We continue a great tradition of voices speaking out

FirstAmendmentGranted, we most often argue over the Second Amendment, but in my opinion, one of the most misunderstood of our civil rights is the First Amendment. The First Amendment combines several civil rights. The entire text of the First Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Most, though certainly not all people, see the “no law respecting an establishment of religion” as what we know as “the separation of church and state” and take that to mean that the government cannot favor one religion or one religious belief over others. It is essentially a hands-off our religious beliefs policy. In the England American settlers left, The Church of England was the religion of the land. The King and the Church were very powerful in the governing of the people. We have freedom of religion of our choice or no religion at all as well as freedom from religion being forced onto us. In my opinion, there is no freedom of religion unless there is freedom from religion.

Next is the short but monumentally important protection against the government “abridging the freedom of speech”. Here we are guaranteed that our government cannot ban speech it does not agree with, or speech critical of the government. James Madison considered free speech “a vital aspect of a healthy republic” and while tested to some ugly extremes it has stood the test of time. Until a 1925 Supreme Court case applied it to state governments as well through the 14th Amendment which basically applied “full and equal benefit of all laws”, it was considered only to apply to the federal government. We have been arguing over what it all means and how it all applies ever since.

One thing that I think many, many people, from the famous, to the pundits to local Facebook friends get wrong is that free speech means people have to agree with you or not challenge what you say. That was patently untrue in 1789 and it is patently untrue today. From Voltaire to Patrick Henry, it has been said in one form or another, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” There is no right to have what you say accepted, applauded or agreed to. There just isn’t. Far too many people on the right see any argument to their comments as an infringement on their right to free speech and that is so specious yet so deeply ingrained is has become an urban legend or adage that will not die the death it deserves.

Just as you have the right to boycott and publicly lash out at Bill Maher, Ed Schultz, or MSNBC, we have the same right to boycott and publicly lash out at Phil Robertson, Sarah Palin or FOX. That is simply and irrevocably the truth.

Free speech is abused to the point of mockery on a daily basis:
Using historical American Revolution quotes to bash Obama.
Using biblical quotes out of context to bash homosexuals.
Using statistics out of context to affix blame.
Using a false impression of America in 1789 to bash America in 2014.

On and on it goes, but that is and will remain your right. Just stop pretending that right does or should shield you from the mockery, criticism, call-out or argumentation it deserves, because THAT is what makes free speech “a vital aspect of a healthy republic”.

“If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union, or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it.” –Thomas Jefferson

Reason does combat every day.

Originally posted on YouViewed/Editorial:

 ForAmerica

 

     That is a staggering number and it amounts to a rate of nearly a half a billion dollars per hour which we thought might be excessive even for our wastrel State but Wiki. Answers was kind enough to do the math :  How much money does the federal government spend every hour

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The UMC broke my heart

UMC LogoI have attended a small United Methodist Church for years and I love that little church and everyone in it!

Sunday School has always been a favorite though I am admittedly much more liberal than most of my fellow “Followers of Christ” classmates. I have learned a lot about the Bible, the life and meaning of Jesus Christ and the life a Christian should live.

Never have I been shunned for my liberal politics and never have I felt anything less than love and acceptance from the warm, wonderful members of this church. Even my letters-to-the editor which were always very liberal were noticed in my church and some of the sweet little old ladies would compliment me on them!

Years ago I explained that I could not become a member of the church because I did not support the church’s position against equal rights for homosexuals. I made a hypocritical choice and continued to attend the church hoping that the church would be swayed by the overwhelming evidence that homosexuality is not a choice and that marriage is a civil right that they should not be deprived of.

When the church chose to defrock Reverend Frank Schaefer, it was time for me to take off my hypocrisy and stand up to this wrong. I will not enter a UMC church until the church quits discrimination that I find offensive. Even if you choose to believe it is a sin, to single out this one “sin” as more offensive or more worthy of judgment or exclusion literally makes no sense. Why are adulterers, drunkards, divorcees and other “sinners” forgiven and not denied civil rights?

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/12/19/255521499/methodist-minister-defrocked-for-officiating-at-gay-wedding

I will look for a new church home, maybe the Unitarian Universalist Church or some more liberal and non-discriminating religious entity. BUT, I will miss my little church and the warm wonderful people I love whose attendance means a tacit approval of what the church does. I hope they are right when they told me that change will come from within, but I do not hold out much hope. My heart is broken, but it is also somehow lighter for finally taking a stand that agrees with my beliefs.

The Real Gunfight

mancardThis was my response to a local blog post. The √ are the points I am responding to.

As pointed out many times, gun advocate’s self-serving ideas for reducing the incidence of drunk driving are fairly strawman:

√ Don’t criminalize driving or drivers or the cars;
It is not doing either to require licenses, registration, inspections and insurance.

√ Criminalize drunk driving;

We have and will continue to do so, but that is always after the carnage or incident has happened.

√ Attempt to cure alcoholism;

R-i-g-h-t, that is really working well for us.

√ Focus on societal changes in the acceptability of drinking to
drunkenness;

Again, that is really working well for us. Facebook is full of those who think drunken pranks, jokes and parties are required. The recent inhumane treatment of the drunk teen comes to mind too. Society evolves slow.

√ Focus on business changes stressing the utility of declining to serve clearly affected drinkers.

That is also being done.

I disagree with comparing the damage from intoxication or addiction with the wanton and abusive gun culture in this nation.

√ Don’t criminalize owners, carriers or mere possession or lawful use of such products;

It is not “criminalizing” nor “penalizing” to require licenses, registration, inspections and insurance. It is smart and effective at finding the bad guys an disarming them quicker.

√ Criminalize callous recklessness with such products when misuse of them harms others;

We have, it seems to have had little effect.

√ Criminalize failure to safely store products when not in active use, if access to them harms others;

Oh yeah, the support for requiring trigger locks, gun lockers or just a locked cabinet is really overwhelming from gun advocacy groups.

√ Heavily prosecute criminals who deliberately engage in the harm of others, up to and including the death penalty or permanent erasure from society for murder and other heinous violent crimes;

Has no effect on the mass shooter or killer planning on suicide after their “mission”.

√ Focus on heavily supporting competent training for users of such products;

Yes another area where the gun advocacy groups are helping by making concealed carry permits easy and meaningless, training never mandatory and actual removal of guns after revocation is a letter saying so.

√ Focus on gun-proofing citizens in the same manner as gun-proofing young children helps ensure they grow to be safe and competent around firearms;

It ensures no such thing, in fact that is just asking for false security and incompetence to be masked.

√ Focus on societal changes in the acceptability of using weapons to harm others;

Yes, we need to let people know it is wrong. Anything but remove the gun from anyone’s reach.

√ Cease all unconstitutional attempts to undermine and circumvent the Second Amendment’s guaranteed right of citizens to both own and carry arms, as this has nothing to do with criminal misuse or negligent and reckless misuse.

BULL! That is such a self serving and non-helpful activity that it is laughable! The problems we have now stem from the 2nd Amendment being so unassailable (and perceived to be “under attack” at the same time) and guns being so easy to get, hard to trace and hard to track and prosecute straw buyers and traffickers. Not to mention the emotional, angry, unstable people who have so many unchecked avenues to gain any gun they want thanks to the efforts of the gun advocacy groups to spurn gun control as evil. Hell, the laws to criminalize will never matter when so many mass shooters and domestic murderers were “law abiding citizens” up until the moment they were not.

Until this nation realizes that the only effective gun control will be over the NRA’s dead body, we will not make the progress needed to either assure the Second Amendment rights or the safety and security of the people of this nation.

The NRA is the gun manufacturer’s lobbyist and the proof is in the stupid meme that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun”. What stops the bad guy, is not more armed citizens in every place on earth. Indeed the ONLY thing that will stop bad guys who seek that metal courage from a lethal partner, is the inability to gain the gun easily, cheaply or without rigorous proof of worthiness. NONE of which will take away the right to own guns from law abiding, upright citizens.

Good Friday Thoughts

dogwood-flowers-13On this Good Friday, I am as usual, fighting with a heavy heart.

Daily, I fight the meme that is not at all true but so often repeated that ‘everyone knows “the left”, for the most part, rejects the idea that we have a God’. I know from my own experience and research that many liberals are not only religious but live in service to God. We live by the teachings of Christ and are well aware that we will be called to account for our lives.

The only thing we can truthfully be accused of “rejecting” is the premise that we all are to be captive to religious practice and imagery as we go to school (or send our children there), as we conduct government business or attend government functions. There, we are “guilty as charged”. I just do not know when it became a factor of faith not to believe in separation of church and state and to be comfortable with excluding or deliberately giving offense to the sacred beliefs, or choice not to believe, that others have made.

It is not embracing Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism or Atheism, to respect the choice of others to believe in that faith path. It is also not rejecting Christianity to respect the faith path of others. The God I study and worship is everywhere and man cannot move or remove God. Not for thousands and thousands of years has anyone been able to claim success at any such effort.

Moral character is all that separates us from criminals and savages in many aspects of our behavior; some get that from religious belief or teachings and some from their own reasoning. Moral character is good for society, however one acquires it.

I do not think Christians have all the answers or ever will. They would not call it “faith” if we were all worshiping due to provable facts. I know I do not possess enough knowledge to decry the faith of others or denigrate them in relation to my own beliefs. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone,” Colossians 4:5-6 and “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15

I have never met anyone who did not feel abortions are “bad”. But since Christ teaches me not to throw stones and to “Go and sin no more”, I do not have the grounds to condemn women who make that desperate choice. I fight for a world where women want to choose life and know they will be supported in that undertaking.

We have to face the cruel truth that some of those who proclaim Christ the loudest, also behave abominably in their life, business and even worship. Sadly many Christians gladly make money “polluting minds and destroying the glue of our culture”. That is a big part of the confusion of many who refuse to claim Christianity. When the Christians, who claim God, and the Gospel of love, bear false witness, discriminate, exclude and decry anyone not just like them, it is offensive to many looking for a place to stand. That “conflict” is the fault of the Christians clinging to the letter of the Mosaic Law and ignoring the point of Jesus’ teachings.

In truth, the “traditional values” of Jesus are not the ones touted as being “held by some for generations”. They really never did “fit” the model Jesus gave us. Many finally have the courage to call that hypocrisy out.

We have not redrawn the lines of worship, we have realized that there is nothing righteous, or good and holy about discrimination, exclusion and condemnation of people in our communities who live or love differently than we do. When adultery, divorce (even repeatedly), graft, greed, avarice, drinking, and criminals, are accepted and ignored, yet committed homosexuality seeking the bonds of marriage or a woman desperately choosing abortion is condemned, people start to question the legitimacy of our “love”.

Naturally then society becomes more secular. No doctrine is preferable to false or impious doctrine for honest, intelligent people. People have become a lot more honest and dogma still treats us as ignorant and unassuming.

I am really sorry some want to blame this very understandable questioning of religion as the cause of “crime and hate” but I think it is deeply and completely wrong to cast that blame. It is precisely because so many people now have a real guiding spiritual light that the hypocrisy of Christianity and other religions has been exposed and we need to understand that and answer it.

It is the greed, lust, and selfish individuality that leads some to abuse rights and freedom that causes crime, immorality and hate, not questioning religious dogma.

As I think of Jesus on the Cross with a heart full of love and forgiveness, I hear the words “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” Luke 23:34

Fighting Horror

Double Rainbow
May God’s Grace give the families and loved ones of the victims the strength to endure their grief and this nation the strength to do what needs to be done.

After the Sandy Hook Connecticut school shootings, I see the gun advocates jumping to their usual conclusions. There is no serious movement asking for guns to be banned. But I will freely tell you this. If taking your guns away would have prevented those babies from being killed, or prevent the next such senseless act, I would use every ounce of my being to accomplish that.

Your over-reaction says your paranoia is in full alert. We are not coming for your guns. But you might want to consider what your calls for looser and looser gun availability and carry might have wrought.

I was speaking with an Iraq veteran the other day and he assured me that most people who carry are as likely to be killed drawing their weapon as not. Few people have the training needed to react under literal gun fire. Those who keep saying an armed person on the scene (in a kindergarten classroom? Really?) would have possibly made a difference are kidding only themselves.

Now is precisely the time to think and talk about this. People sitting in safety reading and responding to a blog DO need to be made to think. Think what this tragedy is a symptom of. Even a cursory knowledge of the gun control debate knows that no matter the collateral damage the NRA has one focus and one focus only, for us to leave their guns alone.

You let me know when the NRA or VCDL spends one dime on the research to see what causes this mass violence as people decide to go out in a “blaze of glory”.

You let me know when the NRA or VCDL does one PSA that fights the gun culture and the use of guns to solve problems.

You let me know when the NRA or VCDL backs more funding for (or raises money for) mental health screenings and calls for intervention BEFORE these tragedies occur.

Like I said, if I thought banning guns, or even more restrictions on the gun would fix this problem, I would become the Carrie Nation of gun control. It is simply too late for any of those solutions to work. Facts remain facts, but closing the barn door after the stampede is pretty useless work.

1. Where there are more guns there is more homicide
2. Across high-income nations, more guns = more homicide
3. Across states, more guns = more homicide

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/research/hicrc/firearms-research/guns-and-death/index.html

But none of that matters now. What matters is that we fix the problem that is still causing people to “lose it” and take as many people, or children out with them as they can. I will not blame “mental illness” either, because I believe evil exists and has its own twisted reasoning that those without that bent cannot fully fathom. Serial killers and mass gunmen are quite often disturbed but it goes beyond mere mental illness. The logistics and activity involved goes beyond anyone in a psychotic state IMO. We have got to get past the idea that “big brother” is the bad guy for knowing anything about you and change the fact that seeking help is stigmatizing and often non-existent. We have big fish to fry here and it would be a blessing if the gun advocates could work WITH us to figure this out, instead of whining that we are after their guns.

“There are more than 129,817 federally licensed firearms dealers in the United States, according to the latest Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives numbers (as of Aug. 1). Of those, 51,438 are retail gun stores, 7,356 are pawn shops and 61,562 are collectors, with the balance of the licenses belonging mostly to manufacturers and importers of firearms and destructive devices.

For comparison, here are some numbers of other ubiquitous elements of American life:

Gas Stations in the U.S. (2011): 143,839 (source TD LINX/Nielsen via National Associations of Convenience Stores, Association for Convenience for Convenience and Fuel Retailing)

Grocery Stores in the U.S. (2011) 36,569 (source: Food Marketing Institute)

McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. (2011): 14,098 (Source: McDonald’s Corporation Annual Report 2011)”

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/08/guns-in-america-a-statistical-look/

There is no possibility of banning guns. Not hand guns, not long guns, not machine/automatic guns, not grenades, not bombs, and most assuredly not what is already in unknown hands in unknown quantities. That is a fact we all need to face. We also need to face that even if we did ban them altogether, like we do drugs, drunk driving, assault, robbery, vandalism and any other thing or activity, it will not stop this from happening.

The shooters in these situations go against everything in our human moral fiber. They chose to give in to whatever demons drive them and the only question involved is how far they will get with whatever decision they have made.

You will either choose to be part of the solution, or part of the problem.

My Intolerance

Roanoke TimesFor the umpteenth time, a recent commentary in the local paper bemoaned the “liberal civility, compassion and wonderful diversity” of our intolerance of modern conservatism. He was right. We have not, we do not and we will not listen to, nor celebrate, the voices of intolerance and division. It is a fault, to be sure. But it is a fault that keeps us from being open to backward, wrongheaded, discriminatory and hateful actions and making bad choices. We celebrated our “win” by moving on. Too bad the right cannot accept their loss and do the same.

The good news is, that unlike staunch right-wing conservatives, we are not rigid in the rest of our thinking; therefore we do listen to and celebrate the voices of tolerance, diversity, innovation, and progress.

We do not believe that retaining “well-educated, technically talented immigrants and foreigners” is served by our -long overdue for an overhaul- immigration laws. It is beyond sad that such a sensible idea means “our schools do not educate enough of these technically competent people” to some. Sadder still that they believe the “millions of unemployed here” have anything at all to do with that. Maybe it is the conservatives who should muster some “compassion for the struggling for years to find work in a prolongedNot even close bad economy” and stop wanting to cut off aid and support to them?

Why is it that so many conservatives bemoan the “convoluted, massive growth in business regulations that contribute to the problem” but never back that up with what those regulations are and the facts and numbers to prove their point? Business says they don’t like regulations, especially those who get caught breaking them, but where is there ANY proof it means that is the reason they do not hire workers? “Sometimes the rhetoric” of blaming liberals and insulting “job councils that meet infrequently” looks just like sour grapes with a side of no better idea.

A perfect example of the right-wing intolerance and wrong-headed ideas is that of liberals “scolded Israel about a possible unilateral attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities” out of concern “about the impact of such an attack on President Obama’s re-election campaign”. Granted, the beginning of WWIII would have had an “impact” on the re-election of President Obama (arguably a landslide), but NO ONE can argue intelligently that the US has not suffered for our “the U.S. has your back” policy toward “Israel: an ungrateful ally,” and this attempt was no exception. It is proven, beyond real doubt, “that our long-standing ally is not only ungrateful, but also a “parasite.” A parasite weakens and drains the host. Our position in the volatile Middle East is weakened and ridiculed in the Middle East because we back Israel no matter what they do and if we do not have money for the unemployed, how do we have the money for Israel year after year after year?

Oddly enough, we have walked in Israel’s “shoes” for decades before criticizing. Yes “it’s true many liberals agree with the professor”, some did attempt to remove “we recognize Jerusalem is the capital of Israel” from our Democratic Platform because we do not feel that is our call to make. It is worth noting that at our national convention that support for Israel at the expense of Palestine was also put back in. Not of course to Mr. Unger, who only wants to consider what he thinks is the dark side of Democrats.

It is beyond doubt that “liberals have been strong advocates for education spending”, among other priorities that the conservatives have fought long and hard and still do. Actually there are quite a few countries who still spend more than we do on education. What “test scores” and outcomes show is that the blood feud between liberals and conservatives over our education system has resulted in a political football that does not achieve the best results. Instead of seeing that as a need to let the educators educate, the pols just want to continue the fight. That backwards thinking again.

Why conservatives ALWAYS blame the workers and then pretend to care about them remains a mystery to me. Will workers ever catch on? Do they believe every worker in our nation’s schools is a dastardly union member fighting against success that would boost their salary? (a truly brilliant strategy so far) To say that liberals or unions “defeating attempts to send minority children to better private and charter schools” is even part of the equation is beyond the pale, and yet he goes there as if it was established fact. Did I mention wrong-headed thinking?

In a diatribe against a review and relevance of the movie Lincoln, angry white men and everybody else By Michael Abraham this maligned conservative decides that the angry white man of bumper sticker and gas guzzler fame needs that truck for work, which to me begs the question, who offends customers if they “need” work? Does such a person ONLY work for fellow right-wing Christians and conservatives? Is this the new Civil War? Do those besides “far-right, redneck hillbilly” (his words, not mine) types display such stickers? Why the need to insult Chevy green cars after defending gas-guzzlers? Sounded like an intolerant rant to me.

Thanks for the laugh. “George Will” and “prescient” in the same sentence! But you do explain, as he did, the true disconnect. You all really believe that your backwards, discriminatory, bigoted, anti-progress agenda is to be respected don’t you? That is the crux of the right-wing gripe. You and your thinking: anti-union, anti-climate change, anti-science, anti-education, anti-teachers, anti-public workers with spines, anti-regulation, anti-evolution, anti-liberal, anti-any religion but yours commands respect. You think we must respect it and invite it to every table to be presented and treated as worthwhile, because it is what you think. No thank you. The diversity of our “echo chambers” suits us just fine.

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