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Rantings of a Crazed Soccer Mom
Friday, 29 April 2005
How about fixing Medicare first?
Right off the bat, I was not all that keen on hearing what President George had to say. We were all set for an evening of our favorite network TV shows--Survivor Palau followed by a new CSI and the president's press conference put all that off by an hour. We did get to see Survivor (Sorry to see Stefanie go) but we're old and have to get up early and fall asleep at 10 o'clock, so CSI was a washout. Now we'll have to wait to see it on re-runs.

I've known for years that Social Security is essentially a Ponzi scheme. For years people have been saying that there won't be anything left when the people of my generation retire, which we're starting to do now.

I believe that Social Security is not as pressing a problem as the president makes it out to be and his solutions will cause more harm than good. Invest your payroll taxes in the stock market? How many of us saw our rock solid 401Ks tank four years ago?

What concerns me the most about retirement is not the piddly little check I'll get from the government every month. It's Medicare.

I'm in great health now, a couple months shy of my 49th birthday. And if anything should happen, I've got excellent insurance coverage through my husband's Blue Cross insurance policy, provided by his employer General Electric. However, in 16 years I will have to use Medicare as my primary insurer. More and more employers are discontinuing health coverage to their retirees so it's more than likely my husband and I will have to take out our own insurance.

We all know as we grow old, our bits start to wear out. Heart failure, cataracts, strokes, diabetes, high blood pressure, that's all a distinct possibility once you get past 65. Insurance companies know that and charge accordingly.

When faced with providing health care for a huge chunk of the population, Medicare payments are now so low that many doctors are refusing to take Medicare patients. And what does Congress do? They pass a Medicare Drug benefit that will suck out even more money from the program.

When I'm 73, with some manageable type of chronic ailment that Medicare won't cover, I've got my own solution. I'll go to Washington and camp out by my Congress person's office door, wasting away as the cameras roll. And maybe I'll bring along a few sick friends as well.

Maybe then, they'll realize there's more to the Culture of Life than one woman's feeding tube.

Posted by judy5cents at 9:44 AM EDT
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Thursday, 28 April 2005
My conservative views
Yes, I do have a few. Most of them have to do with child-rearing.

Last week while my daughter was at soccer practice, I happened to be down at the Christian Radio end of the radio waves and heard an interview with a woman who'd just written a book on dealing with a "strong-willed" child. Although her conversation was interspersed with lots of references to the glory of God, she did say something that I whole-heartedly agreed with.

"That little person is not your friend. They don't want an grown up for a friend. They want a parent."


Your children are not your friends. They're your children. Set limits. Say no. Don't give them everything they want. Resist the desire to be the cool mom and instead tell your teen aged daughter that there's no way in hell a co-ed slumber party will be held at your house.

I also believe that if you have children, you are the one who's supposed to take care of them when they're little. I know as women, we've been told that we can have it all--marriage, a family and a career, but anyone who's ever tried to balance all three, knows that there are lots of trade-offs.

I keep hearing that in today's economy, a family needs two incomes. And a lot of families are barely scraping by on two incomes. They have no choice. But I believe there are lots of families out there working themselves into an early grave in order to maintain an extravagant consumer lifestyle. Houses with four large bedrooms, three bathrooms and gigantic living rooms that cost a fortune to heat. Cable, high speed Internet, cell phones, wide screen televisions, new SUVs every couple of years. Plus the weekly trips to the mall.

But everyone else has all that, why shouldn't we?

Because having children means making a few sacrifices. They're only little once and they spend their childhood in rooms with nine other kids and a caretaker who's getting little more than minimum wage to be there.

Obviously, we can't pass laws to make women stay at home with their children. And despite Congress's best efforts, we can't force people to live within their means.

As far as having it all, you can. You just can't have it all at once.

Posted by judy5cents at 1:43 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 5 May 2005 11:16 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 26 April 2005
Too Much Information?
Or not enough?

Watching the nightly news at 6:30 is a tradition at our house. We eat our dinner in front of the television and discuss the day's events during the commercials. Usually, we watched Peter Jennings, but we would often switch to NBC to watch Tom Brokaw and later his replacement Brian Williams

But thanks to the wonder of satellite television, we now watch the BBC and ITV news from Great Britain. I don't miss the American news at all. Instead of the sound bites and dueling split screens, we see longer stories on serious subjects like the widespread killer bacteria in British hospitals and the upcoming parliamentary elections. And if there's anything really important going on in the US, they tell us.

Watching the US news just gets me angry. Now I realize that was the network's intention all along. They generate a lot of noise showing their spokesmen with diametrically opposed viewpoints, but they don't enlighten. They don't educate. They just confuse the issue.

Anger is what sells. We love a good fight, especially if our side wins.

Years ago when I was a newspaper reporter I attended a zoning meeting on a particularly complex issue. Cincinnati Pizza King Buddy LaRosa wanted to turn his mansion into a five star restaurant. Of course, residents objected. Channel 5 News was there to cover it. I left the meeting to write a fairly lengthy story, making a huge effort to include all the points discussed. Channel 5's version was a minute and a half of air time. The reporter presented the basic facts, plus short comments from people on either side of the issue. Ever since, I've always wondered just how much the TV news people are leaving out in order to distill their stories down to a minute and a half of airtime.

These days I get all my news from National Public Radio.

Posted by judy5cents at 9:11 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 27 April 2005 11:57 AM EDT
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Friday, 15 April 2005
Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?
After years of lobbying, the credit card companies have gotten their wish. Today the president has signed the bank’s version of bankruptcy “reform.” Now bankruptcy won’t wipe away your debts completely. You’ll still have to make payments.

I don’t understand exactly how it works. There is some kind of means testing for payment. Now if you’re declaring bankruptcy because you lost your job and you have no money, it seems to me if you have no income, you have no means to pay your debts.

This bill is supposed to stop abuse of the bankruptcy laws, which happens. We all know people who spend money like there’s no tomorrow, rack up a mountain of debt then declare bankruptcy so they can do the same thing all over again.

But most people declare bankruptcy because of job loss, huge medical bills or both. It’s not anything they did intentionally. Lay-offs happen. Heart attacks happen. And insurance that sounds great on paper, but won’t cover any claims happens. Which has nothing to do with charging up a fortune on your Visa and forgetting to pay the bill.

Now that the credit card companies have gotten their way, I think they should take responsibility for the fact that so many people have an addiction to credit cards. Just like the conservatives are insisting on informed consent with abortion, there should be informed consent whenever you sign up for a credit card. Instead of a page of fine print that’s impossible to read, all applicants should be told by a real person that they are responsible for paying their bill every month. There will be late charges if it’s not paid on time. There will be finance charges and this is how much they will be. For example, If you spend $1,000 and you take a year to pay it off, it will cost you an extra $200. Whatever you send in goes first to cover the late charges and the finance charges and what’s left goes to the principal. If there’s a balance on your account and you keep on using your credit card to buy stuff, you’ll be charged more.

I don’t know if it will change anything, but maybe somebody out there would think twice before signing.

Posted by judy5cents at 2:27 PM EDT
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Thursday, 14 April 2005
Aren't you glad this isn't an election year?
Last year at this time, the brutal presidential election campaign was in full swing. Except "swing" seems so tame, recalling the brutal intensity of what essentially came down to the battle between Good and Evil. (And that pretty much described it no matter which party you belonged to.)

The 2004 campaign went on for too long and cost way too much money. In 2008, most likely it will go on longer and cost even more.

England is holding parliamentary elections now. Their campaigns can be just as vicious as ours, but they only go on for a month. Just imagine what it would be like if you didn't hear a political ad until October 1.

Obviously, under the current system, the candidate with the most money wins. There have been attempts at campaign reform before but it's never made any difference.

Here's my idea. Let's bring back the smoke filled room. Leaders from the Republican and Democratic party get together and hash out rules like no ads until September. End the convention and replace it with a formal nomination and platform presentation that lasts a couple hours. Set real limits on the amount of money spent.

Then they sign it in blood and a third party takes possesion of all their stuff. If both parties follow the rules, they get it back the day after the election.

I know it will never happen, but I can always dream.

Posted by judy5cents at 7:58 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 13 April 2005
Hell Must Have Frozen Over..
Somebody check, because today I found myself agreeing with something said by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

While making a budget request to Congress for increased security for the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas deftly answered criticism from a conservative Representative who felt the Supreme Court had overstepped its bounds.

"It's part of what we do to be criticized..." He went on to say that he was a big football fan and he had noticed that "the referees get out of there fast. They don't wait around and high five the fans, with good reason."

Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life so they are beholden to no one. And they don't get to high five with the fans, unlike elected officials.

Funny thing about the Supreme Court. Right now seven of the nine justices are Republican appointtees. So why are the conservatives so upset? I'll tell you. The Supreme Court has a way of elevating its occupants, they realize the enormity of their mission and put aside their partisan beliefs to follow the greater cause of justice.

Way to go Clarence! You're Supreme!

Posted by judy5cents at 10:27 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 12 April 2005
Anniversary of a Miracle
Fifty years ago today, April 12, 1955, the Salk vaccine for polio was approved for use in the general population. Mothers all over the world heaved a huge sigh of relief.

I was born a year later, so I never had to live in the environment of fear of the horrible disease that could cripple a child for life, but my older sisters did. Or more precisely, my mother did. I'm not sure if my sisters were aware of it.

My mother tells the story of taking my sister Nancy to the Children's Hospital emergency room in 1952 and having to wait outside for fear that she might have polio and infect other children.

People my age didn't have the fear of polio, but grew up in its shadow. Our older brothers and sisters may have had it, and we all knew somebody who walked with a limp or wore a leg brace because of polio. Our mothers never let us forget how lucky we were.

So today, take a look at your children and yourself and marvel at the fact how a crippling disease was wiped out in our lifetime. And like mom says, don't ever forget how lucky you are.

Posted by judy5cents at 10:07 AM EDT
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Friday, 8 April 2005
Changing the rules..
When Tom Delay was a kid, I bet he got more than his share of "do overs." I bet he was the kind of kid that bullied everyone else into changing the rules so he could win.

Why any one would want to play with someone like that is beyond me. I would pick up my soccer ball and go home. But if you take a look at the giant kindergarten class we call Congress, Tom Delay is the kid everyone wants to play with. And does.

It's an amazing story of how Delay came to power and we owe it all to EPA regulations. As an exterminator in Texas, Delay was really really angry about having to give up his favorite brand of pesticide when it was banned. So he ran for the state legislature on the single issue of deregulation. The grand idea that the government should stay out of the business of the average person.

Hey, wait a second!!! What about Michael Schiavo's decisons on his wife's medical treatment? Isn't that his own private business?

No, you moron. We're talking about Business with a capital B. That's all about making money and a good Conservative government will leave that alone, especially if you share some of that money with them.

But if it's about Morality, with a capital M, then it becomes our business. We know what's right and we have a duty to make sure you do too.

Tom Delay is obviously not any more moral than the rest of us. (And let's not confuse morality with ethics.) But he knows his base, and he never misses a chance to appeal to their sense of what's decent and what's sinful.

Now I would think that the amount of money Delay has raked in is indecent and sinful. But like all good Republicans, his constituents probably feel that how he gets his money is none of their business.

And besides, it's all a liberal smear campaign, right?

Posted by judy5cents at 9:16 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 27 October 2004
The State of Marriage
I know all about marriage. I have one. I've been married to my husband Nigel for eight and a half years.

Of course, when I say I know all about marriage, really the only marriage I know about is my own. I've never been married to anyone else, so as far as I'm concerned, marriage is a bit like being stuck in an oddball British comedy. Mostly, though it's like going into business with a drinking buddy. A lot more work and not near as much fun. But if you're lucky, you still like each other.

Here's something I've noticed about marriage. My reasonably good marriage has absolutely no effect on anyone else's marriage. The couple next door to us got divorced, our example did them no good. The couple across the street are still married but I'm sure we have nothing to do with that.

About the only person our marriage does affect is our daughter, and hopefully in a positive way.

So if two men in San Francisco or two women in Boston get a marriage license, it's not going to make a bit of difference in my marriage or anyone else's. Basically, the flap about gay marriage comes down to another case of self-appointed moral people wanting to boss other people around.

In March of 1996, I was working a full time job in Mason, Ohio, commuting from our home in Aurora, Indiana, a good hour and fifteen minute drive one way. My six month old daughter made the trip with me four days a week, spending eight hours in daycare. I wasn't about to quit though. That job was my security. If Nigel left, I would need it to provide for myself and my daughter.

Then Nigel suggested we get married. He didn't think my working was good for the baby. I'd be covered under his insurance and I'd be assured that I'd be taken care of no matter what. It was a no brainer. We were married a month later.

I'm sure there are plenty of gay couples in our situation, women or men with small children who want to stay home and care for them, but must go through all kinds of legal rigamarole to get the same rights I got with a marriage license and a short ceremony. I have rights to his property, I'm the first person called if he's in an accident, I'm covered under his insurance, and I can refer to him as "my husband" instead of "my boyfriend" which sounds so ridiculous when you're past 40.

I don't expect gay marriage to become the law of the land. But if it does, marriage as an institution won't change, one way or the other. Nigel anad I will still be married, although the couple across the street may not be. It's a contract between individuals, and nobody else's business.

Posted by judy5cents at 12:15 PM EDT
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Sunday, 24 October 2004
Your Nichols' Worth
Now Playing: Vote Early and Often
Hi, I'm Judy Nichols. Welcome to my rant.

I am a Democrat. I am a Liberal Democrat. I believe that nobody has the right to boss other people around because they believe they have a monopoly on morality. Also I believe that poverty is not the result of a a defective character and it's the responsibility of all of us to improve the condition of our fellow human beings.

I live in North Carolina which has the option of voting early. Since my polling place is an elementary school with a huge parking problem, I figure I'll avoid the lines and vote tomorrow. Also, since I intend to drive voters to the polls, this will give me more time to do that.

Now people ask me what if something happens to change your mind? Well, Mr. Bush has had four years to do that, and my opinion of him has only gotten worse during that time.

However, I have thought about what he could say to change my mind about him and here it is:

"My fellow Americans. Gee, I'm really sorry, I made mistake. In fact, I made a whole mess of mistakes. The war was wrong. I screwed up on that. And I screwed up on the environment, the patriot act, homeland security, stem cell research and education. I'm firin' Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and John Ashcroft. My administration won't be a bastion of secrecy any more. From now on we'll tell you what we're doin.

And you know what--those born again crazies who keep saying how moral I am? They're really gettin' on my nerves. You holier-than-thou folks can kiss my ass. Well, see ya, I'm going out for a beer. I got some catchin' up to do."

Now what could make me change my mind on John Kerry? He's found in bed with a dead woman and a live boy. And a priest. And Tom Delay. But I'd still be willing to believe there was a logical explanation, like they were all taking a sauna, the woman passed out, they dragged her to the nearby hotel room to give her CPR.

Of course, neither one of these things are going to happen in the next week. Bush will continue to shore up his base by calling Kerry a Massachusetts Liberal
And Kerry will probably say something stupid which will be all over the networks. But none of that will change my mind.

And don't you let it change yours either.

Practice compassionate regime change

Posted by judy5cents at 12:32 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 25 October 2004 8:04 AM EDT
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