Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter... and final update on Lent on Minimum Wage

It has been a wonderful Holy Week and now Easter is here. I awoke this morning without enough sleep in me, but I am energized for this beautiful, special day. (I am also a bit nervous about preaching, as I always am on the high holy days when we have as many visitors as members in worship.)

Ray and I managed to keep our spending to about $125 per week during Lent. It wasn't the $100 we were going for, but it wasn't too far off the mark. It was difficult. My refrig and cabinets are pretty bare! I do think I should have spent more time in prayer around all of this (hind sight is perfect) because it did feel like more of a struggle and sacrifice than I expected... perhaps because I tried to do too much of it alone? Not quite sure. Or perhaps it was supposed to feel like a struggle and sacrifice.

At any rate, I am certainly glad for Easter on a different level. And that is part of the point too, I suppose. I am reminded of Marva Dawn's writing in which she says "we don't know how to feast because we don't know how to fast." I understand what she means in a more visceral way; and I think she is right.

I am ready to feast!

I went to the revgalblogpals web ring blog I participate in, and found this Easter prayer this morning. I really like it, so I am sharing here as well. Happy Easter.

God of wonder and new life, on this day of joy, we give you thanks and praise. We thank you that the story of our faith is made new for us again with the rising of the sun. We pray that the good news of new life in Jesus has lifted the shadows that rested on so many hearts this past week. Thank you God for the power of your love to prevail over the forces of death and despair.

God, so many people in our world, some far from here and some next to us in the pew, are stuck in the sadness and gloom of Good Friday. For these beloved children of your Creation, Easter has not yet arrived in their souls. Grief, pain, loneliness, addiction, poverty, hunger and oppression are only a few of the burdens that your people bear. Lighten these loads, Holy One, and bring the light of your power and presence to all in need of some Easter joy today. Perhaps in some small way, each of us can be a bearer of that joy to someone looking for hope. May it be so, God, this Easter day and every day, in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Slots Referendum

I continue to be active in the fight against slot machines in Maryland. I just learned of an editorial written by the Washington Post which makes some great points. I am copying it here because I think it is worth reading (and so you don't have to go register at Washington Post if you don't care to).

I am both fascinated and frustrated by the fact that a majority of folks seems to think that slots are a good idea until they become educated about them. When folks take time to study the issue, it becomes clear that slots bring more problems than they solve. Consider these words from the editorial: they are from J. Joseph Curran Jr., Maryland's former attorney general, who has studied this issue extensively.
"The impact would be this...Casinos would bring a substantial increase in crime to our State. There would be more violent crime, more crimes against property, more insurance fraud, more white collar crime, more juvenile crime, more drug- and alcohol-related crime, more domestic violence and child abuse, and more organized crime."

The timing and tactics of this is also interesting. Maryland was sold the same bill of goods when Lottery and Keno were legalized in the state: that it would fund education, and solve our education budget challenges. It's hard to believe we would fall for the same lie again.

The gambling industry also goes after the most opportune time to offer "easy money"- during an economic downturn. The truth is that it will take years before this revenue will be realized, since the parlors have to be constructed. Add to that the fact that revenue projections have a way of not materializing (Pennsylvania is discovering this now), and the promise of "easy money" to fund education (or anything else) is clearly a farce.

What slots will really do is make a few people very wealthy, negatively impact our local economy, contribute to a whole host of social ills, and leave the state spending money to clean up the mess.

On that happy note, here is the Washington Post Editorial Piece:

The Slots Deception
What you don't know about gambling in Maryland might hurt you.

Saturday, March 8, 2008; A14

OPPONENTS of gambling in Maryland face an uphill battle ahead of this fall's referendum on a proposal to install 15,000 slot machines at five venues around the state. A shifting but solid majority of Marylanders supports the slots scheme, which has a powerful ally in Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and backing from the horse racing industry, gambling firms, labor unions and other special interests that stand to benefit. But polls suggest that the more voters find out about the slots plan, the more they tend to dislike it. For while it seems to promise quick cash on easy terms, in fact it's a raw deal.

In a January survey by the Baltimore Sun, 56 percent of respondents said they thought it was inappropriate to use state money to subsidize the horse racing industry. That's exactly what the slots plan would do, and in a big way: $100 million of Maryland's annual take from slots would go directly to bail out the industry through fatter purses at racetracks and other subsidies.

Similarly, in other polls, the public's support for slots falls sharply when respondents discover that the proposal entails changing Maryland's constitution. Ditto when people are asked how they would feel about introducing slot machine gambling in their county. In other words, slots are okay with Marylanders until they examine the details.

That dovetails with the findings of J. Joseph Curran Jr., Maryland's former attorney general, who issued a comprehensive report on the subject in the mid-1990s. At the time, Mr. Curran, who also happens to be the current governor's father-in-law, was studying the potential effect of full-fledged casino gambling on the state. Nonetheless, he reiterated his findings a few years ago, noting they applied equally to slot machine parlors.

Mr. Curran, who retired last year after almost 50 years in elective office, was long admired in Maryland politics as a straight shooter. "The impact would be this," he wrote. "Casinos would bring a substantial increase in crime to our State. There would be more violent crime, more crimes against property, more insurance fraud, more white collar crime, more juvenile crime, more drug- and alcohol-related crime, more domestic violence and child abuse, and more organized crime."

Advocates of slots don't want Marylanders to know too much before the fall referendum. They'd rather not have voters focus on crime, addictive behavior and other social costs associated with gambling, handouts to the moribund horse racing industry, or the fact that the state constitution would be tampered with under the proposal on the ballot. But here's a case where only a well-informed citizenry can make a sound decision. Let's hope for a full public airing and debate of all the issues surrounding slots.