Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Some Ministers Are Assholes

Stephanie Zvan at Almost Diamonds has written a sad post about her grandfather's funeral describing the minister's use of his pulpit with captive audience to proselytize, and how it made her (and probably several others at the service) so uncomfortable and angry that she really just wanted to leave.

I have been fortunate in that most of the funerals I have attended did not include this type of thing. The one exception in my experience still brings steam from my ears and tears to my eyes, 27 years later.

When my best friend was killed in an car accident, two other friends and I drove 300 miles to her hometown to attend her funeral and extend our sympathy to her family. The small-town minister who officiated the service, and who did not even know her, proceeded to gas on and on about what a shame it was that my best friend had wasted her life and would be burning in hell for all eternity because she had left her family to live in the big city, in sin with her boyfriend. Her family said nothing. Perhaps they agreed - she had been estranged from them for a few years, but had visited on rare occasions, and, in fact, was killed while driving home from her most recent visit. They were always happy to take the money she sent from her "big-city" job. They had to have provided this asshole with that information. Adding insult to injury is the fact that her name was spelled incorrectly on her headstone. By her mother. But that's a whole other issue.

Had I been bolder then, and in my dreams now, I would have stood up and let that man have it, even though I didn't believe in heaven or hell. What right did he have to talk that way about my friend, who he had never even met. Shouldn't he have been comforting the grief-stricken? Instead, the most I could bring myself to do was to get up and leave. My other friends gave me the bad news that he continued in this vein to the end, and exhorted the remaining attendees to get right with GAWD so they would not suffer eternal damnation like my best friend. When we met with her family later, I was still upset, but managed to mumble something about her having been one of the best, kindest, most generous people I had ever known. I miss her still.

Some ministers are just assholes. I would say "thoughtless" assholes, but I truly believe he knew exactly what he was saying and had a specific purpose for saying it. How in the world could that have been any comfort to the family? How DARE he? I would love to think this was one of a handful of rare occurrences, but I suspect it may be all too common in certain sects. I still get upset when I think about it. My hands are shaking right now as I write. Asshole. Asshole.

In memory of Angela Denise Rainey, 5/29/67 - 4/21/88.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Why Did Dorothy Run Away?

At the end of the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy learns that there's no place like home and that if she wants to find happiness she'll look no further than "her own front yard." Admirable sentiments, I suppose, back in the 1930's. Not so impressive now, in my opinion. But why did Dorothy run away to begin with? And what will be the consequence for her having returned home?

In my faded memories of the movie, I had thought that Dorothy ran away because she wanted to get away from the restrictions and boredom of small farm life in Kansas. She tried to get Professor Marvel to take her with him to see all the "great heads of Europe." She sang of wanting to go "over the rainbow."

However, the real reason she ran away was to save Toto! Elvira Gulch was taking him to the sheriff to be destroyed because he bit her on the leg, but he escaped and Dorothy decided to run away before Mrs. Gulch returned for him.

When she "returns" home from her head-injury-induced fantasy visit to Oz, she is happy to be home and says she won't leave again. But what about poor Toto? The Wicked Witch of the West/Mrs. Gulch are destroyed in Dorothy's unconscious journey, but certainly not in real life. Poor Toto!

I say she should have kept running.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

More Obama Doesn't Get It

Let's now talk about the second part of the petition I wrote about earlier.

In God We Trust on our money should also be removed. It would be easy enough to phase it out with new printings/stampings. Our national motto was E Pluribus Unum, Out of Many, One. This motto specifies that though there are many different individuals here, we are all Americans, which is a noble, inclusive, admirable sentiment. In God We Trust cancels that out completely. Only god-believing individuals are Americans. Not so admirable, not at all inclusive, and certainly not noble.

And to address the issue of our "proud heritage*," E Pluribus Unum was established in 1782, by ACTUAL FOUNDING FATHERS! There's some heritage for ya'.

I have been at a loss for years in trying to understand how seemingly intelligent people cannot see how the pledge (even outside of its jingoistic, flag-worshiping ridiculousness) and the NEW (not based on our heritage, but on our darker period of communist-hunting and fear-mongering) motto are unrepresentative of Americans as a whole.

A motto is defined in three ways:
A brief statement used to express a principle, goal, or ideal.
A sentence, phrase, or word of appropriate character inscribed on or attached to an object.
A maxim adopted as a guide to one's conduct.

When an American does not worship one of the three gods named "God," (specifically the god of Abraham - of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) neither the pledge, nor the motto includes that American. Therefore is does NOT express an AMERICAN principle, goal, or ideal. It does not express the character of all Americans. It cannot be a governmental guide to conduct without establishing the religion of the god of Abraham in violation of the 1st amendment.

Obama's spokesperson is apparently one of the "it doesn't hurt you, so just shut up" god-believers, unable to see through his privilege that being told we are not Americans is hurtful and insulting to non-believers and believers in other gods than Abraham's.

Take it off. It's easy enough. Heritage has no bearing here, as the heritages of both the pledge and motto include no references to Abraham's god, nor any other god(s).

*Using the word heritage in this context, besides being inaccurate, is like calling something a "cultural" thing in order to defend it. Like genital mutilation, for example, or suttee, or allowing only rich, white men to vote. Cultural, sure, but no less barbaric. Part of some group's heritage, sure, but does that make them good things that need to be continued? Should we put this photo on our money to honor our heritage of slavery? Should unrepresentative cultural traditions be memorialized and honored publicly, every day, and in every monetary transaction performed, or should they be relegated to history books as things that we used to do, but then we became civilized. "It's our heritage" people might want to think about that.

(1st Picture from Wikipedia - Suttee)
(2nd photo from Old Picture of the Day)

Obama Doesn't Get It

Not too long ago, I signed a petition to ask for the 1954-added phrase "under God" to be removed from the pledge.

At the link, you can read the official White House response. They just don't get it. Yes, a person should be free to pray or sermonize or proselytize in the public square. People do it all the time. Yes, a student should be free to pray or sermonize or proselytize at school. Students do it all the time. Harassment or disruption of class is, and should be, prohibited, of course.

However, there are two problems with the pledge itself.

1) Mindless chanting of a "patriotic" statement of flag-worship that students are taught to recite without learning what it means is ridiculous. But, they can't teach the students what it means without violating the 1st amendment. Leaving the "under God" part in establishes religion, specifically the monotheism practiced by the majority in the US. There's no getting around that. Students who are Buddhist, students who are Hindu, students who are pagan, and students who worship no gods at all would have to be taught that their religion, or lack thereof, is wrong and that the monotheism promoted in the pledge is right.

2) Until schools stop requiring the mindless chanting of the pledge, children who either don't want to mindlessly chant ANY pledge or who don't want to mindlessly chant something that specifically goes against their religious beliefs or lack thereof are singled out for ridicule and harassment unless they ignore their discomfort, compromise their integrity, and just chant along. Great lesson for the kiddies. Shut up about it or be singled out. Kids LOVE that!

The White House response inserts this from Obama himself:
Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation - context matters.
Well, yes. True that. But in the context of a public school classroom with students of many different backgrounds and worldviews, forced statements of flag-worship and monotheism-belief to a captive audience certainly seems to breach the wall of separation.

The White House spokesman writes, in regard to how "under God" in the pledge reflects our religious heritage:
We're proud of that heritage, and the strength it brings to our great country.
Fine, he can recite the pledge anywhere he wants when he doesn't have a captive audience of impressionable children with disparate backgrounds and belief systems.

As far as heritage goes, the pledge did not include any gods until fear of Communism made some influential Christians insist on adding it. So that argument is invalid and inaccurate. If people are so concerned with "heritage," we would be mindlessly chanting the original pledge from 1892:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
And we would be doing with our arms outstretched in the "Bellamy salute," which is identical to the Nazi salute. Great. Let's go back to that.

Better yet, let's just do away with the pledge in schools and leave it up to individuals and private groups to chant it if they want.
(PHOTO FROM WIKIPEDIA - Pledge of Allegiance)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

When Patriarchy Makes the Rules VI

7-year-old Lydia Schottz was tortured and beaten for at least 7 hours until she died. Her 11-year-old sister was severely wounded during the same period.

Who perpetrated this horrific crime? Her parents. Why? The parents are fundamentalist Christians who had read a book by a couple named Pearl, To Train Up a Child. The Pearls assert that if it wasn't good to beat our children with, among other options, 1/4 inch plumbing pipe, their god wouldn't have told us to do so in the Bible.

Fortunately for the Schottz's surviving children, their parents have been sentenced to long prison terms. Sadly for the children, they are now in foster care. Hopefully, they will have the opportunity to grow into decent adults, regardless of the terrible moral standards their parents have taught them.

The Pearls, meanwhile, have been "looking into it," to make sure they receive no blame for little Lydia's death at the hands of her parents.

The Pearls instruct parents to remain calm while beating their children with the plumbing pipe, reinforcing the reasons for their punishment in calm voices. Imagine little Lydia, taking the 7-hour torture session administered by her parents with calm voices and demeanors. Imagine being beaten to death for SEVEN HOURS while being very calmly told that it is for your own good, that you have been naughty, and that you will be happier if you submit and accept the punishment.

What god who thinks this is a good thing is worthy of worship? Wake up, Christians! Your god is an evil, murderous, asshole!

When people ask me in the future how I stop myself from raping, pillaging, and murdering without the guidance of the Bible and submission to their barbaric god, I am going to reply that raping, pillaging, and murdering are their god's methods, not mine, and that they need to re-read their Bible. And then throw it away and practice compassion, kindness, and concern instead.

Sad fact: Based on their magic book, the Schottzes likely believe that all they have to do to get to heaven after they tortured and murdered their own child is to ask their invisible and impotent sky-fairy to forgive them. Justice would at least require that they ask their dead daughter's forgiveness somehow. And try to make it up to their surviving abused children somehow. It's so hard to tell the difference between the four gods of Christianity - father/son/holy spirit and satan. Their MO's are so similar.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Every time I read an article that talks about dieters, such as this one by the fantastic Dr. Steve Novella, this is what I see. TOUCH MY MONKEY! But don't eat him!
(photo from wikipedia)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chiropractors Still Claiming Cures

This just in - Not even 9:00 am yet here in NM, but I just received a phone call from a chiropractic marketing group. The area code is 917, so the call originated in/near NYC.

Her: Would you have time for a chiropractic check up at a local office?

Me: I have a terrific physician, so, no, I don't think I would make time for that.

Her: Have you ever gone to a chiropractor?

Me: Yes, when I was pregnant, I saw a chiropractor for lower back pain, but I can't say it helped much, and she tried to convince me not to vaccinate my kids, so I quit going.

Her: Well, chiropractic has lots of other benefits. Like it can help with sinus and allergy issues.

Me: Mmmm hmmm. I think not. And I don't think you are supposed to say things like that. Shouldn't you first tell me that your claim has not been evaluated by the FDA and chiropractic is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease? [The Quack Miranda Warning]

Her: *crickets* *hang up*

Friday, July 29, 2011

Richard Wiseman Reads My Mind!

I recently purchased Richard Wiseman's book Paranormality: Why we see what isn't there. Dr. Wiseman was fantastic and funny and educationally entertaining at the TAM9 in Vegas a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to read his latest.

I started reading yesterday evening, and got only 3% into the book (darned Kindle! Give me page numbers!) before discovering that Dr. Wiseman has obviously read my mind with his paranormal skills. Even more magically, he was able to PREDICT what I would have in my mind this very morning, while writing the book, a year or more ago!

Almost immediately before I started reading, I had done a search to see if wet weather really affects my knee pain like I *think* it does. Each answer I saw gave various reasons why it really does make my pain worse: pressure within the knee joint, etc.

Then I began reading. Dr. Wiseman, very early in the book, cites a study on whether or not weather affects arthritis pain!

"WHAT?" I said, "Get out of my head, Richard Wiseman!"

"I can't," he replied [in my dreams], "It's my JOB!"

At any rate, the study showed that people fool themselves into thinking the weather affects their joint pain because we are good at noticing data that verify our prior beliefs, i.e. noticing our joint pain more when it's rainy because we expect the pain to be more noticible, while discounting or ignoring it when the data don't fit our preconception, i.e. all the days the pain was worse, but there was no rain.

Thank you Dr. Wiseman! If anyone reads this, I highly recommend his blog and his book. He gives a great presentation/talk as well, if anyone has the opportunity to see him in person!

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Prostitute Is A Prostitute Is A Prostitute

Recently, a court judge was arrested for rape here. Nigel and I were watching the news and saw the first story in regard to this arrest on July 19. I said to Nigel at the time that it was interesting in a bad way that KOB's anchorman, Tom Joles, in describing the alleged victim of the rape, used "prostitute" four times in two minutes. How many times did he say "alleged victim," "woman," or any other word to describe her? ZERO.

I wrote an e-mail to the news station complaining about this. Haven't heard back.

Today, I searched their website for stories and found several. I watched the videos and read the reports and found that there is some slight improvement in later reports. The reports use the word "woman" four times, and in a video, the judge assigned to the case actually used "victim." So, five in total. However, the alleged victim was called "the prostitute" (one time, they used "escort") twelve times in the same videos/reports!

Let's say that a woman in any other profession besides sex work reported a rape. Would the stories use "the McDonald's employee," "the tax attorney," "the super-model," or similar descriptions to describe the alleged victim? I think not. If those terms were used, they would probably not have been used exclusively.

This feeds into the widely held perception that sex workers cannot be raped, because their choice (or not) of profession implies permanent consent to sex acts. It muddies the waters for the prosecution, whose job will be made more difficult by the use of this inflammatory language to describe the alleged victim.

Some choice quotes from the videos:
"She is fine. There's no other injuries..."(speaking of the alleged victim)

How many injuries other than the rape itself do there need to be for her NOT to be "fine?"
"She's accused of taping one of those incidents."
According to the stories, she had already been forced once to perform oral sex on the defendant, after having said no. Would it be prudent for her to tape future encounters in order to have evidence of rape if it happened again? Would it be prudent for a member of an already suspect profession to make sure her allegations would be believed if it happened again? Probably yes.
"We believe our client is a victim in this case."
Wait, what? I suppose it is an attorney's job to say things like that. And I'm sure it will be much easier to portray the defendant as a victim since the news has ensured that the alleged victim is seen as nothing more than a "prostitute" and therefore is not allowed to say no.

I hope KOB News got a nice check from the defendant's attorneys for services rendered.

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Decision Has Been Made, and It Is Final

I did not watch the royal nuptials a week ago today. However, I did watch several of the "Royal Wedding in 2 minutes" videos. Since then, I have been struck with love for this hat! Nigel hates it. My mother hates it. The Princess hates it. I am going on record forever to say that I LOVE THIS HAT! I LOVE IT! THIS HAT IS ABSOLUTELY THE MOST WONDERFUL HAT EVAR! Thank you, Princess Beatrice of York, for wearing this fantastic hat! I love you! That is all. Have a great weekend. Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there, especially my own! Thanks for shoving me out all those years ago! And to my kids, a gift idea. For Mother's Day, no breakfast in bed, please. Just THIS HAT!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Helpful Hint for the Superstitious

If you want to do it right, like Texas Gov. Rick Perry did when he scheduled a "Pray for Rain" day on April 29th, be sure to check the Texas weekend weather report. It makes taking credit for things you had nothing to do with much easier, and helps keep the Kool-Aid nice and fresh for those who love to drink it!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Useful Bible Quotation

The Princess takes ballet in a studio located in a Nazarene Church. This morning, I noticed the following posted on the door to the baby nursery:

"We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." 1 Corinthians 15:51

It's good to have a sense of humor about the Bible. Makes it easier to ignore all the errors and contradictions! Nazarenes win!

Disclosure: I was once accused of being a Nazarene due to my distaste for wearing makeup to work. Fortunately there is no conflict of interest due to my stronger distaste for religions.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bill Maher Damages the Old Irony Meter

The following quotation is from the May issue of Reader's Digest. I know, I know, but my FIL gave Nigel and I a subscription for xmas and it's good for at least 45 minutes of reading.

The problem is that the people with the most ridiculous ideas are always the people who are most certain of them.
- Bill Maher -

Now, I have paid to see Bill Maher's stand up comedy. And I was mightily entertained. However, since that time, my respect for Mr. Maher has dropped. It turns out that this hugely funny man, who made a living for a time making fun of creationists, fundamentalists, and capital "C" Conservatives for being anti-science, is quite anti-science himself. At least when it comes to medical science, that is.

Maher has frequently been heard in interviews speaking out against vaccines (except "inoculating Third World children against malaria or diphtheria, or whatever", against the germ theory of disease, and for various woo-woo (s)CAM treatments. Even Bill Frist (Bill Frist, people!!!) pwned Maher on his own "Real Time" show in regard to vaccine facts.

He has backpedaled quite a bit since he first started loudly announcing his distrust of science-based medicine, but his words against vaccination, medical professionals, and effective drugs, along with his words of support for naturopathy, Barbara Loe Fisher (an anti-vaccine propagandist), Dr. Jay Gordon (Jenny McCarthy's pediatrician and another anti-vaccine propagandist), tell us what he really thinks.

He has some pretty ridiculous ideas: HIV/AIDS denial, immune system "boosting" with, presumably, herbs, supplements, diet restrictions (as a naturopath would advise), vaccine efficacy denial, among others. And he's pretty certain of them, regardless of his back-pedaling, which sounds insincere and is full of "I don't really think this, BUT (I sort of do.)"

While he inserts humor into his denial of being a denialist, it rings false. Sorry, Bill. I still think you're pretty funny, though. Lots of this is really old news, but the quotation in Reader's Digest got me all wired up about it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Will Wiedner Go To Prison For Praying?

Just a short post to keep this in my sights for when I need a good laugh at a stupid berk.

The Oregonian reports that the state of Oregon has done away with exemptions for families who have caused harm and death to children by relying on faith-healing alone, without medical intervention. I find this to be a good thing.

The funny that I want to keep in mind, though, is the complete and utter ignorance and obvious fear-mongering put forth by Oregon's representative Jim Wiedner, of Yamhill, who asked, "am I going to go to prison because I took the time to pray with my child [prior to my wife's taking him to the pediatrician for his tonsillitis]?"

Jim, you stupid git. While I generally discourage my children from calling people names and I try to avoid doing so myself, this is such an egregiously blatant ploy to strike fear into the godly sheeple that "Mabel! The damned gubmint is gonna make it illegal for us to pray for little Bubba when he's sick! Get the guns and we'll let gawd sort 'em out!", that I just can't resist the impulse.

No, Jim, you won't go to prison for praying with your son about his tonsillitis before he goes to the doctor for, hopefully, tests and perhaps an appropriate antibiotic. You should go to prison for pandering, though.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fundamentalists Are All Alike: A Question For Christian Fundamentalists

I have an honest question for those here in the US whose belief systems are often called “fundamentalist,” meaning that their religion requires unquestioning belief in the truth and accuracy of the Christian Bible, the Torah and Talmud and Rabbinic law, or the Quran and Hadith exactly as they are written. These individuals often are behind efforts to infringe on the rights and liberties of others, and sometimes will outright admit that their goal is to establish theocracy, based on whichever book/tradition they follow. My question is specifically addressed to Christian fundamentalists, since they are the most numerous and vocal here.

Here in the US, Christian fundamentalists’ fear of Islam and Muslims causes them to speak out against Islam regularly, and to put forth silly legislation forbidding the use of Islamic religious law in local courts. That this is already forbidden by our Constitution seems to have slipped their minds, unless there is a plan for something a bit more sinister. For example, why set up a law forbidding Islamic religious law, specifically, in local courts, unless it is in order to allow some other religious law in local courts, presumably Biblical law, seeing that it is Bible believing fundamentalists who promote the legislation.

If the goal is to establish Bible-based theocracy in the US, one would first have to make sure Sharia law is made illegal before suspending the First Amendment’s establishment clause in order to legalize Christian law. Can’t have the wrong kind of theocracy! In time, before the establishment of Christian theocracy in the US, I assume it would also be necessary to forbid the use of Halacha, Judaic law's path to god.

At any rate, the question for Christian fundamentalists is: based on your promotion of discriminatory laws and infringements of rights for various groups of individuals (women, non-Christians, LGBTs specifically), what exactly will be the difference between your theocracy and one based on Islamic fundamentalism or Jewish fundamentalism and why aren’t you working together in the short term? Each group would deny women rights to vote, to work outside the home, to access family planning information and contraception. Each group would criminalize non-hetero expressions of sexuality and gender. Each group would require adherence to its religion and its laws, which are not very different at all.

The legislation and statements I’ve noticed recently being promoted by fundamentalist Christians shows that these individuals would love nothing better than to have homosexuals stoned to death, to force women into bags to hide their faces and bodies and to control access to their vaginas and uteruses, to force their religion on those of other religions or of no religion at all. In other words, these individuals would force everyone to SUBMIT to them, to their god, their religion, their code of morality. Islam means to SUBMIT to god. Religious Judaism requires one to follow "the path" to god. So, somebody show me the difference. Somebody explain why Islam’s god is different from Christianity’s god and why either of them are different from the Jewish god. Somebody tell me why fundamentalist Christians, fundamentalist Muslims, and fundamentalist Jews are not working together, because I don’t get it. With such similar goals, the Jesus thing just doesn’t explain the animosity between the groups, at least in the short term. Time enough for internecine battles after you’ve taken control.

I challenge Christian fundamentalists to really take a look at fundamentalist Islam and Judaism. Besides the Jesus thing, what exactly is the difference? I don’t see much.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Measles in New Mexico!

This past Sunday, I read here that a case of measles has been diagnosed right here in New Mexico. Apparently, an unvaccinated woman flew here from Europe, passing through a couple of US airports and ended up in the hospital in Santa Fe.

First, the comedy. In reading some of the comments (I only read a couple of pages and there were several hundred pages when I looked), I notice that several commenters seem unaware that New Mexico is, in fact, one of the 50 states of the United States of America. A couple of them were angry that some dirty illegal Mexican immigrant is responsible for bringing the measles into the US. Good grief! This brings to mind the story my FIL tells of traveling from Albuquerque to visit family in Wisconsin. He was driving his personal vehicle with New Mexico plates and was stopped by the Wisconsin Highway Patrol for some infraction. The officer accused him of having a forged driver's license and insisted on seeing his passport and visa until he finally believed my FIL that he really, truly is American after speaking to someone else at his base. I won't even get into the bigotry of the "dirty illegal Mexican immigrant" issue right now.

Second, I was surprised to see how many commenters on the two pages I read were horrified that anyone in the US was unvaccinated. Where have those people been hiding? I'm looking at that like it's a good thing, though, since if they are horrified about not being vaccinated, they obviously haven't been influenced by the anti-vaccination movement. I haven't returned to the article or its comments since Monday, but I'm hoping that the anti-vax misinformation mongers haven't derailed the comments into a dangerous pit of lies. I'm not going to return to the article or its comments, because I suspect that it probably has.

Third, the reason this unvaccinated woman is a danger to everyone is that many misinformed people here in the US have chosen not to vaccinate their children. These children are in danger of blindness, sterility, or even death, if they contract measles. In addition, some children and adults cannot be vaccinated due to various health issues, such as immune system disorders. Plus, since vaccinations are not effective 100% of the time, some individuals who are vaccinated still do not have full immunity. These individuals are in danger as well, and they depend on the rest of us to be vaccinated in order to avoid life-threatening diseases such as measles.

Since vaccination numbers among children especially are not as high as they should be, mostly due to misinformation and outright lies from the anti-vax movement, this single traveler could have infected dozens of individuals prior to being diagnosed. Those dozens can be infecting further dozens right now. Let's hope not.

Bottom line: Vaccinate your children and yourself! That is all.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mrs. Obama Is Going To Force Our Kids To Eat Healthy!

This is the Sausage Cheesecake you really want to send in your kid's lunchbox. But you can't, friends, because Michelle Obama won't let you! True? Or part of the blame-any-Obama-for-anything-even-if-it's-made-up disease that's sweeping the nation?

My friend and neighbor asked me Monday before last, “So, when is Michelle Obama’s term up so that I will be allowed to send whatever I want in my kids’ lunches and take cookies to their classrooms?”

I replied, “WTF are you talking about?”

She responded with a rant about how the new School Lunch Law changes require that she only send healthy non-obesity-causing foods to school in her daughter’s lunchbox when she chooses not to eat the cafeteria food, and that this is a ridiculous personal liberty infringement designed by the Obamas to take away parents’ rights in regard to what their kids can eat.

Well, I thought, if that is true, then she is correct. It would be horrible if the gubmint was telling families what foods to send from home for their children to eat at school. At the same time, I thought, that’s crazy, and I seriously doubt that the law says any such thing.

I informed my friend that I found that hard to believe and that maybe we should actually look up the new law and read it to see if she is right. I’m relatively sure she did not do so, since we’ve not had any follow-up discussion. Also, she is highly conservative and no fan of President Obama or any Democrat. Maybe she is just using this misinformation to give her an “I hate Obama” fix. But I actually DID read the damned thing here. I also read the 1966 Child Nutrition Act here, and the 2004 Richard B Russell National School Lunch Act here. I had to read these as well, at least the sections regarding nutrition at school and school wellness program policies, because the new publication does not include the whole of the two acts that it amends.

First, I would like to note that the majority of each act consists of extremely boring discussion of funding, finding qualified recipients for free lunches/breakfasts, reporting by schools, and reimbursement of schools by the gubmint. (yawn) I did it for YOU, people! I admit I skimmed those sections and only attacked the nutrition and wellness program information.

2004 language:
SEC. 9. 9–1 42 U.S.C. 1758 (a) 9–2 (1)(A) 9–3 Lunches served by schools participating in the school lunch program under this Act shall meet minimum nutritional requirements prescribed by the Secretary on the basis of tested nutritional research…

This language is not changed in the 2010 amendment. The 2004 version continues:
(a) IN GENERAL - Not later than the first day of the school year beginning after June 30, 2006,each local education agency participating in a program authorized by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C.1751 et seq.) or the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. 1771 et seq.) shall establish a local school wellness policy for schools under the local educational agency that, at a minimum—
1) Includes goals for nutrition education, physical activity and other school- based activities that are designed to promote student wellness in a manner that the local educational agency determines is appropriate;
2) Includes nutrition guidelines selected by the local educational agency for all foods available on each school campus under the local educational agency during the school day with the objectives of promoting student health and reducing childhood obesity;

Check it out! Obesity is already in there! Promoting student health is already in there! Goals for nutrition education and physical activity are already in there! A prescription for minimum nutritional requirements from the Secretary is already in there!

The change in the 2010 version is here (bolded):
(a) IN GENERAL.—The Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act is amended by inserting after section 9 (42 U.S.C. 1758) the following:
‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—Each local educational agency participating in a program authorized by this Act or the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. 1771 et seq.) shall establish a local school wellness policy for all schools under the jurisdiction of the local educational agency.
‘‘(b) GUIDELINES.—The Secretary shall promulgate regulations that provide the framework and guidelines for local educational agencies to establish local school wellness policies, including, at a minimum,—
‘‘(1) goals for nutrition promotion and education, physical
activity, and other school-based activities that promote student
‘‘(2) for all foods available on each school campus under the jurisdiction of the local educational agency during the school day, nutrition guidelines that—
‘‘(A) are consistent with sections 9 and 17 of this Act, and sections 4 and 10 of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966
(42 U.S.C. 1773, 1779); and
‘‘(B) promote student health and reduce childhood obesity;

So, I guess I can see where fear-mongers and anti-Obama individuals could interpret that to mean that OMG THE SECTIONS LISTED ARE FULL OF NUTRITION PROPAGANDA MADE UP BY MRS. OBAMA! ALL FOOD ON CAMPUS HAS TO FIT MRS. OBAMA’S IDEA OF HEALTHY FOOD, INCLUDING MY KID’S LUNCHBOX! However, without actually reading the sections listed above, we just can’t know that for sure, can we? Also, why Mrs. Obama? I guess this is her pet project, like Hillary Clinton’s was Health Care Reform, way back when, but the amendments have to come from the FDA and SSA and Secretary of Education and Secretary of Agriculture not to mention our CONGRESS, full of our elected officials. Not from the president’s wife, regardless of how smart she is or how important she thinks this is. She is acting as a spokesperson for improving our students’ nutritional health; she is not authorized to make law.

At any rate, I read the sections listed. I looked for any indication that Mrs. Obama was involved, but more importantly, I looked for anything to indicate that the new law applied to anything other than cafeteria food. Here’s a breakdown:

Section 9 of the School Lunch Act (SLA) is about a million pages long. Perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but believe me, it took a long while to slog through it. Section 8 is about one page, but we can’t be required to read THAT! Anyway, Section 9 says a bunch of stuff, but it covers these things: establishes nutritional requirements, including prohibiting using the act to avoid providing substitutes for those with special dietary needs, both medical or otherwise; establishes that the gubmint will train personnel when necessary; requires that milk be offered; requires that high school students not be forced to accept every food item offered, though they still have to pay full price if they choose to pass on the S.O.S. and only eat the canned pears that day; establishes eligibility requirements and methods to identify free or reduced price lunch recipients (OMG – 500 pages or so! Really! This is the majority of Section 9!); forbids segregation or public identification of free lunch recipients (I think this is nice!); requires certain nutritional guidelines, provided by the gubmint, to be met in foods SERVED FOR LUNCH OR BREAKFAST, but also forbids requiring schools to have meal nutrition analyzed (whut?); requires twice a year food safety inspections; encourages, but does not require purchases of local food items, and will help defray storage/facility costs for those who do.

That’s all. And it was enough dry reading for me! But in the public interest, I pressed on!

Section 17 is similar to Section 9, but addresses child-care (and adult-care, but that’s beyond the scope of my friend’s complaint). Our school offers before and after-school care for a fee, so this would apply here. This section addresses all the things listed in Section 9, just addressed towards child-care facilities and the specific issues of those facilities rather than schools; provides for commodity donations from the USDA to these facilities.

Section 4 of the Child Nutrition Act (CNA) establishes a school breakfast program under the same terms and regulations of the SLA.

Section 10 covers regulations: establishing nutritional standards as specified in the SLA; establishing that these standards apply to any food SOLD at school (note that this excludes items brought from home, including that cake you want to take into the classroom for your child’s birthday, as well as specifically excluding school sponsored fundraisers).

Now, to go back up to the changes, and the FEAR, the 2004 amendments stated that local school authorities would be required to establish a wellness policy that applies to all food available at school during the school day. The 2010 amendments requires that “all foods available on each school campus… during the school day...
are consistent with sections 9 and 17 of this Act, and sections 4 and 10 of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. 1773, 1779); and (B) promote student health and reduce childhood obesity."

That’s the change. In 2004, a school’s wellness policy had to apply to all food available on campus, and in 2010, all foods available on campus have to comply with those four sections of the two laws. But, as I’ve stated above, sections 9 and 17 of the SLA as well as sections 4 and 10 of the CNA say ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about food brought from home, and in fact, specifically address ONLY foods available for sale (or for free if the student qualifies) on campus, at the cafeteria or snack bar. As I wrote above, even fundraisers are exempt. So, technically, there’s nothing new here. Nutrition guidelines have changed, that is true. But those nutrition guidelines are ONLY APPLICABLE TO FOOD SOLD ON CAMPUS DURING THE SCHOOL DAY. Any other forced compliance would be against sections 9 and 17 of the SLA and sections 4 and 10 of the CNA.

So my friend can send those chocolate chip cookies to little Susie’s classroom (if the specific school or teacher doesn’t have a classroom policy against it, and my friend can certainly fight that if she chooses – it’s not coming from the federal government) where each child can have one except for little Bobby, who will sneak up and eat seven or eight when nobody’s looking. She can send those tubs of lard, bags of sugar, and caffeinated soft drinks in little Susie’s lunchbox if she chooses! So happiness all around, I hope!

Oh, yeah, Mrs. Obama's name is nowhere in there.

It took me a week to have time to really read all this stuff. Hope anyone who reads this finds it useful. Please forgive any formatting or grammar or spelling errors. I have read this over so many times I can’t even see them anymore.

I will add that I have no idea where my friend came up with her insane idea, but I suspect it’s being discussed at her fundamentalist church, at her school (Liberty University on-line), on her conservative news source networks, and among her conservative friends. In other words, I’m sure she’s not alone. If you read this, do your part by educating your friends and acquaintances in regard to this issue! The gubmint isn’t forcing you to feed your child healthy foods! But if your child buys or receives lunch at school, it will be healthy. Too bad, huh?