religion

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.

I Get It – At Last

Why would senators and congressmen intentionally force the United States to the brink of financial disaster?

Why would legislators drive us to default on our national debt and tell us that default will be a good thing?

Why would billionaires fund grass roots organizations that have their members wave Confederate flags and spout hateful lies?

Why would Bible thumping go on everywhere, such that no speech can end without invoking God?

Why would otherwise sensible people in Kansas, Texas and elsewhere deny verified facts and long proven theories and instead be promoting science as seen through the eyes of relatively ignorant people of thousands of years ago?

Why has congress been gridlocked for so long?

The answers to those questions and more can be found by taking a step back from vilifying the (insert your own epithet here) extremists and railing at the stupid things they say and do.  Instead of thinking they are (re-insert your epithet here) irrational, assume that they are sensible and determined warriors fighting for their desired goal.  What would their goal be?

That is the answer I found in reading Deborah Caldwell’s article in the Huffington Post.  The insanity of current events disappeared with the clarity that hordes of powerful people want to eliminate our government and put in its place a Christian theocracy.

Doubt that?  First read Caldwell’s article.  Follow through to the links she provides.  Then test it all with your experience of hearing Ron Paul tell us he wants to eliminate government support of public education (what would that leave for our children?) and Grover Norquist wanting to shrink the government so that it can be drowned in a bathtub (what would take its place?).  Test it against Michele Bachmann glorying in the coming end times that will be hastened by the destruction of our American structure.  Don’t dismiss that just because Bachmann says crazy things most of the time, because there are thousands – perhaps hundreds of thousands – of Americans who agree with her and 50 of them are in congress right now and they are destroying our government.

I had long thought that they did that because they got off on the power trip and the attention they received that fed their self-promotion.  I had thought that the people in the streets spouting radical stuff were just venting their anger and hoping that finally someone was listening to them and that for a brief moment they had a little bit of control.  I may have been right, but that is not the big story.

The big story is that there is a huge number of Americans who want this country to be a Christian theocracy.  They will say and do anything to make that happen and they care not at all about the destruction they will cause to America and the world with their fundamentalist, literal interpretation zeal.  They think that our Founders wanted America to be that way, this in spite of the fact that the Founders specifically designed the Constitution to prevent America from being a theocracy and they wrote about the importance of that extensively.  And that perfectly captures the denial of reality that goes on for our current day extremists.

Now imagine if the zealots had all the power, that the only law of the land was the Christian Bible and that those in charge believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible.  America would look a lot like fundamentalist, theocratic Iran.  Get ready for public stonings.

Are you scared yet?

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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.

The Means, The End and Freedom

I was reading a news magazine recently about Pat Robertson, former candidate for President of the United States, owner of the Family Channel on cable TV, and head of the very conservative Christian Coalition.  It said that he plans to go to Congress and introduce an amendment to the Constitution that would allow “moments of silence” in public schools.  It said he figures this should be acceptable because he thinks it doesn’t violate the principle of separation of church and state in that it doesn’t prescribe prayer in school, just moments of silence.  That scares me.

I remember my mother telling me when I was young that the end doesn’t justify the means.  I think there’s sound wisdom in that.

Don’t  get me wrong:  I like the idea of instilling family values.  I like the idea of mom and dad marrying and raising children to be positive, healthy, contributing members of society.  These are good things, as I see them.  And, as I understand the people of the religious right, I think these are the kind of family values that they want and which most of us agree with.  But achieving the end of instilling family values does not justify whatever means are used to achieve them.  History teaches us that from such well intentioned actions have come some of the cruelest hatred and oppression.

In Sam Keen’s new book, Hymns to an Unknown God, he says that when people,  “ . . . claim to possess the only true revelation of God, they provide themselves with a theological justification for war.  There is a high degree of correlation between true believers, known gods and high body counts.”  If you have trouble with that, review your history book for what happened in the Roman Empire, during the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades, and even today in Rwanda and Bosnia.  In each case, the true believers started with what seemed like good intent and eventually used it to generate high body counts.  Somehow we humans always seem to gravitate that way and I don’t think that we in the United States are somehow immune to that terrible gravity.

So far, we’ve managed to avoid legally declaring this to be a country of one particular religion, thus leaving room for all of us and our potpourri of beliefs.  We’re all the richer and safer for it.  Our Constitution mandates that there be no laws restricting freedom of religion.  That prohibition is there because the people who crafted the Constitution came from places where there was no such protection and they knew full well the terrible price that is eventually paid when religion and the state are mixed.

We as a nation have consistently said that freedom of religion also means freedom for all religion and from religion.  That specifically means that we have the right to practice religion as we see fit, but that freedom does not give us the right to force others to do as we do.  Institutionalized “moments of silence” in our public schools would violate that freedom with a tacit instruction to pray in the prescribed manner.

The place for formal prayer in schools is in private institutions; prayer doesn’t belong in the state arena.  I don’t want prayer in public schools forced on anyone’s children.  I don’t want us to take this step backward to having a state-endorsed We and They society.  Indeed, it’s taken decades of civil rights work for us to agree that we can all eat at the same restaurants, use the same seats on busses and not be subject to employment discrimination based on gender and race.  Let’s continue to break down the We versus They mentality, not build it up again.

I don’t want those who want us to conform to their views to use principles that most of us support to manipulate us because it will inevitably lead us into a downward spiral.  The end does not justify the means.  What history teaches us is that when true believers attempt to force us to their way, their means will likely separate us and become the beginning of the end.  And that end is cruel and, ironically, even god-less.

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

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