Aug 23, 2010

The Principle of Tolerance And Free Expression (but with a twist)

Let me be controversial for a moment...    

One group of people fervently holds beliefs that dismiss any other group's fundamental tenets therefore this group is deemed as a threat to the latter's survival--physical or cultural. Really, isn't this the true reason for opposing the expression and practice of other religions? It's the fear that their values are so different than the prevailing ones and that those values will dilute or poison the good established socio-political culture.

How about the various laws against proselytizing? How could a religion tell the infidels about a good thing they're missing out if prevented from preaching openly and acquiring new members? [definition: proselytize] It's the dominant religion that uses the state to safeguard its own faithful from competition. The Founders understood this danger when they established the principle of separation of church-state. The courts have also ruled on the Establishment Clause.

I do believe in the First Amendment. Freedom of religion is part of it, as freedom of expression is too. Free speech means that people can argue about ideas, or just pronounce their beliefs without offering any proof. But, they can't prevent others from doing so. Here's a fundamental point: Respect for the right to free speech but no idea or belief system should claim immunity from criticism or evaluation. This concept is hard for many to accept. If I haven't examined my own ideology, my own cultural directives, how could I be "open to a dialogue" when confronted by people with different claims? 

If I happen to be a tolerant person, I could accept others' religion to exist on the principle of tolerance but without evaluating their claims--unless I say, I know they're going to hell but that is their choice, those fools....  All major faiths claim the only true path to salvation while condemning others. And, here's the crux of the matter: Faith isn't up to rational thinking and critical evaluation whereas revision is possible or desirable. The dogmatic approach demands devotion, acceptance, and that a few special persons understood God's absolute commandments. 

The Muslim organization that wants to build its cultural center, including a mosque, near the WTC has the legal right to do so and if this offends other people and organized religions so be it. Can you imagine how different our country would be if we made "being offended" a legal principle? Anything you do or say can be found offensive by a number of people. There would be no wealth of art, literature, music, fashion, etc. Granted, not everything out there is fine by me. I found many things offensive. What I don't like, I boycott not try to ban it legally. Of course, I'm talking about adults who have choice, not children. 

Personally (adding to being controversial) I believe that all religions are fundamentally wrong. They pronounce edicts, deliver judgments, and construct arguments on the idea they have captured the only absolute truth--and only them can possess it. All major faiths (at least) are misogynistic. Their holy books contain passages supporting slavery, killing of the apostates and members of other faiths, promote blind obedience, superstition, and ignorance.

Humans have established more civil societies because they created the secular state and chose not to strictly obey the commandments in their holy books. I do prefer a more thought-out, rational, appropriate for our enlightenment-era society. Can you imagine the world whereas we killed adulterers, those who left a faith, those who worked on the Sabbath or wore the wrong clothes, ate the wrong foods or broke their fast, that we could beat our slaves, murder children for the sins of their fathers, commanded women to be man's property while we cut their clitoris once they became teenagers, etc, etc,...

Aug 12, 2010

Mike Huckabee, Bucking the GOP dogma, Backs the DREAM Act and Sensible Immigration Reform Unlike Flopper J. McCain!

I don't agree with most of Mike Huckabee's but on this instance he's right. "When a kid comes to his country, and he’s four years old and he had no choice in it — his parents came illegally. He still, because he is in this state, it’s the state’s responsibility – in fact, it is the state’s legal mandate – to make sure that child is in school. So let’s say that kid goes to school. That kid is in our school from kindergarten through the 12th grade. He graduates as valedictorian because he’s a smart kid and he works his rear end off and he becomes the valedictorian of the school. The question is: Is he better off going to college and becoming a neurosurgeon or a banker or whatever he might become, and becoming a taxpayer, and in the process having to apply for and achieve citizenship, or should we make him pick tomatoes? I think it’s better if he goes to college and becomes a citizen"

What is the future US national makeup?
Unfortunately our country lacks leaders who will speak the truth on the immigration issue.Of course there's the short-term political calculation, especially by the GOP, that caters to xenophobia, racism, and ill-conceived notions of citizenship. Most go for the easy and visible action "enforcing the law and reinforcing the border, but we're spending a disproportionate amount of money and resources for a problem that can be addressed otherwise. Right now, the system is broken so any one-way while the US is addicted to cheap labor.

The immigration issue will return after the November elections and I'll devote plenty of space to it here. So, stay tuned. 

Aug 8, 2010

Don't Build the "9-11 Mosque"... But, then (to be fair), Remove All Churches from "Sensitive" Areas Around the World Too!

Is the US a Christian country? I mean it in a legal, constitutional sense, not that the majority of its citizens are Christians. According to our Constitution, and the intent of the founders, the US is a secular country that separates religion from the state, whereas the government cannot favor one religion over another, and that every person here can freely choose to take any religion or laugh & scorn all of them. This is a fundamental American right. Why should we turn it into a privilege?

If this country respects this principle, then a church, a mosque, or an altar to Zeus can be built. The same rules should apply to every religion, sect, or any fantastical organization--not only to the "privileged" ones who happen to be Christians. 

Soon the discussion centered around the issue of whose hat was the best

I hear a lot about respect. That the Muslim center (which will include a mosque) is disrespectful to the victims of 9-11 by being built some 2 blocks away from the site. What is the rule here? I don't see the reason for objecting--other than our government shouldn't be subsidizing any religious organization by offering tax-free status. But this should apply to all religions. 

You do know that all the main three Abrahamic religions (and most others) are mutually exclusive, right? Every single one of them professes to hold the absolute truth and the only way to salvation. All those outside this faith are condemned to go to hell. When any of those religions dominated the government it usually implemented persecutions against the infidels and the non-believers. This isn't respect. It's dogmatic. Therefore, every religion a priori is against the others. 

Interestingly enough, all three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) entertain the justification of guilt by association. Children could pay for the sins of their parents. Also, that God can deliver collective punishment. We were told by some popular American preachers that 9-11, and hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for the gays, feminists, ACLU, and the godless hedonists.  So, yeah, collective punishment, because all are guilty of some kind of trespass....

I'm wondering whether the serious crimes some Christians have committed, some via the official Church establishment should prevent churches from being built near "sensitive" areas, like Jerusalem. The "offensive" principle should apply there too, no?
Even if I think that religion is adopting a belief system with certain obligations without reference to evidence or reason, many people do need religion so I have no problem people expressing their faith--as long as it does not being imposed on me. Fear and the need to be saved makes people behave. If hard-core criminals (many in prisons) find a god that makes them a better person, all the better for the rest of us too. If a believer gives more to charity or avoids law-breaking because he things God is watching, then it's just fine by me.

A Duke University study [link to the NYT article] just came out suggesting that contemporary mosques are a deterrent to terrorism! If it's true, then I'd say, built more of those damn things as fast as you can. Otherwise, young hot-headed Muslims may seek other venues, or may be more prone to be recruited by the jihadist fundamentalists. Obviously there is a problem with the old Islam as it was with the old Christian church. Islam hasn't had it's Protestant Reformation but there are moderate voices in it--those voices and organizations we should support and open a dialogue with.

When will the demonstrations outside the Pentagon will commence? What, you didn't know there's a mosque in there?!!  Tsk. 

Marxism needs to be revised. Religion isn't the "opium of the people" in that it may sedate reasoning but I think it's more like crack cocaine! It can make some weak people so excited as to do some crazy and stupid stuff.

Aug 5, 2010

SHAMEFUL! And, the Democratic Leadership in Congress is to Blame!

The Dems are afraid to tackle the immigration issue before the Congressional election this November so they sacrifice decency and common sense to the even more ridiculous Republican demands. The House failed to pass a bill that would give health care benefits to the 9-11 responders. The bill received 255 votes for and 159 against. Shame to those 159 politicians who voted against giving benefits to people who rushed to the scene in NYC and later worked at the site for the rescue/recovery/clean up effort. The Bush EPA, told everyone that the air at the World Trade Center disaster zone was OK to breathe. The Giuliani City Hall, and the Pataki state government failed to give adequate protection and alert the workers & emergency responders.

But, wait a second. Isn't 255 a bigger number than 159? How come a bill that gets a majority like this fails to pass, you ask.  Well, because the Dems brought it under a rule that required a 2/3 super majority to pass! Why? Because the Dems did not want to confront the issue the Repubs were raising: We should not pay for health benefits for any undocumented worker (I wonder how many there could have been) who without proper papers rushed to the scene to help out, got injured or breathed in the cancer-causing polluted air. Those bastards, they should die for helping out without having the proper visa!

Yeah, this is the absurd and obscene reason the Repubs used to oppose this bill. Oh, and to shield big business from paying taxes in the US. The bill was to be funded by ..ending the tax loopholes the multinational pharmas use to avoid paying US taxes

What a shame, shame, shame!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
I Give Up - 9/11 Responders Bill
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Aug 4, 2010

Immigration and the 14th Amendment

Have you heard about the 14th Amendment? It gives citizenship and all legal rights to anyone who is born in this country. When it was adopted, it meant to enfranchise people who had been born here but were discriminated by the political & legal system, on the federal and mostly state levels. Now some conservatives, including many state Republican parties, want to repeal this amendment because they say illegal immigrants shouldn't be rewarded by having babies here!

First, babies to illegal immigrants is not a problem but it's a distraction. It's a rallying point for the conservatives and the tea baggers. It may be beneficial to them short term but it'll help put this GOP on the sidelines in the future. The Hispanics especially favor the Dems by 65-70% at the ballot box. The immigration issue will further solidify this block behind the Dems in increasing numbers. Much like other immigrant groups that have favored the Dems for generations, because they found their way via the big city political machines controlled by the Dems. In addition, the Latinos are a growing block. In about a generation, the Caucasians (white Euros) will be a minority in the US.

The present day anti-immigrant stance isn't new. The Know Nothing Party and others had expressed the same views targeting the Irish and other "inferior European immigrants."  As one framer put it at the time, "we are entirely ready to accept" that under the proposed amendment, "children born here" of immigrant parents "shall be declared by the Constitution of the United States to be entitled to civil rights and to equal protection before the law with others." In two landmark decisions, the Supreme Court verified this "clear constitutional mandate" of birthright citizenship, ruling in 1982 that the "fourteenth amendment extends to anyone, citizen or stranger" regardless if "a person's initial entry into a State, or the United States, was unlawful." [source]

Just a few minutes ago, there was a piece on NPR where Young Americans For Freedom and that awful Ken Blackwell [we go back to Ohio, 2004] talking about the disillusionment with Obama's "hope message" and how younger people are giving up on the dream of change and whatever. Oh, and, yeah, Obama is a socialist, anti-freedom, anti-market system, and the best thing that happened to ..conservatives!  How do these people manage to convince anyone beyond their immediate cadre of interested parties is amazing. 

In the abstract, we can talk about conservatism, like we can talk about religion, and debate the philosophical points. Yet, I want you to keep in mind this: How do the vast majority of conservatives (and the faithful) understand and practice their  The present-day Repubs stand for what public policy? And, when they had control of the Executive and Congress, what did they do? A year and a half ago, when Obama took office, the country was a short step from economic (and not only) depression. Since, the Repubs have done everything to oppose everything Obama and the Dems have proposed.

So, the conservatives want more religion--the kind that goes against self-determination--more transfer of wealth to the top 2%, more wars & huge military budgets, they're anti-immigrants (legal or illegal... because, after all, those people aren't the ideal Americans, right?),  want less safety, fewer programs designed to help the least fortunate or the sick, and they promote ignorance by attacking science and the scientific method.

Our Government Represents Whom Exactly?

We as the electorate have to be smarter. It's not about class warfare--this war appears to be over in the US, and the elite has won it. But, just think how many adverse actions against the vast majority of Americans our government has taken in order to benefit the few and big business. Why? Because, too many of us fall for the smoke & mirrors of skilled magicians, also mainly known as Republicans. 

It's amazing that important issues are reduced to bumper sticker expressions and, worse, mentality. Sarah Palin writes notes on her palm and proudly displays her ignorance. Taxes are bad, she says, never bothering to explain why she wants to keep the tax breaks to the top 2%, which will add trillions to the debt. [Pew Center's analysis]

We also think we make money, and that high salaries and fortune are a birthright for Americans. Only 1 in 10 make more than $100K a year, less than 2% make twice as much! At least now, the majority is for letting the Bush tax cuts (to the very top since the early 2000s) expire this year. But, the Republicans convinced the public the "death tax" (large estate taxes) was a bad idea, while under 2% of Americans would be subject to this!

Rand Paul is the leading Repub Senatorial candidate in Kentucky and he's saying that we don't need the federal government to have safety guidelines "because no one will apply" for jobs in a dangerous mine! Another idiotic statement ontop of many others by this Tea Bagger, who's probably a young-earth (loony) believer!

Elizabeth Warren has been a consumer advocate for a long time now. She should be the head of the consumer protection bureau created by the recent financial reform signed into law. But, she's deemed controversial because she has said the banks & financial institutions screw consumers via their 30-page small print incomprehensible clauses they include in their agreements. She is a Harvard professor who teaches contract law and she's said she can't understand what all of the fine print! 

Yeah, I want to be free from government regulation. I don't want a nanny state. I don't want to know...  It feels better if I'm screwed by the private sector than our government, doesn't it?! Look, I don't want a nanny to take care of me, unless I'm sick and unable to take care of myself. But, I do want information so I can make good decisions. And, by the way, those who don't like big government when it comes to consumer protection, they like it when the use government to shove religion down our throats, and use the monopoly of violence to tell me what kind of sex I can have and what to put into  my own body!