Saturday, November 26, 2005

Culture Of Life (But not for single mothers)

For many individuals the church provides for unmet needs in their daily lives. Some find guidance, others find comfort or a sense of a community. Apparently some receive something that is a bit less positive.

Last month a teacher employed at a Catholic school, Saint Rose of Lima school in Rockaway, New York, was fired upon the disclosure of her pregnancy. Michelle McCusker is 26 years old and unmarried.

Rather than taking this opportunity to recognize that people actually do have sex, the Diocese of Brooklyn chooses to keep its head in the sand and instead applies rigid adherence to the rules.


Diocese spokesman says ``This is a difficult situation for every person involved, but the school had no choice but to follow the principles contained in the teachers' personnel handbook.''

So, at a time when this young woman will need support and a steady income, the church determines that her needs are subordinate to outdated rules and obsolete modes of thought. No, it's clearly better to sweep her under the rug. To actually embrace this brave woman would mean recogizing that people aren't studying scripture day and night. And we couldn't have any of that. No, it's clearly more appropriate to send her away, preferably to some gulag for unwed mothers. While there she can be mind-wiped and re-educated.

And yet, if she had decided to abort, she would be shunned in the same fashion. So the church would have it both ways.

Accordingly, Ms.McCuster is bringing suit.

A federal discrimination complaint has been filed against a Queens Catholic school, charging that it unjustly fired an unmarried teacher for being pregnant. Michelle McCusker says she doesn't understand how a religion that prides itself on forgiving and on valuing life could terminate here because she's pregnant and choosing to have this baby.

Lawyers at the N-Y-C-L-U argued that administrators enforced the policy in a way that disproportionately effects women. Attorney Cassandra Stubbs says ``How do they determine if male employees engage in premarital sex?''

The overriding message here is that people serve their religion and not the other way around. I can't imagine a clearer illustration that organized religion has become an anachronism.

Perhaps single mothers need to wear a scarlet F for Fornicator.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Moving Away From Bush On Global Warming

The Bush administration has regarded global warming, for the most part, as just so much silly speculation. The President has refused to take the lead in regulating the sources of greenhouse gases, prefering to seek only voluntary restraints. In 2001, President Bush took the US out of the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, the ironically named Clear Skies legislation was offered, seeking to roll back standards.

Now, several state governers, including Republicans, have taken the initiative. New York State's Governor George Pataki (Who, despite assertions to the contrary, is not in 12 year coma.) broke away from the administration's stance and proposed legislation this past May curbing automobile emissions. New York State has taken a similar approach to California, which passed legislation a year ago.

NEW YORK - Cars sold or registered in New York State must cut carbon dioxide emissions beginning in 2009, state officials said on Wednesday, in Republican Gov. George Pataki's latest break with the Bush Administration over steps to cut greenhouse gases.

Pataki, who is considering a run for president, in May proposed the regulation to cut greenhouse gases from cars. California passed similar rules about a year ago to curb emissions most scientists believe are leading to global climate change.

This effort has not gone unnoticed.

"Now New York is taking an all-encompassing effort to get at global warming both through power plants and transportation," said Kit Kennedy, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "New York isn't waiting for President Bush or the federal government to take action," she said.

The larger issue here is one of political leadership. President Bush has refused to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from any source - cars, power plants or industrial sites - preferring instead a softer, voluntary approach that has yielded little progress. Congress, meanwhile, has refused to mandate significant increases in fuel efficiency.

Impatient governors who take global warming more seriously than Mr. Bush and Congress do - including Republicans like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mr. Pataki - have therefore decided to take matters into their own hands.

In the vacuum of national leadership a regional effort has taken hold. In the northeast, 9 states have formed a group to address greenhouse gas emissions.

Pataki and eight other governors in the Northeast also are attempting to regulate greenhouse emissions from power plants through a group called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. That effort has yet to be passed by individual states.

Other states are also addressing auto emissions in their own legislation. Some are still works in progress.

Last week, Vermont ruled it would cut carbon emissions from cars. Massachusetts, Maine Connecticut and Rhode Island are also moving to adopt similar rules.

When it is all said and done, almost one third of the retail automobile market will be covered by the new regulations.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Torture Is A Joke

No, the title doesn't reflect my personal feelings. However, it is an accurate reflection of my coworker's feelings. The incident happened yesterday afternoon.

It was shortly before 5:00 and I got up from my desk to check my inbox in the outer office. A few other people were in the vicinity. In strolled one of my coworkers, another attorney that I've known for almost 8 years. He is a self-described WASP and a Republican of the variety known as the "base". (He is well aware of my political tendencies and we have had more than one loud argument.)

Due to the vagaries of our Hudson Valley weather he wore a trenchcoat. Upon his head was an incongruous onject, a tan baseball cap.

Upon approaching closer a logo was visible. In the center was a figure and the words Club Gitmo.

He was obviously proud of this new aquisition and showed to another individual nearby. He laughed and read the words embroidered on the back, Stay and play where the prisoners stay.

Though I knew his tendencies, I was astounded at his insensitivity.

As surprised as I was I felt the sudden urge to test him. I said somewhat snarkily, "If you were there You could piss on a Koran." His reply confirmed his contempt, "If I was there I would piss on the Koran." In this he was not joking.

So what is it about a white middle-aged professional that is the product of an insulated upbringing, that has never served in the military, that produces such an insensitive outlook. Perhaps, at least in part, I've answered my own question.

Friday, November 04, 2005

They're Coming After Your Organic Foods

Is nothing sacred? Apparently not. Organic foods are nothing new but remain a small part of the overall market. However, the growth of this sector has far outstripped that of other areas.

With sales of roughly $12 billion, organic food remains a
niche market within the $500 billion food industry. But the sector's growing appeal to consumers has fueled a 20 percent annual growth rate in recent years, making it highly attractive to food giants looking for gains in a slow-moving business.

Accordingly, big players have entered the arena. These include General Mills (under the Cascadian Farms and Muir Glen brands) and Kraft (under the Back To Nature and Boca Foods brands). Of course Wal-Mart has an interest here too.

Wal-Mart wants in, too. "We are particularly excited about organic food, the fastest-growing category in all of food," Lee Scott, Wal-Mart's chief executive, said at a recent shareholder meeting. "It's a great example of how Wal-Mart can appeal to a wider range of customers."

Republicans have heard the call and have once again intervened on behalf of big business.

The debate has been under way for several years. But last week, Senate and House Republicans on the Agriculture appropriations subcommittee inserted a last-minute provision into the department's fiscal 2006 budget specifying that certain artificial ingredients could be used in organic food.

This was apparently done without a hearing or prior notice. Standards first established in 1990 can be temporarily rolled back under the new spending bill.

At the same time, Charles Sweat, chief operating officer at
Earthbound Farm, the country's largest grower of organic produce, said he was concerned with the section of the spending bill that gives the Agriculture Department authority to grant temporary exemptions to allow conventionally grown ingredients like corn, soybean oil or tomatoes in organic food when organic versions are not "commercially available."

Here is a good site with lots of current information. It includes the text of a speech by Rep.Kucinich to Congress against this development.