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Category: Liberties

On Martin Luther King Day: what is your dream?

Everyone is familiar with Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. Whether you love him or you hate him or you’re indifferent to his existence on this earth, you’re still aware of the speech.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-up2xyRvN2U&hl=en_US&fs=1&]
If you’re sitting in front of your computers at home, at work or anywhere in between, I would like to ask you a question — what is your dream? Do you dream of being able to send your kids college? Do you dream that simple dream of being able to pay off your bills and have some money left over at the end of the month? Do you dream of being able to go to your doctor without having to worry about how much the prescriptions, the diagnostic tests and other procedures may cost? Do you dream of getting paid a living wage? What is your dream?

When I look at the life of Martin Luther King, I look at someone who was focused on justice and equal opportunity for all. Every now and then I think we get lost, as progressives and lose our focus. Every time we open our mouths, conservative will stand up and say, “I object.” So, sometimes, we get caught up in the back and forth with conservatives. Sometimes, we forget that our goal is to accomplish something. Our goal is to stand up for justice and equal opportunity. Our goal is not to combat every single, silly utterance of the Right. (See Pat Robertson, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh for starters)

To combat the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, we were told we had to bail out Wall Street. Others have said that we should let Wall Street flounder and bailed out MainStreet. Wall Street is now rolling in record profits because of our money. Main Street is hurting. Where’s the justice? Barney Frank, Chris Dodd and Congress need to enact legislation that is going to seriously help MainStreet. Main Street is the engine that will create jobs for the rest of us. The goal of this legislation should not be to hand out money to a couple of fat cats but instead to enact legislation that will help revitalize MainStreet. As MainStreet returns to its former glory, it will begin to hire.

I’m not sure where the idea of Green Jobs came from. I’m not sure why it has been pushed to the back burner or even taken off the stove of ideas. It is time for Ross Feingold, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to figure out a way to enact a series of bills which are targeted to help our environment and create millions of new jobs. We need to be able build large wind farms. We need to figure out how to build a smarter electrical grid that will easily transfer the power created by these wind farms in the Midwest to our large urban centers which need the energy. We need to give small, medium and large companies opportunities that these contracts. This legislation should include language that prevents jobs are being shipped overseas. Everything should be made here in America. This will give everybody an equal opportunity in an industry that should be around for a good while. (BTW, why hasn’t we poured money into Telsa cars? An electric car that really works and is ready to drive today? I’m just asking?) Why is this so hard?

There are hundreds if not thousands of infrastructure projects that are sitting idle across the country today. Congress, along with local and state governments (that’s right, everybody needs to work together) needs to get these projects kick started with the stimulus money that has not been spent as of yet. Almost all of our schools need to be redesigned, rebuilt, repaired and updated. Money needs to be poured into education. For the most part, we are teaching students approximately the way we taught students 100 years ago. Isn’t there a better method? What is the role of computers in the classroom? Can’t learning be fun and interactive? Where are all of the new ideas for teachers and teaching? This is where justice starts. This is where opportunity starts.
When I close my eyes, I dream of a country where my grandson and your grandchild can go to a public or private school anywhere in the country and still get a solid education. I dream of a country where we are not all slaves to big corporations. I dream of a country where we all have equal access to affordable, efficient and cost-effective healthcare. Finally, I dream of a country that has figured out that we have great because of our compassion and love for humanity and not because of our military might. These are my dreams as a progressive. What are yours?

What is happening in Philly

As long as I can remember, Philadelphia has always been known as a tough town. The slogan — City of Brotherly Love — was just that, a slogan. If you’re a football fan, you may be old enough to remember when the Philadelphia fans pelted Santa with snowballs. The Cowboys, Redskins, and Giants can attest that the Philadelphia fans show you very little love. Heck, Sarah Palin, at her most popular, got booed at a Philadelphia Flyers game.

My mother was the first to tell me about this strange story. There was this inner-city day camp that made some sort of financial arrangement with a swim club. Once the children showed up there were racial slurs, according to some reports. The children were basically kicked out of the pool and asked not to return.

Maybe this is just some big misunderstanding. On the other hand, maybe not. I spent a good deal of time over the last week or so discussing affirmative action with some good friends who are physicians. Many of my feelings fell on deaf ears. Some of the physicians argued that America has become an equal society and that affirmative action is no longer needed. This swimming pool incident seems to beg the question — how many more areas are there like this in Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, in the United States?

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
A state agency is investigating a Huntingdon Valley swim club for possible racial discrimination after the club revoked a contract to let children from a Northeast Philadelphia day camp swim at its pool.
Officials and anti-discrimination groups expressed concern over the allegedly race-motivated decision, while protesters assembled outside the Valley Club’s locked gates twice yesterday.
Among them were Silvia Carvalho, 32, of Northeast Philadelphia, and her daughter, Araceli Bagwell, 9, who had been among the city campers swimming at Valley Club.
“This is pathetic,” Carvalho said. “The next day, she was telling me she was a minority. I don’t want her looking at herself that way. We are not going to allow someone to humiliate us like this.” (more… )

Obama angers many with choice of Warren

As everyone knows by now, Barack Obama has chosen the hugely successful but quite controversial Reverend Rick Warren to perform the opening invocation at his inauguration. The gay and lesbian community has been outraged over this choice. It has been noted that on his website he has stated that unrepentant homosexuals will not be accepted as members of his Saddleback Church. These harsh statements have disappeared from his website, but does this mean that the Reverend Warren has changed his mind about homosexuality? I doubt it.

This has become a very big deal in the Progressive community. The dustup over Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich really did not affect the Progressive community. Republicans were up in arms, but Progressives really did not believe that Barack Obama or anyone within his inner circle would be involved in selling Obama’s Senate seat. On the other hand, true Progressives believe in equality. We believe in equality amongst the races and in equality concerning sexual orientation. Barack Obama and Joe Biden have clearly stated that they also support gay rights but do not support gay marriage. (I’m not sure that I have yet resolved this conflict in logic but many “progressive” politicians have these illogical thoughts. “I support gay rights, but I can’t support gay marriage.” It doesn’t make a bit of sense to me, but then again, I’m not a politician.)

Here’s the problem. The gay and lesbian community embraced Bill Clinton and his presidency. In 1996, the Republican Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act. Republicans were hoping to trap Democrats and a weakened President Clinton into arguing against this bill, but Democrats supported this bill overwhelmingly and President Clinton signed it into law. The gay and lesbian community thought that they were thrown under the bus, and they were. So now, 12 years later, the gay and lesbian community thought they had an ally in Barack Obama. (see Rachel Maddow’s video clip. She is really pissed at Obama for choosing Rick Warren.)

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Personally, I believe Barack Obama was caught between a rock and a hard place. Because of his choice in Jeremiah Wright, I think Obama and his team must have thought that choosing a well-known black minister would have brought Obama’s old Reverend again to the forefront. Choosing an unknown minister would have caused everyone to scratch their heads and ask why Obama couldn’t get someone with “star power.” I think that Barack Obama sought, therefore, the least offensive popular (white) minister. (I understand that “least offensive” is subjective and really depends upon who is being affected by it.) I’m not saying that this was the best choice or even someone I’d have considered. I’m just saying that I think I understand the reasoning behind it.
I also believe that Barack Obama continues to support legitimately the cause of equality for the gay and lesbian communities. I think that he supports 95% of the gay and lesbian agenda but that this is the way it’s going to go over the next four years. Not just for gays and lesbians, but for all Progressives. Obama is really going to try to walk the tightrope between progressive and conservative Americans. The black and Latino communities, as well as supporters of women’s rights, will get their (our) feelings hurt in the coming months and even years. In spite of some hurt feelings,though, I think Barack Obama will do more for our collective causes than any other president has over the past 30 years.

War on Christmas, Not so much

Santa Baby Jesus
Got an e-mail today from a friend who sent me what is an excerpt from something that Ben Stein said on the CBS morning commentary several years ago. This is not the first time I’ve been sent this diatribe and it won’t be the last. It talks about the “War on Christmas” and how he, as a Jew, does not mind Christmas trees and other accoutrements of Christmas.

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, be jeweled trees Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are: Christmas trees.
It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, ‘Merry Christmas’ to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a creche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.
I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Okay, here’s the problem, there is no “War on Christmas.” This problem, this confrontation is completely made up. You and I have been able to celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever holiday we want to celebrate, in what ever way we wanted to celebrate it, as long as it didn’t involve injuring another person or infringing on another person’s rights. I’ve been able to place a 10 foot tree or a 20 foot tree in my house and I’ve been able to place as many lights or few lights as I wanted to on it. I’ve been able to top the tree with a star or a cross or actually put nothing on top of the tree without a peep from a neighbor’s. Now, if I wanted to sacrifice my neighbor’s dog or his cat that would pose a problem.
This phony “War on Christmas” is sponsored by the same people who tried to convince us that we live in a “Christian nation“. If we investigate our early documents, we should be able to see some evidence of this “Christian nation.” If we look at the Declaration of Independence which was drafted in July of 1776 will find the following opening paragraph –

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

The very next paragraph begins with the phrase — we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights… well, there you have it. In the first two paragraphs has mentioned God twice in the Declaration of Independence. I agree. That is true that God is mentioned twice. I also agree that the Declaration of Independence is one of our founding documents but it is not the one that guides our system of government. Instead, this is a letter to the King of England.
As I go further with this discussion, I think it is important to point out that many of our founding fathers were very religious men. They were thoughtful and well educated men. So, I’m not saying that the men that wrote these documents did not have their own religious beliefs because many of the men did.
The first document that was drafted to organize the behavior of the United States of America was called the Articles of Confederation. The articles of Confederation was also drafted in 1776. It should be noted that this was drafted after the Declaration of Independence. The articles of Confederation is the fore father of our Constitution. In the 13th article, you can find the line – And Whereas it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union. This is also clearly a reference to God.
The articles of Confederation had several problems and several flaws. The relationships between the states were not wellSanta motorcycle defined. The Articles went out of their way to weaken the central government. This was a reaction to the tyranny of King George. In 1787, our founders were older and wiser. They had the experience of trying to fight and fund a war with England. Because of this and other factors, the Articles of Confederation were scrapped and a new document was drawn up. The U.S. Constitution. When one reads the United States Constitution, one should note that it is a beautifully elegant document. The framers thought of a lot of the problems that we’ve seen over the last 220 years. They developed a system of checks and balances. Remarkably, the phrase “the great Governor,” “God,” or “Supreme Being,” cannot be found anywhere in the document. In article 6, we find the religious clause and it states, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
At the time that the US Constitution was drafted 11 of the 13 original states had religious tests to hold office. These religious tests were written into the state constitutions. When one examines all of these different religious tests it becomes clear why the Constitution was written the way it was. Rhode Island, a very liberal state and religiously open, required that you could only be a Protestant in order to hold office. In Pennsylvania, not only did you need to be a Protestant but you also had to believe in the “divine inspiration of the old and new Testaments.” Just think about how many good Americans would be excluded from office today with these religious tests.
As every high school student knows, the Federalist papers were written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay in order to explain and convince the New York delegation to ratify the Constitution. James Madison argues in Federalist paper #10 that religious decrees cannot lead men to “cooperate for their common good.” Instead, he explains it causes men to hate each other and disposes them “to vex and oppress each other.” As we look around the world today, outside of the Vatican, look at the religious states. Are these places of free thought where men and women are able to converse, learn and grow? Think of Saudi Arabia or the Sudan when you think of a “religious state.” Today, according to the Associated Press, “A British teacher has been arrested in Sudan for allegedly insulting Islam by naming a teddy bear Mohammed, taken as a reference to Islam’s prophet and founder.” Based on religious teachings a court in Saudi Arabia increase a sentence of a 19-year-old rape victim because she “attempt(ed) to aggravate an influence the judiciary through the media.”
All of this discussion brings me back to the “War on Christmas.” This idea was thought up in right wing think tank like the Cato Institute or American Enterprise Institute. This war on Christmas was injected into our culture to distract people away from the real issues. I can track this war on Christmas back to 2004. What was going on in 2004 that these right wing think tanks wouldn’t want us to focus on? Iraq. The disaster that is Iraq. Our soldiers dying in Iraq. Wages that are stagnant. No job growth. Ongoing environmental disaster. The lack of education in our schools. Afghanistan is being held together with glue and chewing gum. North Korea and Iran increasing their nuclear capabilities under the Bush administration. Jobs going overseas in the name of more profits. Did I mention Iraq?
Our government can not support one religion over another. This means state or local government also. If a store wants to display whatever, they can. Most stores are realizing that some Americans can be offended by religious displays. It is that store’s decision to remove or alter the display if they want. Our tax dollars can not promote one religion or religious display over another. Period. Most American’s understand that their relationship with God doesn’t depend on what a store displays. It depends on how well you adhere to the word of your God.
My religious book, the Bible, tells me to love God above all else and to love my neighbor. It warns against idol worship. So, I’m trying to love my neighbor (Democrat or Republican or Independent, quiet or loud, intelligent or challenged, truthful or those that believe in truthiness.) All of them.
Happy Holidays and have a very Merry Christmas (I’m not a state or city, although I’m getting fatter and may need my own zip code soon.)

All of a sudden, I’m not a proud New Yorker

New York’s Court of Appeals has ruled that the state Constitution doesn’t give same sex couples the right to marry.
The ruling reads:
We hold that the New York Constitution does not compel recognition of marriages between members of the same sex. Whether such marriages should be recognized is a question to be addressed by the Legislature.
The ruling cited two grounds on which they based their opinion:
First, the court said, marriage could be preserved as an “inducement” to heterosexual couples to remain in stable, long-term, and child-bearing relationships. Second, lawmakers could rationally conclude that “it is better, other things being equal, for children to grow up with both a mother and the father.”
Well, I’ll make sure that all the single moms out there know that. The court rejected the idea that those who don’t support same sex marriage are simply homophobic: “Plaintiffs have not persuaded us that this long-accepted restriction is a wholly irrational one, based solely on ignorance and prejudice against homosexuals.” Yeah, ok.
PageOneQ reports that the Empire State Pride Agenda is planning rallies today to protest the decision.