SoCS – “Body”

This post is part of SoCS:http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/07/04/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-514/ . If you visit the link, there are rules for joining in. Please do – and share!

There are “extra points” for linking this post with Independence Day yesterday, so the first thing that comes to mind is the body politic.

Ours in the US is very messed up right now. I wrote a post about it yesterday – (Happy) Independence Day! 

There is also body of work, of which this post is a very small sample.

Small, and rambling, but that is how the conscious streams!

At the moment, my body is settled into my maroon recliner and feeling a bit tired, as it is 3:24 AM. I did sleep some and hope to sleep a bit more before other people start to get up.

Hope every”body” else has a good day!

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(Happy) Independence Day!

In the United States of America, July fourth is commemorated as the anniversary of our nation. We are supposed to celebrate our country and the freedoms it affords with parades and picnics and fireworks.

I don’t feel like celebrating.

Our national government is mired in long-standing dysfunction. Poverty rates are high. Infrastructure is crumbling. Social mobility is nearly impossible. Income inequality is at an extreme level, similar to the 1920’s, right before the Great Depression.

I think what distresses me the most is the inability of people to even listen to those with a different viewpoint, much less reach a consensus that moves us toward resolving any of these issues.

Many in the country seem to have forgotten the Preamble to our Constitution, which sets out what our nation and its government, chosen by the people, is supposed to be and do.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It’s time – past time – for all of us to take this obligation seriously. If we don’t take action soon to truly “promote the general welfare,” there will not be blessings to bestow on future generations.

Let’s all get to work.

Now.

Slow recovery

Nearly every night on the news, there is coverage of devastation in some US state due to flood, wildfire, mudslide, tornado, hurricane, or ice/snowstorm. Solemn footage of some reporter surrounded by a tangle of building debris or downed trees and powerlines. If the disaster is widespread enough, the coverage may even go on for a couple of weeks. Invariably, though, the reporters and national attention move on to the next disaster scene, masking the truth that recovery, if possible, takes months or years.

I drove today though one of the neighborhoods in my town which was most severely affected in the September 2011 flood of the Susquehanna and its tributaries in the Southern Tier of New York. We had received ten inches of rain when the remnants of tropical storm Lee fell on ground already saturated by the fringe of hurricane Irene days before. First, there was flash flooding of the creeks, followed by record flooding of the Susquehanna. Some photos we took are here:

  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2019747698814.2103178.1397554070&type=1&l=f4365bbc43

 https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2016067046800.2103029.1397554070&type=1&l=3df89ce2ba

You won’t see any of the neighborhood pictures here because it was cordoned off. Not even residents were allowed in for days. Even after the river had receded and water had been pumped out of houses and basements, storm water and sewage from the broken infrastructure system flowed into the basements, re-filling them. Some houses had to be pumped out four or five times.

Some houses were condemned. Some were repairable, but homeowners, many who had lived in their homes for decades, weren’t able to withstand the stress of rebuilding and worrying if it would happen again. A few properties were abandoned, while others were sold to speculators for pennies on the dollar. Some people were able to repair their homes with the help of federal flood insurance, while others relied on non-profits, friends, relatives, and savings to rebuild. Other homes were put on the market, some in a livable state and some not, but buyers were hard to come by.

There had initially been a tussle in Washington over funding FEMA’s response to Irene/Lee, but that was resolved. New York’s state government was very little help to us.

It wasn’t until the federal funding battle after Superstorm Sandy that New York State went to bat for us so that our area finally was able to get buyouts for some of our damaged properties, getting partial compensation to property owners and funds for the towns to tear down the houses and convert them to green space. It was too late for many of the affected homeowners, but it has helped some, and transformed the neighborhood into what I saw today.

The street is a patchwork of occupied houses with tidy lawns next to homes for sale – some repaired and some, surrounded by tall grass and overgrown shrubs, still in their flood-damaged state – next to lots where houses were recently leveled, covered in straw to protect grass seed, next to  larger-than-expected expanses of lawn where the demolitions were long enough ago  for the grass to have grown in. The nursing home that flooded is still sitting empty; they are building a new home in another part of town.

It still saddens me every time I drive through. For the neighborhood, nearly three years later, recovery continues, but it will never be complete.

 

belief vs. fact

A couple of hours after the elation of yesterday’s court decision upholding home rule in New York State, came the utterly convoluted US Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case. While there are thousands of words of talk and text on this ruling out there already, the aspect I want to weigh in on the collision of belief and fact that is in evidence in the decision.

The family that owns Hobby Lobby believes that a few of the forms of birth control mandated for coverage under the Affordable Care Act cause abortions. (They apparently didn’t believe this prior to the ACA when their employee health insurance plan covered these same items, but that is a different story.)

The fact is that these forms of birth control are not abortifaciant. The morning after pill will not abort a pregnancy. The IUD works chiefly by disrupting the activity of sperm. One of the best brief explanations of the facts I have seen is from Jamie Manson, writing in the National Catholic Reporter, here.

The US Catholic bishops make the same factual error in their public pronouncements in condemning the ACA because of the contraception mandate. It’s probably not a coincidence that the five Supreme Court justices who formed the majority in which belief trumped fact in the Hobby Lobby case are Catholic men. On the other hand, Catholic woman on the court Sonia Sotomayor and female-led Catholic organizations NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, and the Catholic Health Association, the largest non-profit health provider in the US, recognize that these contraceptive methods are not abortifaciant. NETWORK and CHA would never have advocated for the ACA’s passage if abortion were part of its provisions.

I am Catholic and well aware of my Church’s teaching on so-called artificial means of contraception and assisted reporduction. I also know that the vast majority of US Catholics reject these teachings and act according to their own consciences in making these personal decisions.

If one believes that contraception in general is immoral, that is your right and that is the choice you make for your own life. Employers – or anyone else for that matter – should not mandate assent to their personal religious belief on others. It makes absolutely no sense to inflict that belief on anyone when it flies in the face of scientific/medical fact.

I fear for our society when belief trumps facts. I hear this over and over in the “debate” on human-induced climate change. The science is settled. It is happening. There are reams of data showing it. Yet some persist in a belief that the world is cooling instead of warming and that the cycle is a purely natural phenomenon.  Their belief does not change the facts/science. They are demonstrably in error.

That the five Catholic men on the Supreme Court decided a case on a mistaken belief is highly disturbing. We can only hope that our dysfunctional Congress will enact legislation to correct the Court’s error before more damage is done.

 

NY local fracking bans upheld!

Hallelujah! The decision from the highest court in New York State just came down, affirming that towns can use their home rule zoning authority to ban shale gas extraction (aka fracking) within their borders.

On the one hand, I am very happy for the jurisdictions with bans in place. It’s a huge victory for NY fracktivists and the fantastic legal teams that have been working on these court cases at the various levels for three years.

On the other hand, I am frightened for towns like mine that have conflicts of interest on the town board with members who refuse to recuse themselves. They are on record saying that our current zoning protects us, even though it doesn’t. We need a permanent statewide ban so that the rest of the townspeople don’t get subjected to all the pollution in order for a few large landowners and related business owners to make money at the expense of our health, environment, and quality of life.

Because I live on the PA border with drilling just over the town line, we are already suffering negative impacts. Air, water, traffic, climate and other impacts don’t respect human-created borders. We need not to add to them by allowing shale drilling and related infrastructure and waste disposal to occur in New York State.

The decision is attached to this brief article:  http://polhudson.lohudblogs.com/2014/06/30/nys-top-court-says-towns-can-ban-fracking/