Rhetoric boils over

Off balance: Political theater has been at its over-the-top best recently. Or maybe its worst. It all depends on your perspective, and whether you appreciate good fiddle playing while the republic burns.

The Capitol was cooking all weekend long as the Legislature tried unsuccessfully to get a budget passed by Monday’s constitutional deadline, with Assembly Republicans on Sunday killing the Senate budget passed Saturday with the help of Redding Republican Senator Maurice Johannessen.

That set up dueling Capitol performances at 10 a.m. Monday by Assembly Republican leaders (who ludicrously insist that no taxes get increased in closing the largest budget deficit in state history) and a coalition of lefty groups (who are equally unrealistic in trying to prevent cuts in funding for state programs, even if it means pushing the debt onto future generations).

While the former event was just GOP honchos Dave Cox, Tony Strickland and John Campbell blowing stale anti-government hot air for the media in Cox’s office, the latter tried to get creative by forming a bread line on the North Lawn, playing off Campbell’s inane comment that government need only provide Californians with “bread, water and shelter.”

Social service activists spent the day roaming the halls and passing out bread to legislators, but perhaps they would have been more effective in taking Campbell up on his offer of providing shelters for all Californians, something that would be real progress for Republicans.

Or perhaps Bites shouldn’t be so literal. It does so get in the way of enjoying the show.

Early fireworks: Yet as political theater goes, budget battles make for fairly boring subject matter, especially compared to the nationalist furor we’ve seen recently in the home of the brave. And Bites isn’t just talking about this week’s Fourth of July celebrations, which pale in comparison to last week’s uproar over the Pledge of Allegiance.

With all the indignant vitriol that came from the dominant Republicrats, you’d think Sacramentan Michael Newdow was challenging the constitutionality of the words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” rather than the words “under God” that religious fundamentalists slipped into the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.

There’s no reason for Bites to go on and on over something the bosses hit in this week’s Editorial (page 6), but geez-us, can we regain a little perspective here, people? Is our memory so short that we forget the toll that religious zealotry takes on a supposedly free society?

Sitting in a bunker somewhere watching CNN as the U.S. Senate unanimously declared our allegiance to Christianity, Osama bin Laden must have felt smugly justified in striking the Crusaders in the name of Allah.

Mad mommas: Politicians certainly don’t have a corner on the market for angry vitriol. If the court decision regarding the pledge has sparked some outraged sentiments in the halls of Congress, try listening to a woman who’s had her kids taken away from her by the courts.

SN&R gets at least a call a week from women who feel they’ve been wronged by a family court judge or mediator, and several of the most compelling stories have found their way into our pages this year.

Although most complaints from mothers are tough to verify and often involve judgment calls between two bad choices, a new report from California’s chapter of the National Organization for Women minces no words in stating, “the present family court system in California [is] crippled, incompetent, and corrupt.”

After three years of researching claims from these women, NOW has used the strongest language to recommend a number of radical solutions, including quickly taking away custodial rights from parents accused of abuse, severing the link between visitation time and child support payments, and disallowing controversial justifications for taking kids away from their moms, like the unproven Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Ironically, bias in the family court system has long been a charge leveled by fathers, who were on the losing end of assumptions that mom would get the kids. As this report suggests, perhaps now is the time for the powers-that-be to seriously examine whether the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.