Calling all activists!

Don’t miss it!

On Saturday, Sept. 25, members and allies of the SC Progressive Network will gather for an afternoon of fellowship and talking politics. Grassroots activists will travel from across the state for the meeting, which runs from 11:30am to 4pm at the CWA Hall, 566 Chris Dr. in West Columbia. Participants will look ahead to the midterm elections and the upcoming legislative session, and map a strategic way forward.

“This is our most important meeting of the year,” said Network Co-chair Rep. Joe Neal. “We will talk about how we can work together and focus our energy to be most effective.”

Network Co-chair Donna Dewitt, president of the SC AFL-CIO, said, “We are looking forward to seeing our members from across the state, and meeting newcomers. We are in the process of restructuring our organization, now that we’re entering our 16th year, and we are looking for fresh ideas and bold leadership.”

Network Director Brett Bursey said, “We are facing challenges unseen since the Great Depression. But hard times are the best of times for organizing, as the struggle for social justice is no longer an abstraction for a growing number of people. Let’s make the most of this opportunity.”

The Network is a coalition of grassroots groups and individual members from across the state working collaboratively to promote good government, sound public policy, and an engaged, informed citizenry.

For more on the Network, see, call 803-808-3384, email, or join us on Facebook.


11:30 – 12:30 Registration and lunch (RSVP for the sandwich buffet: $10)

12:30 – Welcome to Oz
Network Co-chair Rep. Joseph Neal will preview the upcoming legislative session.

1pm – Lead, follow, or get out of the way!

Rep. Neal and Co-chair Donna Dewitt will facilitate a discussion on our organizing and policy focus for the coming year. If your group will be targeting specific bills, or amendments, bring information to share with our members. We will co-ordinate and streamline campaigns to maximize our collective reach and clout.

1:30 – Regroup, restructure?
As we head into our 16th year as an organization, it is time to reconsider our structure and revamp our bylaws. Stark changes in the grant world have radically diminished the Network’s finances and we cannot rely on grant money to fund the organizing and policy work we have been doing. We need to reorganize to promote new leaders from our individual membership. We won’t finish this work at the Summit, but we should reach a consensus on what structural changes make the most sense, and a process for moving forward.

2:15 – Protecting Social Security: What’s happening and what you can do about it. Join the SC Alliance for Retired Americans’ postcard petition campaign to tell members of Congress and the Deficit Commission: Hands Off Social Security!

2:30 – SC Progressive Voter Coalition session

The Coalition (ProVote) includes progressive parties, caucuses, PACs and individuals. We will target races in the November elections where we can make a difference and ask that everyone adopt a campaign near them.

4pm – Adjourn

War steals from the poor and unemployed

By Tom Turnipseed

Military spending is causing huge deficits and wasting money needed for education, housing, healthcare, infrastructure, and developing clean, renewable energy. Some 14.9 million Americans are unemployed. 50.7 million Americans did not have health insurance and 43.6 million or 14.3% lived beneath the poverty level in 2009, according to the Census Bureau and the numbers are even higher now.  Expenditures for our bloated war complex are about 55% of all discretionary spending.  We have spent more than a trillion dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 and much more in bribes to government officials, and tribal chiefs and payments to corrupt private contractors. According to the Democratic Leadership Council, US military spending accounted for 44% of all money spent globally on war, weapons and the military in 2009.  Our military spending is as much as all of the next 15 countries combined. The number of people killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is anywhere from 100,000 to a million or more depending on who does the estimates. Statistics on the number of civilians and military personnel killed are often distorted by military propaganda.

Glorification of the mass terrorism of war by media, politicians, weapons makers and other violence peddling war profiteers is depressing.  Killing people by war and willful violence is the most demented activity of our species. War is intrinsically evil.  Peacemakers like Jesus, Mother Theresa, Gandhi and Martin Luther King are real heroes rather than the war complex hyped “warriors” who “fight for our freedom” by killing people in Iraq and Afghanistan so the US can  control their governments and natural resources. Metaphors like the war on poverty seem inappropriate in describing anti-poverty programs, which are diminished by the diversion of resources to make war.  Lyndon Johnson took on the pervasive poverty of the 1960 by promoting broad anti-poverty social programs like civil rights, education, Medicare and Medicaid as part of his Great Society.

Rather than advocate more social programs that provide jobs, Obama wants to tinker with middle class tax cuts and a roll back on tax breaks for the fat cats, but how much will trickle down to poor and unemployed people?. When a reporter asked Obama to discuss his views on the poverty agendas of  LBJ and Dr. King, he answered, “I think the history of anti-poverty efforts is that the most important anti-poverty effort is growing the economy. It’s more important than any program we could set up. It’s more important than any transfer payment we could have.” Economic growth and tax cuts that increase corporate profits will not eliminate poverty. Such praise of Reagan’s supply side economics isn’t new for Obama.

During the presidential campaign in 2008, Obama said, “I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.  He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.  I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating.  I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.”  Does Obama model his super smooth style after Reagan’s slick salesman act?

Reagan was a mediocre movie actor when he became the host of the General Electric Theater on NBC.  General Electric launched his political career by sponsoring a national speaking tour for their handsome, look-um-in-the-eye, all-American guy, who promoted their conservative philosophy.  He was the ideal political huckster for corporate America’s unbridled greed. Reagan put a nice face on the mean-spirited politics of fear and greed, blaming welfare mothers, social programs, government regulations and the “evil empire of the Soviet Union” as causes for America’s troubles. Scapegoating poor people and criticizing government programs enabled him to deliver a giant tax break for the rich, roll back health and safety regulations, and push through a gigantic military buildup for corporate defense contractors like General Electric. His racially charged attacks on affirmative action hurt racial minorities and women.

Obama’s smooth rhetoric can’t conceal his role in bailing out Wall Street, cutting deals with corporate interests to dilute the healthcare reform bill, and developing financial regulations in closed-door meetings with bankers.

Rather than praising Reagan, Obama should make Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt his role models and work to establish social programs which provide jobs for poor and working class people. LBJ can also teach Obama that endless wars won’t work. We should end tax cuts for the rich and transfer funds from war and Wall Street to social programs that put people to work and reduce poverty.

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

Fair elections bill makes historic progress

The Committee on House Administration announced that they will hold a vote on the Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 6116/1826) at a hearing on Thursday, Sept. 23. This is big news.

“Americans want a return to elections of, by, and for the people, not funded by corporate and special interests,” said David Donnelly, campaign manager for the Campaign for Fair Elections. “We urge the Committee to vote out this historic bill, and encourage the House leadership to bring it to the floor where we have the votes to win a landmark victory for all voters.”

Rep. John B. Larson (D-Conn.), the lead sponsor of the Fair Elections Now Act, also released a statement on the hearing. “I didn’t come to Washington to spend my time raising money,” said Congressman Larson. “I came here to work on behalf of my friends and neighbors back home and solve the issues facing this nation. The Fair Elections Now Act would allow candidates like me to get back to the real business our constituents sent us to Washington for and it would help us make sure the voices of everyday Americans are heard more loudly in elections.”

The legislation’s continued momentum is a clear sign that members of Congress realize that the American people are fed up with the status quo in Washington, D.C. Voters want a Congress that is accountable to them, not corporate and special interests. And with Fair Elections advancing, they may finally get it.

To grandparents everywhere: thank you!

By Becci Robbins
SC Alliance for Retired Americans field organizer

When I left home, I was the last of three girls to fly the coop. But my mother needn’t have worried about suffering an empty nest. Before long, my sister was back home — without her husband, but with a baby. My mother helped co-parent until my sister remarried several years later.

The family arrangement was nothing unique. In fact, these days, with so many parents underemployed or jobless, it’s becoming increasingly common.

Fortunately for my family, my sister and mother had good jobs to provide the baby with a safe, stable home. Others, of course, are not so lucky. Without help, their circumstance would risk going from tenuous to tragic.

In South Carolina, Social Security is the most important source of income for the 112,000 children living in homes headed by a grandparent or other relative. Nationwide, 3.4 million children live in households in which at least one relative receives benefits.

When I hear politicians talk about raising the retirement age or cutting Social Security, I think of these families — families just like mine but without access to good jobs. I think about children just like my niece, only more vulnerable. And I worry about political leaders with so little regard for them.

Today is Grandparents Day. While we celebrate our family elders, let’s remember to honor those who are filling the gaps left by absent, abusive or deceased parents. Their sacrifices are heroic, and we all benefit from the stabilizing influence they bring to families and communities.

The myth of the founding fathers

With Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and the Tea Partiers
By Tom Turnipseed

Led by Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, Tea Party worshipers of the Founding Fathers want to return to the “good ol’ days” of 1787, when most African-Americans were slaves, many poor whites were indentured servants, and women couldn’t vote. At the time the Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, Native Americans were being slaughtered for their land, and Mexicans who were indigenous to the Southwest and the West coast of what became the United States were included in the genocide.

None of the ancestors of the African American, Native American, or Latino speakers addressing the mostly white Tea Partiers at the Lincoln Memorial on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech would have been among the Founding Fathers. No women, Jews, Muslims, poor people or non-land owners were numbered amongst the Founders who were rich white men.

Conservatives have trouble seeking sensible solutions to our present-day problems of poverty, violence, and perpetual war that make rich folks richer while poor people suffer and weapons makers and war profiteers make big bucks while killing and injuring innumerable innocent people. The problems are caused by big moneyed interests with the help of simple minded sycophants like Beck, Sarah Palin and the Tea Partiers. Their answer is to look backward to the wealthy Founding Fathers for guidance. The Tea Partiers believe the mythologized Founding Fathers are more intelligent and moral than anyone today except maybe radical right-wingers like Beck and Palin.

While hosting the Glenn Beck Program, a nationally syndicated talk-radio show and the Glenn Beck Show on Fox News Channel, Beck has been promoting conspiracy theories and delivering incoherent diatribes against socialists and environmentalists. Beck has called President Obama a Marxist, communist, and socialist who is taking America down the road to fascism. He has accused Obama of being a racist with a “hatred for whites”, and alleged that the Obama Presidency is like evil gorillas, endangering humankind and compared Obama’s America to “the Planet of the Apes”. He said that Al Gore wants to create a new “Hitler youth” because he promotes environmental awareness among young people. Beck doesn’t believe in global warming, but loves guns and militarism.

In Washington Beck did not mention Obama or Gore, but rather, assumed the role of an evangelist, presenting a religious theme of “Faith, Hope and Charity” which was a lame attempt to mask his worship of Mammon, the God of big business. Beck’s big show “just happened” to be at the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King II made his iconic speech 47 years ago to the day. Beck said he was totally unaware it was the anniversary of King’s address when he scheduled his event and he believes the Lord led him to schedule the event at that time and place. He also boasted that the right wing rally had “reclaimed the civil rights movement.” Beck said he heard the voice of God while addressing his flock, a symptom characteristic of schizophrenia. He and his far right friend and probable Republican Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin repeatedly mentioned King’s legacy, as giant screens carried King’s image and brief excerpts of his 1963 address. Earlier this year Beck denounced King as a “radical socialist” and questioned why a national holiday had been named in his honor. Beck was born in a Roman Catholic family, but converted to Mormonism. He says he “found the Lord” who saved him from his alcohol and drug addiction and his channeling the voice of God sounds like the faith required in a 12 steps effort to stay on the wagon.

In his rambling speech Beck gave several quotes from the Declaration of Independence, recited the Gettysburg Address, invoked trite clichés of Americana and read bible verses. Palin said she was the mother of a “combat vet” and led a chant of “USA, USA, USA.”
In the past other extremist populist movements in America also wrapped themselves in the cross and the flag, but espoused some social and economic policies that appealed to the common man. Father Charles Coughlin and Rev. Gerald L.K. Smith were demagogic leaders in the depression days of the 1930s, who at least talked about the dangers of capitalism, with Coughlin advocating a guaranteed annual wage and nationalization of some industries and Smith calling for income limits for the wealthy and old age pensions for everyone.

When he announced the rally, Beck promised to present a plan which would provide “specific policies and action steps” to found “a new national movement to restore our great country.” Instead, in his speech on Saturday, he said he decided to not reveal the plan, because of a conversation he had with God. Rather than explaining his plan “to restore our great country”, Beck said that people should turn to the Lord by praying on their knees and leaving their doors open so their children could see them doing so. Could it be that the billionaires and corporate entities who fund the tea party movement nixed the plan that might help poor and working class people at their expense?

Beck, Palin and their fellow Tea Partiers worship the rich white men and moneyed interests who fund their movement and their politics. Their gods are 21st century manifestations of the rich white men who were the Founding Fathers.

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

South Carolina veteran rips US Sen. Alan Simpson

SC Alliance for Retired Americans member Sheila Jackson, of Greenville, SC, is not amused by US Sen. Alan Simpson, chair of the President’s Deficit Commission, who recently called Social Security a “milk cow with 310 million tits.”