States Rights? Maybe

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When it comes to states rights, no one supports them more than conservative Republicans.

On Marriage Equality alone, the major objection to the SCOTUS decision is that the rights of American citizens should be up to the vote of the people on a state by state basis.

So you would assume that, agree with the state or not, the conservatives in the Republican Party would respect what the people of a state votes for in that state.

However:

Just this past week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has long opposed recreational marijuana, announced that when he is elected president,

“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it, as of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws”

Colorado, along with Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia, has voted to legalize the use of recreational marijuana.

States rights.

Christie believes, “If you want to change the marijuana laws, go ahead and change the national marijuana laws”.

Apparently, national laws trump states rights if you do not like what the state has chosen.

Jindal’s disconnect

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Immediately after the movie theater shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal advised,

“The best thing we can do across Lafayette, across Louisiana, across our country, is come together in thoughts, in love, in prayer”.

It is, after all, easier to tell people to pray after a catastrophe than to do what may be needed to prevent it.

When asked if it might be time to change the weakest gun laws in the country, Jindal shifted the focus from Louisiana’s very weak gun laws to making those who are concerned about that to be only interested in pouncing politically when he said,

“Let’s focus on the victims right now. Let’s focus on their recoveries. There’ll be a time, I’m sure folks will want to jump into the politics of this. Now is not the time.”

When President Obama spoke of the need to do something after the June 17 shooting at the Charleston church, Jindal avoided politics when he said,

“I think it was completely shameful, that within 24 hours of this awful tragedy, nine people killed at a bible study at a church, we have the president trying to score cheap political points. Let him have this debate next week. His job as commander in chief is to help the country begin the healing process.”

Of course, that next week was long gone when the Louisiana shooting took place.

Why does this puppet of the NRA prefer prayer after the fact to taking actions that might prevent something?

Simply put, just as the NRA thinks, Jindal believes that now is not the time.

And as has been pointed out by many, if even with the deaths of 20 children shot in Newtown, Connecticut it is still not the time, perhaps we as a country have lost out ability to care.

And, considering the number of politicians who, while not wanting to offend the NRA, also glibly quote scripture when they should be considering jobs, the poor, veteran, and the homeless, this cannot be blamed on the loss of morals in this country because people want rights and religion does not get a free pass to avoid those rights and our laws.

The “moral” people are the most reluctant to take steps.

who is in whose face?

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A number of years ago in certain places and continuing today in others, the reaction to two people of the same sex displaying even the slightest sign of intimacy is that it is pushing their “lifestyle” in people’s faces.

Holding hands, a quick peck on the cheek perhaps, is seen as a flagrant flaunting, a forcing of something into other people’s faces.

There are many famous pictures, that sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square at the end of World War II for example, that are seen as representations of Joy, love, the natural expressions of humanity, but two guys holding hands is seen as the end of civilization as we know it.

In the schools where I have taught there were events like Homecoming King and Queen elections and coronations, King and Queen of the prom complete with their royalty dance, Best Couple in the yearbook, the Valentine’s Day couple, all just taken for granted.

But in one school district a mere poster of famous Gay people who contributed to our civilization hung for Gay History Month caused apoplectic fits as it was tantamount to forcing a “lifestyle” and overt sexuality in people’s faces.

A list of names was seen as more sexually charged than two high school kids kissing in the spot light at the prom with most people knowing what they would be doing later in a car somewhere when the prom broke up.

At an official district Diversity in Education meeting the topics of race, color, creed, national origin, disability, and marital status, this last obviously dealing with a physical expression of one’s intimacy, were seen as acceptable, even mundane topics, but when sexual orientation and gender identity were brought up, there was stammering, tongue clucking, and other expressions of horror that this was being thrown in people’s faces and forced down their throats.

The further South you went, the stronger this reaction.

So I see some irony in people’s reactions to the Confederate Battle Flag’s having been taken down at state capitols, and being spoken of as it truly is, a symbol of hate. One just has to look at the Texas statement on secession where slavery and its defense are mentioned 22 times to see the flag’s true meaning.

There have been pickup truck convoys going through towns, some specifically targeting Black neighborhoods, rallies to defend the flag, the flag being waved in Oklahoma when President Obama visited as if he is responsible for the flag’s removal from various prominent places, flags with crosses and swastikas mixed into crowds yelling ethnic slurs, and people, even in Northern states, putting Confederate Flag decals and bumper stickers on their vehicles to show pride in their Southern heritage even if these people are the descendents of New Englanders who fought and died for the North.

There is a sudden proliferation of these flags where they haven’t been before.

And who are the people doing this?

Many are the very people who claim it is incorrect and un-American to be so in your face with your beliefs no matter how minutely expressed as when two men hold hands.

They are the very same people who, even as they put up and defend religious symbolism on government property while spending taxpayer money to defend this religious practice so the population has to see these symbols without being able to avoid them, and those who refuse to do their court house duties because they object on their in your face religious beliefs to a segment of the citizenry whose taxes go toward their salaries.

They are the ones who arm themselves to the hilt and walk into stores and restaurants, or sit at recruiting stations at malls to shove their interpretation of the Second Amendment in your face.

They are the ones who look at others and complain they are just too in your face, as they wave their flag and religion at you, and attempt to codify both in law.

You actually cannot be in their faces as you can’t get past their flags and religious “monuments” to get close enough.

Typical

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I  noticed when some information came out about the shooter at the Louisiana movie theater, reporters were slow to mention a name, even though they knew it.

By the next morning they were giving some details about the man, and some pundits and the commenters in the blogoshpere were quite upset that news reports had included what they claimed was unnecessary and prejudicial information.

He was a member of the Tea Party Nation, and held some seriously conservative beliefs.

They claimed this was as an attack on conservatives and the typical tactic of the “left”.

This from the same people who, before the bullets had even stopped, were announcing a shooter in previous shootings just had  to be a Muslim terrorist because of his name and his beard.

It is, once again, an example that to them persecution is being the subjects of their own tactics.

 

On the backs of the elderly and poor

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This was the plan:

10 days before construction on the nation’s transportation infrastructure was set to stop, the Senate came up with a plan. It was the result of Mitch McConnell and Barbara Boxer working together, but as bi-partisan as that might be, it had some opposition.

If the infrastructure bill does not pass, starting August 1 construction on roads, bridges and highways will take a hit with the Federal Highway Administration needing to shutter its doors and furlough employees. The Federal Highway Administration will need to stop helping states with highway projects, and a backlog of project applications will build up. States have already started pulling critical large-scale projects

But the McConnell/Boxer plan included cuts to Social Security because the money has to come from somewhere, and with all the tax breaks for the top 1% and corporations, it wasn’t going to be coming from them.

The Highway Trust Fund, which would be in effect for three years, would have scraped together about $45 billion from a variety of sources, the main one being the federal gasoline tax, which hasn’t been touched since the 1990s, and congress decided against increasing it.

Holding steady at 18.4 cents per gallon, the amount hasn’t risen with inflation, or taken into account cars’ increased fuel efficiency, and as a result its real value has eroded.

So the Senate has to look elsewhere for the needed funds, among them $2.3 billion, by requiring the federal government to use private debt collectors to help collect taxes owed to the government; retrieving $1.7 billion in unspent funds from a Treasury Department program that was supposed to help homeowners; and program offsets of $16.3 billion by reducing a Federal Reserve bank subsidy.

But, of the 16 proposed sources for funding, the one that targeted Social Security gave the senators pause. It would have eliminated retirement or disability benefits for certain recipients with outstanding felony warrants. The measure would have cut off benefits to people who are “subjects of a felony arrest warrant and for whom the state has given notice that they intend to pursue the warrant.”

But a warrant does not equal guilt.

“It’s critical that we pass a long-term highway bill, but we shouldn’t pay for it by raiding the Social Security trust fund or taking away resources for homeowners, community banks, and local communities in the aftermath of the housing crisis,” said Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

Kicking the can down the deteriorating road, the House passed its own highway bill last week, which would extend funding for five months, with another fix needed by December 18.

Representative Xavier Becerra of California objected to what was happening.
“How dare you take anything from Social Security from people who worked hard to get their retirement, their disability, or in case they die, survivor benefit for their families, simply because you’re not willing to come up with the right way to pay for our roads and bridges. I’ll be darned if I’m going to let someone take money that’s for Social Security.”

Representative Joe Crowley of New York called the Social Security offsets in the Senate bill “outrageous” and “unacceptable.”

Anti poverty groups objected to this because “Those most likely to lose benefits are generally those most in need.
• A significant number of people will become homeless when they lose their benefits.
• Some people have had benefits cut off while residing in nursing homes.
• A very high percentage of those who will lose their benefits are people with intellectual disabilities or mental illness.
• An unusually high percentage of those who lose benefits are African-Americans.
• Many will lose Medicare outpatient (Part B) coverage because of inability to pay the quarterly premium.
• Eliminating what may be their only source of income does not help resolve these issues.
• Many people never know that a warrant has been issued for them as warrants are often not served on the individual.
• These warrants are often not easily resolved since many of those who lose benefits live far from the issuing jurisdiction.
• SSA will have increased administrative costs for processing appeals and requests for waiver of recovery of overpayments”.

This is not just a baseless caution.

A similar provision proposed in 2005 eventually cut benefits to 200,000 disabled and retired people before lawsuits forced the Social Security Administration to repay $500 million to 80,000 people because those benefits had been wrongfully terminated.

Social Security Disability Insurance recipients are presently allowed to earn money during trial work periods, and only earnings above a certain level can jeopardize disability benefits, but the senate bill would have raised a few billion dollars by preventing this.

Imagine being disabled, and because you attempted to find a job that would help you make ends meet, you would lose your benefits. Better not to work. And don’t the Republicans, who are in the majority in the senate, claim that benefits keep people dependent by not incentivizing them to seek employment?

This raiding of Social Security would transfer $2.3 billion for a range of transportation expenses.

According to T.J. Sutcliffe, income and housing policy director for The Arc, a national disability rights organization there are two major reasons not to touch Social Security like it was a bank account, “One the Social Security Trust Fund should not be used for unrelated purposes, no matter how important. And the other is Congress is considering cutting off benefits to 200,000 people who rely on Social Security and SSI [disability] benefits, who, in the case of arrest warrants have never been convicted.”

And who would have been able to use the roads for profit, roads they do not pay for?

Corporations and the 1%.

But then the Democrats in the senate found their spherical appendages.

Senate Democrats defeated McConnell’s first effort to bring the bill to the floor for debate. Immediately after this the Social Security cut to people who were concurrently receiving disability benefits and unemployment insurance was removed as was the provision which would have ended benefits to anyone with an outstanding felony warrant.

Without these two provisions, McConnell got the votes of 14 Democrats.

In the meantime as the amended bill was being considered, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz threatened to block the bill unless they could get or block amendments on Planned Parenthood, the Export Import Bank, Obamacare, and Iran because these are clearly related to our crumbling infrastructure.

A powerful moment.

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Responsibility.

It’s the practice of taking praise or blame for something good or bad a person does.

As kids we blamed most, if not all of our mistakes on something or someone else.

We either pointed out what someone else made us do, or blamed someone who snuck into the house virtually unseen before breaking something, and then snuck back out while remaining unexplainably invisible.

If we did something that went well we were quick to take the praise, though.

If we were consistent and put the responsibility for anything we did or did not do on some outside force, then we could avoid having to deal with the consequences of our own actions.

And if we could convince other children that every idea or decision to act was put in our heads by that outside force, we could be seen either as the victim of some other entities malevolence and garner empathy, or being selected by that entity to do good things, be considered somehow chosen.

The difficult moment was when it became clear not only to others, but more importantly to ourselves, that we were responsible for our own thoughts, words, and deeds.

And for some, that moment can be crushing, especially for those who have lived their whole lives under that delusion.

I channel surf while I do my artwork just to have other voices in the room, and occasionally I will stop if something catches my attention. Religious channels are included in this process.

One common theme in every religious show I have listened to is that none of the people doing the talking ever say they have decided to do something. Everything they do and every thought they have, no matter how sublime or mundane, has been given to them by a God who incessantly speaks to them.

If I decide to go to the store or just into the kitchen to get another cup of coffee, I accept that these decisions were my own, arrived at by necessity to get food or that second cup of coffee.

But for the religious folk it was God who directed them to get that second cup, thereby bestowing on that mundane act a greater meaning, and themselves a higher position than most because God even directs them in the simplest act.

I know a woman, a state Representative in another state, who claims God told her to be a virgin missionary until He changed His mind and told her not only to get married, but whom she was to marry. He told her to have and raise her children, and then, when they were older, to get into teaching to bring Him back to the classroom. Following this He told her to run for state representative. No decision in her life was ever made by her, and no legislation she proposed could be discussed because it had come directly from God. If her legislation failed, it was not because it was bad legislation, but because Satan had entered the hearts of her opponents.

She lost on a number of issues, and this she could not understand.

When desired appearance meets reality it can be bewildering.

And so this moment came to the Duggars.

Their fecundity made them attractive to the same media outlets that were also attracted to a little chubby children’s pageant entrant who was living a life that proved the Beverly Hillbillies were not that far removed from reality in their dealings with that greater world of bells that rang just before someone knocked on the front door or see-ment ponds.

A family who cranked out kids fascinated us, and their religious views were beyond entertaining.

There was money to be made, but until the moment when they had to accept reality, it was all about the spreading of God’s word which they could have done even without the hefty checks.

Their show was about doing God’s work because He had apparently told them to do that.

Claiming that the end of their series did not have a negative effect on them, it would appear it actually did. According to sources close to the family, the Duggars are “heartbroken that they’ve now lost that platform”, that platform being a TV show where they could spread God’s word while letting others know what is wrong and un-godly about them.

As 22 year old Jessa Duggar put it in a Facebook post,
“I will speak to you a hard truth. I do not write this because I think that it will bring me popularity. It won’t. But it is Truth from the Word of God: the Bible. To not tell people this is to hide the truth from them. To keep silent is to not care for their eternal destiny! I care about you, and this is why I am speaking out! One of the most quoted verses from the Bible is Matthew 7:1 ‘Judge not!’ Whenever someone speaks out against something that God calls sin, ‘Don’t judge!’ can be heard coming from a thousand lips. People don’t like to have other people disapprove of the way they’re choosing to live their life”.
“People are content to live on in lying, cursing, pride, anger, bitterness, disrespecting of parents, lust, pornography, fornication, adultery, and other sexual sins– and if anyone tries to confront them, their attitude and response is, ‘You live your life, I’ll live mine. Don’t you tell me what to do! Only God can judge me! They don’t even realize what they’re saying. God’s judgement isn’t something to be taken lightly! It should scare you! Man’s ‘judgement’ is a 1000x lighter… usually just a voicing of disapproval. But when unbelieving, sinful men die and stand before God, He justly condemns them to hell.”

Things like that.

The family’s statement on the cancellation that they prefer to call a cessation of filming was:
“TLC announced that they will not be filming new episodes of 19 Kids and Counting. God’s faithfulness and goodness to us, along with His abundant grace have given us strength and joy even in the most difficult days”, the “difficult days” being the recent ones where they were held responsible for not dealing properly with their son Josh’s problems during his teens.

You see, they had done nothing wrong. Whatever they did was God’s fault.

“Yes officer, I was going faster than the posted speed limit, but, you see, Jesus is my co-pilot, and they were his feet on the pedals”.

It wasn’t about cup cakes, so it was okay

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Imagine what would happen if, without their permission and in spite of the congregation’s protests, congress told a foreign mining company that they could move into a church and start mining for whatever the foreign company needs to make money.

I am sure it would be seen as some sort of attack on religion.

But as we have seen all too often recently, the exercise of religious freedom and the respect for the beliefs of religions is a very relative and a very selective thing.

When the Cherokee were forced to Indian Territory, now the state of Oklahoma, they were told that the land was theirs a long as the grass grew and the rivers ran. But even as these two things continued to happen, the Native Americans found that their land was being manipulated away from them, or found out after the fact.

During my time in Oklahoma, a dam was proposed on a major river, and many people did not understand why tribes like the Cherokee had a problem with that.

Treaties had historically been broken with little recourse and with the support of the “white man’s court”, and the fear was that with the waters’ running severely curtailed, there would be attempts to cancel the original agreement on this technicality.

It wasn’t only in the movies, after all, that treaties made in good faith by the tribes were negated for convenience.

That is why what happened to the Apache is just another example of treaty violations with “justification” from those who benefit.

When the National Defense Authorization Act came up a few months ago, with members of Congress knowing few if anyone would vote against it, people like John McCain inserted a land-swap measure that would privatize national forest land sacred to Western Apache tribes without their having any say.

Oak Flat was handed over to Resolution, a private, Australian-British mining concern in a land swap that trades 5,300 acres of private parcels owned by the company to the Forest Service and gives the 2,400 acres including Oak Flat to Resolution.

It is a place “where Apaches go to pray,” according to the San Carlos Apache tribal chairman, Terry Rambler.

It is an ancient Apache holy place, where coming-of-age ceremonies, especially for girls, have been performed for many generations.

Since 2005 when it has been a stand alone bill, the land swap was defeated, so it became imperative for those who wanted it to stick in to some bill where it would have to be passed when the must-pass bill was.

John McCain got a lot of money from the mining company, and Jeff Lake actually had contributions from it rise from $2,500 in 2010 to $183,602 in 2014, just before he and McCain slipped the provision into the defense bill at the last minute.

The 2,400 acres sits on a massive copper deposit, and is dotted with petroglyphs and historic and prehistoric sites.

The San Carlos Apache Tribe, Pascua Yaqui Tribe and Tohono O’odham Nation, along with 17 other Native American groups sent a letter to Congressional leaders, protesting the land-swap because it tramples on the religious rights of indigenous people.

Because the land would now be the possession of the mining company, it can be mined without oversight. Even the mining company admits the land would be damage since the method to be used, block-cave mining, removes a mountain of rock from underground, resulting in major subsidence, or collapse, of the land above, and will leave a two-mile wide crater.

The San Carlos Apache Tribe says its spiritual beings live within the Oak Flat area. It is where the creator, God, touched the earth.

Scott Wood, heritage program manager for the Tonto National Forest, has explained, “People need to understand that in this part of Arizona, there are a lot of significant prehistoric sites. It’s also an area that was heavily utilized and is very important, in fact sacred, to several tribes, including the Apaches. … It’s the continuing association that the area has with the Apaches that’s most significant.”

But, Hey. Not the right religious beliefs.

On that respect religious beliefs and religious freedom thing

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Religious freedom is very important to many.

Recently we have seen people refuse service to Gay people because of the proprietor’s strongly held religious beliefs which are then supported, often with money, by those who defend the actions as those based on religious conscience.

State legislatures have passed, or soon will pass, legislation in certain states that would allow citizens to ignore laws that they consider to be in conflict with their religious beliefs.

State leaders, like governors and attorneys general, have even advised employees of their courts that they do not have to follow the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality if they feel that obeying the law goes against their religious beliefs.

Hobby Lobby won a court case against the Affordable Care Act’s provisions on contraceptives because of the corporation’s owners’ deeply held religious belief.

So it would appear, or at least it can be safely assumed, that those who demand that their religious beliefs be respected and that these beliefs allow them to disregard laws, would respect the religious beliefs of everyone.

You would think.

But the good Christians of Farmersville, Texas, have a problem with the plan of the Islamic Association of Collin County to have a cemetery placed on undeveloped land that it owns there.

Citizens of the town of 3,000 attended a city council meeting to object.

Among the reasons for their objections was the claim that the cemetery was just a stealth way to get a mosque built, or even an extremist training camp.

One person stated, “I do not want to be constantly in view of a mosque. I do not want my child to be indoctrinated toward their religion”, and also voiced her fear that, “We do not want this to be a Muslim dumping ground.”

Dumping ground?

I guess she is an example of the Christian attitude toward the dead.

It would be interesting to get the town’s take on Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons who come right to your door to see if you want their religion, and Baptists who approach you unbidden to see if you have accepted Jesus as your lord and savior.

There was this, “When somebody dies they bury them at that time. They don’t know whether they were shot, diseased or anything else. All they do is wrap them in a sheet from the grave and bury them.”

This was the reason for the expressed fear that deceased Muslims would be leaking into the water supply, poisoning the town- a type of posthumous attack on the good people by those evil Muslims, even though humanity has done quite well with all those bodies buried throughout history without coffins.

Besides having a bit of a problem with Muslims living in their community, they really don’t want dead ones buried there.

Some even suggested they if they “Take and dump pigs’ blood and put pig heads on a post. They won’t buy the land.”

Thank God people of the cloth are more reasonable.

Oh, wait.

According to David J. Meeks, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, “The concern for us is the radical element of Islam. How can we stop a mosque or madrassa training center from going in there?”

Khalil Abdur-Rashid, a spokesman for the Islamic association, explained, “We want to be very clear that this is a cemetery”.

The mayor, Joe Helmberger believes, “There’s just a basic concern or distrust about the cemetery coming into town”.

He finds the residents’ concerns to be unwarranted, and believes the cemetery will be approved as long as the town’s development standards are met, pointing out that the US was founded on religious freedom and that the association is simply trying to secure a burial site.

The Muslims have assured the town they would follow the local regulations that apply to human burial.

Khalil Abdur-Rashid said shrouded bodies would be placed in caskets and entombed in vaults underground, as the plans for the cemetery have more to do with ‘human dignity’ than religion.

An irony of the opposition to this religion being able to bury its dead on 35 acres of land it owns was expressed by one resident who, while belonging to the religion that believes its religious beliefs should trump the law, wants the city council to check all its by-laws to find one that would prevent the cemetery saying, “there’s something about it that y’all are missing.”

Muslims must follow the laws that other religions can ignore.

Apparently there are limits to the freedom of religious beliefs.