Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"Be Prepared" For More Family Values

I swear - sometimes I think people are just making this stuff up. I may have figured out a way to decipher what's really going on with the (so-called) religious right...just listen to what they accuse other people of. Voila! Whatever it is that they are up on their high horse about, that's very likely what they are either currently doing (or being) or have done, and now want to make sure nobody else does it.

The latest? Well, remember the big to-do over the Boy Scouts wanting to exclude kids who are gay, atheist or even agnostic? Didn't coincide with their Christian moral standards? Well, apparently one of these paragons of righteousness, the national director of programs for the Boy Scouts of America, has been charged with possession and distribution of child pornography. I guess it's not so bad to be gay, atheist or agnostic if it keeps you away from this pervert. But, of course,
“We’re shocked and dismayed to learn of this,” said Gregg Shields, national spokesman for the Boy Scouts, based in the Dallas suburb of Irving.

The Scouts have been under fire in recent years for refusing to allow gays, atheists or agnostics into the organization.

“That’s totally irrelevant to this,” Shields said.

Irrelevant? I think it is extremely relevant. In fact, I think it is directly connected. Unless you think agnosticism is sinful and child pornography is OK.

And the list goes on and on...

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Family Values, Florida-Style

My mother, who lives in Tampa, called me Sunday night. The recent firestorm over the Terri Schiavo issue has made her nervous enough about her final wishes that she is re-doing her Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney. My brother is her executor, but several years ago he made it clear that, as a Catholic, he could not honor her request for 'no extreme measures' and 'do not resuscitate'. She asked my sister to be her medical designate, instead.

My mom is a liberal of the old school. Raised in Irish-Catholic Brooklyn, she became a Unitarian in the '60s after struggling with the 'don't question' dogma of the faith she was raised in. She (and we) remained Catholic for several years after her divorce, but ultimately the contradictions were too great for her to overcome, and she found a home in the Unitarian-Universalist Church. It was a little confusing to me (the oldest of three) to be suddenly un-Catholic, especially since I, unlike my younger sister and brother, went to Catechism and had my First Communion. I didn't particularly care for the Unitarians, who mostly struck me as a bunch of overly-friendly hippies, and what kind of church was it if it didn't tell you what to believe? Not that I missed going to boring old Mass and Catechism and Confession, but a church was supposed to be a Church, it seemed to me. Instead of spending our Sunday mornings all dressed up with a doily on my head at Corpus Christi, I spent my time in a back room of the Unitarian church with a clunky little 63-key piano, teaching myself to play and trying to avoid the peace-and-granola weirdos. For my mom, of course, it was different - a real spiritual home, where you could ask all the questions you wanted and come to your own conclusion about God, yet still be involved in a faith community. When, as a single mom, she needed to go to work, she put her money where her mouth was and went back to school to become a social worker - a stressful, thankless, bureaucratic nightmare of a job; underpaid, understaffed, overworked - because she felt that she could help people on a direct level in that way, and she worked for the State of Florida for 35 years.

As we grew to adulthood, we three kids found our own spiritual paths. I became a Christian of no particular denomination, my sister and her husband are Methodists (or Presbyterians, I can't remember which), and my brother is a born-again Catholic. Oddly enough, my mother and I, who are almost polar opposites in most matters, are on the same page politically. My brother and sister became Republicans - my sister for fiscal reasons, my brother for cultural reasons.

How did this happen? My siblings are good, principled people, and they would say the same about me. We all love one another dearly, and respect one another. We were raised to believe that family comes first, and we take care of one another in whatever way is needed. I'm more or less the 'rebel' of the family, having eschewed college for the life of a musician, but have nevertheless managed to get married, have a family, buy a house - all the good old-fashioned American values. My brother the accountant has disapproved of my unpredictable lifestyle (and my tattoo) but he would lay his life down for me in a heartbeat. I'm his sister, and that's the end of that. And when I rant and rave about the religious right, I have to remember that the baby brother I adore is one of them. Moreover, like my mom the bleeding-heart liberal, he puts his money where his mouth is. He tithes 10% of his income. He spends his weekends volunteering at soup kitchens. He walks the talk, unlike 99% of the politicians and ministers who claim to speak for him.

As passionate as I am about my political convictions, when I'm with my siblings I avoid talking about my own politics. I wish I was brave enough to just let the chips fall where they may, but while I feel strongly about my position, I don't think that arguing about politics and religion will do anything but put a wedge between me and the ones I love, and it's not worth it to me. They know how I feel; I know how they feel. But I wonder how we can be so close in our real life, our real values, and yet be at opposite ends of the political spectrum. And our values are the same - God, family, service to others. Why, then, can't we talk?

My mother's lawyers suggest that she name three family members for her Medical Power of Attorney. That would be me and my sister and brother-in-law. So now, if something happens to my mom similar to what happened to Terri Schiavo, if she is incapacitated with no hope of recovery, in fulfilling my mother's wishes, I may be looking at losing the brother I love. I do not want to end up like the Schiavos and the Schindlers. And I am sickened by the opportunistic politicians who are using these people to further their political ends.

God help us all.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Arnold Ziffel or Tom DeLay? You decide...

Well, well, well...what a surprise. Not that your humble hayseed is especially prescient, but couldn't you just see this coming a country mile away? Tom DeLay just can't pull his snout out of that trough. Now that the allegations are piling on and the lasso is tightening around the PAC pigpen, in retrospect the events of last November make perfect sense. Of course the House Republicans wanted to change the rule that required House Republican leaders and the heads of the various committees to relinquish their positions if indicted for a crime that could bring a prison term of at least two years. And now we see why.

Common Cause, last November, issued a press release that stated:

Today’s vote by the House Republican conference to change its party rules is arrogant, hypocritical and in defiance of the most basic ethical guidelines to which elected officials should adhere. The change allows for the possibility that members of Congress who are indicted by state grand juries retain their leadership posts - thus protecting House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), who may well be indicted as part of a Texas investigation.

It is ironic that 11 years ago, House Republicans adopted the same rule scrapped today in an effort to draw attention to Democrats’ ethical problems. In fact, Rep. DeLay himself was a key player in calling for those tougher ethics standards.

The move is all the more outrageous when considered in light of the track record of the leader that the amendment is designed to protect.

Rep. DeLay faced back-to-back admonishments last month from the GOP-led, bipartisan House Ethics Committee. In response to the ethics complaint filed by Rep. Chris Bell (D-TX), the committee admonished Rep. DeLay for conduct suggesting political donations would influence legislative action and for asking federal aviation officials to track an airplane carrying Texas Democratic state legislators during last year’s contentious redistricting battle. The panel deferred action on the third count of Rep. Bell’s complaint which alleged that Rep. DeLay was involved in illegal fundraising for candidates for the Texas State Legislature. The substance of this allegation is what is under investigation from the Texas grand jury.

But there is more.

Here are 10 good reasons to ask the swine to resign, courtesy of the Public Campaign Action Fund.

This article in Salon by Sidney Blumenthal is worth watching an ad to look at.

With all this manure, muck and mud, it's time for the shovel and pitchfork instead of "The Hammer".

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Add a "C" to Mr. Haney, and whaddya got?

The Stores!

I've been away for a while (thank you, Grillo, for your kind inquiry)...I'm not that great a blogger. Not that I'm not interested; just finding the time to organize my thoughts is difficult with 3 kids at home. However, I've been jolted once again into the alternate reality that is Hooterville by the cloture of the Bankruptcy Bill, or, in Hootervillian, "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005".

Did they really, really say the words 'Consumer Protection'?!? The only parties 'protected' here are the credit card companies and banking interests who have paid the Democrats $2 million and the Republicans $5 million in lobbying fees, and the wealthy individuals who can still 'protect' their already considerable assets by investing in a 'protected' home in Texas or Florida (nothing refreshes like a tall, cool glass of 'O.J.' in the Sunshine State!). After all, what better way to 'protect' the middle class and working poor who are more vulnerable than ever before, due to the fast-encroaching elimination of job security, pensions, unemployment, affordable or work-based health insurance, and, of course, Social (in)Security, than by cutting off the last means of getting back on their feet?

You may say, what's so wrong with asking people to pay what they owe?

Guess what? We aren't asking everyone to pay what they owe, just those least able to do so! And guess what else? We've already paid!! Those who are 'high-risk' have already paid the credit card companies in advance with 24% interest, and after the fact in egregiously high late fees! In fact, the credit card companies who are howling about 'deadbeats' depend on those same 'late payers' for their profits! If everyone paid on time, they'd be out of business.

90% of American bankruptcies are the result of personal crises: medical emergencies, job loss, divorce, or deaths of family members. Check this for an eye-opener.

I must be crazy. Why else would it seem to me that there is a fundamental difference between bankruptcy to stay off of the street and bankruptcy to keep all the cool stuff you already have. This seems to be the same old tired "Welfare Queen" story about all the lazy, shiftless, no-account loafers who just want to 'soak the rich' to avoid personal responsibility.

Have you ever filed bankruptcy? Do you know anyone who has? Then you know that on a personal level it is one of the hardest, saddest, most degrading things you ever have to do. In the interests of honesty, I personally have not filed for bankruptcy, but I have close friends who have. Most people will do anything to avoid it. The figures say '9 out of 10'. That means almost all the people who file do so out of desperation, and because of events over which they have no control - crushing medical bills, death, divorce and, yes - job loss. The people who don't anguish over bankruptcy are (usually, not always, but usually) those for whom bankruptcy is just another smart business move.

Yet somehow, here in Hooterville, it's just fine for the ones who will not become homeless, will not lose their families, will not have to go on welfare, will not be able to eat or buy clothes or have medical care. Belly on up to the bar, fellas! Drinks are on the House (and Senate).

Anyone for a screwdriver?