Blog Against Theocracy 2013

Its been a long time dear readers. One of my earliest posts took part in the 2007 blog against theocracy. When I saw there was no organized blog against theocracy this year, I felt called to write. There is a great need to address this topic.

This past week has seen a historic awakening – a cultural awareness of the validity and importance of recognizing gay rights. It is a big moment, but underneath it an even bigger moment waits to be discovered: Religious belief alone is not a valid source of law. If your belief in the unity of all beings or the importance of love for they neighbor drives you to do good work – that is a beautiful blessing. But when your beliefs force those who do not share them to act as if they do: you cross a line. We see this play out in the absurd arguments against gay marriage. We see it in the obsessive drive to control and repress female sexuality. Increasingly though, we see it burrowing into harder to reach places. As America becomes less religious, as America pushes back on church incursions into state, we are going to see religious influence look for other ways to retain (and expand) power.

That is at play in this effort to push Bibles into public schools.

The foundations of knowledge of the ancient world—which informs the understanding of the modern world—are biblical in origin.

A statement like that ignores the prolific writings of ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian sources. It ignores the musings and discoveries of the Islamic Golden Age. The thoughts of Chinese writers are also missing. It also ignores the more interesting contributions of Christian thinkers like St Augustine and St Anselm. I speak from experience when I say you can understand their wonderful and engaging philosophical musings without having read the bible.

If you really want to expose the underbelly of the effort to bring bibles into the classroom, ask if they think students should study the koran. After all, the koran is foundational to much of modern society (just not in the US). Better yet, see if Roma Downy and Mark Burnett would support including critical views of the bible. Is it to be read as is, without the criticism found in English or History classes? Or do they imagine students free to dissect the many logical errors and contradictions found within? More than likely not, since that would defeat the purpose of their effort, similar in spirit and aim to efforts to install the ten commandments at courthouses.

The highest promise of religious thought is to inspire acts of great compassion and vision. When it is instead used as an aggressive evangelical power grab, its value is demeaned and lessened. The strongest and most vocal ally in the fight against theocracy should always be the religious believer. For religion is worth far more than its current use – as a tool for social control.

Florida: Getting Away With Child Murder

Trayvon Martin was murdered in a shocking act of violence clearly motivated by racial bias, yet it looks like he won’t even get a slap on the wrist.

It appears that George Zimmerman drove up to Trayvon when the 17 year old was returning from a shopping trip with an iced tea and some skittles, got out of his car, attacked the youth, and shot him (emphasis mine):

According to 911 recordings released late Friday by Sanford police, Zimmerman said the person was walking slowly, looked drugged and appeared to be looking at people’s houses. Police would later learn that Trayvon had gone to 7-Eleven during the NBA All Star game halftime to get Skittles and Arizona iced tea.

These a–holes always get away,” Zimmerman complained.

What happened next is unclear, and has already reverberated nationwide. Calls to 911 alerted police to a scuffle and someone crying for help. In one, the chilling howl stopped after the clear, crisp blast of a bullet. Trayvon was lying face down on the ground near a pathway that runs through the townhouse community.

One 911 caller sobbed to the dispatcher over not having helped the young man who wailed.

Zimmerman told police that was him crying for help and that Trayvon started the fight. He claimed self-defense and was not charged

The history of consequence free violence against black people in this community suggests a systemic problem (emphasis mine):

n 2010, police waited seven weeks to arrest a lieutenant’s son who was caught on video sucker-punching a homeless black man.

In 2005, two security guards — one the son of a longtime Sanford police officer and the other a department volunteer — killed a black man they said was trying to run them over. Black leaders complained of a lackluster investigation. The guards ultimately were acquitted.

Police Chief Bill Lee is not helping the situation with his comments (emphasis mine):

“We are taking a beating over this,” said Lee, who defends the investigation. “This is all very unsettling. I’m sure if George Zimmerman had the opportunity to relive Sunday, Feb. 26, he’d probably do things differently. I’m sure Trayvon would, too.”

What the hell could Trayvon have done differently?

George Zimmerman has no need of going back in time to do things differently.  He apparently killed a child – and from the looks of things – will get away with it.

Jim DeMint Wants to Compete With Skype

Finally a politician with the courage to go up against Skype.  A Republican – Doctor* DeMint – who loves government regulation has come out of the closet in favor of barring Skype users from discussing abortion with medical professionals.  No word yet on if he will allow an exception if you are skyping with your anti-choice priest.  What is clear, now Skype will face competition from SkypeDeMint.  SkypeDeMint – for all your abortion discussing needs.

Via Think Progress:

Now Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), one of the most die-hard anti-choice lawmakers, has jumped on the bandwagon by sneaking a radical anti-abortion amendment onto a completely unrelated piece of legislation. DeMint’s amendment would ban women and their doctors from discussing abortion over the Internet:

Anti-choice Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) just filed an anti-choice amendment to a bill related to agriculture, transportation, housing, and other programs. The DeMint amendment could bar discussion of abortion over the Internet and through videoconferencing, even if a woman’s health is at risk and if this kind of communication with her doctor is her best option to receive care.

Under this amendment, women would need a separate, segregated Internet just for talking about abortion care with their doctors.

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said DeMint is essentially mandating “an abortion-only version of Skype.” She points out that a woman with high-risk pregnancy talking to her doctor through video conferencing would have to somehow switch to a separate communications system if abortion came up at all. “It is impractical, ridiculous, and, most importantly, bad for women in rural or remote areas who would not be able to discuss the full set of options with their doctor,” Keenan said.

In keeping with the anti-choice strategy of inching towards complete lack of reproductive choice, I wonder what the follow up to this amendment would be if it passes…

PS If you cannot discuss abortion over the internet, I wonder what impact this would have on blogs?

* Jim DeMint received his medical degree in the form of an MBA from Clemson.

Cisco Helps China Censor

Cisco Helping China Monitor its Citizens isn’t so much new as a stark reminder of the nature of corporations.  Corporations are by definition sociopathic, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy about the amount of power they command in today’s society.  Boycott Cisco if you like, not that it would do anything.

Obama Says Gay Couples Deserve Rights, Just Not Right Now

Obama gingerly endorsed the rights of gay people, if they’d only wait a few more years or like a decade or two tops.  I’m pretty sure this is verbatim you guys:

With cat-like tread, President Obama praised New York state lawmakers who were debating landmark legislation to legalize gay love and Jesus (to be balanced). As expected the president stopped short of committing to supporting equal rights, choosing instead to say “We’ll totally come back to this in 4 to 20 years”.

The president’s views on same-sex marriage are a sore point with gay supporters and even hetero supporters who’ve otherwise warmed to Obama. The president has said his views are “evolving,” but he needs more time to reconcile respect for human rights and equality with his desire to court religious voters who hate him for being black.

As Obama spoke at a Manhattan fundraiser for the people whose rights he needs time to recognize, a handful of pro-gay marriage protesters shouted out “marriage!”.  And Obama said, “I heard you guys, I just don’t want to take a risky stand.  On anything really.  Haven’t you people caught on yet?  I don’t like risk.  It makes me break out.”.  The president never directly mentioned gay marriage instead choosing more neutral terms like “homo-erotic unions” and “marriages that make baby Jesus cry”.

“I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country,” the president said “just not for a few years.”.

Obama said progress will be slower than some people want, but he added that he was confident that there will be a day “when every single American, gay or straight or lesbian or bisexual or transgender, is free to live and love as they see fit.  I just don’t no if I think every single American ought to be free to live and love as they see fit yet.  My views on that are still evolving.”

“Traditionally marriage has been decided by the states and right now I understand there’s a little debate going on here in New York,” he said to laughter. New York’s lawmakers, he said, are “doing exactly what democracies are supposed to do.  In fact I’ve long been a supporter of the states rights”

Debate on the measure continued into the night at the statehouse, and the outcome was uncertain.

Obama said there were those who shouted at him at events about other causes of the gay community, such as the need for anti-hate crimes legislation and for the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on openly gay military service, and both of those have since been achieved.  “So keep shouting, eventually I’ll cave.  In the meantime I’m going to go meet with Republicans and pretend its possible to address our deadly budget issues and still give rich people the massive tax cuts they’ve come to expect.”

Obama also has won favor by instructing the Justice Department to stop defending in court a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, after spending the start of his presidency instructing them to defend that same law.

Obama told of receiving a letter last year from a teenager in a small town. He said the boy was a senior in high school who was gay and was afraid to come out. The boy wondered to the president why gays shouldn’t be equal like everyone else.  The president wrote back “Look, I’ve got to get elected in 2012, and I’ve already sold out women’s rights for my tepid health care law, so now its time for the gay community to take one for the team.  You guys can die for your country now, you just can’t get married or adopt or whatever.”

“So, yes, we have more work to do,” Obama said. “Yes, we have more progress to make. Yes, I expect continued impatience with me on occasion.  Or every day.  I don’t care.  I’m the boss.”

(note: heavily edited for searing political impact!)

Selective and Brutal Enforcement

Some thoughts about my last post…  I’ve been on subways where NYPD officers ignore people breaking the law in a number of ways.  They’ve done nothing.  Which leads to a situation of selective, yet brutal, enforcement of laws.

What does that do to citizens, knowing that the police might beat you and arrest you for something you’ve previously seen an officer walk by like it was no big deal?

NYPD Police Brutalize Musician, Threaten Crowd

NYPD, as part of a recent crackdown against musicians, arrested a man playing music illegally in a park in Chinatown.  The man, forced face down on the pavement with officers holding him down, displayed a bloodied face.  As of this time it appears he did not resist.  The crowd did voice their opposition quite loudly.  They were rewarded with threats of being maced and threatening movements made by one of the officers.

The video on youtube has been flagged inappropriate, making it harder for people to see, and artificially driving down its view count.