Religious Freedom

It is the conventional wisdom that the Pilgrims came here to escape religious persecution.  That is true, but they brought their own religious persecution and intolerance with them, ostracizing those who did not believe as they did.

It is conventional wisdom that the Founders wanted to make sure that anyone could practice their religion without interference from others (sort of).  That is true, but the real drivers of the religious freedom clauses in the Constitution (prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, and there shall be no religious test for office) were by minority religions (some states actually had a state church) who did not want discrimination or disfranchisement because they were not the mainstream religions.

The point was that they saw religion in government as a really disruptive force that hundreds of years of religious wars in Europe had demonstrated.  So what does religious freedom mean in terms of our Constitution?  It simply means religion and government do not mix.  The Constitution and laws passed through our constitutional processes take precedence.  God’s law does not trump because the question then becomes whose God, and putting God in place of the Constitution and everything we believe about a constitutional democracy.

Oh, you can say well the Christian God of course, but there is the whole spectrum there.  The whole point of our government and our Constitution was that you could believe almost anything and government should stay neutral unless those beliefs came in conflict with the other rights guaranteed by the Constitution.  We could, and did, pass laws restricting  abortion, but these are lawful laws of the land, whether on religious grounds or otherwise.  But when we legalized abortion as a basic right, that trumped the religious beliefs of those who wanted you prevent others from having abortions.

So now in Kentucky we have a woman who is declaring that because of her deep and sincere religious beliefs, she cannot follow the law and issue marriage certificates.  Somehow some people feel she is worthy of special treatment because it is a “deep and sincere” religious belief.  So is the belief by ISIS that Shiites are a blasphemy on Islam and if they don’t convert, should be killed.  There is no difference.  They both believe what they believe in a religious and sincere way.  Both have no more legitimacy than the other.

That is the basic problem with religious belief.  It is based on faith and no amount of reason, logic, or legal argument can convince someone to abandon them.  Our whole system of government is based upon arriving at the best solution through debate, reason, and logic.  The Founders took religion out of the equation so that compromise was possible.  What Kim Davis is doing is denying our whole system of government, well, because she is special.  She is not special, just another religious fanatic who thinks her religion trumps Constitutional law.  Worse instead of practicing her religion as the Constitution provides, and not marrying another woman, she is using government to force compliance with her beliefs on others.

What if a real estate agent won’t sell you a house because you are in a mixed marriage because of deep personal religious beliefs?  What if a Muslim cab driver won’t pick up uncovered women?  What if my religion does not believe in divorce and I refuse to recognized remarried people?  The list could go on and on and the reasons can get more and more ridiculous, but could be based upon “sincere religious beliefs”.  No, in this country there is no room for that, and the special treatment of religion in general is getting out of hand and putting our democracy at risk.  See Hobby-Lobby.  It is time to deal with it firmly and Ms. Davis (and her four marriages) should be punished accordingly for using government to push her personal religious beliefs.

Here is what religious freedom really means:  You are free to believe anything you want and you may practice that belief unless you break our laws or deprive others of their rights.  You are not free to use that belief to try to force others who do not agree with you to follow those beliefs, whether using government or your public market place interactions.  No one is going to force you to marry a gay person, have an abortion, get a divorce, or any other thing you might believe.  But you can not deny the rights of others to participate in these legal activities.  It is simply that simple.  Your beliefs are just one set of beliefs among many, and none gives you the right to violate the law of the land.

The Iran Nuclear Deal

I just watched Representative Alan Grayson (D-Fla) being interviewed on the agreement.  Now make no mistake, this is a no-brainer simply because the alternatives are horrendous.  But Representative Grayson is undecided. He thinks we should have been tougher and we could have got more.  It’s total bull shit.  It would have been nice to get more, but tell that to China, Russia, Great Britain, Germany, and France.  But here is what is really going on.  It is over.  The Democrats and maybe a Republican or two in the Senate may even get 40 votes to prevent it ever even coming up to be “disapprove”, and the veto override won’t be necessary, but assured if it does.  Grayson and his ilk are just posturing for publicity.  And they do the nation a great deal of harm because they obfuscate what the choices really are.  No wonder people hate politicians.

Another Wakeup Call Regarding the Emails

Headline in the Sacramento Bee yesterday, Another 125 Clinton emails termed classified.  Is this a case of Secretary Clinton out of control, or our classification system out of control?  I would say very much the latter.  While Hillary has created her own mess by using a private server for her email traffic, you can certainly see why as the press tries to dissect each email and point out the petty and trivial (What times do Good Wife come on?).  Secretary Clinton was trying to shield herself from this kind of gross invasion of privacy and it backfired because of the Benghazi witch hunt conducted by the Republicans.

So the topic has turned from some imagined smoking gun on Benghazi to,”she can’t be trusted because she handled classified information on her private server.”  But that is also a witch hunt which is really pointing out that in government even the trivial gets classified, usually long after the fact that it is in the public sphere and you have to ask why?  Here is from the Daily Beast:

Hillary Clinton wrote at least six emails containing information deemed classified and sent them through her private server, according to the latest batch of emails released by the State Department. Though the information was only labeled classified after Clinton left her role as secretary of state, the revelation contradicts her earlier statements denying sending or receiving messages containing sensitive material. The State Department cited national-security concerns as the reason for heavily redacting Clinton’s messages. The Democratic presidential frontrunner was one of more than 40 State Department officials whose emails were redacted because of national security, The Washington Post reports. However, as State Department spokesman John Kirby points out, “classification is not always a black-and-white, binary judgment,” he said. “Responsible people can draw different conclusions.”

So what exactly is so secret or sensitive that we can’t see it?  Answer, very little. What is going on is that we have created this vast security system where classifying information that should be in the public realm gives those in that system control of information, and a feeling of power, or being special.  Then of course is the stuff they classify because it is embarrassing.  And finally is the stuff that might have impacts on national security (exposing sources or methods) and quite frankly that is quite small.  Remember when Edward Snowden gave us his massive leaks and the Security apparatus in American claimed massive damage was done to our country?  What damage?  We found out they were spying on us.

No, the bottom line here is that Hillary established her own system for privacy concerns, which were and are quite real.  She was just naive to believe this would not come back to bite her.  But was she out there passing national secrets on to nefarious people.  Of course not.  But in the way information is classified, the mass of classification, and the retroactive classification of information, it was inevitable that classified information was going to turn up on her server, albeit unwittingly.

You can bet there is classified information in my blog, especially about some of Edward Snowden’s releases, although my only source are the newspapers which is full of classified information.  In other words, we have a real problem with over classifying everything and this is much to do about nothing unless we want to address the real problem, over classification.

Squirrel!  Hijacking the News

I see where a tragic killing of a police officer in Ohio has hijacked the news as we get 24/7 coverage of nothing while the rest of the world is ignored.  Didn’t the market fall almost 500 points today (I think I told you about this is the new reality).  But whose life would that effect, right?  Whereas we can cover a manhunt that is irrelevant to most of us other than we all want to see the shooters caught.  Why would we want to give the rabble out there something to really think about when we can distract them with a cops and bad guy chase?  Beyond me.

Don’t Be Fooled by Satellite Internet, It Sucks

I just got my notice that I have exceeded by bandwidth limit and my speed would be at dialup speed for the next 10 days.  Happens almost every month and I have the largest plan they sell.  In defense of Satellite systems they do have a limited bandwidth (read capacity) capability and so if multiple users are streaming videos, it would come to a stop anyway.  But that’s the point.  Basically you can’t stream anything or you will exceed your bandwidth.

It is faster than dialup of course, but I find 4G cellular services quicker than the Satellite, especially at busy times of the day.  You are good for email (no video’s), most internet sites, but these sites are getting more and more content heavy meaning bits downloaded to you, so even that can strain your system.  Note how Facebook is running videos for you now so that eats up a ton of your capacity.  And then if Apple or Windows decides to download a big update to the operating systems, you are toast.  On demand movies are simply a pipe dream.

So we in rural America do really live in the dark ages while the rest of you are into the music streaming, on demand movies, Netflix, those of us out here are patiently waiting for that 2 minute video clip of how to improve your putting game from loading.  Is this the best America can offer?

Those Who Make Us Atheists Think Maybe Religion Should Go Away Forever

UPDATE:  Clerk claims she is acting on God’s Authority!  ISIS claims the same thing and there is no difference.  Their both totally intolerant of other’s beliefs and would deny their legitimacy.  Both are using force, or the force of government to force their beliefs on others.

What the hell is a religion anyway?  That is really the question and I will get to that in a minute.  Here is the first article that got me all up in a tiff this morning:

A county clerk in Kentucky who objects to same-sex marriage on religious grounds denied licenses to gay couples on Tuesday, despite the Supreme Court saying that she could not refuse to do so.

This is not the first time for her,

“After the state’s governor told county clerks to issue marriage licenses to all eligible couples, a federal court rejected Ms. Davis’s argument that she should be excused from the obligation given her religious beliefs. …Ms. Davis told the Supreme Court that her Apostolic Christian faith forbade her to affix her name to a document endorsing the view that the marriages of gay men and lesbians were authentic. “This searing act of validation would forever echo in her conscience,” her lawyers told the court.”

So her religious beliefs, whatever voodoo that is, keeps her from carrying out the law of the land.  But instead of doing the “moral” thing, resigning her post as unwilling to violate her religious beliefs, she stays at her desk and denies others who do not believe as she does, their legal rights.  Make no mistake about what she is doing, she if forcing her religious beliefs on others.  She should be quickly terminated as incapable of performing the function of her job.

Here is the second one:

“Employers do not need to provide insurance coverage for contraception even if their objections are moral rather than religious, a federal judge here ruled on Monday.”

The group, March for Life, is self described a nonprofit, nonreligious pro-life organization that “opposes methods of contraception that it says can amount to abortion, including hormonal products, intrauterine devices and emergency contraceptives. Many scientists disagree that those methods of contraception are equivalent to abortion. … Giving religious groups special treatment, Judge Leon wrote, amounts to “regulatory favoritism.” Moral philosophy, he said, should be accorded the same treatment as religious belief.”

So what the hell is a religion anyway, and sadly we have to turn to the IRS and I will just give you the link. I have discussed this nonsense before.  But in essence, this “non religious group” which I think means God did not tell them to do it, but their moral conscience did, gives them the right, according to this judge and the fools that voted for Hobby Lobby in the Supreme Court, to force their religious/moral values on their employees/fellow citizens.

What I find so troubling about this is that freedom of religion in this country was never meant to use your religion to force others to conform to your beliefs, only that you were free to practice you beliefs as long as you did not trample on the rights of others.  In both of the above cases and in the Republicans call for Religious Freedom laws, what they are doing is saying our religious beliefs allows us to dictate for others what their rights are regardless of what is allowed under the law.  It is an abomination.

Sadly we saw what religion could bring in the amazing grace and forgiveness shown in Charleston or the moral Christian ethic of Jimmy Carter, even facing death, but these are small islands in an ocean of intolerance and cruelty.  So from this atheist, I guess religion can be an amazing thing, but it usually isn’t.

Religion does not trump the Constitution and sadly in the Hobby-Lobby Case and in this latest ruling they have cut out some special exemptions where apparently it does, or the rights of employees/ citizens does not count.  Simple solution is that we all have to follow the law, and end Obamacare with a single payer system for everyone (end employer based healthcare) and just let them stew in their juices while the rest of us can exercise our rights.

Scott Walker

I just listened to Meet the Press interview Scott Walker.  Here is my conclusion:  If you believe what he says, you should vote for him and we will fix everything.  If you fact check what he says, which Meet the Press did not do, you would think he is grossly unqualified for any office.  He is living in La La Land.  So it’s your choice.  If you too are in La La Land, you may find that your assumptions and beliefs when put into action in the real world will produce results that will horrify you.  Be careful what you wish for especially if your beliefs are firmly grounded in fantasy land.

Immigration

My local paper (Sacramento Bee) indicated that Chinese and Indian immigrants now out number Hispanics immigrants  coming into this country, legal or undocumented.  I don’t remember any of those people on our Southern border so why again do we need a wall?  Oh, and even more basic, what again is the problem?  Most are over staying work or tourist visas for China and India, and those coming in from Mexico fill jobs most of you won’t do.  So what again is the problem?  Europe is having problems convincing people to have babies (also Japan) because they are losing populations.  We, on the other hand, still have a growing population due to immigration.  Why again is this a problem?  Be careful what you wish for.

Whose Rights

Alison Parker’s father was speaking to the press today beseeching them to stay on this story so we can do something about these senseless killings.  One reporter pointed out that even with stringent background checks, Vester Flanagan would have been able to legally get a gun.  He indicated that maybe we just need to make small steps at first, but there must be a way to detect troubled individuals and he would work to find a way.

The only thing wrong with Mr. Parker’s analysis is that he is not digging deep enough and examining our basic assumption about guns.  Up until the Roberts’ court decision in 2008 (In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision that held the amendment protects an individual right to possess and carry firearms.) Government had the right to control fire arms.  In this very bad reading of the Constitution, the Supreme Court made it a natural right of individuals (not part of a well regulated militia).

Thus from that point on, it is up to the government to show why an individual should not have a fire arm instead of it being the individual’s responsibility to show a need for, and responsible use of a fire arm.  So we have weighted the system toward the nut.  Reality somewhere in here has to say we are on the wrong track.  With our country the only one that has the easy access to guns, we are by far more deadly than other countries; the South is the most violent region in the United States; more guns tend to mean more homicide; and states with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence (Washington Post).  This data screams out for a change in the way we see gun ownership.

Until we recognize that the general welfare requires a change in attitude and law about the right to own a gun, nothing will change.  Until we give up the belief that we need guns to protect us from big bad government when in fact our weapons are the real problem, we are going nowhere.  That would be the fundamental change that would save untold  lives, but so far,  it is the third rail of politics so the mayhem   continues.  Good luck Mr. Parker.  I will support you no matter what we can actually get done. I know what it feels like to lose a daughter.

A Disturbing Analogy

Today in the Daily Beast was an article about Vester Flanagan’s filthy appartment that might reflect on his deteriorating mental state.  Here is what we know:  His career was not going anywhere and worse, it was deteriorating.  As things did not work out, he was combative and blaming racial prejudice or professional jealousy for his problems.  It got worse and his final stop at WDBJ-TV was where his career basically ended.  He even tried the courts and lost.  Seeing those at the station as ruining him because he was black, and gay, he decided to wreck the whole system by taking his revenge on two innocent and decent employees.

I think I have that about right. Okay now for the disturbing analogy, the right wing of the Republican Party.  Things haven’t worked out for them.  White people are losing their majority.  They are starting to see themselves losing ground economically and they are blaming others.  Their economic philosophy has proved to be a bust. They elected the Tea Party to “take back their country” and all they achieved was to make government totally dysfunctional.  So immigrants are taking their jobs, stealing their government benefits, with terrorist, criminals, and rapists at the border, just waiting to come in.  

So in an act of desperation and to lash out, along comes Donald Trump channeling their paranoia and hate.  He offers them no way forward, just to get rid of all the stupid people.  It’s the Vester Flanagan solution at the ballot box.  Scary isn’t it?