Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How to create an enemy

Hi Friends;

  Over these many years, setting our sights only so far as the "War on Drugs", and what a crock of bull that was, to these new "wars" - the war on terror, the war on sex offenders, and what is likely next...... ? ... America has quite willingly "gone to war" over philosophical and behavioral issues.

  War's ultimate purpose is to create and maintain power by the simple expedient of taking the power from someone else.  But, like the proverb about a poker game - if you can't tell who the sucker is, it's you!  Well, so in war.  If there is no clear enemy, then likely your government has actually decided to wage war on its own citizenry with the belief that the people hold far too much power.

  In case those of you out there don't understand how the war on sex offenders is relevant.... consider the vast and ever growing number of people who have now become tertiary citizens despite having "served their time".  Meeting the punishment bestowed by the judge, they find that there is no real end to the penitence deemed necessary.

  So, to my point:  How to create an enemy:  I give you Gitmo.  Are the men incarcerated there innocent, guilty, mistaken identity, in the wrong place at the wrong time...?  Well, no one is telling, and there's just no way to find out. 
  Who cares?  you may ask.  Well, you should.  We now have laws in effect that can place a person in lockdown at Gitmo, an American Citizen, with no right to Habeus Corpus, no personal rights, no freedom for the brave.... Yep, what was seen to be ok when "The Heathen Enemy" was being locked up for rumor and innuendo, transported out of their own country against their will, locked into a prison with no chance to see their family.... well, it's coming home to roost in our own back yards.

Remember the saying "how you treat the least of yours..."?  Well, see now we have this sticky problem.  We have taken these men, removed them from their homes, their lands, their property and family, off to another country, locked in prisons and denied many of the rights we "enjoy" as citizens - which, by the way, is why they are in Gitmo and not in the States where they would receive those personal rights.  The reason many are there is due to accusations by others, snitches - who always tell the truth, of course - and not necessarily any real evidence.  Now, would they be angry, resentful, even a bit psychotic and anti-social?  Would they be even more open to "America the Great Satan" preaching?  I think, that no matter what, we have created enemies who we cannot simply cut loose with any degree of certainty they wouldn't eventually find a way to have their revenge.  By failing to follow the tenants of our country's origination, we have painted ourselves into a corner from which there is no good option.  And, we did it out of vengeance.

Some people dislike the ACLU.  Some say they are killing America.  I say they are an incredibly important (and even more so as we slip into this 30-second news bite attention span mentality), hugely necessary check on the powerful and domineering. 

Please read this and tell me what you think:

By Michael Kaufman, ACLU of Southern California


This past week, I traveled to Guantánamo Bay to observe military commission hearings, continuing the ACLU’s long-standing commitment to be present at each and every hearing of these deeply flawed tribunals. Six days of pre-trial hearings were scheduled in the capital cases of the five defendants alleged to have participated in the 9/11 attacks. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans and the hearings were postponed due to Tropical Storm Isaac’s then-imminent arrival. But during my brief time in GTMO, I had a window into the military commission proceedings that left me deeply concerned about their fairness and legitimacy.

During my time in GTMO, I had the opportunity to hear from prosecution and defense attorneys, and a number of other people involved in the military commissions. Through these conversations, I was struck by the commissions’ departures from basic features of federal court practice that I had taken for granted as essential to any legitimate legal system: transparency and adequate funding for the defense.

Two examples demonstrate these problems. First, the government has asserted that any statement by the defendants should be treated as “presumptively classified” because they were “exposed” to classified interrogation methods while in CIA custody. To date, the government has deemed classified even the defendants’ statements relating to the government’s well-established and acknowledged use of torture and other inhumane and illegal interrogation techniques. The government has then used that overly-broad classification as the basis to seek closure of the military commission to the public whenever torture, abuse and CIA prisons might be discussed. The ACLU has filed a motion before the military commission challenging this perverse use of classification to try to cover up government wrongdoing. That motion will be argued at the next hearing, now rescheduled (weather-permitting) for October.

The absurdity of the government’s position was starkly illustrated during a press conference with counsel for both parties. A reporter asked defense counsel whether a defendant wanted to be present in court for the upcoming hearings, but defense counsel stated he could not respond because the answer would be “presumptively classified.” While the moment was humorous, there are real harms that result from over-classification: it limits defense counsel’s ability to use information learned from their clients to develop a defense, and it limits the public from learning about our government’s shameful history of torture.

There are other ways in which the military commissions have frustrated defense counsel’s ability to represent their clients. Several of the motions on the calendar concern defense requests for funding to retain experts who they claim are essential to their investigations. However, these requests were denied by the Convening Authority – a Department of Defense political appointee who oversees not only funding for the defense, but also the selection of trial judge, the jurors and the charges.

Leaving defense resources at the mercy of the Convening Authority presents obvious and unacceptable conflicts of interest. Worse still, the defense must notify the prosecution of any request for funding – and permit them to oppose any such request – which forces the defense to reveal confidential case strategy information. These restrictions do not apply to the prosecution, which does not need to seek the approval of the Convening Authority for individual funding requests or notify the defense of their proposed expenditures. It is unfathomable that this kind of unfair advantage to the prosecution exists in a trial that could potentially result in a death sentence.

To have any chance at being viewed as just, the military commissions must be fair and transparent. I hope that Judge Pohl will take steps to address these issues during rescheduled hearing dates in October.

Monday, August 27, 2012

An Interesting Debate

Hello Friends;

  I have always thought it would be fantastic to see two people, two rational people, debate some of the very prominant topics in our culture to date.... specifically, gay marriage. 

Well, there we go. http://www.goodasyou.org/good_as_you/2012/08/video-the-savagebrown-dinner-conversation.html  It's about an hour, but well worth it, imo.

Please tell me what you think.


Friday, August 24, 2012

I've Decided... I'm Going to the Depot This Weekend!

Calling all rational minded people:  Let's have a Support Home Depot Weekend!!!
Remember all the screams about yard signs and chikin graffiti? According to the American Family Association, vandalism is totally OK when it's their side doing it.

AFA was recently contacted by a Home Depot employee who says the boycott of Home Depot is being effective. "We have customers who come into our store and confront our store managers over the HD's support of Gay pride. The AFA is having an effect on HD." She also shared that many employees disagree with the company's pro-gay-marriage stand. In June, a "Gay Pride Month" poster (photo right) was put up in her breakroom. "HD is as committed as ever to the changing of laws in favor of same sex marriage. They had absolutely no empathy for those employees who voiced offense with the display. This was mandated by corporate directive. Therefore the display was torn down at least 2 times."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Propaganda, bullshit, and the FRC

Why FRC’s New “Religious Hostility” Report Is A Joke

August 22, 2012 3:21 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Anti-gay groups have for years attacked the advance of LGBT equality by depicting it as part of a growing effort in America to silence Christians and shut down religious freedom. Evidence for this claim has always been questionable, however, and a new report this week documenting so-called “religious hostility” over the past several years is no exception.

The Family Research Council (FRC) and Liberty Institute published a study on Tuesday alleging that threats to religious liberty in America have reached an “all-time high.” The report – titled “The Survey of Religious Hostility in America” – lists over six hundred examples of “attacks against people of faith” in the U.S. over the past several years. According to an “Open Letter to the American People” included in the report:

America today would be unrecognizable to our Founders. Our first freedom is facing a relentless onslaught from well-funded and aggressive groups and individuals who are using the courts, Congress, and the vast federal bureaucracy to suppress and limit religious freedom. This radicalized minority is driven by an anti- religious ideology that is turning the First Amendment upside down.

On Fox & Friends Tuesday morning, FRC president Tony Perkins touted the report, asserting that “our First Amendment has become a last priority for the courts.”

Looking over the report’s methodology, though, it’s hard to come to the conclusion that religious freedom is somehow under siege by gay activists (or anyone else, for that matter) in America.

1. “Attacks” Are Loosely Defined. It’s unclear what standard FRC used to define “attacks” on religious liberty, but the report seems to include any incident in which there was even a disagreement relating to a person’s religious beliefs.

According to FRC’s report, “attacks” on religious liberty included:

•The Post Office advising employees to greet customers by saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”

•The Air Force no longer requiring officers to encourage their subordinates to attend chapel

•A secular group criticizing UPS for issuing a Mother Teresa memorial stamp

•A group challenging a church’s non-profit status after it campaigned in favor of ousting pro-equality judges

FRC’s report includes cases in which no legal action was taken at all. According to the report, the mere existence of public criticism of a religious display or event – like a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation – was enough to constitute an “attack” on religious freedom.

2. “Attacks” Included Disputes That Were Resolved In Favor Of Religious Liberty. Another problem with the report is that it includes any legal dispute related to religious liberty, even if that dispute ended up being resolved in favor of protecting religions individuals or organizations. On just the first two pages of the report’s recorded “attacks,” for instance, over half of the legal disputes that reached adjudication were resolved in favor of the First Amendment and protecting religious liberty.

This over-inclusive definition of an “attack” seriously undermines the report’s credibility; a number of the “attacks” included in the report are actually examples of religious liberty being protected by American courts – the very courts Perkins was criticizing on Fox.

3. The Report’s Examples Date Back To 1980. Although the report claims to focus on “attacks” on religious liberty over the past decade, its examples actuallydate back to as early as 1980, like the case of Florey v. Sioux Falls. The report includes dozens of examples from the 80s and 90s, and several other examples are left entirely undated. That’s an average of less than twenty incidences a year in a country of roughly three hundred million people.

So, to recap the report’s findings: Over the past three decades, there have been around 600 recorded examples of someone doing something that FRC perceives as anti-religion, and a number of these incidences actually ended up reaffirming religious liberty.

FRC’s report is undoubtedly red meat for religious conservatives, who repeatedly accuse progressives – and especially LGBT activists – of attacking Christianity and religious freedom. As a piece of credible research, however, the report reveals very little about the actual state of religious liberty in the U.S.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What does it mean - "The Buck Stops Here"?

Hello My Friends;

  I'm sorry to have been so dry in my posting.  Frankly, I just haven't had a lot to say - or, perhaps it would be better to say that I just haven't had a lot I know how to say.  And, to a fair extent, I still don't.  So, if you will forgive me, I'm going to think through some things with you here.

  But first, I am excited to tell you that we had a great day with the rescue dogs today.  I was a small part of it, but am proud to tell you that a very small part of our success today was I overcame my withdrawing behavior and stepped forward to people coming in and really try to sell the concept of adopting a wonderful dog.  I was very proud to find it - at least in part - translate to a wider conversation with the professionals in the organization and adoption applications filled out! 
  For the majority of my life, I've considered myself a Christian.  I was raised in the Lutheran faith, and when my life's troubles came too much I found myself praying to find relief and understanding, to even have someone who I could cry out to and believe they listened and cared
  Why is it that I had a tendency to only pray when I was in trouble?  Such is life.  We seem to think that we can do anything right up to the point when life laughs in our face.  Then, we really really need someone who is more powerful than life to cry to and who will make it all better.  Fortunate people have a Dad who is that all-powerful being when they are little children.  It's sort of like that.
  I don't know what I classify myself as anymore.  Do I believe in God?  The Ultimate being?  Yep.  Do I classify myself as a Christian?    ?

  There is a certain degree of the incredible - not the good kind, either - with the way Christian groups are behaving lately.  It reminds me of the phrase "Those who don't learn their history are doomed to repeat it".  I now hear a lot of Pharisee wanna-be's.  In fact, if one were to sit back and listen, their constant rants are quite ridiculous and hilarious - except that they seem to be influencing some who have far too much power.  How is it that these men and women who claim to be loving, Christ-like people have become so judgemental, self-righteous bigots?  Ironic as it may seem, those who believe in Christ and, by happenstance, are homosexual, are likely closer to the original Christians that these hate mongers who believe gays are the ruin of the world.  Going further, that was also the saying about Christians then.  Go figure, huh?

  The problem I'm having, though, is that now I am having real problems thinking about myself as a Christian.  I find the word shameful. I feel beaten up, degraded, defiled and reviled by these people, and I find the concept of Christ difficult to believe when the concept of Christian has become so shallow, judgemental and hating.  Who do they believe they are?  Who do they think gave them power to judge me? 

  Somewhere deep inside, where little randy still lives, is that small voice that tells me that one day someone very high up, if you get my drift, will tell such "Get away from me.  You never knew me."  That someday, the end - at least for some - will come and they will be face to face with that one who they've been "representing" for so long and be told quite clearly - enough! 

Monday, August 6, 2012

The dark road...

Hello Friends;

  I was just over to Milkboys.  I saw Greyson Chance sing (LINK)and followed a link to see Troye Sivan sing (LINK).  Loved both songs.  The comments, though.... how incredible they were!  People picking apart these kids like they were some sort of Simon Cowell clones, with often little regard to the youngsters being criticized.  Who are these people to be so negative....
   ....  but, isn't it the way we do things far too often?  I am so weak in that area.  All too often, I've been so very cruel behind someone's back.  Oh, I'd never say it to their face; I wouldn't want to hurt someone's feelings.  Yet, the world isn't so very large that what one says about another, especially an associate, wouldn't make it back to him.  I'm trying to change that...  easier said than done.
  I don't always feel so good about myself.  I've had a number of people in my life telling me I'm not worth much, and that guy in the mirror has said it far too often as well.  It makes me feel a bit better about myself sometimes to know that I'm doing better in some fashion than someone else.  Sometimes...
  And then, I realize that I'm doing the same to that person that others have done to me.  I'm picking on some small fault and missing the beautiful person behind the flaw.  Who am I to be such a critic?  Who am I to infect others with my negativity? 

  So, my challenge to myself some time back was to simply not do this.  I've tried to be positive to even the most difficult of people, lift them up, be nice.  I don't have to take them to dinner, just be polite.  I don't have to blow sunshine up their ass, just smile and say hello.  I don't have to support their every move, but I don't have to talk trash about them behind their back either.