, lobbying data and analysis available anywhere. CRP relies on support from a combination of foundation grants, individual contributions and income earned from custom research and licensing data for commercial use. The Center accepts no contributions from businesses, labor unions or trade associations.

Know this number when you go to the polls: 1-866-OUR-VOTE

The SC Progressive Network is again taking part in a national effort to safeguard against problems at the polls. We will be fielding calls and tracking problems through a database that links voters with volunteer lawyers and election experts. And we’ll be putting up flyers with a toll-free hotline number people can call to report irregularities or other problems voting.

Download a copy of the Election Protection flyer to post in your polling place. Poll workers are usually glad to have a resource to help answer questions and solve voter problems, but if they object, please let our office know by calling 803-808-3384.

For more, see 866ourvote.org.

Constitutional amendments on the Nov. 2 ballot

SC Fair Share’s positions:

  • Amendment 1 – Vote No. Amendment fixes no known problem and could make it impossible to outlaw unacceptable hunting practices in the future.
  • Amendment 2 – Vote No. This amendment is just anti-union posturing of doubtful Constitutionality.
  • Amendment 3 – Vote No. This amendment asks us to put more money into savings at at a time when we can’t pay for core services. That would reduce the funds available for education, health care and protecting the vulnerable while we climb out of the recession.
  • Amendment 4 – Vote No. Like Amendment 3, this amendment asks us to put money into savings before we fund core services. In hard times, it would reduce the funds available for education, health care and protecting the vulnerable.

SC Fair Share is a member of the SC Progressive Network.

Download full summary of  Constitutional Amendments 2010.