religion

Republican Judge Hanen


Judge Hanen

Republican Judge Andrew S. Hanen

Reading time – 43 seconds  .  .  . 

Judge Andrew S. Hanen, a Republican judge in Republican Texas, heard testimony from the attorneys representing 26 Republican governors seeking to stuff President Obama’s executive order limiting deportations back into the president’s face. Republican Judge Hanen granted the Republican plaintiff’s petition on procedural grounds – i.e., a technicality – and did not deal with the substance of the executive order.

Before filing, the plaintiffs, those 26 Republican governors, went venue shopping for the best state in which to find the most sympathetic hearing, the best city in which to file their case and the best courtroom and judge to whom they would plead their case and they zeroed in on Republican Judge Hanen in Brownsville, TX. Their selection was doubly insightful, because the inevitable appeal of his limited and superficial ruling will be in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is in Republican New Orleans, Louisiana. Are you seeing a pattern here?

Republicans have been accused of having no compassion for our Dreamers or for the migrant workers who are sometimes viciously exploited. While that might be an accurate depiction of some Republicans, their apparent callousness really has nothing to do with the concerted effort by these 26 Republican governors and the Republicans in the House and Senate to thwart President Obama’s immigration efforts. There are two reasons for their actions and neither has anything to do with compassion.

First, Republicans continue to want to do everything possible to ensure that President Obama has no victories of any kind, regardless of the good sense of his proposals, so they oppose anything he supports.

Second – and this is the big one – Republicans are on their way to extinction. Here’s how TalikingPointsMemo described their coming tipping point in a 2012 piece:

The government also projects that in five years, minorities will make up more than half of children under 18. Not long after, the total U.S. white population will begin an inexorable decline in absolute numbers, due to aging baby boomers.

So, old white guys (the great majority of the Republican Party) are in the process of losing their majority and, consequently, their grip on power, money, control and domination.

Republicans have demonstrated for decades that they are bereft of new ideas for meeting America’s challenges or for grabbing hold of 21st century opportunities, so they can’t appeal to voters on the basis of their great solutions or clarity of the best way forward. The only way they can stay in power is to steal elections (like in 2000 and 2004) or to deprive voting rights from people who naturally tend to vote for Democrats, like people of color. Eliminating their votes by deporting Hispanics is a sure fire way to help prevent Republicans from being overpowered by future Democratic voters.

And that’s why Republicans want to deport over 12 million people and why Republicans oppose any path to citizenship and why Republicans want to kill the president’s executive order and send our Dreamers packing. For dinosaur Republicans who can already see that demographic meteor in the sky, it’s the species survival instinct played out in the political arena. They don’t hate Hispanics; they just want to continue to dominate them.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

We’re Solving The Wrong Problem


Reading time – 119 seconds  .  .  . 

Nobody on the right, left or center disputes that a primary job of our federal government is national defense, ensuring our security in a dangerous world. ISIS or ISIL or Islamic Caliphate – whatever you want to call it – has incrementally and brutally plunged the Middle East into a conflagration of Middle East versus West, Sunni versus Shiite, believers versus infidels and seventh century versus twenty-first century reality. We have decided that this is a clear and present danger to America and have correspondingly sent our drones on attack and our munitions to Kurd and Syrian rebels.

The debate rages, though, hawks versus others, about putting American “boots on the ground.” We cannot fight effectively or have useful intelligence without those boots on the ground, the hawks tell us. So, as we fight that Middle East war with every non-boot-on-the-ground method we can think of, we are solving the problem about how to win that war by asking if we should put boots on the ground. Why are we doing that?

And why have we paid homage to a newly deceased, despotic Saudi ruler who thought that beheading was a good idea? And why did we invade Iraq?

The answer to all those questions is the same: oil.

We are still energy dependent on oil from the Middle East and Iraq has one of the largest known reserves of oil in the world. The Saudis have a huge reservoir of oil, so we continue to support the House of Saud, the people from whom 15 of the 19 airplane hijackers came to kill over 3,000 people in America. Upheaval in that area threatens our hydrocarbon supply, so we install  ( like the Shah of Iran) and prop up (like the House of Saud) some very unusual people.

The problem about whether to send ground troops to the Middle East to defeat ISIS is the wrong one on which to focus. The right one is this: “What are the strategies that will make the United States energy independent so that we will never again get drawn into oil wars in the Middle East?

President Nixon made a big deal about the importance of weaning us off foreign oil. In 1973, the year of the so-called Arab Oil Embargo, 20% of our oil needs came from other countries. Following that event our dependence soared to over 40%, where it still stood in 2012. The number has been whittled down a bit since then, but we are still hugely dependent upon others, some of them oil-rich, reprehensible dictator states. So, we continue to endanger our military people in an effort to keep a finger in the dyke of the natural state of chaos in the Middle East in order to protect the supply of oil we covet. When we ask the question of whether there should be American military boots on the ground in that area, we are caving in to an assumption that we must remain entrapped by the angry passions of seventh century animosities so that we can have cheap oil.

We cannot continue to burn fossil fuels indefinitely, this for two reasons. First, we are cooking our planet and ourselves in the process. Second, there is a finite supply of fossil fuels. Even if we have a 100 year supply, those fossil fuels will eventually be gone. We better have good solutions well before that time.

So, again, the right problem to solve is: “What are the strategies that will make the United States energy independent?

Engineers have told us that a 100 square mile grid – just 10 miles by 10 miles – of solar collectors in our desert southwest can produce enough electricity for all of Southern California and we are doing something about that. If we were to cover around 4 percent of all deserts with solar panels, we could generate enough electricity to power the world. Germany, one of the cloudiest countries in Europe, managed to craft a program for energy independence which included putting solar collectors on the roofs of its houses and those now supply 4.5% of their total energy needs. In America we have gigantic wind farms and have good locations for many more. Smart grid technology is in our hands to dramatically reduce transmission losses and do even more than that. These are just some of the ideas that have been proposed, some acted upon, and there are other technologies in development.

The strategy we need and eventually will employ is a current day version of the Manhattan Project, an all-in program to engineer and then build a new American energy system. And sooner is way better than later.

We’ll need fossil fuels in some measure for a long time to come, so don’t completely dismiss the pretty blonde in the black pants suit who lies to you about how safe hydraulic fracturing is, because we need the gas. On the other hand, it’s way past time to find ways to do it safely. It’s way past time to figure out how to transport oil without sliming the Yellowstone River and others due to ruptured pipelines.

And it’s way past time to stop telling ourselves what we can’t do or what we can’t afford to do.

We can’t afford not to do this, because if we fail to put that stake in the ground we will be consigning our patriotic military people to endless deaths, dismemberment, disfigurement and a lifetime of post traumatic stress disorder. We will be dooming future generations of Americans to second tier status in the world and the loss of the American Dream. Those are some of the things that happen when we put boots on the ground in the Middle East to prop up despotic rulers sitting on a big puddle of oil that we want, instead of solving the right problem and taking action to change the game.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Je Suis . . . Ironic


Charlie HebdoEd. note: Please help – see the note below and pass this along so that we make the kind of difference that needs to be made. America thanks you.

Reading time – 47 seconds  .  .  . 

The irreverent Charlie Hebdo satirists, both cartoonists and journalists, have, in the face of profound, bottomless grief led the way for the rest of the world in a breathtaking way. Their new magazine cover shows the Prophet Muhammad weeping as he holds a sign that reads, “Je Suis Charlie”. What makes the cover breathtaking is that above the Prophet they have written, “TOUT EST PARDONNE”. Roughly translated, they are telling their attackers, the murderers of their colleagues, the violent, religion despoiling Islamist terrorists, “We forgive you.”

Could you possibly do that were you in their place? Can you do it from your place now?

There is an odd twist to this, courtesy of Anonymous, the worldwide hacker group that has hacked into nearly everything, including the NSA. This band of iconoclasts, this buster of world order has now pledged to hunt down Islamist radicals. In a stunning video they tell the extremists, “We are tracking you down. We will find you and not leave you any rest.” They vow to shut down every violent extremist Twitter feed, propaganda video and more. They announce boldly, “We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”

Unlike Anonymous, Charlie Hebdo forgives. My guess, though, is that the staff members won’t forget, and that’s as it should be.

And here is the irony: How pleasingly odd it is that the members of this hacker organization Anonymous, who have compromised our National Security Agency, are now on our side in the hunt for Islamist terrorists. Their agenda is their own and this portion of their agenda is in pitch perfect concert with freedom loving people everywhere, even those running the NSA. Perhaps now “Nous Sommes Anonymous.”

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Backlash Quiz


Reading time – 127 seconds  .  .  .

Mohammed Mosaddegh was the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran. In 1953 he was deposed in a coup d’état orchestrated by British MI6 and the American CIA, along with foreign oil firms. They established Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi as the absolute ruler of Iran. That was a handy thing for the Brits and the Americans, as it ensured an uninterrupted supply of cheap Iranian oil. On the other hand, the Iranian people did not like that very much.

The Shah turned out to be a brutal dictator. Not surprisingly, his people did not care for that either, and in 1979 he was shoved out of the country as part of the Iranian Revolution. To express their displeasure with America for forcing this monster on them, the Iranian Guard took 52 people from the American embassy and held them hostage for 444 days. Today the Iranians are making atomic bombs. Funny how pissing people off has a way of producing backlash.

The west and most notably the United States has maintained an enormous footprint in the Middle-East for over one hundred years. For example, we have provided the assurance of control of Saudi Arabia by the House of Saud. That has kept American oil interests firmly established and has ensured – guess what? – an uninterrupted supply of cheap Saudi oil, often to the detriment of the local population. Come to think of it, Osama bin Laden was a Saudi. Hmmm. Funny how pissing people off has a way of producing backlash.

In addition, over those decades the cultural imprint of the U.S. has been both enormous and anathema to the locals. Again not surprisingly, the locals haven’t liked that and that, in part, led to al Qaeda. Those people want their section of the world to themselves and have devised a strategy to get it back. Here is a part of their strategy:

  1. Provoke the United States and the West into invading a Muslim country by staging a massive attack or string of attacks on US soil that results in massive civilian casualties.
  2. Incite local resistance to occupying forces.
  3. Expand the conflict to neighboring countries, and engage the US and its allies in a long war of attrition.
  4. Convert al-Qaeda into an ideology and set of operating principles that can be loosely franchised in other countries without requiring direct command and control, and via these franchises incite attacks against the US and countries allied with the US until they withdraw from the conflict, as happened with the 2004 Madrid train bombings, but which did not have the same effect with the July 7, 2005 London bombings.
  5. The US economy will finally collapse by the year 2020 under the strain of multiple engagements in numerous places, making the worldwide economic system which is dependent on the U.S. also collapse leading to global political instability, which in turn leads to a global jihad led by al-Qaeda and a Wahhabi Caliphate will then be installed across the world following the collapse of the U.S. and the rest of the Western world countries.

Funny how pissing people off has a way of producing backlash.

Which brings us to ISIS/ISIL. They are barbaric. They rape, torture and kill indiscriminately. They have beheaded two Americans and a Brit and we want revenge, our pound of flesh. While that may be a normal human reaction, think about the consequences of killing more Muslims. Those still living would not like that and, well, it’s funny how pissing people off has a way of producing backlash.

This post touches on just a few examples of predictable retribution for our long history in the Middle-East and of course there are more. The point is that when we do things that produce impoverishment, suffering and death for others, those remaining want to hit back, just like we want to hit back at ISIS/ISIL right now. If we do that, if we allow ourselves to be sucked into that rope-a-dope, we will be playing right into the strategy outlined by al Qaeda and ensuring the next atrocity that will be visited upon Americans.

If you always do what you’ve always done,

you’ll always get what you always got.

I understand muscular chest-thumping and I appreciate the desire for simple solutions to complex problems. But, really, we’ve seen this movie and we know how it never ends.

Pop Quiz

  1. Are we dumb enough to set ourselves up like that again?
  2. Exactly who will benefit if we stay at war in the Middle-East? Hint: Follow the money.
  3. Bonus question: The Soviet Union collapsed in large measure because they had to keep up with U.S. militarily expenditures and at the same time they bogged themselves down in a long term war in Afghanistan. In the process, they spent themselves into economic collapse. Is there anything in that for us to learn? If so, what is it?

You get 10 points for each correct answer and a perfect score gets you entered to win an all expense paid trip to the next Ground Zero.

Insert your answers below.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Wrong – Just Wrong


Reading time – 69 seconds  .  .  . 

T.M. Luhrmann is a professor of anthropology at Stanford University and she wrote a most intersting opinion piece for the New York Times entitled Where Reason Ends and Faith Begins. In it she wrote, “Most people, whatever their religious persuasion, assume that there are decent human beings with good intentions who interpreted the evidence differently and who are wrong” (emphasis mine). Does that kind of absolutist thinking sound at all familiar?

ISIS is terrorizing the Middle-East, killing Shia, Christians and now Yazidi’s. They are warring to create a caliphate (from “caliph” – successor to Muhammad) not just across the area, but across the entire Muslim world. They believe that they have the one true faith and interpretation of the words of Muhammad and, as such, anyone who sees things differently is wrong. Fatally. And since their quest is in service to God, any brutality they commit for their cause is justified and no compromise is possible.

The same kind of closed thinking is what drives Hamas to kill indiscriminately and to set up Palestinians to be collateral damage in order to drive world sympathy. That is not to say that there are no legitimate grievances. That area of the world is founded on perpetual grievances, with each injustice being the basis for the next act of violence. Still, for Hamas it’s their way or the highway. The one toward which they aim their rockets.

Be slow to imagine this kind of mental intransigence is confined to killers in the Middle-East. Recall the murderous enormity of the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades. On a smaller scale, Dr. George Tiller was murdered in Wichita, KS by an extremist with the same kind of religion-justified cranial impasse. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered by a self-proclaimed Christian. Our government was shut down by a band of Tea Party absolutists for whom compromise is not just unacceptable; it is Bible-thumping blasphemy.

Don’t think for a minute that attitudes like that are unproductive. Throughout history that kind of thinking has produced millions of dead bodies, tortured people, refugees and failed nations. People have been made to live in abject poverty and continually in fear for their lives. And how odd that all is, when so much of this evil is done in the name of God and of religion.

God save us from the God-inspired absolutists.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Who Cares About Buffalo?


Reading time – 75 seconds  .  .  .

Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine:

– that you live in Buffalo, NY;

– that a militant group in Toronto was firing rockets into Buffalo;

– that the rockets and other war materiel were stored and launched from the homes of civilians, from hospitals and from schools in Toronto;

– that the Canadian authorities did nothing to stop the militants;

– that the militants had dug tunnels that ended in Buffalo and they were murdering Buffalo residents from the exits of those tunnels (ignore the geological impossibility of this thought experiment tunnel);

– that the militants were committed only to the destruction of Buffalo, NY and driving its citizens into Lake Erie;

– that the militant group refused to discuss its grievances or to negotiate for any non-violent solution;

– that the entire world community was indifferent to all of that/

As a citizen of Buffalo living with a rain of rockets that kill your people every day, what would you do? You would do exactly what the Israelis are doing now as they endure the conditions listed above. You would do whatever is necessary to stop the murdering of your people. Yet none of that is what we’re shown by the world media in today’s coverage of the Middle-East conflict.

The sensation-seeking world press is playing into the hands of the Hamas murderers, who seek to become the world’s greatest victims, as the reportering media seek ever more gruesome pictures to tweak us into subscribing to its offerings. We are shown images of dead and maimed Gazans, children and women, tragedies every one. And none of those deaths had to happen.

We are not shown Hamas militants encouraging or ordering people to stay where they are, living with rockets ready to be fired from their midst, but that’s what happens. They are told to stay even after the Israelis have dropped pamphlets from airplanes and sent text messages warning the people to leave because an attack to destroy Hamas rockets is coming. The children and the women – all the non-combatants – die because they weren’t allowed to leave – and because they allowed Hamas to dig tunnels into Israel from their houses and to store rockets in their schools. And we are shown interviews of people complaining about their deaths and the brutality of the Israelis.

We never feel or hear of the terror that visits the people of Hebron and Tel Aviv, as they repeatedly get alerts to incoming Hamas rockets and have 15 seconds to find shelter. And we don’t know what it feels like to live with the knowledge of the imminent violence of over 2,700 rockets already fired at Israeli civilians and 8,000 more awaiting a Hamas militant to light still more fuses because that image doesn’t sell TV advertising. We don’t know what it’s like to live just a few miles from Islamic terrorists who are dedicated solely to killing us, because the world press has largely ignored this truth for decades.

So grieve for the wailing mothers and ailing children, of course. But don’t imagine for a second that their pain stands in isolation or that it was necessary. The world should be careful about condemnation of Israel as its government seeks to protect its citizens. They are doing what you would do if this were happening in Buffalo.


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Republicanistas


Reading time – 37 seconds  .  .  .

I’m reading David McCullough’s biography of Harry Truman and am struck by a comment in a letter from young Harry to his then-intended, Bess Wallace, who would later become the First Lady. In his letter he wrote, “I am by religion like everything else. I think there’s more in acting than in talking.” Perhaps that’s another way to say that actions speak louder than words. Okay, then lets look at some actions and some concurrent words and then consider an appropriate label.

We are blessed with a very loud swarm of Republicanistas, who thump Bibles and tell us that this is a Christian nation, that we should live according to the Bible, all this with the implication that they themselves are good Christians. Those are the words. The actions tell a different story.

Because even as they proclaim their Jesus-ness they are at the same time cutting food aid to poor children and they stand in the way of medical care for all of our poor. They subvert the rights of the poor and our minorities, barring their way to the voting booth. They blockade buses of refugee children and spew their hate at them. They decide categorically that all abortions are wrong and enforce their views by murdering doctors.

Regardless of your religious persuasion and even if you have no religious persuasion at all, call upon whatever your notion of Jesus may be and then answer this question: Do the actions of our Bible-thumpers sound like something Jesus would have promoted or expected? And if your answer is no, then what can we say about these self-righteous Republicanistas?

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

– See more at: http://jaxpolitix.com/father-flannigan-in-texas/#sthash.hwTpyC23.dpuf

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

– See more at: http://jaxpolitix.com/father-flannigan-in-texas/#sthash.hwTpyC23.dpuf


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Father Flannigan in Texas


Skip LeveThis is a guest essay from reader Frank Levy of Houston, TX. It was submitted as a comment to an earlier post, Father Flannigan, Your CEO and the Supreme Court, and was deemed too important to bury at the bottom of the Comments section. It is offered here for your consideration and comment.

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In Texas we are very accustomed to the “Father Flannigan phenomenon,” and much worse. Not only do we have the usual school day, pre-game, and government pre-meeting prayer, the state Republican Party primary ballot includes a statement that reads, “America is a Christian country, and Texas is a Christian state.” Voters get to agree or disagree. The “initiative” carries by over 95% every 4 years.

It is fundamentalist Christian beliefs like this that are part and parcel of the religious civil war going on across the country. The Hobby Lobby decision is but one of the skirmishes in this religious civil war.

The Hobby Lobby decision by the “Fab 5” – the 5 Catholic men on the Court – is deeply disingenuous and sharply at odds with American law and legal precedent, and imposes very real long-term negative impacts on American democracy and on Americans who believe in real freedom of religion.

On the subject of the disingenuous nature of the Hobby Lobby suit and decision – as Stephanie Mencimer noted in Mother Jones in March 2014, “a neglected aspect of the Hobby Lobby case is the fact that Hobby Lobby’s self-professed belief appeared out of nowhere just in time for them to file suit. The company admits in its complaint that until it considered filing the suit in 2012 its generous health insurance plan actually covered Plan B and Ella (though not IUDs). The burden of this coverage was apparently so insignificant that God and Hobby Lobby executives never noticed it until the mandate became a political issue.”

It should also be noted that Hobby Lobby owners held significant investments in the companies that manufactured the exact abortifacients and birth control products that were the basis of the law suit.

In short, Hobby Lobby’s “deeply held beliefs” claims are transparently bogus — as well as being scientifically invalid, since none of the methods involved are abortifacients, as Hobby Lobby claims.

In Hobby Lobby the Court handed corporations religious rights for the first time in history. As Norm Ornstein points out in the National Journal, “For the majority on the Roberts Court, through a series of rulings that favor corporations over labor or other interests, it is clear that corporations are king, superior to individual Americans — with all the special treatment in taxes and protection from legal liability that are unavailable to us individuals, and now all the extra benefits that come with individual citizenship.”

The Hobby Lobby decision also lends support to the Christian Right’s (they are neither) efforts in the new religious civil war to create a Christian theocracy in America, and to further their erroneous claims that their religious rights are being suppressed, or even outlawed.

Led by the dominion theology of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), those seeking the creation of America as an evangelical Christian nation seek to block any and all legislation that promotes real equality, as well as seeking to block legislation that opposes discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or race, especially in the areas of voting rights, access to health care, birth control and abortion and marriage, among others. These self-proclaimed Christians also oppose social programs like food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and Social Security, this based on their proclaimed religious beliefs.

These new religious warriors want an America built on their repressive and narrow understanding of Christian theology. As researcher Rachel Tabachnick explains: “Instead of escaping the Earth (in the Rapture) prior to the turmoil of the end times, they [the NAR] teach that believers will defeat evil by taking dominion, or control, over all sectors of society and government, resulting in mass conversions to their brand of charismatic evangelicalism and a Christian utopia or ‘Kingdom’ on Earth.”

Their favorite, and most powerful lie used to gather fellow warriors is their lament that their religious rights are being eliminated or oppressed. A. Jay Michaelson writes in, ”Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Campaign Against Civil Rights” published by Political Research Associates in March, 2013, “While the religious liberty debate is a growing front in the ongoing culture wars, it is actually an old argument re-purposed for a new context. In the postwar era, the Christian Right defended racial segregation, school prayer, public religious displays and other religious practices that infringed on the liberties of others by claiming that restrictions on such public acts infringed upon their religious liberty. Then as now, the Christian Right turned anti-discrimination arguments on their heads: instead of African Americans being discriminated against by segregated Christian universities, the universities were being discriminated against by not being allowed to exclude them; instead of public prayers oppressing religious minorities, Christians are being oppressed by not being able to offer them.

In the “religious liberty” framework, the Christian Right attacks access to contraception, access to abortion, same-sex marriage, and anti-discrimination laws—not on moral grounds (e.g., that contraception is morally wrong or that LGBTQ rights violate “family values”) but because they allegedly impinge upon the religious freedoms of others (e.g., by forcing employers to violate their religion by providing contraception coverage).

In fact, there is not a single “religious liberty” claim made by the Christian Right that does not involve abridging someone else’s rights.

When any religious group tries to impose its beliefs on others we ought to be afraid and strenuously oppose such efforts. We need to be extremely vigilant in opposing any effort by one group to impose its beliefs on anyone else, no matter how light or innocent that imposition might be claimed to be. If you don’t want your religious beliefs questioned, then don’t impose them on others. When push comes to shove, real religious freedom can be just as simple as that.

I wonder how the Court would have voted if the Hobby Lobby suit had been filed by a Muslim, or Jewish, or Buddhist, or Hindu owned business instead of the Christian owned Hobby Lobby.

Frank Levy, M.A., MFA. is Director of Outreach Resources, which provides consulting services to local and statewide disaster and public health preparedness and response agencies and to non-profit agencies engaged in improving the lives of the most vulnerable and at-risk residents. Frank currently lives in hiding from the thought police in Tom “the Exterminator” DeLay’s Congressional district outside Houston, TX.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Father Flannigan, Your CEO and the Supreme Court


Prayer Meeting

Town Board meeting, Greece, NY, June, 2013. Photo, Bloomberg News

Reading time – 79 seconds

“And now Father Flannigan will lead us in an invocation that will be meaningful and appropriate for all of us.” With that the head coach of our public high school varsity football team opened the season kick-off meeting for parents and team members on that warm August evening in 1963. Father Flannigan stepped up to the microphone and in his deep baritone voice said, “We pray together  .  .  .” and he invoked and intoned for a couple of agonizingly long minutes, at last ending with, “This we pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.”

My father and I looked at each other with a “Huh?” expression. Father Flannigan’s invocation was something other than appropriate for us. Indeed, it was inappropriate for any non-Christian and even some Christians. So much for “appropriate for all of us.”

The First Amendment to the Constitution tells us, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Of course, our public high school was and is a government institution and Father Flannigan’s very specifically Christian Catholic words were part of an official school function. His prayer – indeed, any prayer –  was not appropriate for the occasion, as it clearly expressed religious favoritism, the very thing the Pilgrims left Europe to escape. That tacit favoritism is what “prohibits the free exercise thereof” of any religion other than the one mentioned and it also prevents the free exercise of no religion. And today’s Supreme Court, that interpreter of the Constitution and the intent of the Framers, can’t seem to figure that out.

They ruled in a 5-4 decision on May 5, 2014 that governmental meetings may include Christian prayer. The picture above shows members of the town board in Greece, NY bowing their heads in prayer at the start of their meeting in June, 2013. They were the plaintiffs in this lawsuit seeking effectively to establish a government sanctioned religion – Christianity – for their town. That would necessarily mean a concurrent prohibition of the free exercise of any other religion. In the past the Court has ruled that prayer in public schools isn’t kosher (had to throw that in), primarily because the school children are effectively captive and cannot escape the drubbing of another’s version of religion. And it is the “captive” part that, for this court, is the critical issue, rather than the “Congress shall make no law  .  .  .” part. Apparently, the Greece, NY town board members and other meeting attendees are not captive, which means that government sponsored Christianity – specifically Christianity – is okay, this according to 5 male, Roman Catholic members of this Supreme Court who ruled as such.

This is a companion piece to the fundamentalist surge that, for example, makes idiot Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore declare that the First Amendment only protects Christians.

So, go ahead, Father Flannigan, and offer prayers in church and in your Sunday School classes and in your parochial school. Those are expressly for that purpose and your prayers are appropriate there. But keep your benedictions out of our government, our public institutions and our laws. They aren’t appropriate there, regardless of the wrong-headed decisions of our inappropriate Supreme Court.

The next step toward theocracy just happened, as those same 5 all male, Republican, Roman Catholic old guys decided in the Hobby Lobby case that employers can cite their religion as sufficient reason for withholding insurance coverage for birth control from their employees. Surely the next step will be a Christian Science CEO claiming he doesn’t have to supply medical insurance for his employees at all and those same 5 Justices will go along with that First Amendment tarnishing, protection destroying foolishness, too.

There are quite a few million Americans – including many religious leaders –  who believe there really is supposed to be a separation of “church and state” and a freedom from anyone else’s religion. If only the Supreme Court could figure out this simple concept.

One last thing: As you can see, the righty majority five keep legislating from the bench, this time by warping the First Amendment. How come we’re not hearing a howl from conservatives about that?

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

When They Pry . . .


ConstitutionReading time – 89 seconds

Amendment I – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 

But the Supreme Court ruled that the city of Greece, NY may conduct Christian prayers during their meetings. That sounds a lot like establishing a religion.

And George W. Bush and the Republican National Committee set up “free speech zones” during their convention in 2004, making for lots of areas where there was complete abridgment of freedom of speech and the people were not being allowed to peaceably assemble. At the same time reporters were getting clubbed by police in Minneapolis, which made freedom of the press not so free.

Amendment II – A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The most curious interpretation of that belongs to the NRA and other Second Amendment thumpers. They conveniently ignore the first 13 words and focuse solely on keeping and bearing arms and not the reason for arms ownership.

When that amendment was passed there was national security concern that there might be a second British invasion, and they weren’t thinking about The Beatles. There was neither a standing American army nor the means to finance one, so citizens had to be able to leap into service in a Militia on a moment’s notice and be ready to fight; hence, the right to “keep and bear arms.” It was never about private citizens protecting themselves from the United States government. And today we have a Militia – our National Guard and standing army – so there is no national security need for the people to “keep and bear arms.”

Amendment IV – The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Is this really confusing to the NSA?

Amendment VI – In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence [sic].

We are still holding over 100 men at Guantanamo, none of whom has ever been formally accused of a crime. None has had a day in court. All have been there for years. So much for a “speedy” trial.

Amendment VIII – Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

What part of “cruel and unusual punishment” did George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and John Yoo, DOJ “Torture Memo” author, not understand about water boarding? Our own laws call water boarding torture, as do the Geneva Conventions.

I’m traveling around the country delivering Money, Politics & Democracy presentations because there are big money influencers and big political forces who have and want to continue to shred the Constitution. Well, they can have it to shred when they pry my cold, dead hands from the tattered remnants of it.

Are you with me?

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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