Archive for the ‘Religion’ category

Does A Herd Think?

January 6, 2017

The Republican controlled Congress is readying a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. Not much of a surprise given past performance but with apparently no agreement on the “replace part” of repeal and replace Obamacare, where is Congress’ sense of priority? The herd that calls itself Republican legislators is showing its colors early, and they are not pretty.

The GOP wraps its opposition to Planned Parenthood with the claim that Planned Parenthood performs abortions and abortions are unacceptable. Planned Parenthood also counsels women on how to avoid unwanted pregnancies which single handedly avoids more abortions than any other measure. Hmmm.

The issue with Planned Parenthood is, of course, pay back. Defunding Planned Parenthood is a big thank you to religious groups who supported Republicans. Defunding is what friends do.

Interestingly most Americans do not visit or use Planned Parenthood services. Do you see a similarity with repealing Obamacare? Most Americans do not use the Affordable Care Act services instead obtaining healthcare services from employer provided insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Most abortions occur naturally or result from morning after medication. Abortions requiring Planned Parenthood services occur when women have no other affordable options. Most women find other providers, but some simply are trapped in economic conditions where Planned Parenthood’s safe services provide a dignified way to end an unwanted pregnancy.

On a related topic, Republican legislators in Texas are readying an analogous bill.  Texan legislators, not deterred by the outcome North Carolina’s “bathroom” bill are ready to do the same. “It’s the right thing to do”, the principle supporter said. Hmmm.

The common thread associated with these bills is the expression of religious beliefs where the expression impacts others who may not hold those same religious beliefs. Students of history or just thinking persons should recognize the ogre this type of thinking represents. Basing law on what ones religious beliefs may be, prepares the earth for conflict.

What is even more despicable about the repeal (not the modification) of Obamacare, defunding Planned Parenthood, and laws like North Carolina’s HB-2 is that it resembles bullying and disproportionately impacts the vulnerable.

I guess, however, that’s what herds do.

Seasons Greetings

December 27, 2016

The PC police have steered the nation towards “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”, says those who want to take their country back.

President-elect Trump tweeted “Merry Christmas” to the delight of the “keep Christ in Christmas” crowd. I wonder whether it occurred to the soon to be President that he will be President for all Americans, some who wish each other a “Happy Chanukah” in and around December 25th.

For me, it is still a Christmas Tree. And it is Merry Christmas to my grandchildren, did Santa Claus come last night? But when it comes to card exchanges, sharing what happened this past year for me and my wife, the card is about “peace on earth” and “happy holidays”.

Anyone who has not be watching, December 25 is huge a commercial celebration where friends exchange gifts and children’s dreams are awakened. For sure, many Christians find a religious purpose, although usually in addition not in place of the gift giving.

About 70% of Americans identify as Christian. Of the remaining 30%, 23% are not affiliated with any religion. Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists are the primary groups making up the remaining 7%. So should some Christians rewrite reality and get their way about Christmas?

Happy Holidays not only signals Christmas, it also covers another year end national holiday, New Years Day. The Jewish 8 day celebration of Chanukah usually fall within this same happy holidays period too. So which greeting would seem more inclusive, Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas?

The most troubling aspect of President-elect Trump’s tweet is that from him “Merry Christmas” is just a dog whistle to the bigoted Trump supporters. Trump’s greeting calls for more “us and them” thinking.  Trump seems to want to take credit for saving Christmas (where’s the Grinch), all part of taking America back.

A Woman’s Right

October 7, 2016

If ever there was a universal “right” to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, a woman’s right to choose must be it. Only women can become pregnant and give birth. Since pregnancy involves a woman’s body, it would seem reasonable that carrying a pregnancy full term should be a choice a woman makes freely.

Listening to the Vice Presidential debate, you would be forgiven if you thought otherwise. Describing abortion as murder, as some pro-lifers do, is to use hyperbole as  a tool to obscure a difficult moral choice. But when the speakers are men, or even worse members of the clergy, hypocrisy rules.

If one goes back in history, even just back to the birth of our country, full term pregnancies were the expected outcome simply because “society” said so. Pregnancy out of wedlock did present some complexity and back alley abortions of course occurred. Society saw babies as helpful in growing the population and minimizing the detrimental impact of mortality due to early childhood diseases and birth complications.

Going back even further, families, tribes, and countries with large populations usually won wars. So if one did not want to end up a slave, staffing a large army was considered a good outcome. Authority figures reinforced superstitions around the need and duty of women to produce as many babies as possible.

In the modern world, these conditions no longer exist. Therefore, it is no longer necessary for clergy to spread superstitions around the woman’s duty to give birth often. Yet, many religion still do.

The abortion debate is very simple at its extremes and excruciatingly complex in the middle. Those who hold a woman has the right to end a pregnancy for any reason, and those who hold a woman must go full term, even when her life is at risk, are easy to understand. Their positions are absolutes.

But what about a young woman who has an unwanted pregnancy? This person has a full life ahead and plenty of time to have a family. What about a person who may have wanted the pregnancy but experiences a life event, like unemployment, disease, and serious injury, and decides the timing is not appropriate for giving birth. It is possible this woman already has children and feels economically or emotionally it is not wise to go full term.

For the absolutist, these situations are cut and dry. Yes or No.

In the real world, however, there are also some who exercise no personal responsibility. In this day and age there is little if any excuse for a woman unwillingly becoming pregnant. Family planning and birth control measure are readily available. Never the less, the spur of the moment (or plain disregard for ones reproductive health) leads too many women to unwanted pregnancies.

For the absolutists, this is again a black and white situation, yes or no to ending the pregnancy.

In Pennsylvania, the US Senate race could help determine the Senate leadership control. If Democrat challenger Katie McGinty beats incumbent Republican Pat Toomey, Democrats may regain Senate control. Toomey is quoted as opposed to Planned Parenthood and abortion, and has said he would support jail for medical persons who perform abortions.  This sounds pretty “absolutist” to me.

With Senate control, and/or a Hillary Clinton victory, Roe v Wade will be safe for probably enough time that the nation’s demographics makes its reversal impossible.

The abortion absolutists (both yes and no’s) do in their own ways, all women a disservice.

Medical experts have advanced the science of determining when it is medically safe to end a pregnancy and what would be the consequences if the pregnancy went full term. Making the subject a litmus test with innuendos of “murder”, removes the discussion of the middle ground where morality and ethics meet.

It is time for pro-lifers to expand their definition of life and include some notion of quality of life as well as the woman’s right to choose.

By the same token, it is time for pro-choice supporters to advocate for responsible sexual behaviors and emphasize the responsibility a woman incurs if she becomes pregnant.

And its high time that both sides of this divide to recognize that a woman who ends her pregnancy because of rape, incest, and medical health of the pregnant woman are exempt from any condemnation.

A Suspension Of Critical Thinking?

September 20, 2016

There should be no question that a Hillary Clinton victory will mean a dark period for those who support continued lax gun controls, or wish to turn back Roe v Wade, or seek new Federal “Religious Freedom” legislation in order to freely discriminate against the LGBT community. Vote against Hillary these Republicans think.

Clinton’s opponents also want to turn the Supreme Court back to conservative majority control. This would means more judicial support for campaign spending with dark money (Citizen United), greater religious freedom at someone else’s expense (Hobby Lobby), and much looser voting rights legislation (photo IDs). And don’t forget, Hillary will not be enacting any tax cuts. So from a GOP perspective, a Hillary victory is certainly something to worry about.

The problem at least some Republicans are having is that Donald Trump is their standard bearer. If Republicans want to achieve their social and economic goals, some how they have to accept Trump as the commander in chief and work to get him elected. Fortunately, at least some Republicans see a much greater risk in a President Trump.

There are strong bi-partisan arguments that the banking industry still can not be trusted (witness the recent Wells Fargo abuses), that corporate tax reform must be revenue neutral, and tax cuts for the wealthy do nothing for the overall economy. Simply eliminating Dodd-Frank, just cutting the corporate tax rate (and leaving corporate tax loop holes), and interpreting tax reform as cutting tax across the board, will open consumers to corporate greed.

And did I mention scrapping Obamacare, meddling with Medicare, and reducing Medicaid without sound alternatives will reinforce a two tier America.

The first question “thinking Republicans” should have if Clinton is elected, is how to avoid draconian legislation which will hamper Banks and Corporations from competing dynamically on the global stage. The second question is “how can we be sure what Donald Trump would do as President”?

The second question inevitably leads to what would a President Trump do, beyond these questions, on even more complex issues such as negotiating Trade Agreements, developing foreign policy, or handling domestic terrorist threats and acts?

It is no surprise to see single issue groups like the Chamber of Commerce, the NRA, and Pro-life organizations endorsing Donald Trump. These groups do not see much beyond their own proprietary interests.

Consider, in the current grid locked Congress, the chances of Democrats enacting any of their progressive ideas is pretty low (like zero). The chances, however, of a President Trump spontaneously acting in a manner which infringes individual freedoms, antagonizes foreign countries, and confuses financial markets seems distinctly more possible.

“Thinking Republicans” worry about these consequences.

The unanswered question may be “will too many Republicans suspend critical thinking and vote for Trump” or “will some Republicans recognize the danger and deny Trump their vote”?

Rome’s Queen Mary

September 13, 2016

Steady as she goes! Rome’s version of the Queen Mary is sailing by.

Vice President candidate Tim Kaine recently reiterated his support for gay issues including same sex marriage. Kaine said he remained strongly committed to his catholic faith. He reconciled his views and the Catholic Church’s because he believed the church would change its anti-gay marriage views some day. Hmmm.

Like the Queen Mary, its is tough to turn around.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported this week that a 14 year old was denied enrollment to a Camden (NJ) Catholic high school even though the student had been accepted and had paid the necessary deposit. The reason for denying entry was that the 14 year old applied for admission as a female and over the summer decided to begin the transition to a man. Camden Catholic said that “Mason” did not meet our “Catholic Identity” according to the news report. Hmmm.

Pictures of Madelyn now Mason reveal a clean cut, normal 14 year old. The school’s decision and the diocese’s quick statement of support show once again that the Catholic Church is stuck in a strangulating conservative grip, apparently feeling that if it denies the reality before its eyes, in time the world will suddenly conform to catholic dogma. Hmmm.

IMO, it works the other way.

Homosexuality has existed as long as recorded history. In a room of 20 people, the odds are that at least one is gay (either publicly or privately). The American public has changed it views of homosexuality markedly over the past 20 years as more and more successful people have outed themselves. Most of the secular public now seems to be saying, live and let live. In fact same sex marriage is the “law of the land”, not by legislative mandate but by the Supreme Court reading the publics minds.

The reasons someone is gay or lesbian is not clear, they just are (they didn’t learn it). More recently the public has begun to be exposed to transgender preferences. In these situations, a person identifies with the gender opposite to their birth gender. The more people who announce their changed gender preference, the more Americans perception of what is normal is being challenged.

But not the Catholic Church. They are blessed with greater knowledge, apparently.

With a clergy that some estimate to contain a third to one half homosexuals, the irony should not be lost. For adults, a transition to the opposite gender is usually accompanied with extensive counseling. For children/young adults, there is just as much or more need for compassion and support.

What a way for the Catholic Church to lead by example.

Why Are Republicans Called “Conservatives” And Not “Revisionists”?

July 13, 2016

Headlines in the Philadelphia Inquirer read “GOP moves closer to conservative core”. Hmmm. I wonder what that means and what it implies?

“Conservative” in normal use describes someone who does not venture quickly from the status quo. A “conservative” is someone who does not readily take big chances. Change comes in small, measured steps.

This Inquirer article, however, spoke of the GOP’s wish to reject change and move back to the past. Issues such as abortion, gays rights, gun rights, and immigration reforms were all written into the GOP Presidential platform in a manner which would return the US to life over 40 years ago.

Gone would be woman’s right to choose, open freedom to discriminate against someone based upon their sexual orientation, eliminate most controls on gun ownership and use, and adopt immigration (largely this is about Mexican immigrants) practices which do not reflect the humanity of 11 million undocumented workers.

To be sure, a “conservative” voice in helping reduce the number of abortions (unwanted pregnancies), ending all forms of discrimination, and productively dealing with guns in the wrong hands or use in the wrong manner are all worthwhile events if “conservatives” were to wish to be other than obstructionists.

With respect to discrimination against anyone over sexual orientation, there is little ground to negotiate. The country has moved beyond the closet and is not going back.

While there should not be rules that require any “conservative” to marry anyone of the same sex, there is no place for “conservatives” to block the free choice of anyone else, be it for religious or personal beliefs.

While it is true that large numbers of Americans are pro-life, do not view homosexual life as ok, seek unfettered access to guns, and would prefer all undocumented workers deported, a majority of Americans favor a more progressive stance on these issues.

I wonder why “conservatives” are not content to hold these beliefs and living their lives without ever seeking an abortion, being content to believe what they will about gays (after all there are no thought police), support responsible gun use, and seek a humanitarian solution to having over 11 million aliens living in our Country’s shadows.  Why do they want to force their views on others?

The current crowd writing the GOP Presidential platform are once again giving “conservatism” a bad name.

Astonishing But Who Cares?

July 6, 2016

Archbishop Charles Chaput has issued a clarification (for the Philadelphia Diocese) intended to make clear what Pope Francis’ “Amoris Laetitia” actual means. The publication issued in April 2016 was intended to deal with how the church deals with divorced couples, GLBTs, and unwed cohabitants. “Amoris Laetitia” which means the Joys of Love in Latin was billed at the time as the Pope’s attempt to urge Church officials to find room to welcome those living in “non-traditional” relationships. Hmmm.

Chaput said, as if still thinking he can get the red hat with tough conservative language (which would have work well with Pope Francis’ two predecessors), in effect, “no way, no how”.

First, Chaput made clear that divorced couples, unmarried couples, and same sex couples are living in unnatural relationships. A nice way to welcome some who might otherwise believe. Second, Chaput said that these groups could only receive church blessings if they were now abstaining from sexual relations. Hmmm.

So, Chaput has said, these groups are somehow lesser persons but if they persist in wanting to practice Catholicism, there must be no sex. I wonder what part of sex the Archbishop doesn’t understand?

 

Disclaimer. The Catholic Church is a private institution and as such can have whatever discriminatory rules that it wishes, just like the Elks Club, private Golf Clubs or Professional Organizations. The only god in these matters is the “marketing god” which in time will measure whether parishioners still put enough money in the Church’s baskets. If they do, Chaput and people like him will keep their jobs if not thrive. If the money dries up, the Catholic Church will finally step back and look at what their “man-made laws” are really doing.

Feet talk on matters such as this. Shame on the Archbishop.

Ex Post Facto And Statutes Of Limitations

June 11, 2016

The Pennsylvania Legislature has taken up consideration of a change to its Statutes of Limitations laws as they relates to sexual abuse crimes. Under the proposed change, individuals could sue other individuals or organizations for alleged child sexual abuse crimes without limitations of time. Is this a wise change to the law?

The Catholic Church does not think it either wise or fair. According to news reports, Catholic Church representatives have been quietly lobbying legislators seeking to stop the law making process. I wonder whether that’s also “religious freedom”?

Sex abuse and in particular child sex abuse are abhorrent crimes. At one extreme sex abuse is about assault and at the other, sex abuse often involves the misuse of power or societal position where someone imposes their will on another. Either physically assaulting or inducing someone to do something against their will are despicable crimes. So shouldn’t the adoption of no statutes of limitations for these crimes be a “no brainer”?

Maybe, but I think one must consider the concept of “Ex Post Facto” before deciding.

Under this long tradition of US law, acts committed when no law prohibits them, cannot later be charged should a new law be enacted. This is an important protection of civil liberty and should not lightly be discarded.

The Catholic Church has been shown to have “institutionally” protected priest child molesters. There has not been any evidence that church authorities ever encouraged child abuse but when it occurred church officials did try to cover it up. Shame, shame, shame on the Catholic Church.

Removing the statutes of limitations was proposed as a remedy for this past individual and organization behavior.  On top of shame would be most likely costly trials and settlements.

As seemingly “the right thing to do” as allowing priests and the Catholic Church to be sued for any past child abuse incidents may be, this change runs right into the principle of ex post facto. IMO, legislators should confine their new laws to those which spell out requirements  church officials must follow when new allegation of sex abuse arise that involve church employees.

Allowing government enact laws and then go back in time to charge individuals is a bag of worms that won’t be pretty.

Bathrooms Please !

May 22, 2016

The recent North Carolina controversy about who can use which gender designated bathroom reminds me of children’s arguments about which toy they can play with next. It totally baffles me why a modern State like North Carolina would rush HB-2 through and even more baffling why a former mayor of the vibrant commercial city of Charlotte would sign the bill into law.

Politics, in the sense of there is no place too low to go if one wants to win, is the most likely explanation. But why show everyone how pedestrian State politicians might be?

The advocacy groups who support transgender people being able to use which ever bathroom the individual feels most comfortable with has been somewhat as inane as the politicians supporting HB 2. Imagine (this may be an extreme) someone with facial hair (mustache, beard) who truly feels they are on the journey to identifying as a woman walking into a ladies room. Most anyone would react with surprise followed by some degree of uneasiness.

HB-2 also gratuitously opens the door for discrimination against gays by negating any local ordinances which specifically include sexual orientation as a basis for discrimination.

So, why was this necessary?

HB-2 was code named the “bathroom” law. Supporters cited the risk of allowing trans persons from using a bathroom of their choice that sexual predators would use this as cover and also enter women’s bathrooms and molest young children. Hmmm.

First, there is nothing in the law that prevents this from happening and most tellingly, there is no epidemic of predators invading women’s bathrooms now.

Through the fog of nonsense, however, HB-2 answers the concerns and hurt feelings of religious groups who still claim the Bible tells them being gay (and OMG, same sex marriage) is flat out wrong. Politicians who generally wear religion on their sleeve more vividly than in their heart have seen HB-2 as a sure fire vote getter.

The bill doesn’t outrightly call out gays, lesbians, and bi-sexuals for new “anti” measures. HB-2 is much more sophisticated. Since current North Carolina State law provides no specific protections around sexual orientation, HB-2 cleverly says no North Carolina city could enacts its own sexual discrimination laws.

Transgenders are the least understood LGBT group but the idea that a male born, female oriented person could use a lady’s bathroom just could not be imagined by many North Carolinians.

Not so long ago, when the gays rights movement was springing to life, a majority of Americans considered being gay a learned or nurtured condition.  “Love thy neighbor as thy self” didn’t cut it among many religious groups nationally. Being gay was an undesirable condition.

But then something began to happen across American. Americans began to get to know someone who was gay and the condition became real. Suddenly, being gay was viewed as a result of nature, or in other words, being gay was a form of being normal.

While there are still religious groups which denounce homosexuality, most now make fools of themselves by claiming they respect a homosexual as a person but not the life style practices of homosexuals. Hmmm. Never the less,today, more than 50% of Americans support gay rights including same sex marriage.

North Carolina is not going to get this genie back in the bottle. Supreme Court rulings clearly prohibit sexual orientation as a valid basis for discrimination and have also approved same sex marriage as a right of gay couples. So there.

But what about these sexual predators?

Most people do not carry around their birth certificate so it is unreasonable to expect anyone to be able to prove what their sex at birth might have been. Male to female trans persons (assuming no beards) will use a stall in a lady’s room and no one will be the wiser anyways. Female to male trans would be expected to also select a stall when using a men’s room. So where will the provocation be?

Several times in my life time I have been in a restroom and someone from the opposite sex has come in. Usually it is with a young boy who doesn’t know (or want) to enter the room by himself. Other times it is a personal emergency such as a super long line to get in a lady’s room or some mechanical problem making the room unavailable. When nature calls, laws do not mean much.

The LGBT community is arguing HB-2 is about denying respect for transgender people. Maybe, but HB-2 more clearly reflects ignorance and foolishness on the part of State law makers. Transgender use of public bathrooms will in 99.9% of the cases not be recognized by anyone else (person with beard using a lady’s room excepted).

So why is this big deal?

The Republican Titanic?

April 29, 2016

In the wake of the Acela Primaries, news reports are coalescing around the inevitability of Donald Trump’s nomination. This outcome has been reinforced by the apparent rejection of Ted Cruz’ VP selection of Carli Fiorina, and the seemingly unexplainable coalition with John Kasich. With Trump’s opponents self destructing in real time, who is there to oppose Trump?

Politicians are many things but normally brave, predictable, and principled are heard less and less these days. Republican leaders are in a tough spot. They do not like Trump (and predict bad things in the general election with the Donald at the top of the ticket) but Kasich has not caught American’s interest and Cruz is held in lower esteem than even Trump. So, GOP big whigs don’t want to get caught without a chair when the music finally does stop. QED, hold our noses and get behind Trump.

There are certainly elements of the GOP leadership, including big money, who hold hope that Trump can be defeated in a contested convention. It simply unclear who the GOP could put forward to unite the Party and have a chance to do better in November.

A thoughtful Republican must conclude, one would think, that the Grand Old Party is about to disintegrate. This is probably an exaggeration. But disintegration into two or three large pieces is not only possible but long over due.

The Freedom Coalition (Cruz and Tea Partiers) present an evangelical/fundamentalist, no compromise approach to social values and an austere fiscal policy. Since the rise of the Tea Party, this group has been trying to hijack the Republican Party by claiming to be more Republican than any other Republicans. The views they hold and policies they endorse are backward looking and are not where US demographics are heading. The GOP would be wise to let them go.

Donald Trump followers are people who feel let down by Democrats and assign their economic worries to the “handouts” Democrats call entitlements. This group is largely uninterested in social issues and believes in “live and let live”. For this group the future is all about sensible policy which puts the American dream back in play. The GOP would be wise to build upon this base.

Third largest segment might be the old fashion “establishment” characterized by Jeb Bush, Haley Barbour, and the Koch Brothers. This group knows best what is in Americans best interest. They also know what’s best for themselves and see any path forward as featuring a tax cut for the wealthy (no matter how a tax cut is packaged). Benign neglect and civility are the hallmarks of this segment.

How might this all play out?

If the world was perfect, the GOP would realize two things. (1) The Cruz followers have no place to go. Their world view is held by an ever decreasing number of people and their no compromise stand will prevent others from joining. (2) The GOP needs to take a drubbing again in the general election in order for it get real on its core beliefs and policies. (For example, person center healthcare (Paul Ryan’s proposal) in place of Obamacare is the same as “the best healthcare money can buy” and that will not fly.)

In this perfect world, the GOP would return bravely to the center (slightly right of center is ok). Repairing and improving the infrastructure which is necessary for jobs and commerce doesn’t know what a Democrat or Republican is. Income inequality is real but the idea that cutting taxes on the wealthy is somehow going to bring about high paying jobs is a cruel pipe dream. And, saber rattling (how the US is going to get tough with other countries) has no place in the real world of globalization, the US is either militarily strong or it isn’t, and oh by the way, that country the US just shook its saber at is a key trading partner).

If the GOP doesn’t think the middle is for them, then the GOP may need to receive a thrashing more than once.

America needs the GOP to regain its senses. There are important issues facing the country which needs a more diverse set of eyes and minds thinking about them. The budget is unbalanced and without more tax revenues, the only path to a balanced budget is by decreasing government spending… which moves quickly to reductions in entitlements as well as defense spending. Cutting entitlements and not defense spending at a time of income inequality is a prescription for social unrest.

There is a chance that the GOP can escape the Titanic’s fate but only if they move away from the destructive policies of the Freedom Coalition/Cruz faction. If the GOP doesn’t move, the majority of current GOP members will.