Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Ebenezer Scrooge Effect

This is my latest article through the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Please help by clicking the link and actually finding a way to let Yahoo know you like it.

In the run-up to the 2012 United States national elections, the US economy – especially the federal budget seems to be a major talking point. One of the buzzwords that have developed is the word “entitlement” in reference to Federal Aid programs for the poor, the disabled and the elderly. These programs include, but are not limited to: Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security (both retirement and disability benefits), SNAP (aka Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – formerly known as Food Stamps) and TANF (aka Temporary Aid to Needy Families – formerly Aid to Families with Dependent Children). These programs provide a safety net for millions of United States citizens during the current economic climate. They are also being demonized by labeling them “big government”
What many pundits and politicians are trying to say is that these programs are not necessary, and have weakened the ability of the private and religious sectors in the United States to care for what could be argued to be the most vulnerable members of our society – the elderly, the infirm and children. I could not disagree more strongly with that attitude. The dark side of the American Dream narrative is a propensity to blame the poor for their poverty. It is the illusion and delusion that the United States of America is a meritocracy where everyone is treated fairly and anyone can pull himself up by his bootstraps if he just tries hard enough.

I personally feel that the case for the necessity for these programs was made best by none other than Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only man to have been elected for more than two presidential terms because of the results he got from the implementing of the New Deal – including the medical programs mentioned above and Social Security. He proposed what has become known as “a Second Bill of Rights” in his State of the Union message delivered on January 11, 1944.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous men are not free men." People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world
Read more at the American Presidency Project: Franklin D. Roosevelt: State of the Union Message to Congress

This is a far cry from saying that, in effect, that the people who want these things are because of impoverished conditions inherently unworthy of them. That attitude eerily echoes the words of Ebenezer Scrooge in the classic work by Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol where in Stave (chapter) One he states the following:

 “I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”
“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

The establishments Scrooge mentions in the above passage are the Workhouses and Debtor’s Prisons which existed at the time. The increasingly difficult requirements that many states have imposed on being able to access the governmental safety net have become in many ways the equivalent of those “establishments” and are seemingly designed to keep eligible people from accessing the services they need. The problem with the “surplus population” as we experience it in the modern day amounts to the same problem as in December 1843 when Dickens initially put these words on paper. Who are they?

The pundits and politicians agree that the Medicare and Social Security programs should be relatively unmolested because they want to keep the votes of our senior citizens. However, those who say that Medicaid, SNAP and TANF are being abused paint a picture of people who do not want to work and earn a living rather than families like that of Scrooge’s clerk Bob Crachit who needed to have two (or more) incomes just to meet basic bills for housing, food, transportation and medical care. They are the ones that the Ghost of Christmas Present refers to when he tells Scrooge:

“Man,” said the Ghost, “if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”

To give an example of this in the modern day, let us consider a two-parent family with an 18-month old child. They actively search for work at least five days each week to no avail and are dependent on SNAP benefits (which are solely income-based) to ensure that they and their child are fed. Because they want to keep a roof over their heads, this family decides to apply for TANF, a program which after 1996 under President Clinton has its eligibility requirements determined on the state level which are seemingly designed to deter participation. These requirements include things that would seem harmless on the surface, but are in actuality counter-productive to the stated goals of the program.

In the state that our model family lives in applicants for this program have to participate in “work activities” which is a requirement that on the surface would appear to not be a problem, but in practice can be much harder on a family than they need to be:
The program has a requirement for all applicants to seek employment and be involved in a work activity from the day they apply for benefits. If approved, you must participate in a work-related activity.
The required number of hours per week will be determined by the age of your children and whether or not you are in a two-parent household.
Work activities may include, but are not limited to:
Approved education programs or job skills training;
Volunteer work or community service;
Job readiness and job search;
Full and part-time employment; or
If you are a minor parent, you must attend high school or a GED program and live with your parents or another approved adult.

What this state does NOT tell you on their website is that they can tell you that you must do “Community Service” for roughly 33 hours each week FOR EACH PARENT if you are in a two-parent household with “access to approved childcare”, until the date of your “orientation” – which can be scheduled for almost a full month after your intake appointment. Also, they can tell you that this community service is ideally done during the Monday through Friday workweek and during normal business hours despite the fact that those are also statistically the best times to seek and find employment. They also do not tell you that the benefits amount to less than one-half of minimum wage.
When this happened to the model family, they pointed out to their caseworker that the community service requirement would hamper their ability to find paying work and were told that they could job-hunt in the evenings and on weekends. They were also told that even though the mother in the family has health related issues that would hamper her ability to fulfill the required community service hours unless they could produce documentation within five calendar days – despite having no means to get the required documentation within the time frame due to no medical coverage that there was no way to allow the family access to benefits unless they complied with the requirements – including finding “approved childcare” within that five calendar day window.

The model family, despite their need for aid, was forced to conclude that these requirements were not able to be met by them. In other words, they would “rather die than go there”. Another example of this is illustrated in a recent article written for the Catholic Moral Theology blog entitled “American Scandal & Disgrace: the Criminalization of Poverty” where the example of a family in a different state from my model one is used as illustration:

Using the example of Kirsten (laid off and unable to find work) and Joe Parentes (unable to work due to injury), Ehrenreich exposes the numerous ways TANF is structured to criminalize and dehumanize the poor.
When the Parentes finally got into “the system” and began receiving food stamps and some cash assistance, they discovered why some recipients have taken to calling TANF “Torture and Abuse of Needy Families.” From the start, the TANF experience was “humiliating,” Kristen says. The caseworkers “treat you like a bum. They act like every dollar you get is coming out of their own paychecks.”
The Parentes discovered that they were each expected to apply for 40 jobs a week, although their car was on its last legs and no money was offered for gas, tolls, or babysitting. In addition, Kristen had to drive 35 miles a day to attend “job readiness” classes offered by a private company called Arbor, which, she says, were “frankly a joke.”
Nationally, according to Kaaryn Gustafson of the University of Connecticut Law School, “applying for welfare is a lot like being booked by the police.” There may be a mug shot, fingerprinting, and lengthy interrogations as to one’s children’s true paternity. The ostensible goal is to prevent welfare fraud, but the psychological impact is to turn poverty itself into a kind of crime.

The Parente family, had always imagined that people turned to the government for help only if "they didn't want to work” although they found out differently when he was injured and she was laid off from waiting tables due to the recession.
The experiences of both the family in the article and our model family are far from unique. The ONLY difference that many people experience between SNAP and TANF is that there is a right to food stamps. You go to the office and, if you meet the statutory definition of need, they help you. For TANF (aka welfare), the street-level bureaucrats can, pretty much at their own discretion, just say no.
The safety net that our political Scrooges want to remove exists to prevent conditions from deteriorating to what existed during the Great Depression. In a recent article for Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (2001) writes something very telling “the constant suspicions of drug use and theft that I encountered in low-wage workplaces should have alerted me to the fact that, when you leave the relative safety of the middle class, you might as well have given up your citizenship and taken residence in a hostile nation”

This is NOT the America that our Founding Fathers envisioned, with a citizenry “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” as stated in the Declaration of Independence. It should not be the America we settle for now. Otherwise, we have no idea what horrors OUR collective “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come” will show us.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Governor Perry's Ideas on the US Constitution make NO sense

* Disclaimer -- although this IS my original work, this is one of the articles that I have also published through Associated Content by Yahoo! and as such I am also including a link to it here  in the hopes you will click on it and help support my paid writing through there*

The framers of the US Constitution made a document that has lasted since 1790 with very little change and the reason for this is that it is a reasonable document. Governor Perry's proposed changes seem to have very little to do with reason and more with politics.

In an article for Yahoo! News Chris Moody (Fri, Aug 19, 2011) writes: “Rick Perry has many ideas about how to change the American government's founding document. From ending lifetime tenure for federal judges to completely scrapping two whole amendments, the Constitution would see a major overhaul if the Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate had his druthers.”

The changes Governor Perry wants are for the most part, in my opinion, VERY bad ideas. This article will attempt to explain why.

1. Abolish lifetime tenure for federal judges by amending Article III, Section I of the Constitution.

 The nation's framers established a federal court system whereby judges with "good behavior" would be secure in their job for life. Perry believes that provision is ready for an overhaul.

"The Judges," reads Article III, "both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office."  THIS is what the framers intended. But Governor Perry has his own ideas of what constitutes “good Behavior” and apparently that means making decisions HE agrees with.

"'[W]e should take steps to restrict the unlimited power of the courts to rule over us with no accountability," he writes in Fed Up! "There are a number of ideas about how to do this . . . . One such reform would be to institute term limits on what are now lifetime appointments for federal judges, particularly those on the Supreme Court or the circuit courts, which have so much power. One proposal, for example, would have judges roll off every two years based on seniority."

 One of the major problems with this is that it then makes the nominations for the replacement judges for the Supreme or circuit courts even more politicized than they are now because then the legislature and executive branches will have to tie up even more of their time and resources trying to get “sympathetic” jurists in place every few years. The Supreme Court under Chief Justice Marshall was one of the most progressive incarnations of that body, but it was not the progressives that pushed his nomination through. Can you imagine what would have happened if Gov. Perry’s ideas were in place then? Things like the reading of our “Miranda rights” upon being arrested would not have become required.

2. Congress should have the power to override Supreme Court decisions with a two-thirds vote.

According to Mr. Moody’s article “Ending lifetime tenure for federal justices isn't the only way Perry has proposed suppressing the power of the courts. His book excoriates at length what he sees as overreach from the judicial branch. (The title of Chapter Six is "Nine Unelected Judges Tell Us How to Live.")

"[A]llow Congress to override the Supreme Court with a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate, which risks increased politicization of judicial decisions, but also has the benefit of letting the people stop the Court from unilaterally deciding policy," Perry writes.

This completely counters what the framers of the US Constitution had in mind. The reason that the Legislative and Executive branches do NOT have the power to over-ride the Judicial in the US Constitution without the AMENDING of that document is that this is the MAIN way that the framers saw to place a check on both the Legislative and Executive branches against over-reaching THEIR authority. Perry states that it “risks increased politicization” of decisions by the courts. I disagree. This proposal, along with his term limits proposal, guarantees that politicization.

3. Scrap the federal income tax by repealing the Sixteenth Amendment.

The Sixteenth Amendment gives Congress the "power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration." It should be abolished immediately, Perry says.

This is actually the ONLY thing that I even partially agree with Governor Perry on. The way that income taxes are currently assessed is inherently unfair to the poor of this country because even though many do not pay income tax because they fall below the minimum threshold for it, they are STILL paying a disproportionate amount of their income in taxes due to other things like gasoline taxes and regular sales taxes. UNLESS the tax burden on the “super-rich” is equalized the way Warren Buffet promotes and the Koch brothers decry, we need to find another way to fund the government than income taxes. For many years there has been a movement for a flat national SALES tax. If you eliminate staple foods and certain types of clothing from the taxation, you still have a LOT more money that would be produced – in a way that is fair to both rich and poor and cannot be argued to “favor” any special interest groups.

4. End the direct election of senators by repealing the Seventeenth Amendment.

Overturning this amendment would restore the original language of the Constitution, which gave state legislators the power to appoint the members of the Senate. Fair enough, but this is something that actually puts the individual citizen in the position of power and has actually accomplished the goals that it was intended to in 1913.

 I ask Governor Perry this question: “As we have seen that the Seventeenth Amendment actually WORKS as intended, why scrap it?” This makes me wonder what Governor Perry is worried about by not allowing the people to directly choose their US Senators instead of leaving it in the hands of State legislators who, in many cases seem to be the puppets of corporate influence.

5. Require the federal government to balance its budget every year.

 This one is only good on paper as long as there is a “no new taxes” mindset in Washington, DC – especially no “new” taxes on large corporations such as those that are driving the current political debate in our nation’s capital.

Of all his proposed ideas, Perry calls this one "the most important," and of all the plans, a balanced budget amendment likely has the best chance of passage.

"The most important thing we could do is amend the Constitution--now--to restrict federal spending," Perry writes in his book. "There are generally thought to be two options: the traditional 'balanced budget amendment' or a straightforward 'spending limit amendment,' either of which would be a significant improvement. I prefer the latter . . . . Let's use the people's document--the Constitution--to put an actual spending limit in place to control the beast in Washington."

If we are to balance the nation’s budget Mr. Perry, how about increasing the SUPPLY of money to the government in the form of taxes instead of trying to cut out vital safety nets for the elderly, the working poor and children (both in education and healthcare)?

6. The federal Constitution should define marriage as between one man and one woman in all 50 states.

"I do respect a state's right to have a different opinion and take a different tack if you will, California did that," Perry told the Christian Broadcasting Network in August. "I respect that right, but our founding fathers also said, 'Listen, if you all in the future think things are so important that you need to change the Constitution here's the way you do it'.

That’s all well and good Governor Perry, but please remember that the Constitution was designed to guarantee the rights of ALL U.S citizens, not just those of any particular group. Same-sex marriage is gaining in approval so why create an amendment that will only be overturned the way that the 18th Amendment was after only 14 years? This is a waste of time and money that could be used more productively to handle substantive issues like job creation.

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol (i.e. the beginning of Prohibition). It was ratified on January 16, 1919 and repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933. In the over 200 years of the U.S. Constitution, the 18th Amendment remains the only Amendment to ever have been repealed.

7. Abortion should be made illegal throughout the country.

Like the gay marriage issue, Perry at one time believed that abortion policy should be left to the states, as was the case before the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade. But in the same Christian Broadcasting Network interview, Perry said that he would support a federal amendment outlawing abortion because it was "so the soul of this country and to the traditional values [of] our founding fathers."

The problem with Mr. Perry’s stand on the issue is that this elevates the rights of an unborn and potentially unviable fetus above the rights of a woman, even if the woman’s health is in danger or the pregnancy is the result of criminal activity. There is already a disturbing trend to disallow women who have already made a decision not to have an abortion losing the rights to dictate their medical treatment during pregnancy. To completely criminalize abortion will only end up in MORE women being subjected to illegal and dangerous practices than it will save – women who may have had an abortion only for the purpose of saving their lives so that they can take care of already living children.

There are additional joint issues to think of in regards to numbers Six and Seven on this list as well. These are issues of “State’s Rights”. If you are interested in REDUCING the power of the Federal Government, as many of Governor Perry’s supporters are, then the proposed amendments prohibiting Same-Sex marriage and abortion do just the opposite. They INCREASE the power of the Federal Government and potentially, the costs of that government due to prosecutions of violations of those amendments.

I wonder if Governor Perry has thought THAT part through, or if the proposed amendments that he espouses are just a way to get the approval of the Evangelical Christian voting bloc by putting in religiously based amendments.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Organizing a Public Political get-together.

With the political arena heating up for the 2012 election season, I figured that this would be a good time to put together a few notes on what is required to get a "First Amendment Freedoms Rally" off of the ground. This would not be something limited to countering things like Gov. Perry's "The Response" rally or dealing with events organized by groups who have something like this: "The purpose of this siege is to change the atmosphere over the city of Washington D.C. through our worship, preparing the way for our legislators to function on a different playing field as we release 40 days of light over the city" on their event website. It is something that we might want to consider using as a model for when we stand up for the First Amendment rights of ALL United States citizens to worship as they please, speak as they please and peaceably assemble. And yes, this may mean that sometimes we may have to support the rights of people who want to take away those rights from us. WE cannot pick and choose whose rights are valid if we are to keep our own integrity.

Step one in this process -- You need to identify the reason why this event is needed at this particular time. Is it because you are countering a group that is exclusionary? Then be clear in your organizing that THIS event is about countering that group but not all events will be.  Is it to commemorate the signing of the Bill of Rights? Then you need to make sure that you are lauding the framers of those amendments for their foresight. Is it to commemorate the sacrifices of people who have died to PRESERVE those freedoms (such as the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)? Then you need to make sure people know that this is to continue their work.

Step two in the process -- You need to determine a date (or dates) for the event. This may seem self-evident but it is an extremely important part of the process. If this is to be an inter-faith event the organizers need to be very aware that observant members of other faiths may feel they cannot attend your event because it conflicts with worship. 
For an example of what I mean, the date the DC40 has Colorado as it's "point" state during it's 51-day 'prayer seige' (yes, they expanded to 51 days from the original 40 so each US state as well as the 'District of Christ' could be on point for a day during this event) happens to be on Saturday October 15, 2011. If you were to invite observant Jews to participate in a counter-rally on that day, you would have to remember that it IS on the Jewish Sabbath. The same would hold true for Muslims on Fridays as well.  This can lead to having a smaller crowd, as well as people asking why "fill-in-the-blank" faith was not invited.

The answer to this is simple. Invite members of the group, while emphasizing to them that if they feel that worship is more important to them because of timing that worship SHOULD take precedence. This allows you to say that "fill-in-the-blank" group was indeed invited, but because the event is about the rights of individuals under the First Amendment, that they chose to worship rather than rally.

This of course, leads right into Step Three of the process. If this is to be an inter-faith event being promoted, you need to promote it to members of those other faiths. This is probably going to be one of the hardest steps for a lot of people. As a Pagan, I would need to write letters to members of the local Jewish and Muslim communities if I was doing a counter-rally to a group who states "the First Amendment only was meant to apply to Christians". The reason that this can be difficult is that you often need to counter religious misgivings to get the message across that you are indeed working for a common cause.

Step four is where things can sometimes get tricky. We are guaranteed the right of "peaceable assembly" under the First Amendment. However, states and municipalities also have the right to ask that these types of events have permits so that the police know of the event and can have a potential heads-up in case of problems. YOU MUST MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR LOCAL ORDINANCES STATE ABOUT CROWD SIZE IN REGARDS TO IF A PERMIT IS NECESSARY!!! In the City and County of Denver where I live, "A public assembly permit is required when an event has 50 or more people. This provides adequate notice to the City about logistics and safety issues and plans can be made accordingly for public safety and services." 

This is not in an attempt to curtail people's rights to assemble, but to help ensure the safety of all involved. If you only have forty-five CONFIRMED attendees, you might still want to get the permit to cover your bases in a case like this. The example of the City and County of Denver (where the state capital of Colorado is located) is not going to hold true in all areas of the country -- you need to do your research and obtain needed permits well before the scheduled date of your event if at all possible. Having actually gotten a permit will go a long way to establishing the legitimacy of your event to both the police and the media no matter if the outcome is not peaceful because of factors outside your control.

Finally, you need to tell people to check their intentionally confrontational attitudes at the door. I know, this whole blog has been about organizing an event that by it's nature will be controversial and potentially provoke confrontation. Here's where you -- as the organizer -- need to make sure that everyone involved in YOUR event knows that they CANNOT start any confrontation. A participant is always allowed to defend themselves, but if you are not actively provoking an attack, YOU will stay on the right side of the law -- which is what you and your event NEED to to if the message you are trying to get through will BE the message you get through.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"A Response" Rally Supporter Blames 'Paganism' for the Woes of the United States

When I saw a link to the website show up on a social networking site that I use to keep in touch with friends across the country, my first response was to shake my head in disbelief that one of my friends had posted yet another link filled with political diaper-filling. Then I looked again and saw that in this case, I was being blamed (at least in part) for a laundry list of issues that all the citizens of the United States of America are facing.
First off, let me be blunt. I have absolutely zero problems with the vast majority of Christian believers in this country or around the world. They are completely free to worship as they feel drawn to do. I only ask that my family and I be acknowledged as having the same freedom. This is a right that some Christians in the United States feel that I, as a ‘Pagan’, along with members of religions like Islam should not have. It does not matter to this particular type of Christian that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution has been understood to protect the rights of this entire nation’s people to be free to worship as they choose or that strictly speaking, even the right to have NO religion is protected.
I will fully admit that our country is facing a lot of difficulties at this particular moment in time. We are in danger of defaulting on our public debt. We are fighting in multiple theaters of action around the world. We have rampant unemployment. We have socially controversial issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion becoming increasingly polarized. In short, times are tough. When Texas Governor Rick Perry decided that it would be a good idea to have a prayer rally to ask for divine aid through this minefield, many people were far from surprised. The problem is that this is a self-described “non-denominational, apolitical Christian prayer meeting” ( and there is apparently no room at the table for persons of any OTHER religion.
At this point it should come as no surprise that many of the supporters of this rally are from the group of Christians that are called “Fundamentalists” or “Evangelicals” as there are a large number of people who identify with this viewpoint in the state of Texas. What unfortunately is also not a surprise to a lot of people is that many of the supporters of this rally are among the type of religious leader that even Conservative icon Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) during his 2008 bid for the US Presidency had to publicly reject because of the radical things they had said and, in doing so, made clear that their views were "crazy and unacceptable" as well as "deeply offensive and indefensible" and stated that "there is no place for that kind of dialogue in America” (
What makes these supporters so much of an issue for me when I do not live in Texas? It is simple. I am someone who follows a “Pagan” religion AND Pastor John Hagee (who is an official endorser of Gov. Perry’s rally) has PUBLICLY STATED at last year’s Word Explosion Conference (  in Tulsa, Oklahoma the following:
“America right now has its fist in the face of God and in the name of pluralism we are honoring paganism coast to coast in this nation.
“You want to know what drives environmentalism in America? Paganism, paganism, this is exactly what Paul spoke about in Romans. And Paul said, when a generation does this I will give them over to a reprobate mind, they will believe a lie and they as a generation will be damned. Let me say this to you very clearly and those of you watching over the internet: There is one God in this book, it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Allah is not God, Buddha is not God, Mary is not God, Mary Baker Eddy is not God, birds, animals and bugs are not God, Jehovah God is the God of all Gods. He is a jealous God, and He demands that He be the Lord of all or not at all!
We have allowed the worship of Satanism in the U.S. military, most Americans are not aware of that, and we wonder why it takes us ten years to defeat our weak enemies as Moses said in Deuteronomy 28. How is it that in World War II we whipped the world in four years and now we’re bogged down in one lingering war after another that does nothing but rape our economy and kill our young men? Why? Maybe the God of Heaven is not with us. He says when you accept another God, I leave. I’m either the only Lord, or you’re on your own. That means stop voting for pagans and putting them in public office”
Imagine my surprise, or lack thereof, that Pastor Hagee is saying that the religion claimed by 81.2% of US citizens has been consistently voting into office members of a group of religions that combined equal about o.8% of US citizens if you combine “ethno-religionists” (who usually worship the Gods of a particular ethnic group) and “neo-religionists” (who follow some of the ‘newer’ religions such as Modern Wicca) ( AND that these people are the ones who are responsible for this nation’s problems.
We faced something like this in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 and again during the “Red Scare” of the 1950’s. During both of these periods, the ones getting the blame were the ones least likely to actually have caused the issues they were blamed for. Somehow I fail to see how people who advocate environmental responsibility or who advocate the First Amendment are by definition NOT Christian when many Christian congregations do both. We can ill afford to allow religious exclusion to become the default position in our country if we actually truly hope to fix the issues we face. People of all religious viewpoints are affected by these issues and it will take people of all religious viewpoints to fix them.

An Open Letter to candidates for the office of US President REGARDLESS OF PARTY

Dear President Obama, Mr. Romney, Mr. Gingrich, Mr Pawlenty, Rep. Paul (R-TX), Rep. Bachmann (R-MN), Mr. Huntsman, Mrs Palin, Mr. Santorum, Mr. Cain, Gov. Perry, Gov. Christie, Mr. Giuliani, Mr Johnson and any other person considering a bid for the United States Presidency in 2012,

Please remember that there are other religious groups in this country other than the Evangelical Christian voting bloc. Religiously based pledges such as opposition to same-sex marriage or abortion are NOT the way to harness the mainstream voters. Stances on religion similar to those put forth at the recent "The Response" prayer rally in Houston "that regardless of what other religions say, "there is no other God besides Jesus" nor any other standard of truth" are not acceptable in a country where religious plurality was considered to be a foundational value.

Thomas Jefferson delayed a White House dinner in 1805 because a Muslim ambassador requested the time be moved to later in the day because of Ramadan. (Whether this actually constituted an "iftar" dinner is a matter of debate, which I feel ignores the basic issue) He is also famously quoted as saying the following:
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties."

This is the REASON that Article Six of the US Constitution (even before the Bill of Rights was added) states that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States".  It is also the reason that we CANNOT say that the United States was "founded as a 'Christian' Nation".

Even IF we say that the United States was founded as a nation with a majority Christian population, this does not negate the rights of the minority religions in this country -- some who DO worship the God of Abraham, and some who do NOT. Freedoms defined in the Constitution apply to us all -- yes, even the freedom to marry or freedom of women to define what can and cannot be done to their own bodies.

Atheist Group Misses the Point of Displaying the World Trade Center "Cross" -- The Point is "E Pluribus Unum", by the Way

*Please be aware that although this IS my own original work, it has also been published outside of here. I originally created it and submitted it for publication on 07/28/2011 and was actually published on 08/04/2011*

I have never been accused of being anything other than a proponent of the First Amendment protections for Freedom of Religious expression, even if some people do not agree with my interpretation of the same. However, the very item that is at the heart of the recent lawsuit filed by the American Atheists along with "four New York City" residents '" a "cross" resembling a Christian cross '" Is not to my way of thinking a violation of those protections. I myself AM not Christian, this is NOT "my" religious symbol, and I have publicly made statements on the internet in opposition to what I perceive to be threats posed by Dominionist Christian groups on my First Amendment rights that I hold as a Pagan citizen of the United States.

That being said however, the reason that I do not see the inclusion of the "cross" at the World Trade Center Memorial as being a problem is that it was NOT made with the intent of being a religious icon. It was originally welded together as part of the original SUPPORT structure of the Twin Towers and was discovered in the wreckage by recovery workers in the wake of the attack becoming a symbol of hope.

"This steel remnant became a symbol of spiritual comfort for the thousands of recovery workers who toiled at ground zero, as well as for people around the world," said 9/11 Memorial President Joe Daniels. "In the historical exhibition, the cross is part of our commitment to bring back the authentic physical reminders that tell the story of 9/11 in a way nothing else can."

Also, as part of the exhibit, there will be articles from other faith groups such as a Jewish prayer shawl. This is NOT an indication of favoritism but rather an authentic piece of the event being memorialized. If the American Atheists object to this, why are they also not making fusses about the emphasis on Jewish cultural experience at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC as members of other faith and ethnic groups were also victims of the Nazi death camps?

The whole point of having the "cross" as part of the exhibit is to remind people of the horror of that day as well as the coming together of United States citizens of ALL types of religious persuasions. It does not matter if you have a belief in one God, many Gods or no God at all. All of us were affected that day. This "cross" is not a symbol of Christianity; it is a symbol of unity in the face of adversity. The lawsuit forgets that and shouldn't.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

According to Huffington Post headline: “Doug Lamborn, Colorado Congressman, Refers To Obama Dealings As Being Stuck To A ‘Tar Baby’”

For those people who would not want to believe that a US Congressman could be using this type of language, I’m sorry to say that unfortunately there is audio evidence. He is actually quoted in this article  as saying the following on a Colorado radio show.
Even if some people say, ‘Well the Republicans should have done this or they should have done that,’ they will hold the President responsible. Now, I don’t even want to have to be associated with him. It’s like touching a tar baby and you get it, you’re stuck, and you’re a part of the problem now and you can’t get away. I don’t want that to happen to us, but if it does or not, he’ll still get, properly so, the blame because his policies for four years will have failed the American people.

This quote is problematic for SEVERAL reasons, and only the first is the ‘tar baby’ reference. Admittedly, using the term ‘tar baby’ is very descriptive of being in a “sticky” situation, but it also has very racist overtones. This is a term that Mitt Romney APOLOGIZED for using in 2006 – well before our nation elected its first African-American president.  In 1981, author Toni Morrison published a novel titled ``Tar Baby," and she has compared the expression to other racial epithets. She says it's a term that white people used to refer to black children, especially black girls. Whether your politics are as Liberal as Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) are portrayed as or as proudly Conservative as Doug Lamborn’s (R-CO) there is no cause for this type of language.

The other, and perhaps more important, reason for this being a problematic quote is Rep. Lamborn’s certainty that the American people would automatically blame the President of the United States for having to deal with SOME members of BOTH the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate simply refusing to consider compromise solutions even though there have been people who have likened the way business is coming to be done in our nation’s capital to “political hostage taking”.

Apparently, Mr. Lamborn has forgotten what happened in the 1990’s when something similar seemed to be going on. The party that was refusing to compromise lost more seats AFTER it became clear that they would not compromise than they had gained BEFORE that happened. The famous “Contract with America” that was proposed by then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich bears a remarkable resemblance to what many politicians promised their constituents in the 2010 elections. It was the backlash from this that lead to a large number of United States House of Representatives members losing their seats.
The Contract with America is rooted in 3 core principles:
Accountability: The government is too big and spends too much, and Congress and unelected bureaucrats have become so entrenched to be unresponsive to the public they are supposed to serve. The GOP contract restores accountability to government.
Responsibility: Bigger government and more federal programs usurp personal responsibility from families and individuals. The GOP contract restores a proper balance between government and personal responsibility.
Opportunity: The American Dream is out of the reach of too many families because of burdensome government regulations and harsh tax laws. The GOP contract restores the American dream.

If you read the actual text of the beginning of The Contract with America you will see that it bears a striking resemblance to the STATED goals of the modern Tea Party movement and the “Contract FROM America” as stated at . I think that Rep. Lamborn, as well as others, needs to remember the following two quotes from the philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist George Santayana:
"Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim." and "Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." (The text of the “Contract with America)