Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Personal freedom

Last week it was announced that the Supreme Court ruled for Westboro church people, that they do have the right to make asses of themselves standing outside funerals for our fallen military with hate filled signs.
I refuse to call them their official name because although I was born Baptist and converted to Catholicism, I don't think they are any kind of Baptist I can recognize. I'll call them church people for Lord knows lots of ignorance is alive and well in churches.

Anyway, five of their members came to Kentucky this past Sunday. They protested at a Protestant and Catholic Church in Owensboro. They protested at a Catholic Church in Louisville. An article about the day and the five people from the Westboro group as well as the local response was on the front page of the Courier-Journal Monday morning. According to the newspaper they chose the small Louisville church because it was on the way from Owensboro to the airport. That makes me wonder how they transport their hate signs. Do they go through the TSA checks with the signs and fold them up to fit in the overhead bin, or do they get folded into luggage that is checked?

A local man, a veteran, organized a group of about 200 people to stand on the other side of the road. These people were students from Bellarmine University and other school groups. Some of the students spoke to the reporter saying they had been debating freedom of speech issues and the Supreme Court's ruling in their classes. The signs the local group held said things like, "God is Love."
Wonderful. I think that is a fitting response to hate and often while believing that freedom of speech is important in America; we have to speak out but not with hate.

Another ruling by the Court last week had to do with AT&T and their belief they had the right to personal privacy when they didn't want information held by the government from a federal investigation of their billing practices, released under the Freedom of Information rules. This was a unanimous decision for the Court.

In the brief written by Chief Justice Roberts he spent several paragraphs discussing grammar and personal adjectives. To quote CJ Roberts: "The ordinary meaning of 'personal' does not refer to an impersonal company." I'm hopeful he has a sense of humor is isn't using this as a political device after the egregious ruing last year that gave corporations the right of free speech.

On another note, the Kentucky Legislature is in the last week of their session. Not much has been accomplished. The Senate brought up such bills as a law that would require people who need cold medicine to go to their doctors for a prescription. If that had been passed, instead of buying a box of 12 cold capsules for $12, you'd need to make an appointment with your doctor, so to the office, wait in there with 15 other sick people, meet with the doctor, get a prescription, pay the co-pay and your insurance company would have to pay what they do for the visit. That's making the assumption you have health insurance.
They did pass a bill allowing sale of previously banned fireworks. Now if you want to sell fireworks in Kentucky you get an annual license for $500 and pay sales taxes. The guy who sponsored the bill was mad because he saw Tennessee making all that money from Kentuckians who crossed the border each summer for fireworks.

Of course this is the same legislature that won't allow Kentuckians to legally gamble on anything but horses at race tracks. If we want to play slots or blackjack, we have to cross a river. According to all the Protestant preachers some of whom seem to be legislators, gambling is immoral and a sin. Fireworks on the other hand are ways to make tax money.

The Legislature also tried to pass a law that would allow every public school in the state to create a class to teach the Bible. The state would contribute funds for these classes and of course they would be voluntary. This didn't pass, but it sure got time on the floor in debate and was covered in every small town newspaper for the Christians to see.

Meanwhile Medicaid is unfunded by over $150 million and cuts are being made to any social safety net around. I guess it could be worse. We could live in Florida where Gov. Rick Scott, the former criminal health industry CEO whose company was sued by the federal government for cheating on their billing of Medicare and paid a billion dollar fine, has cut over $150 million from that state's education funding and gave it to his corporate buddies in tax cuts.

Or we could be like Wisconsin and have a governor devoting our time voters to destroy one of the hardest fought rights of the American worker, collective bargaining.

I worked at a company for ten years that got a union voted in. There were 12 employees and everyone was an office worker. You might wonder why this happened. It happened because the boss started having an affair with the head of one of the two departments. No one cared who he screwed but when she was promoted and people were being fired and laid off because they didn't give her the respect she felt she deserved, the remaining employees went through the process and got a union shop voted in.

It didn't last long but it got the attention of the boss and the board of directors! There's a whole story in that which does not need to be told here.

Unions are the reason we have 5-day 40 hour work weeks and there is overtime and paid vacations and benefit packages. The whole idea of safe working conditions and worker's comp and health insurance were negotiated by unions until they became part of the fabric of jobs in America. The reason people like the Koch brothers and corporate America fund elections of wack jobs like these new governors and such, is they want to get rid of their competition and face it, unions are the yang to the ying or corporations when it comes to laws and enforcement of laws in the country.

Oh, and don't let anyone get away with saying the reason American jobs went overseas is unions. The reason they went away is people like KFC wanted to sell chicken in China so they and others in the American consumer products corporations worked for free trade and before you knew it everyone was taking advantage of tax breaks to move production to cheap labor places.

You don't get benefits? You don't have a wage high enough to live on and have to work two or three jobs to pay your bills? Maybe it's time to vote and work for unionizing your work group.