Monday, June 30, 2014

Another Dominionist Nail.

I had to work today to remain calm after the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby.

I've written long and hard about the Dominionist movement trying to convert this country to a theocracy.  I know it sounds like some crazy conspiracy theorist ranting against chem trails.

But please consider for a moment.  The religious attitude about contraception displayed by the plaintiffs is a very small minority of Christian far right wing groups.

Witness the article written by Jack Jenkins over at ThinkProgress.  Go on over there and read it, I'll wait.

Ok, done?  Good.  I think I waited for even the slow readers to get back, if not, just let me know.

It is plain to see that the majority of religious Americans do not agree with Hobby Lobby.  Certainly the majority of religious institutions representing religious Americans don't.

So, why is this being touted as a win for "religious freedom"?  Because the guys loudly proclaiming victory are representatives of that Dominionist movement.  It is a tactic used by movements in the past whose goal is to overturn the established political order - loudly proclaim your goals to be in tune with the majority, even if your actions betray a very different path.  This tactic worked for Communists in Europe in establishing big Socialist parties, and it definitely worked for the National Socialists (the Nazis) in Germany.  It confuses the issue, because people in general are very forgiving and assume that what people say in public - especially in the press - is what they really mean.

Most people require pretty substantial proof to show that a group's public statements hide a sinister or publicly unpopular position.  These folks are taking advantage of that.  They know you are, basically, fair.

They have no such scruples.

Please note that many of the things the right wing is fighting for are laws which disadvantage women.

Note that this is, in a small way, an extension of the fight against contraception.  A fight liberals thought we'd won decades ago.  Remember the constitutional amendment they tried to put to the vote in Georgia (or maybe it was Mississippi) in 2012?  The one proclaiming that "personhood" begins at conception?  Yeah, it sounded harmless enough, until you realize that many of our contraceptives work by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the wall of the womb.  Meaning, of course, that the amendment would have made 90% of the contraceptives American women use illegal!

In one fell swoop.

Notice that the proponents of that amendment never said squat about that.  They tried to focus the argument on abortion, carefully avoiding the unpopular part of the consequences of approving that amendment.  Yeah, that's another way they work.  Sneak this stuff in when you're looking the other way!

Notice a pattern here?  A progression?

Most of this stuff is about the reproductive rights of women.  On the surface, that is.

But think about it.   When a women gets pregnant, it doesn't just become an inconvenience for a time.  It changes her LIFE.  Having a child doesn't just tie up 9 months until the kid pops out.  The pregnancy itself is a hazard to your life.  It gets worse when institutions like Planned Parenthood (which is devoted to women's health services exclusively) are defunded and forced to close, because then people whose careers are devoted to knowing what to do for a women who is in a distressed state of pregnancy are no longer available.  When certain procedures which can save your life are not performed in 90% of American hospitals because they are related to abortion procedures.

Not to mention the labor itself, in which not insignificant numbers of women die each year as a result of.

Then, of course, assuming you and the child survive the pregnancy and the labor of childbirth, there's the next ... oh, something like the next 30 years of your life, raising and nurturing that child, since these days kids aren't always on their own until they're in their thirties.

No, pregnancy is not a simple thing, and for all of these reasons, some women don't want to get pregnant.  Heck, some guys, even husbands, don't want to be fathers!  Some couples just aren't suited to be parents, and for the sake of the kids, they shouldn't be forced to be.

But if these right wingers have their way, they'll force that on us.  All of us.

Where will it stop?  Will they be satisfied to just keep you ladies barefoot and pregnant?  Think so?  Might they someday begin talking about the scanty and immodest clothing women wear?  Do ya think they might some day force you to wear - skirts?  Or worse yet - dresses?

Heck, if they can force you to get pregnant, isn't it reasonable that they might force you to stay at home with that child?  Be dependent on some guy for your upkeep?  Maybe they'd prefer that if that man dies, you just get tossed out on the street, since you won't be able to get a job.

Is that what you'd want for your future?  Or for your kids?  To have our society forced back into 19th century thinking where women have no rights, no personhood?

Because if we let them do it, that's where they're going.

As a male, I object.  I didn't marry my wife to be a servant.  I don't want my daughters to be servants. I want my kids to be full, productive citizens, with all of the rights and responsibilities men do.  I want to see our society to grow into a progressive, caring, forward looking society.

One where all people have the same rights, the same benefits before the law and the same opportunities to make their way in the world as they see fit.  A good education, healthcare, and employment prospects.

If we leave the country to the tender mercies of the Dominionists, we'll never see that.

If you agree with me, vote.  Tell your friends to vote.  I don't care where you live - VOTE!  Even if you live in rural Alabama, or Georgia, or even Mississippi, where rednecks think they rule the roost.  If enough people who object to this progression towards theocracy get out there and vote, we can show them different!

Throw out the seditionists who want to put preachers in power!  Throw out the republicans-in-name-only who are really Tea Partiers and religious extremists.

This November is more important than you think.  It may be a mid-term election, which are usually not that important - but then so was 2010, and that one gave the House to Republicans!  Let's take it back.

VOTE!  and vote Democratic this November!

#Dominionism  #Religion  #SupremeCourt  #politics  #harmfromreligion

Monday, June 09, 2014

Correction to the Irish Mother and Child Home story

I was drawn to a story this morning posted in the Irish Times regarding the horrific tale of the almost 800 infant/child skeletons found in the septic tank at a Mother and Child Home (as they are known in Ireland - actually homes for unwed mothers and "illegitimate" children) by a researcher doing genealogy a while back.

It seems that many of the stories which have been spread from the original article misinterpreted some of the facts.  The linked to article sets us straight.  Most of the infants and children buried at the Tuam home were buried in a cemetery within the grounds of the home, not IN the septic tank.  According to an interview of one of the boys who originally found the tank and it's occupants, there were no more than perhaps twenty bodies within the tank itself.

There are a couple of  implications of this correction, but rest assured, lessening of the fault of the Roman Catholic Church in the existence and the terrible conditions in these homes is not one of them!

It does lessen the horror somewhat to know that most of the children who died there were at least accorded some modicum of decency in death, if not in life.  It increases the chances that conditions in most of the other homes may be found to be no worse and perhaps even a bit better.

On the other hand, the environment inculcated by the Church allowed an atmosphere to develop which allowed at least one and perhaps a small cabal of abusers to cause these children - as few as five or as many as twenty - to be disposed of in a septic tank sewerage and apart from the normal burial procedures at that one home.  What abuse and neglect caused these deaths, we may never know, but still, the fault lies with the Institution which allowed the abuse to occur and continue as long as it did.

There is no doubt that any story is at once too simple and also often incorrectly reported at first glance.  This one is not an exception.  I am sure that even in these institutions of callousness and indifference, there were individuals who did their best to mitigate the cruelty and intolerance showed by the institution and its rules towards a badly mistreated underclass.  Even amidst the horrors of the Holocaust, there were stories of the occasional kindness by even the worst of the criminals who staffed the camps.  It is and has always been possible for good people to be trapped by circumstances in a terrible place and time where their ability to mitigate the damage is limited to individual kindnesses on an occasional basis. I am sure, once the story of these homes is finally told, we will hear of people who were kind, even heroic in their attempts to fight the indifference and the horrors they were faced with in an institution whose purpose was the denigration and enslavement of an underclass of officially detested women and their children.  People will, after all, be people, and even in terrible circumstances, the basic goodness of mankind will often show itself.

But let's make no mistake.  The basic reasons these homes existed was to warehouse and make disappear the detritus of a society which considered them to be a sinful and evil mistake.  A society which was outlined in my post on my Facebook page yesterday describing the social institutions built by the Roman Catholic Church within Irish society in the first half of the twentieth century.

There is and can be no lessening of the fault and the guilt of that institution by the revelation of this article that some have misinterpreted the story of the children's' burials in the Tuam Home.  This story must be and more than likely will be investigated and eventually told in all of its horror, frightful detail and the occasional lighthearted story of heroism or courage in the face of adversity.

It will be at once more complex and nuanced than we have seen at first glance, and yet, we must not lose sight of the basic lesson we should take away from it.

The entire edifice of Irish society which enabled these homes to exist - which in fact required them to be built - is the result of the Roman Catholic Church and the teachings and dogma of that institution resulting from the interpretation of Christian Scripture by the Church Hierarchy of the day.  Teachings and interpretations which continue virtually unchanged to this very day and age, and which would, if that institution had its way, require the very same kinds of homes to continue to exist into the future.

Interpretations which could, at any time, be re-examined and reinterpreted to end that terrible intolerance.  If the teachings and dogma of that bygone age continue, it is by the willing and intentional decisions made by current Church Fathers (read: Pope and Cardinals) to continue the horror.

They have a choice, and it seems they've already made it.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

American Democracy 101

After the post about Gitmo, I got to thinking.  (I know, that's dangerous, but I like to live on the edge!)

Besides the Gitmo thing, and the whole 1% vs the 99% thing and the NSA massively spying on our electronic communications thing (Hi, guys!), and well, all that other shit, there seems to be a pervasive, growing feeling among the American people that we've somehow lost control of our government.

No, I didn't just crawl out from under a rock.  I've been just kind of keeping my cool.

But now, I'm sorta over that.  My point of view is kind of specific, though.

Let's examine for a moment, what the basics of our form of government are.  I'm not a civics teacher, (but I did pay attention, Mr. Green & Col. Morehead!) so please bear with me.

I could go into the Constitution, and that would be theoretically correct, as it is the blueprint for the form our government takes, and governs the powers it has and is restricted from wielding.  It would be pretty instructive for a lot of people, but it would also take a while.

I'm not a patient guy.

So, let's talk about something else.  How about the Declaration of Independence?

That's a favorite of the Tea Party, isn't it?  Particularly the religious right's portion of it.  They love to point at the Preamble and the use of the word "Creator" that you find there.  Yes, it's there, and I won't bore you (again) with the well known point that it is there as a Deist term favored by the Founders who were followers of that particular philosophy.

I'm going to point to another well known but oft neglected phrase which comes later.  Right in the next clause, in fact, immediately after the terms "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" we all know and love:
— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —
Emphasis mine, of course.  The Founders didn't think it would be necessary to embolden that one.

It is, in fact, in spite of its inclusion in a whole line of famous clauses, the very foundation of American Democracy.

It is the very principle upon which the Founders based their blueprint they called the Constitution of the United States.

Look at that phrase again and let it roll off your tongue.

"...deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,"

That's us, in case you didn't realize it.  The American people.  You, me, Barrack Obama, John Boehner, every single one of the 350 million plus of us.

Not a word about deities, churches, religion or cults.

The People.  We, the People delegate the power to govern ourselves to a government which we have instituted under the Constitution - a document which contains exactly two references to religion. (if you count the First Amendment and not just the original document)  Both are restrictions on its power to affect religion, or to involve it in government activities.

One of the restrictions placed upon the government is to deny the use of a religious test for office.  The other is the famous First Amendment, which restricts the governments ability to pass laws which could govern religion, or in effect, make people obey specific sectarian religious rules, called the Establishment Clause.  It also prevents the government from passing laws which prevent religion from doing its thing. That is the Free Exercise Clause.

Together, they are intended to prevent religion from being a part of our government, either to promote it or to impede it.  The government is to remain neutral.   It cannot be partial, either for or against.

These are not just philosophical or esoteric ideals to be discussed in a classroom.  They are LAW.  A law (the highest law of the land - it says so, right there in the constitution) that trumps all others.

Anyone who would override these things is not a patriotic American.  They are not patriots at all, but are either traitors or seditionists.

You see, the First amendment is a protection for ALL Americans, even the most religious.

Imagine for a moment, the Dominionists win.  The Constitution is overturned, and Christianity becomes the Law of the Land.  ::shudder::

Which version?

The Roman Catholic Church?  The Southern Baptist Convention?  The Presbyterians?  Joel Osteen's group?  How about Billy Graham?  Would he get a say?  How about the Mormons?

Or the church of Scientology?

How are they going to decide?  Even the group known as Dominionists constitute differing versions of fundies.  Do ya think they're going to sit down nice and quietly after the Second American Revolution and just decide who get tossed under the bus like gentlemen?

Somehow, that scenario just doesn't sound exactly right.  Historically, religions don't share power very well.  When the Protestants and Catholics in Germany contended for power, it took thirty years and hundreds of thousands of dead to settle the issue.

Would the RCC take a Protestant takeover of the US sitting down?  Would the mainline Protestant churches accept a fundamentalist takeover gracefully?

The Founders knew what they were doing.  They'd seen what religious power in the hands of governments could do in recent European history.  Many of the previous generation of their families had immigrated to the US under religious pressure.  The strife regarding differing religions was intense even in differing States of the Colonies!

To prevent it from getting worse, their solution was to end it completely.  To keep government totally out of religion, and religion totally out of government.

Sounds about right, wouldn't you say?

America's Greatest Shame.

Gitmo.  Guantanamo Bay.  Also known as GTMO and the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp.  Wikipedia says this about it, in part:
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (also called Gitmo or GTMO by the U.S. Army, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard personnel stationed there[1]) is located on 45 square miles (120 km2) of land and water at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which the United States leased for use as a coaling and naval station in the Cuban–American Treaty of 1903. The base is on the shore of Guantánamo Bay at the southeastern end of Cuba. It is the oldest overseas U.S. Naval Base, and the only U.S. military installation in a country with whom the United States has no diplomatic relations.
It speaks about the Detention Camp thusly:
In the last quarter of the 20th century, the base was used to house Cuban and Haitian refugees intercepted on the high seas. In the early 1990s, it held refugees who fled Haiti after military forces overthrew president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. These refugees were held in a detainment area called Camp Bulkeley until United States district court Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. declared the camp unconstitutional on 8 June 1993. This decision was later vacated. The last Haitian migrants departed Guantanamo on 1 November 1995. 

The Migrant Operations Center on Guantanamo typically keeps fewer than 30 people interdicted at sea in the Caribbean region. 

Beginning in 2002, a small portion of the base was used to detain several hundred alleged combatants at Camp Delta, Camp Echo, Camp Iguana, and the now-closed Camp X-Ray. The US military has alleged without formal charge that some of these detainees are linked to al-Qaeda or the Taliban. In litigation regarding the availability of fundamental rights to those imprisoned at the base, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that the detainees "...have been imprisoned in territory over which the United States exercises exclusive jurisdiction and control."[49] Therefore, the detainees have the fundamental right to due process of law under the Fifth Amendment. A district court has since held that the "Geneva Conventions applied to the Taliban detainees, but not to members of Al-Qaeda terrorist organization."[50] 
 My attention has been redirected to this facility due to the fact of five detainees (members of the Taliban, thus POWs and not terrorists) being swapped for an American serviceman held by the Taliban for five years.

I am not going to relate the history of the detentions there.  The Wikipedia article has enough of that.

Instead, I am going to note, again, that this facility is, in my opinion, ill-advised at the very least, and at the most, probably illegal.  Certainly, our detention of Al Qaeda personnel there without charge for numerous years is unConstitutional and most probably a violation of International Law.

It sure as hell is a direct violation of everything this country is supposed to stand for.  Our Constitution is the legal blueprint for our nation's government.  It contains the powers that we, as the grantors of that power, allow our government to have and wield.  It also contains certain restrictions on power that prevent the government from doing certain things to people under its control.

Let's look at that statement again.  There is nothing in the constitution that restricts those guarantees of freedom from government over-reach to only citizens of this country.  It repeatedly uses the term "The People".

The restrictions are to government power, and are meant to prevent the government from taking certain actions against people.  Like, for instance, the fifth Amendment:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise

infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of
a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval
forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War
or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same
offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be
compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,
nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process
of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without
just compensation.
emphasis mine.

Both phrases are being repeatedly and constantly violated in the case of the Al Qaeda prisoners in Gitmo.  Only about five of them have been afforded some form of due process, and a couple of dozen more are supposedly due for some form of prosecution, but to date have not been charged.

Some of them have been held for over ten years.  WITHOUT CHARGE.

There is also nothing in the Constitution that (contrary to the thinking of the Bush Administration) says that those protections stop at the border.  The constitution is as much in full force and effect anywhere the United States Government operates on soil International Law says is American controlled.  Which includes the United States Navel Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Moving on from the strict legalities, this shit is just wrong.  For decades after World War II, the US has fought against human rights violations by other countries around the world.  We have excoriated them in the press and at the United Nations.  We have held our heads up high and berated other countries' governments using names of all kinds for violating human rights.

Rights which WE are violating at this very moment in the camps at Gitmo.

Hypocrites.  WE are hypocrites.  Our government is being supremely hypocritical by keeping these men in detention while holding others to a higher standard.

The fact that the American People are not demanding an end to those violations means that we ourselves are hypocrites.

Shame on us.

It will take decades of hard work and a perfect record to erase this shame.  The amount of work future generations of Americans will have to do to convince the world that we really are better than that is enormous.

We will likely never live this down.

Close Gitmo, Mr. President.  Close the detention camps.  Either charge the bastards or let them go.  But stop violating the very values our country was founded on.  Defy the Republicans and shame them in front of the entire world.

Our reputation demands it.  Human decency, above all, demands it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Time to come clean, or just clean house.

By now, many of you have seen the latest news from Ireland, about the almost 800 bodies of infants and children found in a septic tank on the grounds of one of Ireland's many "mother and child" homes maintained at government expense by the Catholic Church across Ireland during much of the early 20th century.

What you may not understand is that those kids were tossed in without ceremony, without last rites, unwanted in death as they were unwanted in life.  When the site was discovered by accident in 1975, it was re-covered by a new concrete slab, and Catholic prayers were said over it, quickly, by a priest before it was again forgotten and ignored.

Bad enough that women were enslaved by the church at the expense of the theocratic Irish government of the time, forced to work for little or no money, and had their children ripped from their arms simply because they became pregnant out of wedlock.

Bad enough that Catholic priests have, for a length of time unknown to all, sexually molested the children of even their most devout followers, and covered up the facts through Church approved rules and regulations to prevent public discovery of these sad and outrageous actions.

But to discover that the Church in Ireland, at countless homes scattered throughout that long suffering country, was actually killing these children through willful neglect, is simply beyond the pale of what a civilized world should accept.

Now we find that at least at one such home, the children so callously killed through willful neglect were also shamefully tossed into a septic tank like so much human feces.

Was this a common practice?  Were all such children disposed of so casually?  How widespread was this practice?  Are they almost all in unmarked, unsanctified mass graves?

Now, a UK based media outlet has asked those questions, and is demanding accountability.

While I think it is about time this is finally brought to light, I would take it further.

How many other countries have seen similar such homes and similar conditions?  This cannot be a phenomena unique to Ireland.  This was an intrinsic, imbedded and very authorized practice throughout that country, indicating that the Church Fathers (read:  College of Cardinals) not only approved, but allowed it to occur and made it official and part of the Church bureaucracy.

What part of the enslavement of women and the neglectful death of children was covered by the New Testament?  Where are the words of Christ that allowed and approved of the death of children for the sins of their parents?  Where is the justification in the teachings of Christ for this complete and utter failure of the church to stand up for its dogma and it's teachings?

Not to mention the shameful coverup of its crimes by throwing the bodies into a septic tank.

It is beyond time for the world to stand up and demand that the Roman Catholic Church come clean.  Time for it to admit to its crimes, worldwide, and to take real, measured actions to atone for the crimes of its past, by funding the uplifting of the poor of this world through the sale and liquidation of church wealth and property it has accumulated and hoarded for almost two millennia.

Time for an abject apology and real atonement.  Or it's values mean nothing, and it's teachings are mere window dressing for its real goal - collecting and hoarding wealth.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Republicans vs. Vets. and 21st Century Politics

The last week has not been a good one for the Republican Party and their relationship with Vets.

Starting with the Republican refusal to either extend or fund further veteran's benefits (including the refusal to fund 27 more medical facilities), continuing with their open spat with that idiot Congresscritter the other day, and now, ending with Republicans' open vehemence towards the Administration finalizing an agreement with the Taliban to bring home the last POW from Afghanistan, That Grand Old Party is fast moving in the direction of becoming the Grand Old EX-Party as they continue to shoot themselves in the foot, the knee, the nether regions and now straight into their empty, echoing braincase.

How is it that the party whose very self-identification has always been with the military (who they insist can do no wrong) now has put itself into the position of throwing that very military (and Vets) under the bus as they continue their five year long hissy fit over the election of Barrack Hussein Obama?

Have they no shame?  No values?  No morals?

Obviously not, save the one, overriding value of racial hatred towards blacks.  You know, the value they SAY they don't have, but honor exclusively to the exclusion of all others, including patriotism, humanity and common sense.  The one that has turned them into the Party of NO, refusing to give President Obama even the semblance of victory in the most minor of issues, even issues they have no philosophical problems with.

As has been noted before, their brains have apparently been put on hold for the duration of the current Administration's tenure, which is obvious, considering that their actions have alienated the young, the middle aged, every minority group you could imagine,  half of the electorate in the persons of the ladies of our proud nation, public employees of every stripe, including cops, including...

Oh, hell, just say it, everybody in this country who isn't an old, white, Anglo-Saxen, Protestant male.

Trust me, at some point, they'll even manage to piss them off soon, they've already managed to anger the members of that class who are classified as seniors.

No wonder they want to restrict voting!  If they manage to allow anybody in this country who isn't an old, white, Anglo-Saxen, Protestant male Republican to vote, they'll lose.

Frankly, I am seriously beginning to doubt the sanity of the leaders of the Tea Party Movement.  How can they seriously believe that this kind of public tantrum about something they've honored in the past isn't going to alienate even members of their base?  Vets have been a strong contingent of the GOP for decades, and Republicans have had the country fooled into thinking Liberals hated vets for almost as long as I can remember.

But not any more.  They've managed to eviscerate that image in just a few short weeks.

What else can they stand on?   Unless they wake up and begin actually suggesting actual plans and laws to solve this country's problems, there isn't anything.

Once upon a time, politics in this country revolved around two parties debating policy and laws, vying for the citizens' attention and agreement by the manner of that debate.  Yes, it got rancorous, even nasty at times, but you always had two sides to choose from.  (Sometimes three!)

Now, you've got Democrats with real, honest to goodness plans, laws and policies meant to solve America's problems on one side, and on the other side, you've got "We hate that Nigger!"

(Sorry for the trigger word, but it is literally the ONLY one which applies)

The modern Republican Party is the 21st century equivalent of the KKK and its lynching parties, determined to see that the black guy in the White House is never seen as a successful President.

Their voices get more and more shrill as President Obama's last term gets shorter and shorter.  I am NOT going to ask if it can get any worse.

It can.