On Love and Equality

As a family we are used to sharing – whether it be things, thoughts, ideas, information we find interesting or compelling.  It is one way we keep together in thought and feeling – even though there are miles that separate us.  As anyone who has read my postings, one thing that is very important to me and my family are gay rights as my son is gay and we see the challenges, prejudice and hate that he must deal with in today’s world.  I, for one, find it difficult to maturely deal with those so viciously against gays and the rights they deserve as citizens in our country.  My anger can often overtake me – mostly given my relative lack of influence to change others.  At 59 years old, I still find it difficult to understand the processes that work in people so filled with hate and loathing.  I understand at some level given what I see as a shortcoming in these people, an inability to think beyond their immediate self, a stunted ability to empathize, a lack of feeling for anything other than themselves.  I would like to say it is merely a difference in levels of education but that won’t work.  In some sense I guess I’m not much better than most of these people who can look at my son as a second class citizen or, even worse, an abomination because I do look at these people as deficient human beings, people who are not equal to those of us who think and can empathize with others – even if we don’t agree with them.  Unfortunately, I can’t take their rights away – I can only loathe them.  I can only wish they receive back what they put out.  That is what keeps me going at times.

But I digress – back to sharing.  I want to share something sent to me this morning by my daughter.  She sent on a link to a site I would want everyone to visit.  It speaks to one of the more important topics we have in front of us.  It speaks to why any focus on marriage being only between a man and a woman is such a fucked up concept.  Again, after watching the video, I can’t fathom how anyone can’t be moved or can’t see the problem with denying rights of people in a gay relationship.  I will say as I watched the video and listened and watched two people obviously in love, I couldn’t help feel their pain and frustration.  For those who would watch and not see the problem we have as a society at the moment, I remain confused as I can’t imagine their thought or emotional processes.   I can only see that most of the anti-gay rights people are dead inside in some way or another.  I also think that many of them are plain and simple assholes but I think that about alot of people.

In any case, please take a look and pass it on to others as you may.  Thanks to my daughter for sharing –

Speak a bit louder with our Wallets

As anyone whom has followed my postings has read, I have considerable issue with those people who feel it is their right and their collective duty to make sure that everyone in our country follow their rules and beliefs.  While we have made progress as a country in some areas, there remain those individuals and groups who yearn for days of old – when actually the lives of most anyone other than white, protestant men pretty much sucked a good deal of the time.  Given the collective stupor that many of the people in this country walk thru life with on a daily basis, I get increasingly scared of what might happen with this next election.  The Republicans speak to this being probably the most important election of our lifetime – and I am inclined to agree but for obviously different reasons.  We have made progress and as a society I would submit we are more open and less condemning in many ways – most credit to our young people but also a bit of credit to those of us who came of age in the 60’s, didn’t forget everything that decade was about, and brought up children who can think and feel and can accept that which doesn’t necessarily mirror their own image.

But it is time to help push back on those who don’t see a path forward for the minorities in our country.  In specific, I want to make it known to those so clearly supportive of withholding the rights of individuals who are part of the LGBT community.  While society is definitely moving (albeit slowly) in the direction of universal recognition of the individual’s rights in this situation, it is time to turn up the pressure where possible.  Not a new notion at all but we now need to employ every tool and option available to make our collective voices and wants known.  That one tool that rarely fails is the economic one – and in this case it means we need to make clearer decisions about where we shop and what companies get our dollars.

MSN recently took this to task on their website and it gave me the opportunity to learn a bit more about where I shouldn’t be shopping.  Some of the anti-gay companies are obvious and well known.  There are some that surprised me and I know there are many more I have not even found at this point.

I would hope that anyone who has actually taken the time to read this far is someone who is open-minded enough to consider this action.  I’ll assume that anyone who supports this discrimination stopped reading awhile ago – maybe a big assumption given what I believe the average education level of many of those so visciously against this idea.  Not sure many of them have ever used a computer or the internet – and more amazing that they are proud of that fact.

In any case, here is the data from that posting (and all credit to MSN) –

First, the bad –

Cinemark

The 2008 landmark Proposition 8 same-sex-marriage battle in California can be viewed as a line-in-the-sand, either-you-are-with-us-or-against-us moment. With record amounts of money raised, Prop 8 was the election-year’s cause célèbre on both sides of the fence, with every business intensely scrutinized for where it stood.

One business that felt a backlash in the wake of Prop 8 was Cinemark (CNK), the nation’s third-largest theater chain, after CEO Alan Stock donated $9,999 to the “Yes on 8” campaign. The donation prompted opponents of the referendum to initiate a boycott on Cinemark.

Exasperated officials of the theater chain pointed out that Stock’s contribution was a personal decision and that the company had not taken a position on the referendum.

Chick-fil-A

S. Truett Cathy, founder of the popular chicken sandwich maker, is a devout Christian and his beliefs are reflected in how the private company operates. All Chick-fil-A restaurants close on Sundays and the company donates to community service organizations.

Not every community group can expect a donation from Cathy, of course. Late last year, the advocacy group Equality Matters examined the company’s charitable contributions and said it discovered that a large proportion of the aid went to organizations noted for their anti-gay beliefs.

In 2009, for example, through its charitable arm, the WinShape Foundation, Chick-fil-A donated $1.7 million to groups including the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Eagle Forum and others opposed to gay rights.

After news broke of where Chick-fil-A’s charitable donations were going, students at schools like Northeastern University and New York University protested the chain’s presence on their campuses. The administration at Northeastern eventually scrapped plans to bring a Chick-fil-A to its campus.

In response, Chick-fil-A vice-president Donald Perry published a letter in the Boston Globe in which he asserted that the contributions were made to assist faith-based organizations, and critics were wrong to assume that the giver was exercising an anti-gay agenda

Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) has yet to add gender identity to its employment nondiscrimination policy. Employees of the company also do not get domestic partner benefits, except in states where it is legally required. Because of that, Wal-Mart received a low score of 40 in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.

Additionally, CEO Mike Duke stepped into controversy in 2008 when he signed a petition seeking a ban on gay adoption in the company’s home state of Arkansas.

More recently, the big box retailer stirred up controversy when it gave shelf space to a book about “overcoming homosexuality.”

Given that the book was by no means a best-seller, that Wal-Mart, which usually stocks popular mainstream titles, chose to carry it could be an indicator that it is throwing its weight behind one side of the issue.

Urban Outfitters

Behind Urban Outfitters’ trendy, liberal image lies a conservative core. Richard Hayne, the company’s founder and chief executive, made headlines last year when it was revealed that he had donated money to former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. The kicker? Haynes initially denied he ever made the donation. When presented with evidence, he said: “I’ll have to look into this. I don’t think this is right.”

Former tween queen Miley Cyrus, who has voiced support of equal rights for gays, has said she would boycott the store.

Because of the clientele it serves, Urban Outfitters is seemingly caught in an awkward standoff between appealing to its core demographic and its founder’s personal beliefs. Case in point: the company sold T-shirts saying “I Support Same-Sex Marriage” during the battle over California’s Proposition 8, but the merchandise was quickly pulled from the stores’ shelves. The move generated consumer complaints, which were not assuaged by the company’s assertion that the T-shirt was pulled because of low sales.

ExxonMobil

And which companies are least accommodating? The list starts with a company whose policies changed after a merger.

Before merging with Exxon, Mobil was one of the most progressive Fortune 500 companies, with a nondiscrimination policy that covered sexual orientation and a benefits policy that extended health coverage to employees’ gay and lesbian partners. Those benefits were rescinded when the merger went through, in 1999. In every years since, ExxonMobil (XOM) shareholders have attempted to get sexual orientation added back to the company’s nondiscrimination policy, to no avail.

Typically, the company lets the resolution be introduced at its annual meeting, recommends a no vote and lets shareholders shoot it down. This year, however, the Houston company asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to prevent a resolution from getting to the table, a request the regulatory agency denied. So another shareholder vote was conducted at the energy company’s annual meeting, in late May, and once again a motion to include sexual orientation in the company’s nondiscrimination policy was roundly defeated.

ExxonMobil has consistently received a score of zero in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index, which measures the level of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality in American workplaces. This year, for the first time, the company received a negative score.

And now the good  –

Goldman Sachs

The Human Rights Campaign, a national organization that promotes equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, recently made Goldman Sachs (GS) chief Lloyd Blankfein its first national corporate spokesman for same-sex marriage.

His agreement to promote marriage equality has already cost Blankfein’s company at least one client, Blankfein told Out on the Street, a gay-rights advocacy group in New York’s financial district.

“They didn’t want to continue a relationship that they had with us in money management,” Blankfein was quoted as saying. Blankfein opted to protect the client’s anonymity, but his remarks suggest the account was a high profile one: “(I)f you heard the name, it wouldn’t surprise you,” he said.

Boeing

More than a decade ago, the last place one may have expected to find forward thinking on the issue would be inside an aerospace and defense corporation. That’s why Boeing (BA) made headlines in 1999 for being an early adopter of same-sex domestic partner benefits for employees.

A decade later, Boeing took up the fight to extend domestic partnership rights in Washington state, where the company was founded and retains a significant manufacturing base.

Boeing supported a 2009 referendum on a domestic-partnership law approved by the state Legislature. Other Pacific Northwest companies, including Microsoft (MSFT), Starbucks (SBUX), Nike (NKE) and RealNetworks (RNWK), were quick to join Boeing in a corporate coalition to advance the cause. (Microsoft owns and publishes MSN Money.)

The state passed same-sex legislation earlier this year, but at the time of this slide show’s publication, a referendum overturning the law appears headed for a November vote.

A joint statement from the coalition read: “Overturning this law would undo years of equal rights progress made in Washington state. We do not believe that this step backward would be in the best interest for the future of our state.”

J.C. Penney

It’s unlikely that J.C. Penney (JCP) anticipated the level of controversy that ensued when it hired Ellen DeGeneres as a spokeswoman for a campaign aimed at revitalizing the brand.

Far from polarizing, DeGeneres is a mainstream figure, with a daily television talk show.  She has hosted the Oscars broadcast and served as a judge on such shows as “American Idol”.

But hiring a lesbian spokeswoman was the wrong move, cried the One Million Moms organization, a project of the American Family Association, which threatened to boycott J.C. Penney unless the retailer dropped DeGeneres.

J.C. Penney not only refused to cave to the group’s demands, the Plano, Texas, company sought to more closely align itself with gay rights, saying it “shares the same values” as DeGeneres. More recently, it featured gay men in a Father’s Day ad.

Google

Californians voted in 2008 to keep same-sex couples from marrying. The ballot initiative (known as Proposition 8) was fought by several Silicon Valley stalwarts, including Google (GOOG), Apple (AAPL), Intuit (INTU), Adobe Systems (ADBE) and eBay (EBAY).

Apple donated $100,000 to the effort to defeat the proposition. Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, meanwhile, contributed a combined $140,000 to help defeat the Prop 8 campaign.

“While we respect the strongly held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality,” Brin and Page said at the time in a prepared statement.

Ben & Jerry’s

The self-described “activist brand,” owned by foods giant Unilever (UL), has often used its products to reflect its politics. When the Green Mountain State’s passed legislation sanctioning same-sex marriage in 2009, the South Burlington, Vt., ice cream maker celebrated with a makeover of its Chubby Hubby flavor, serving up Hubby Hubby sundaes at its Vermont retail locations.

In March, in response to the United Kingdom’s plans to grant gay men and lesbians the option of entering into civil marriages, Ben & Jerry’s began dubbing its Oh My Apple Pie flavor (not available in the United States) the matrimonially-minded Apple-y Ever After.

Ben & Jerry’s people “believe love is love”.

Just out of curiosity – why do they always look like this?

As I did some looking beyond MSN, I found some additional information that adds a few names to list of where not to shop.  I came across an organization that will of course be condemned by many whose beliefs run contrary but the data is the data.  The Human Rights Campaign (taking liberally from thier web page) is the “largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, the Human Rights Campaign represents a force of more than one million members and supporters nationwide — all committed to making HRC’s vision a reality.  Founded in 1980, HRC advocates on behalf of LGBT Americans, mobilizes grassroots actions in diverse communities, invests strategically to elect fair-minded individuals to office and educates the public about LGBT issues.”   The organization publishes their CEI report, released each fall, which provides an in-depth analysis and rating of large U.S. employers and their policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.  Companies are rated on a scale from 0% to 100% reflecting the level of their support – 0% being pretty much no support.

The actual report can be downloaded from here – http://sites.hrc.org/documents/CorporateEqualityIndex_2012.pdf

or you can access the virtual publication – http://issuu.com/humanrightscampaign/docs/corporateequalityindex_2012

Here is the link to a report from 2011 where HRC lists those companies that scored 100% – the ones we should all be supporting with our purchases/

http://www.procon.org/sourcefiles/hrc-fortune-500-141-companies-cei-rating-100.pdf

At the other end, here are some companies on the Fortune 500 who managed to score a 0%  – run, and run away fast from these – remind them equality is important.

II.   35 “Gay Un-Friendly” Fortune 500 Companies (0% on the HRC Index),   2011
Company Name Fortune 500 Rank City State
Exxon Mobil Corp. 2 Irving TX
International Assets Holding Corp. 49 Altamonte Springs FL
CHS Inc. 91 Inver Grove Heights MN
Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. 128 Houston TX
United Services Automobile Association 132 San Antonio TX
Community Health Systems Inc. 191 Franklin TN
KBR Inc. 193 Houston TX
Dollar General Corp. 195 Goodlettsville TN
Liberty Global Inc. 210 Englewood CO
Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea   Co. Inc. 247 Montvale NJ
Anadarko Petroleum 260 The Woodlands TX
Icahn Enterprises LP 290 New York NY
Huntsman Corp. 293 Salt Lake City UT
SYNNEX Corp. 294 Fremont CA
Family Dollar Stores 305 Matthews NC
Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation 317 Pittsburg TX
Commercial Metals 327 Irving TX
WellCare Health Plans, Inc. 328 Tampa FL
Western Refining Inc. 330 El Paso TX
Global Partners Waltham 368 Waltham MA
Pantry Inc., The 382 Cary NC
Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. 388 Dallas TX
Cameron International Corp. 399 Houston TX
Tutor Perini Corp. 407 Sylmar CA
Auto-Owners Insurance Group 418 Lansing MI
Western & Southern Financial   Group 420 Cincinnati OH
Universal American Corp. 425 Rye Brooke NY
SPX Corp. 427 Charlotte NC
Holly Corp. 431 Dallas TX
BlackRock 441 New York NY
W.R. Berkley 463 Greenwich CT
Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc. 466 Coraopolis PA
AbitibiBowater Inc. 472 Greenville SC
Frontier Oil Corp. 488 Houston TX
MDU Resources Group, Inc. 498 Bismarck ND

And here is a list of the top 20 companies on the Fortune 500 and how they scored –

 

You choose – whose initiatives and what causes do you want you hard earned cash to support?

Memories and Remembrances

A couple of days ago, I bought a new car.  Not really a big deal in the larger sense but this one was a little different – more so for the cars we got rid of and not what we purchased.  Like most things in life, there is a lesson or something deeper in most any event or change if we just pay attention.  In this case, we had decided it was time to replace our aging and high mileage SUV with something we could reasonably move into retirement (still a couple of years away) with so we wouldn’t need to have that expense hanging there and it would better position us for replacement of my wife’s car in the next couple of years.  On the surface, this was merely a trade of two older cars for one new.  It made financial sense as adding a large car payment at this time isn’t in our plan.  One vehicle was a 2006 Saab 9-7X with 145K miles on it.  The other a 2010 Nissan 370Z with less than 10K on it.  From my vantage point, the loss of the 370Z was the larger loss – not huge and at this time last year I would have never even considered it.  Interesting what a difference a year can make.  The decision came to me for several reasons, none which most anyone else would care about and several would probably be looked at with a quizzical squint and a “you’ve got to be kidding” mumbled softly.  Bottom line, when it came to it, it felt right in my heart – as well as my head.  I learned to trust that a long time ago.  While there is much to miss with the Z, there is much less today than when I got it.  It served the purpose intended.  But that is not the point here.  It provided me some great feelings and was basically an adult toy – and it kind of meant, for us, we had achieved something special that we were able to buy it.

The Saab 9-7X is another matter.  This car was my workhorse.  It was a very nice SUV when we got it – it had more bells and whistles than I had ever had in a car before.  It became the vehicle that did everything and went everywhere.  It moved kids to and from college, from living home to first apartments, from barn to horse show, from Home Depot and Lowes back to our house – there was little I couldn’t get into the car and very few things I was unwilling to put in it.  It took me around the Northeast as I went from one client site to all my others and back again.  It was reliable and really never let me down.  It was never babied and I hauled everything imaginable in it.  In many ways, it had more personality than the Z.

So who really cares about this and why do I think it is worth sharing?  I share this due to another aspect of our car buying experience yesterday – the part that was really about the feelings behind the obvious part of trading in something old to get something new.  To me (in my usual sense), it was more looking forward as I have a new vehicle to learn about and experience.  I only saw positive.  For my wife, it was a tough day – and ultimately for all the reasons I love her as I do and feel lucky and proud she chose to spend her life with me.  To her, the day was not to celebrate the new car – even though she was obviously happy I was happy.  For her, there was a loss – one across a couple of dimensions.  There were tears, and more tears.   A little embarrassment (not necessary) and some apologies (also not necessary) to the car salesman – I saw neither as needed as it was clear to me what was going on.  It was really the loss of something beyond the cars – much deeper and much more understandable in the larger sense.  It was really about us moving on and leaving something that was important and vital in our lives together.  The cars represented another segment of our life as a family of four and our growth and experience together.  It was about college moves, the barn and Bear, mulching the yard, ice cream sitting in a convertible on a warm summer night. It was about the daily rides that Gunther demanded.  It was about both kids no longer really being kids – as they found their way moving into being full-fledged adults.  It was about us really becoming empty nesters (at least for a while) and the feelings and opportunities that only existed for us before children over 28 years ago.  While the timeframes these cars spanned definitely had its share of challenges, it was really about how good our lives have been at each phase.  In many ways, the tears are very understandable.  We’ve been through this previously – in other situations where something that was central in our life was changed and a flood of memories resulted.  Each time, we’ve sat and talked about the time and the events connected to the change.  There are always numerous “Remember when….” and together we could re-experience that time together – sometimes with tears but more often with laughter and smiles.  We don’t live in the past but it is important to embrace what the past has been about and often how it helps define today.  Maybe we are lucky that we have a considerable amount to embrace.  But in any case, there is a lesson or two here I think everyone can take note of – it is entirely too easy to get caught up in the moment or to spend too much energy thinking about tomorrow.  The never-ending load of crap out there that can interfere with your life – people, politics, the economy, whatever.  Sometimes it has to and there is always a need to do planning for the future.  But we shouldn’t do it at the cost of losing yesterday.

Stopping to smell the flowers is critical not only for the moment but it is what allows you to retrace paths and flowers from earlier walks – the good and the not so good.  But, again, isn’t that what life is really about.  Cherish when and what you can.

                

Think about it – hate and intolerance at its best

It has been awhile since I found the time to actually get back out here and do a bit of my usual rant.  With Ricky out of the Republican race I’ve actually been a little less incensed at some of the rhetoric and crap spewing from Mitt.  I had thought that people would begin to see him for what he is and what he stands for but it is becoming increasingly evident that will likely not suffice given the ongoing demonstration of limited intelligence of the vast majority of the American public.  And I’m also reminded that I thought there was no way in hell that Georgy Bush would get elected for a second term – I am reminded of a quote by one of the authors I read extensively in my youth –

Never underestimate the power of human stupidity – Robert A. Heinlein

And even more relevant today –

But back to my current thought on what is turning out to be an area of social consequence that has become increasingly disturbing – both by the views held and the laws passed.  I listen to President Obama finally state the obvious (to many of us) about viewing those in our society are gay as equals across the board.  I watch another southern state (are we seeing a pattern here?  I know where I don’t want to ever live) pass an anti-gay bill.   I then watch Mitt do a commencement speech at Liberty University, founded by those in the religious right.  Might be me but this wasn’t a university that I’ve ever seen as one of the tops in the country but there are many educational institutions which are not among the best that provide students a good education.  The difference here is that I can’t see how this is a well-rounded education – but my opinion only.  In any case, my point is that the item in Mitt’s speech – re-affirming his belief that marriage is only valid between a man and a woman – is one that most thinking people have seen past.  Telling this view to this crowd took no gumption and required no validation beyond the automatic head nodding and hand clapping through the crowd.  He is no Michael Bloomberg who has a set of cajones easily demonstrated by delivering a speech at the University of North Carolina where he directly countered the recently passed law on marriage in the state.  Definitely a man of conviction.  Not Mitt – this again shows Mitt to be a man who basically tells any crowd what they want to hear – is that flip flopping as many accuse him or is it really more a case of a man who really doesn’t have a real thought in his head – he is really the human (and barely so) version of a chameleon.  Is this really what our country needs at this time?  We are used to the general public as essentially cattle being herded at the whims of the leaders they follow but not as often the other way around.  Even Bush attempted to lead – as feeble as it was.  The difference is that Bush was just pretty dumb – I don’t believe Mitt is dumb – he is just clueless and inept.  Again, quite the qualities we need in a potential leader.

One can only hope the time between now and November really shows Mitt for who he is. I’m guessing it will be increasingly difficult as the Obama camp picks the strategic topics that need a firm stance.  I see the deer in the headlights look becoming increasingly popular in Mitt’s speeches.

Now – what audience am I speaking with today?

But the more important point here is the continued view of gays as second class citizens – and that is probably giving many of these anti-gay people more credit than they are due.  The fact that they profess to be so religious is laughable – I ask anyone – who do you know among those who profess to be so pious and living the life set by their religious dogma really lives that life?  Very few in my experience.  To be honest, I’m one of the few – and that is only made possible given my view of the world around me as an atheist.

But no matter your religion, your beliefs, how you think you lead your life, I have to wonder how one ever reaches the point where they can actually take the view that anyone else in our society is not worthy of respect and equal footing – especially when they contribute at equal levels with the rest of us.  You don’t need to like everyone or even want to have them live next door to you – that’s okay – I sure don’t.   But I’m not looking to take way their civil rights and liberties.  I’ve made the point before that it isn’t 1955 any more, women can vote and civil rights are a given (at least in our laws).  To treat gays differently is unacceptable in this day and age.  The older generation (another bit of slick marketing is their designation as “the greatest generation” by Tom Brokaw, a dumb shit at best – “the neediest generation” is more apropos) needs to take a lesson from our youth who are less likely to see race, color, sexual orientation as something that needs much extra thought.  But it not just the older people but more disturbing the number of baby boomers who profess such intolerance.   It is despicable and speaks volumes of the type of people we live with in this country.  Even more amazing is that not one of these people is more than 1 degree separated from someone who is gay.  In fact many of them walk that fine line themselves, so aptly demonstrated by many of the politicians and religious leaders whom have found themselves having to explain themselves – hence the degree of intensity.  Bottom line, the gay citizens many are so quick to push to the side are our sons and daughters, our aunts and uncles, our neighbors, our teachers, our police and firemen, etc., etc.  Get it? – it is really about people we love and care about when we look beyond the sexual aspect on which most anti-gay people perseverate.  How can you be so rigid and unfeeling?  My guess is that these are people with some severe (or at least moderately severe) sexual dysfunction or they wouldn’t be so threatened so quickly.  To my fellow baby boomers – what the hell happened to you that you forgot what the 60’s was about?  Different decade, pretty much the same issues.  Oh, now I remember, you were the ones sitting in your rooms with your head in a book all week and then on Friday and Saturday nights you went on your binge drinking and showed the beginnings of the asshole you would eventually grow into as you let the alcohol quickly dim your hangups and insecurities.

Apologies for the rambling nature of this – I’d like to think I’m usually a bit more structured and to the point.  However, this topic is one that hits home as my son is gay.  But beyond that I have had many friends and people I know who are gay – my best man in my wedding over 30 years ago was gay – and I knew it and didn’t really care.   Am I ever a bit biased? – not really given that despite my sometimes intolerance of others, it is typically not against an entire class of people.  I will admit that there are parts of any group – be it race, ethnicity, age, whatever – that bug me.  And I have no issue saying that stupid people are pretty much useless – no matter their color, religion, sexual orientation, whatever. What having a gay son has taught me is a much better understanding of what they tolerate every day – and how much intolerance can hurt and how difficult it can make life.  While both my kids (now adults) have demonstrated success so far and I am phenomenally proud of both of them – they are both pretty amazing in their own ways, I look back at the added burden my son dealt with going thru school and I hurt inside when I think of what he tolerated through all those years.

I’m ecstatic when I see his friends who are with him still and don’t see him any different from anyone else.  He, like any individual, is made up of more than the single sexual dimension so many are focused on.   I can only wish a slow and agonizing remainder of life to those who are so quick and easy to deny him his rights.  No doubt there are those who will read this (assuming anyone does), dismss it without a thought and continue to see my son as less than human – well to all of you I say “Sieg Heils”.  You are in great company.

One parting thought on Romney – if he truly was the high school bully he has been accused of being, that is bad enough.  Add the gay aspect to the bullying and it becomes a whole other issue.   We can forgive some past transgressions (well, to some extent) but at least own up to it when called out.  To play the “I don’t remember” card is less than credible – but then again, maybe Mitt has a bit more Ronald Reagan in him than was thought!

The Republican War against Women

While we as a country continue to reel from the economic crisis brought on thru the greed and FU attitude of recent attempt at Presidency by Bush, the current crop of Republicans seem to think the priority to taking over the reproductive rights of half (actually more) of our population.  This Republican push to remove any Federal oversight and influence thereby moving more control and legislative influence and decision-making to the States will continue to enable this sort of regressive move back to the 50’s – when men were men and women were, well, objects.

Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre of Tulsa, Oklahoma held up a sign at a protest at the Oklahoma capitol to protest anti-abortion legislation in the state.

I find it hard to understand the men at the head of this battle but even more so, that there are women leading some of the legislation to further restrict women’s rights is even more difficult to understand.  As I looked at a bit more detail behind the current laws and proposed laws (including those in play in my home state of Pennsylvania), it becomes very obvious that the Republican agenda has nothing to do beyond getting into women’s shorts – so to speak.  When you see it all in one place and you look at the legislative vent it makes it very clear about the agenda as well as provides a good list of places not to live (Pennsylvania included).  I’ve taken a stab at pulling together a quick view of everything I could find out there at the moment – can’t attest to the fact that it is all correct down to the minute nor that I didn’t miss some states out there.  In any case, to me it is a sad commentary on where we are as a country today and how easy it is for some to tell others what they can and can’t do.  I really thought that religious freedom when both ways – not just that we all had to follow the zealot’s rules.

Here is a quick view of things:

State  Legislation    Status
Idaho Legislation requires all women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound procedure In Progress
Kansas Bill requires women under the age of 18 to receive the explicit consent of both her parents before seeking an abortion. Exceptions will only be made in cases where “family sexual abuse is involved,” and even then women will need the approval of one parent. Additionally another law would immunize a doctor who discovers that a baby will be born with a devastating condition and deliberately withholds that   information from his patient. In Progress
Texas Law mandates that women seeking abortions undergo forced ultrasounds.  The provider must also display and describe the image of the ultrasound. Law
Arkansas A bill under way in the Senate that would severely limit abortion coverage under private insurance plans. If passed, would require women to purchase a special rider or policy if they ever plan to get an abortion. In Progress
Oklahoma Law requiries women not only to undergo an ultrasound before seeking an abortion but to actually be shown the ultrasound screen while a technician describes the fetus in detail Law
Kentucky Law requires women not only to undergo an ultrasound before seeking an abortion  but to actually be shown the ultrasound screen while a technician describes the fetus in detail. Women also will be required to wait 24 hours before they can receive an abortion procedure. Law
Nebraska Fetal Pain Legislation – Law forbids abortion after 20 weeks Law
Iowa Fetal Pain Legislation – Law forbids abortion after 20 weeks Law
Ohio “Heartbeat Bill” which would define life as beginning at the first sign of a heartbeat, extremely early in a pregnancy, and be an effective total abortion ban. In Progress
Arizona Bill that would allow doctors to withhold information about prenatal problems if it could make the decision to have an abortion more likely. In Progress
Virginia Law requires medical providers to administer ultrasounds on women before   performing abortions Law
Pennsylvania Bill would force women to undergo an ultrasound, hear the fetal heartbeat, and   present images of the fetus to her abortion provider before she can get an   abortion. But, the kind of ultrasound required would have to be a   transvaginal ultrasound. In Progress
Georgia Bill reduces the time period for when an elective abortion can occur from about 26   weeks to 20 weeks. The bill does not make exceptions for rape or incest and says any fetus delivered after 20 weeks must be delivered in a way that tries to keep it alive. In Progress
Tennessee The bill would require the state’s health department to list a report on every   abortion, including identification of the physician, and the office, clinic or hospital where it was performed, as well as the woman’s county of residence, age, race, marital status, number of prior pregnancies, prior abortions, gestational age of fetus and her pre-existing medical conditions. In Progress
New Hampshire Requires women to wait a mandatory 24 hours before having an abortion, it also   requires doctors to give them false information by telling them that abortion can cause breast cancer. In Progress
Florida Imposes a 24-hour waiting period on women seeking an abortion and requiring new abortion clinics to be owned by doctors. In Progress
Mississippi Bill would effectively ban abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which is after approximately six weeks of pregnancy, and defines life as beginning at conception, which would ban many forms of contraception. The bill may also require doctors to use transvaginal ultrasounds. In Progress
Rhode Island
Bill would allow a woman to view the ultrasound and have the person who may perform the abortion describe to the woman what she is seeing on the ultrasound.
In Progress

Now, without casting aspersions in any particular direction, I think there are some threads that run thru the list of states in included on this list.  Definitely not the list of states with the highest median income or the highest level of average education.  What is most telling is generally the states you don’t find on this list.

There was some additional data I came across that I also found most interesting.  A place where there are increased effort and focus on restricting women’s access to abortion thru a variety of means.  Some regulations under current consideration include:

1. Law requiring advertisements for abortion services to warn patients of the health risks of terminating a pregnancy

2. Outlawing the “morning-after pill” without prescription

3. Weeklong waiting period after applying for an abortion

4. Laws to compel married women to get permission from their husbands, and minors from their parents, before undergoing abortions.

Take it as you will but I find this even more unsettling when you consider these efforts are currently underway in one of those places we have long-held in contempt – Russia.

“The best judge of whether or not a country is going to develop is how it treats its women. If it’s educating its girls, if women have equal rights, that country is going to move forward. But if women are oppressed and abused and illiterate, then they’re going to fall behind.” ~Barack Obama, Ladies’ Home Journal, September 2008

 

Considering the First Amendment

Okay – I don’t expect the career Republicans in the fray of battle to acknowledge it.  I really don’t expect the majority of the Republican base to understand it as most are lemmings looking for a cliff.  What I don’t understand is those in the media that do the interviews of the politicians and those thinking independents or core Democrats with a voice and the ability to question and challenge.  Not that anyone will change the minds of these people – but there is nothing wrong with making them look like the bigots and jerks they really are.  What am I missing in the defense of religious freedom that draws on the First Amendment and takes a position that the government is treading on religious freedom when it addresses issues such as contraception or gay rights that can be viewed from a perspective equally valid in non-religious terms?  Why is it that imparting or recognizing rights to those not of any particular religious denomination is any less valid than protecting the rights of those whose religion are central to their existence?  How is it that the decision by the Bush debacle to not fund stem cell research (that was based purely on religious beliefs) not seen as an issue by these same people who are having issues with birth control or gay rights?  I know the answer as does anyone that thinks and actually can chew gum and walk at the same time.

What is it that makes it so threatening to these on the right that someone is different, has different beliefs or holds other ideals to be more important.   I would submit that if you were truly of faith and belief, you felt it to your core and you actually followed the teaching of Jesus, we of little faith wouldn’t be seen as the enemy.  You wouldn’t feel the need to have us talk, walk, and look like you.

Interesting fact about Rick Santorum: his wife, Karen Santorum, had an abortion in 1996 during her 19th week of pregnancy Karen Santorum’s fetus caused an infection inside her and had to be removed to save her life. How can Rick Santorum oppose all abortion in all cases when terminating a pregnancy saved the life of his own wife? **

To be honest, I’m okay with the tax dollars of good catholics not funding birth control or abortion because, of course, no catholics use birth control or have abortions.  Equally so, I think, as a long standing atheist, I should have equal say in my Federal tax dollars (now into six figures) not funding anything that smells of organized religion – charities, schools, you name it.  Where do I sign up for that?  Yes – we can write our Senator and Congressperson but that won’t go anywhere because most of them have no balls.  At the end of the day, I would expect that my contribution to the Federal budget wouldn’t be funding the exorbitant medical costs of Rick Santorum’s last child (yes Rick, there is an appropriate time for birth control) – as I would expect given the Santorum’s as the religious poster family, the care is being provided in a Catholic hospital.  You see, it goes both ways.

**Update:  In the spirit of fairness and in anticipation of how the termination of the Santorum’s pregnancy in 1996 could be positioned, it would appear that the Santorum’s, given their pro-life stance, took a different route to terminating the pregnancy.  Rather than a direct abortion, they had the doctor induce the pregnancy using pitocin, which is used to induce labor.  They were aware that there was little (and I mean little) chance of survival of the baby at that age and it did die within two hours.  I have no doubt that Santorum (and pro-life supporters) will have every explanation of why this was not a “true” abortion but, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

What is Good (at least for me)…

These are times that often annoy me beyond belief. I watch what the country seems to value (or not) as important, I see the “role models” many seem to glom on to (Snooky – really?), I look at the issues that take national attention (the fact that availability of birth control for women is still a topic is a national disgrace – what is it 1959?), I see Rick Santorum (gag!!!) is actually being looked at as the Republican front runner (who actually thinks the Republican Party isn’t in trouble? Even Reagan is spinning in his grave), I watch as there are arguments around things cost too much and taxes are too high but yet no one wants to give up anything on their side – what is the deal? Are people really this stupid? The formula is actually pretty simple – someone has to pay for everything that is received – no matter what. Simple law – everything costs and there is no magic. You don’t like outsourcing and want the jobs back in the US – well, then expect to pay more – hard to find people in the US that will take a job that pays $3500 annually – keep in mind that labor costs make up the vast majority of most company costs.
But I digress – my original thought today was really how much I need to refocus back on that which is really important and that which gives me solace in the mess that is around me. When I look at that which I control (only in the broadest sense – I really control little – it’s really where I have influence and the results of my actions end up with something good), I actually can feel good – great wife and marriage (31+ years), two amazing, stand-out kids (well, not really kids anynore – successful adults at this point), a career that is well beyond anything I ever imagined, nice house, well positioned for retirement, I could go on and on but why rub it in. Was I lucky? In some ways – but only really when it came to finding my life partner – I recognize that finding that special one is basically a crap shoot – there is a bit of luck involved but one also needs to recognize when you find that person and you need to act accordingly…and I did. I am who I am today because of her – and I never forget it.
There are those who would look at the rest of my life and say I was lucky in most everything else. Easy to do because it gives them an excuse for why they aren’t at the same place. I’ve already heard “you’re lucky you have good kids” – well, I am lucky but they aren’t good kids because it just happened. We actually did what parents are supposed to do – we actively raised them, we made hard decisions when we needed to, we disciplined when needed and meant what we said when we threatened, we spent time with them, we supported their activities and actions, we went to bat for them when they were right and we held then accountable when they weren’t.  And we loved them and they knew it no matter what.

One of my favorite photos

I can go on and on – but the message is clear – It just doesn’t happen – you need to work at it.  Whether it is your marriage, your kids, your job, who you are as a person – you can’t wait for it to happen elsewhere, you can’t delegate it to others, you need to take ownership.  I recognize I still have a lot of work to do and a bit of distance to cover but at least I’m on the journey.  Seems simple in concept but it means you need to work and expend energy – something that seems to be an issue with many in today’s world. They expect it because there is a sense of entitlement. Not sure where it came from or why but I believe it is at the core of much of our problem as a society and culture.

But again, my life is good – with that mantra I can deal with most anything – Even the stupid bastards out there that are always getting in my way –

Hello world!

On the hunt...

Welcome to my new blog!  It has been a few years since my last attempt at sharing my rants with the world and much has changed – not necessarily my lack of patience with others or my core beliefs as to how the world around me works but there does seem to be a different tone out there mostly in consideration of how we all live together.  As I think thru how to best approach my objectives here (still tuning those), I expect that I will eventually put some order to my blog so there is some consistency and process.  There are those who would laugh at that given my demonstrated lack of planning in most things but, despite that, there is routine that, once planned, provides me some semblance of calming influence.

We’ll need to see where that goes.  In any case, I hope I can give some insight into me, what is important to me, what isn’t, what makes me happy and what doesn’t.  I am also going to attempt to be a bit more “gentle” in my words as I attempt to move from what has been a more base and crude use of language and image to convey my feelings.  How successful that will be remains to be seen.

My other challenge is determining how much “personal” actually gets shared – I’ve been rather successful a view that more attention in this world is not necessarily a good thing.  Low key and under the radar has been a philosphy that has served me well – both professionally and personally.  That being said, there are definitely things on the personal side that have been the hallmarks of my life and are those things of which I am most proud – should I share that or not?

By cortol53 Posted in Family