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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tennessee Mosque Lawsuit: Chancellor Robert Corlew should be disbarred

This is a simple matter of religious freedom. Muslims have the same right to worship as they see fit as Baptists and other faiths. This building and this congregation, during its construction, has been the victim of arson and vandalism based on the same type of hatred that led to the 9/11 Attacks, and I find it particularly disgusting that those responsible either don't see that or simply don't care. Also, contractors have been threatened as a result of this, which is sickening.

Quote from ABC: "Imam Osama Bahloul, leader of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, said early Wednesday morning. "We did exactly what other churches in the county did. We followed the same process that other churches did. Why did this happen? Some people feel like it is discrimination."

With all due respect, Imam Bahloul, some people feel like it's discrimination because it IS discrimination. I have no doubt you followed the normal procedures in Rutherford County and complied with the law. Given that, what else is there?

Chancellor Corlew threw out the plaintiffs' claim that Islam is not a real religion and not deserving of constitutional protections. Did that not tell him this was a spurious lawsuit based on hatred, not facts? Has Chancellor Corlew not heard of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which may, and in this case should, negate this ruling? Has he not heard about Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), of which this is a particularly blatant example? Would he have ruled the same way if members of the KKK sued to prevent the building of an AME Zion church or a Christian Methodist Episcopal Church? This congregation was targeted solely based on their religion. Our Founding Fathers thought that was so incredibly important that protection of the same was part of the very first amendment made to our constitution. Not second, not tenth, first. In a just world, Chancellor Corlew would have dismissed this lawsuit and awarded generous attorney's fees to the defendants, if the latter were within his power.

I heard one of the plaintiffs ranting either last night or this morning that allowing the construction of this mosque would be allowing "pure Sharia law." She may as well have worn a sheet with a cross burning in the background. Words cannot adequately express the level of my disgust.

My thoughts and hopes are with Imam Bahloul and his congregation. Islam is not our enemy. Religious extremism of all types is, and sadly, he and his congregation have been the victims of a lot of it. This building would be approximately 53,000 square feet, which, I'm sure, is smaller than some Christian churches in that area. This ruling and the treatment this congregation has suffered are disgusting.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A detailed critique of the Green Party Platform, conclusion

The previous disclaimers apply, so I won't repeat them. I agree with III.F, so I'll start with the next thing that requires my commentary. Once more into the breach:

III.H.5: Since most toothpaste is now fluoridated, the goal of reducing periodontal disease no longer requires fluoridating our water supply. While I agree with their goal, it is for different reasons than those they stated.

III.I.6: I agree with this stance until they get to irradiation and genetic engineering. Irradiation of food to kill harmful viruses and bacteria, as long as it stays within safe levels, is not inherently bad. In fact, it can lead to increased food safety and a reduction of suffering. Also, I hate harping on GMOs, but it's about intent and responsibility. Billions of people worldwide, mainly in the developing world, do not consume enough vitamin A, and golden rice, a GMO, could easily address that problem. Roundup Ready GMOs, however, are a cause for concern. That said, we should follow where the science leads us instead of allowing blind ideology to get in the way of feeding the poor and hungry, and I'm glad they finally expressed a similar sentiment in III.I.14.

 III.J.10: I support this only insofar as it does not prevent the development of organ cloning for those who need replacement organs. We have a shortage of organs and donors, and the effect of antirejection drugs is a risk to the lives of these very sick people. Corporations are not inherently evil. When they engage in good science, such as this, lives are saved. Instead, I would focus on protections against price gouging, though with the universal healthcare the Green Party and I support, this would at least not be a burden to the patients.

III.K.1: While animal testing of drugs in development is not preferred, sometimes, it is inescapable. The first organ transplants, for example, were performed on animals, and how many lives have been saved since? Animal experimentation should be limited only to those cases where there are no viable non-animal alternatives and the treatment involves saving or significantly improving the quality of life for people.

III.K.2: By dissecting dead animals, students learn things they may not in any other way. The focus should be on the humane sacrifice of animals and the respectful treatment of the same.

I agree with pretty much all of Chapter IV, with the repeated caveat that real science should be the metric for technological advancement, not ideological alarmism.

Final notes: I don't agree with every one of their stances on the issues, as evidenced by these posts. As I've read their platform, I've even seen places where earlier concerns and ideas were echoed in later chapters. However, I think they have a lot of good, rational ideas and some real solutions for what ails us as a nation and as a planet.

A detailed critique of the Green Party Platform, part 2

In the last installment, I stopped with Article II, Section D. In keeping with the precedent set earlier today, the sections I reference will be listed thusly (Article).(Section).(Subsection).(Paragraph).(etc.), so Article II, Section D, Subsection 1 would be listed as II.D.1. Any portion of this platform that is not listed has my full agreement. Now, on with the show:

II.F.preamble: While I agree with the spirit of this preamble, I would restrict health care expenditures to those treatments that are proven to work. There should be some rational, scientific basis for whatever is being done to treat the patient. For example, a dietitian would qualify if such is needed for the patient, while a naturopath would not, as their activities are often based on pseudoscience. Chiropractic therapy and acupuncture would be acceptable if recommended by a Medical Doctor.

II.F.2: While I also hope for a cure for AIDS/HIV, the only successful means for controlling viruses, from the beginning of our understanding, has been vaccination. While I think a "cure" is unlikely, it is reasonable and good to hope for a day when it becomes a chronic condition not unlike diabetes.

III.A.14: I would add the caveat that we have been genetically modifying food for millennia with no harm. Golden rice and other foods designed to deal with serious nutritional deficiencies among the poorest should be celebrated, not opposed with anti-scientific ranting. However, GMO's designed to make foods more tolerant to pesticides and others that may have a deleterious effect on the environment should be opposed. In short, add rational thought to the process. The question should not be "GMOs or organic". It should be "responsible GMOs AND organic." Until that day, the focus should be on harm reduction. Pesticides aren't necessarily evil, but they should be used sparingly, much like antibiotics.

III.B.3.f: I would add that algae sources of biofuels should be aggressively pursued. Once commercially viable, these would, at the very least, be carbon neutral without endangering the food supply.

Well, that gets me through page 48 of this 71 page document. I will continue with more as time permits, starting with III.F if I have any commentary on that section.

A detailed critique of the Green Party platform of 2010, Part I

I'm going with that one because it's the only one they have posted. For clarity, I'll list them in the following manner: (Article).(section).(subsection).(clause).(etc.). So, without preamble, here it is:

I.E.6: I disagree fundamentally with the Green Party stance on Puerto Rico. Frankly, it smacks of the same arrogance shown when they were annexed in 1898. If the Puerto Rican people want independence, fine. However, if they want to maintain the status quo or be granted full statehood, let them. Our actions on the mainland should strictly be in support of whatever decision the Puerto Rican people make. That said, I support the environmental cleanup of Vieques and Culebra, as not only it is just, it is simply the right thing to do.

I.F.1: It's next to impossible to fake a crime scene as large as the World Trade Centers, Pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania. Also, frankly, such talk presupposes a far greater level of competence than we ever saw from the Bush II Administration. Such efforts would be better spent on investigating the profiteering that has occurred in the years since 9/11.

I.G.2: Instead of reducing human-staffed space exploration, I want to see a greatly increased human staffing of space exploration, but I want it to be true exploration. I want to see manned teams on Mars and elsewhere in the Solar System to look for evidence of current or former life. Mars is a great first step on the way to Europa and other places of interest.

II.A.1.b: A list system would probably be the best way to accomplish that, similar to The Netherlands and other Western democracies.
II.A.1.n: Any actions that address the concerns of domestic violence should also acknowledge and address male victims of domestic violence, and they should include robust protections for the rights of the accused in full accordance with the Bill of Rights.

II.A.2.d.ii: Point of order, really. Those have already been repealed by virtue of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution.

II.A.4: The Hawaiian people have long since decided to join the United States. While I support the preservation of Hawaiian culture, by and large, they're already there.

II.C: To accomplish that goal, I see no harm in taking the wage limit off of collection of Social Security premiums, and frankly, a needs test would also be just. Someone with a net worth of $10 million or more wouldn't notice the addition of the Social Security check. This should be for those who need the help, much like automobile insurance only pays out to those who get in a wreck.

I agree with Article II, Section D, except I would use the means listed above instead of a negative income tax. That's it for now. I'll say more as time permits.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A change in party affiliation

Perhaps I should have put the words "Spoiler Alert" up there, but I've done some soul searching recently. My beliefs no longer mesh with the Democratic Party in its current incarnation as a center-right party. So, I took one of those online quiz things, and it had a rational basis for saying my views mostly agreed with the Greens. Not trusting a quiz for much more than entertainment purposes, I then went to the Green Party website and took a long, hard look at their platform, and found I agree with pretty much all of it, with only a smattering of minor disagreements. I also looked up Dr. Jill Stein's campaign page, and while it was far thinner than I would have liked, I did catch a CNN interview she did. She and they make a lot of sense. For the Ron Paul fanatics, these guys really are what they mistakenly think he is. They have some serious ideas and real solutions for what ails this country.

I will still vote for Democrats when they have a realistic chance against a GOP candidate, or when the only other option is voting for a GOP candidate, because center-right is still far better than voting for fascists. However, if there is a Green Party alternative and the Democratic Party candidate stands less than a snowball's chance in Hell, which is not uncommon in Alabama, I'll vote for that candidate. Of course, if a Green Party candidate has a legitimate chance at winning a race, that would be ideal, and I will give that candidate my full support. Before this, I had been under the mistaken impression that the nearest political party that met my needs was in Canada, the New Democratic Party. I'm quite pleased to find that is not the case, though I wish the Greens had more support.

I hope you are all doing well.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Year four for Obama: Time for the report card.

If you're the type to wash the balls of those in power, you'll probably be offended. If you want an honest critique, you've come to the right place.

Civil Rights: A. Between his tireless efforts to work with Congress to repeal DADT and his refusal to defend DOMA, citing states rights grounds as one of his many justifications (chortle), I don't see how he can possibly get less than an A on this one. Also, we can't forget his efforts to push the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Civil Liberties: D-. I'm being generous on this one simply because he's slightly better than Dubya. His expansion of the powers of the TSA/Homeland Security in ways that run deeply afoul of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution demand nothing less than this score. Largely, he has continued our descent into a police state that began under Bush. The sole mitigating factor is that he has done so less than those on his right would have. Topper Harley, you're the best of what's left.

Immigration: D-. Again, I have to compare him to the alternative to get this score. He has proven every bit as aggressive as Dubya when dealing with immigrants, without whom our nation's population would have decreased in the last decade, a state that would have caused all sorts of problems. Still, he's far less rabid than the alternative.

Drug policy: C-. He has not been as aggressive with the medical marijuana dispensaries as he could have been. That said, he's been fairly aggressive.

Economy, including those who are the poorest: A. Given the Tea Taliban faction of the GOP blocking everything he proposes, what he has managed to accomplish is remarkable. It's not enough, but I don't think many could have done more as long as the filibuster still exists. Of particular note are his work to extend unemployment insurance for those who need it and his work to save people's mortgages.

Environment: B, and Women's Rights: B. See above.

Foreign policy: B-. He's at least started to pull us out of our unnecessary wars, which is more than any GOP candidate would have done. Also, he is willing to use diplomacy as a tool, instead of first going to the military. That said, his use of drone strikes, especially against American citizens, sets a questionable and dangerous precedent.

Health care reform: A. In light of the challenges he has faced and continues to face, the fact he was able to pass anything is remarkable. Also, I like most portions of the PPACA. That said, I still hope for single-payer one day.

Since the areas I weight highest are also his biggest weaknesses, I give him an overall score of C+. He's a former professor of constitutional law, for Christ's sake. When I voted for him, I had hopes he would respect it more than he has. That said, he's far better than Mittens.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Luke 12:48, bane to "Christian" conservatives

I know this is bizarre for an avowed, if closeted, atheist, but it's sometimes necessary to look at what one's opponents really believe.

"For unto whomever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." The first half of this has to do with punishing servants, yet aren't these "Christian" conservatives claiming to be servants of God? Also, they believe in Hell, and some believe in Purgatory. Also, they believe in Leviticus when it suits them, hence their insane stance against gay marriage and often abject hatred of the entire LGBT community. How about Leviticus 19:18, "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD." This was reiterated in Matthew 22:39 and elsewhere should they then say "oh, it's the OLD Testament. Most of it doesn't apply these days."

I think about Mitt Romney and his time as a vulture capitalist. I think about the people he was "good at firing" and his net worth in the low 9 figures, and I wonder how many children could be fed for 1/4 that, or how many people could have affordable health care if he were taxed as heavily as the working class. I say working class because there is no middle class worth mentioning any more. Unto whom much is given, of him shall much be required, yet he and his allies have done everything they could, by lobbying and by working to get friendly legislators elected to avoid just that.

I close with a quote by Gandhi: "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." Having been raised in the same faith as Romney, Luke 12:48 is one of those lessons that has stuck with me. It was something I remember being discussed often through my childhood and teen years. Looking at Romney, Santorum, and what a colossal dick he is (Sorry Charles P. Pierce, but it's a great line), and their fellow fringe-dwellers, I like their Christ, and I don't like those Christians, because they are so unlike their Christ.