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Monday, June 4, 2018

Some thought on Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

I just finished reading the decisions in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.  Obviously, I was disappointed by the decision and by the fact that both Justices Kagan and Breyer signed onto the decision (although Kagan did write a concurrence).  I was somewhat relieved that Justice Kennedy wrote it, if only because I knew that by having him write it, the damage to the queer community would be limited.  If the decision had been written by Justices Thomas, Gorusch, or Alito, the damage would have been much worse, as is evidenced by the concurrences of Justices Thomas and Gorusch.  Had Chief Justice Roberts written it, the decision would probably have been worse, but maybe not as bad as Thomas or Gorusch would have done.

Basically, Kennedy's decision was that the Civil Right Commission was mean to the Philips (the owners of Masterpiece Cakeshop) because they noted that if you own a business you must follow generally applicable non-discrimination laws regardless of your religious belief per Employment Division v. Smith (1990) and because they said that religion has been used to justify all sorts of evil acts (including slavery) and that this use of religion is despicable.  Both statements are undoubtedly and objectively true.  The last portion about that use of religion being "despicable" is most definitely value based, but hardly displays any sort of hostility towards religion.  The hostility (if there is any) is directed against the particular way religion has been used.  If you read the opinion, it really feels like Kennedy was looking for a reason to overturn the decision without allowing for unfettered discrimination, so he came up with an incredibly flimsy pretext.  He also argues that because no one on the commission objected to the statements and the Colorado Court of Appeals didn't do anything about them, it was obvious that there was impermissible religious viewpoint discrimination.  He also said that the fact that a man who wanted 3 cakes from 3 different bakeries, all with words written on them that was homophobic (as opposed to a generic wedding cake that the Philips were asked for) was not able to get them was somehow analogous to the situation at hand.  So, somehow getting cakes inscribed with discriminatory speech is equivalent to getting a generic wedding cake.  Sure.  That makes perfect sense.  (Please note that the sarcasm is like Niagara Falls at this point.)

What gets me here is that the initial decision, which both the Civil Rights Commission and the Court of Appeals upheld, was determined by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and no one has said that the ALJ screwed up in how they handled things.  There is nothing in the opinion that indicates that the ALJ had any sort of "impermissible religious discrimination", yet their decision was confirmed (not decided) by the Civil Rights Commission and the Court of Appeals. So even assuming that there was religious bias (which I do not by any means), the underlying decision was untainted by any such bias and thus (presumably) should have held up.  Unless, of course, the person reading it is looking for discriminiation, in which case they will find it no matter what.

Gorusch and Thomas both issued predictably regressive opinions that mirror the nonsense laid out by the homophobic groups sponsoring this lawsuit, so we'll just ignore them because they don't do legal analysis, rather they do political punditry.

Kagan wrote a concurrence, which Breyer joined, and agreed that there was bias against the Philips.  However, she made it clear that she did not agree that the other cakes (the 3 from the different bakeries) were similar to the case at hand, even if Kennedy thought that they were.

Ginsberg, who was joined by Sotomayor, looked at the case and said that the statements at hand did not rise to the level needed to reverse the case.  She argued that what Philips discriminated against the gay couple because they were gay whereas the other man was turned away from the three shops because what he wanted to be made would not be made by the shops no matter who was asking for them.  Thus, the couple was discriminated against illegally, but the man was not (Kagan wrote the same thing), which makes their cases very different and thus not usable for comparative purposes.  Ginsberg also argued that there were so many layers of people making the same decision that a couple of statements, even if they expressed bias (which, as I said, is debatable at best, a fiction at worst), should not have invalidated the entire decision.

So basically, the ruling was narrowly for Cakeshop on procedural grounds and the Court punted the decision on the merits down the road. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Post-Election Thoughts

I could have sworn I wrote about this already, but looking at my blog, I did not.  So, here are my post-election thoughts.

First off, to say that I was in shock on November 9th would be an understatement of biblical proportions.  While I may not have been one of the people this article is addressed to, I do feel the sense of disillusionment the article mentioned.  My disillusionment stems not from faith in the system (although I suspect that I had more faith in it than other people), but from a faith in a basic decency in most human beings.  I honestly thought that people would be disgusted enough by Trump's unflinching, brazen, and flagrant racism, sexism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and lack of anything resembling morality.  The fact that there were as many people who voted for him as did shook me to my core.  I know there are problems in the system and with people, but I thought that; while they accept hidden bigotry; people would reject the open bigotry that Trump showed during the campaign.

On November 9th, I would not be exaggerating to say that I was in mourning.  While I was upset that Hillary Clinton lost the election, I could have accepted her loss to almost any other Republican.  But the open embrace of Trump and his vitriolic nastiness and bigotry floored me.  I know that someone is going to say that they voted for Trump to oppose Hillary, but that is bullshit.  Voting for Trump means that you are agreeing with his platform (such as it was).  Every person who voted for Trump has exposed themselves as either racist, bigoted, Islamophobic, xenophobic misogynists or someone who is fine with those ideas.  Either way, they are hateful people and un-American.

Since the election, Trump has merely reinforced my disdain and disgust.  He has proposed people for every department who are unfit to run those departments, many of his appointments would probably try and dismantle the departments they were selected to run.  Trump and his lackeys have also shown a reckless disregard for anything resembling the truth.  Not to mention that his "victory" (in the Electoral College only, he was soundly whipped in the popular vote) has emboldened the racist fringe in the country.

Then there are the revelations about Russian manipulation of the election and the FBIs appalling breach of protocol by inserting itself into the election with the release of the letter regarding the emails that turned out to be nothing.  Taken together with everything else, it is not hard to see why people are doubtful about the legitimacy of the election.  Between foreign involvement in the campaign, the chief federal law enforcement agency inserting itself into the election, and Clinton winning the popular vote by almost 2.9 million votes, there is no way Trump can legitimately claim any sort of mandate.

Then you throw in the Republican trend towards trying to delegitimize the opposition.  Since the 1990s, the Republican party has become increasingly hardline and does everything it can to try and reshape reality to fit their twisted political ideology.  For example, the Republican party this year held up the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in defiance of longstanding practice.  They claimed that since there was an election in the fall, the next president should be allowed to select the Supreme Court justice, a claim which is breathtaking in the amount of bullshit it contains and in its audacity.  Then comes North Carolina, where the governor and legislature rushed through not one, but several bills over the course of the year.  First there was HB2 (discussed at length elsewhere) and then there were a series of bills meant to strip a lot of power away from the incoming Democratic governor before he even took office.  Basically, the legislature and ousted governor decided to try and undo the election as much as possible and maintain the Republican's grip on power in the state.

These things, taken together with the way the Republican party has kowtowed to Trump and the unprecedented obstruction taken during President Obama's terms, show that the Republican party has completely abandoned any semblance of political norms that have allowed government to function.  The Republican party and Trump must be opposed and resisted at every level and every step along the way.

We cannot allow Trump and his hatred or the Republicans unmitigated gall to become normalized.  We cannot allow the hate that has been fostered to scare us into submission.  I am frightened for myself and every other minority because of what a Trump presidency and Republican rule over government will probably mean.  Rights curtailed, disastrous conservative ideas enacted, the social safety net dismantled, and attacks on minorities are probably going to become more commonplace.  Reckless disregard for science and proven facts will become rampant as conservatives try and force their ideology onto government agencies and deny scientific facts like climate change.  In short, the next four years will probably be a disaster.  I am hopeful that people will vote in Democratic majorities to the House and/or Senate so that there can be some type of roadblock to Trumps and the Republicans' disastrous agenda.

I want to state one thing with unwavering clarity:  Trump is #NotMyPresident.  There is such a cloud hanging over this election that I cannot accept it's legitimacy without a major independent investigation confirming it.  I reject his hatred, his bigotry, his Islamophobia, his sexism, his xenophobia, his misogyny, his homophobia, and his transphobia.

And to those who would tell me to "Just get over it!" or "Just accept it!", fuck off.  I will never accept this nor will I get over it.  This election has exposed the Republican party and the conservative movement to be nothing more than a dressed up version of the old-fashioned bigots.  I reject them and I reject what they stand for.

I know what I stand for: inclusion, equal rights, equality of opportunity (which we don't have right now), help for the historically disenfranchised or oppressed, environmental protection, solid and sound science, and a progressive agenda to help make this country great after the disaster that is about to be inflicted upon it.

I am a part of the resistance to Trump and the GOP.  I will not back down, I will not yield, and I will not compromise since compromise is impossible with the current Republican party.  We must prevail or else I fear the consequences.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Some Thoughts About Moving Past the 2016 Election

As we look beyond the election, I see people talking about how we are all Americans and that we need to come together regardless of who wins. The funny thing is, most of the people I see saying it are on the right side of the political spectrum. While I want to, with all my heart, say that we can do that, I am not at all sure I, for one, will be able to.
This election has exposed many of the so-called family values conservatives to be nothing more than hypocritical political opportunists who don't really care about family values as much as they do about getting their political platform enacted. Otherwise, why would they be supporting a sexist, racist, bigoted, misogynistic man for the presidency? And don't give me any crap about them doing it to oppose Hillary Clinton. If that is all they wanted, they could have supported another candidate. To support Donald J. Trump is to support what he stands for and what he stands for is the worst in humanity.
How am I, as a gay, genderqueer (therefore trans*) person, supposed to even pretend that I can want to work with a party that denies my rights, denies my identity, makes laws targeted at the LGBTQIA community, and pretend that everything is "all right"? How can anyone work with a party that has shown itself to run towards the epic vileness that is the alt-right, a party that denies the reality of climate change, a party that made it possible for a person like Donald Trump to come as close to the presidency as he has?
Are we supposed to simply ignore the fact that the Republican party has done everything in its power to delegitimize the first black president in American history? That the Republican party has endlessly investigated the other party and rarely (if ever) found actual crimes? That the Republicans in the Senate has failed in their duty to consider the nomination of a well-respected, moderate judge for the Supreme Court for nakedly political reasons wrapped up is bullshit and is now threatening to stop a potential President Clinton from getting her choices on the Supreme Court because they disagree with her political philosophy? While Trump may have shattered the political norms that a functioning democracy needs, the GOP started on the path long before he was running and showed him the way.
For these reasons, I cannot respect or be friends with anyone who votes for Donald Trump. It has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with basic human decency. To vote for Trump is to say that you agree with his bigoted attacks on all sorts of minorities. To vote for Trump is to try and normalize him. And that, I cannot and will not put up with. Vote for someone other than Hillary Clinton if you must, but don't vote for Donald Trump.
I'm sure someone is going to say that if I support Hillary Clinton, then I support everything she stands for,  I know this and acknowledge it.  I find myself agreeing with most of her political positions and the ones I disagree with, I can live with the differences.  As far as her so-called "scandals", Hillary Rodham Clinton is one of the most investigated politicians ever, and it's not because she is an awful person.  Repeatedly, investigations from *Republican* investigations have shown that she has not done anything wrong.  Hillary Clinton has put up with more bullshit and vitriol than other candidates, not because she is a bad person, but because she is a Clinton and a woman.  She is facing double standards and obstacles that men simply don't have to deal with, and she does it with grace and poise.

I hope that you vote for hope and for the future.  Reject the hatred, bigotry, fear, and anger that forms the modern Republican party.  Is Hillary Clinton perfect?  No, she is not.  But she is eminently qualified and well deserving of the title Madam President.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why You Cannot Be a Decent or Moral Person and Vote For Donald Trump

I know this may be a somewhat provocative title, but it is also very true.  I want to look at the reasons why I say this and maybe change some minds.

First off, I want to clarify that I am not saying that the people who vote for Trump are less than human.  All I am saying is that Trump is such a horrible person and candidate that there is no moral reason to vote for him.  I can get that people don't want to vote for Hillary because she supports abortion rights, marriage equality, etc. and that is not something that they can support.  I can even applaud such sentiments.  In a normal election, I would urge them to vote for the Republican candidate since no third party stands a chance in our current election structure.  This election, however, is anything but normal.

What we have is a sexist, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist bigot who encourages violence and wants to jail his political opponents running for the presidency.  In the past week alone, we have heard him say (in old tapes) that he would "grab [women] by the pussy" and we have had multiple women come forward and accuse him of sexual assault.  And these are not the first such charges leveled against him.  There have been women who have accused him of sexual assault since the early 90s.  We have the same candidate lie repeatedly and then deny lying even when presented with clear evidence of his lies (e.g. the Iraq War).  He has also said that a federal judge shouldn't judge him solely because he is Latino (Mexican, I believe), he has made all sorts of sexist comments, and so much more.  The level of his unfitness for the presidency is almost incalculable.

On the other hand, we have a female candidate who is the definition of a Washington insider and politician.  She does not have a perfect record and has changed her mind on topics as she has gotten more information.  She has made mistakes and has owned up to most of them.  She has been a Senator and Secretary of State and has seen the presidency up close because she got to see her husband as president as well as the president she served as SecState.  She is easily one of the most qualified people to ever run for the office, but she has also been so vilified by her political opponents for the past 2 decades that she is also one of the most disliked candidates ever.

So we have a race between an eminently qualified woman and a most definitely unqualified man.  What I find truly astonishing is the way that so-called "family values" Christians are lining up to vote for Trump solely because he has made the promise to appoint the right type of judges or because they want to vote against Clinton.  If your real reason is that you oppose Clinton, then you can write in a candidate or you can vote for one of the third party candidates.  To vote for Trump is to reveal yourself as one of two things:

[1] A sexist, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist bigot who encourages violence and wants to jail his political opponents


[2] Someone who is fine with a sexist, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist bigot who encourages violence and wants to jail his political opponents

In either case, you cannot call yourself a decent or moral person.  To affirmatively vote for someone who is one of the worst people ever to run for president is to say that this is the type of person you support.  I know people are probably going to argue that Clinton will be worse because she'll chip away at "religious liberty"; or rather the twisted understanding of the word given in the last few years; or because she supports the right to abortion.  And yes, as I said above, I can see these as valid reasons to vote against her.  However, they are not valid reasons to vote for someone as morally bankrupt and depraved as Trump.  To vote for Trump is to place oneself in league with the KKK and their ilk.  If you are good with that, then you cannot call yourself a decent or moral person.

I know I have probably pissed a lot of people off, but I am not going to apologize because this sort of thing has to be spoken out against.  Trump is so awful and such a bad person that he must be opposed by anyone who thinks of themselves as a decent or moral person.  Vote for McMullin, Johnson, Stein, Clinton, or one of the other third party candidates, just don't vote for Trump.  Don't vote to normalize the depraved behavior that Trump has had on display for years.

I know that someone is going to bring up Bill Clinton.  Don't.  Bill Clinton is not running for president and his misdeeds do not actually reflect on Hillary Clinton unless you are predisposed to dislike her in the first place.  And there is also the various "scandals" surrounding Hillary Clinton.  In every single one of them, she has been found to be not guilty of any crime or serious charge by the FBI or Republicans.  All she has been found guilty of is bad judgment in the case of her email server, and that wasn't enough to be a crime or to compromise national security, so that is not disqualifying.

And if anyone doubts the effects that Trump has had, just look at the uptick in anti-Muslim violence that has accompanied his presidential run.  Look at the violence that he has encouraged with his rhetoric.  Look at the women he has assaulted or the way that this type of assault has been normalized as "locker-room talk" or just something guys do.

Just don't vote for Trump and then say that you are a decent and moral person, because you aren't.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

On why the middle ground is disappearing

A few days ago, I ran across an article entitled "On LGBT equality, middle ground is disappearing".  The title is pretty self-explanatory.  The author examines the idea of LGBT equality and how it has become very polarized.  I know, from my perspective, the answer is pretty simple: the reactionary, homophobic right-wing conservatives eradicated any chance of a middle ground when they made the whole thing about religion and their faux "religious liberty".

For a long time, a lot people were willing to accept small, incremental steps towards equality, reasoning that it was better to work slowly and ensure gains.  Then came the Tea Party and the sudden rightward lurch of the Republican Party which was accompanied by ideological purity tests that ran moderate Republicans out of the party and ensured that no Republican would support anything outside of the narrow range of issues espoused by the adherents to the Tea Party.  I know this is the case because I was one of the people driven out at this time,  See my posts "On Leaving the Republican Party", "What is a RINO and how do we recognize one", or "My 2012 Election Post" (among others) for some more about that.

Then came the complete and utter nonsensical decision that is Hobby Lobby where the Supreme Court upended the well understood meaning of rights and religious liberty to assert that a certain type of company had the right to religious freedom which means that the company can encroach on the rights of its employees.  Historically, it has been recognized that one person's rights cannot be used to limit another person's rights as demonstrated by the phrase "Your rights end where my nose begins."  In other words, the Supreme Court said that a closely held company had to follow the religious beliefs of its owners and that people could have their rights (in this case access to contraception) limited.  This idea astounded and flummoxed constitutional scholars because, like Heller, the case turned ultra-conservative ideology into constitutional law.  In both cases, the so-called "originalist" justices who claimed that they would abide by the law and not their personal beliefs (in fact they argued that personal beliefs had no place in a Supreme Court decision!) used their personal political preferences to make new law.  This decision alerted people that the court could very well be activist in an alarming way, rolling back 50+ years of progress toward equality.

Then came Ogerbefell, which made same-sex marriage legal throughout the US.  This really set the reactionary right into a tailspin and set off what I see as the ultimate polarization.  The right immediately did everything they could do in order to stop gays and lesbians from getting married.  The denunciations they thundered out would have made you think that the world was coming to an end.  People like Kim Davis and Roy Moore (and oh, so many more) came crawling out of the woodwork to do what they could to hinder same-sex marriage in much the same way Governor Orval Faubus tried to hinder the integration of Little Rock High.  Kim Davis claimed that her "religious liberty" took precedence over the right to get married.  While the law has recognized for some time that there are times when government employees must set aside their personal religious ideals in order to do their jobs.  Kim Davis tried to assert the claim that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples somehow infringed on her religious beliefs (an utterly ridiculous and groundless claim) because the act of signing the certificate somehow indicated that she supported the marriage.  The problem is that no signature on an official form means that.  All the signature on the license means is that they person (or persons) involved have fulfilled all of the requirements to get that license.  Fortunately, court after court recognized her claims as groundless and dismissed them.

Then there is Roy Moore in Alabama who told the judges in the state that the Supreme Court decision in Ogerbefell didn't actually overturn all of the state laws, which is completely ridiculous.  Moore is famous for putting up the 10 Commandments and then refusing to remove them, so he was removed from the bench.  Both Moore and Davis were represented by the hate group, Liberty Counsel.  The group has dedicated itself (without much success) to ensuring that people would retain the right to discriminate against LGBTQIA+ people.  Because the reactionary right has consistently tried to frame this as a religious issue where there can be no compromise, people who might have supported a compromise (myself included) have been driven away from that position.  After all, why should we continue to try and find a compromise when every one that is proposed ends up being refused?

Want more?  Look at all of the so-called "Religious Freedom Restoration Acts" that have been promoted in states across the US and HB2; a blatantly discriminatory anti-trans piece of legislation; in North Carolina.  Or look at how people have tried to make it seem like everyone who is trans is somehow a predator and that giving trans women access to the correct bathroom will somehow lead to more sexual assaults.  Or look at the promotion of the hate-mongers Paul McHugh or Ryan Anderson (among others).  Every step of the way, the homophobic, reactionary right has cast this debate in apocalyptic terms that shows that (in their mind) it is impossible to compromise.  This attitude has driven a lot of people who wanted to find a middle ground away from them.

Want to know why the middle ground is disappearing?  Just look at the reactionary right for the reason.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

On Why I Will Be Voting For Hillary Clinton for President of the United States

Last night, I was driving home from work and listening to the Democratic National Convention on C-SPAN radio.  On my way home, I stopped at a local CVS to pick up a prescription when history was made.  For the first time in United States history, a woman was nominated as the presidential candidate by one of our major political parties.  That woman: Hillary Clinton.  And I couldn't be prouder to be a supporter of her campaign and I will definitely be voting for her in the fall.

If you've paid attention to my blog over the past couple of election cycles, you've witnessed my agony as I tried to decide on a presidential candidate to vote for.  In 2008, I came within a hair of voting for then-Senator Barack Obama, but ultimately went with Senator John McCain.  In 2010, I watched in horror as the Republican party was slowly being taken over by the Tea Party, a group of ideological purists whose fanaticism caused them to keep moving to the right and to denounce their initial heroes as villains and sell-outs.  In 2012, I ultimately decided to vote for neither major presidential candidate, although I had the hardest time making that particular decision.  In 2014, my swing from Republican to independent to Democrat was completed with the realization that the GOP had completely gone off the rails.

Then the 2016 election cycle started and the far-right xenophobia, sexism, and hatefulness found its personification in Donald Trump, a fascistic, narcissistic, thin skinned bully who takes pleasure in mocking other people and catering to the worst impulses in his moon-eyed followers.  He is a man who recycles and retweets false information from racists and bigots, a man who refuses to condemn white supremacists who endorse him, and a man who is temperamentally unfit to be president of the United States.  For over a year, I and other people were writing and talking about how dangerous he is, while most people just though of him as a sideshow.  Then, he won the Republican presidential nomination and the GOP officially died as it was taken over by people who are as far-right as you can go.

On the Democratic side, you had two major and one minor presidential candidates, any of whom would have been good.  Senator Bernie Sanders was an independent representative and then senator from the state of Vermont and self-described democratic socialist; Hillary Clinton, former first lady of Arkansas and the United States, former senator from New York, and former Secretary of State; and Martin O'Malley, former mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland.  O'Malley dropped out early and then Clinton ended up winning over Sanders.  To give him his proper credit, Sanders did bring in a lot of new people to the political process.  The problem is that most of these people really had no clue how the system actually worked, rather they had vague ideas about how *THEY* thought it *SHOULD* operate, and when it didn't, they threw hissy fits worthy of a small child.

When this election cycle started, I was torn between Clinton and Sanders.  I liked both of their platforms, and initially I was leaning towards Sanders.  But as I thought about it (and as I watched the behavior of his supporters), I realized that I was closer to Clinton, so that is who I ultimately voted for.  Fast forward to the conventions.  The Republican Convention was what you would expect, a bombastic circus dedicated to the ego of Donald J. Trump.  The lone exception was the speech by Senator Ted Cruz, who used the opportunity to subtly ding Trump and start his campaign for the 2020 election.  The Democratic Convention's first night was an awesome night with stellar speeches by Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and a long speech by Bernie Sanders.  Last night was started off historically and then there were some great speeches by Donna Brazile, the Mothers of the Movement, and Eric Holder.

Ok, so that is the history of getting to where we are today.  Now, about my choice to back Hillary Clinton unreservedly for President of the United States.

I've been watching the Clintons since Bill Clinton first ran for president in 1992.  In those (almost) 25 years, since they appeared on the national scene, an industry has popped up to discredit anything and everything that they have done or tried to do.  I remember people talking about how Clinton was actually an illegitimate member of the Kennedy clan and other people talking about how the Clintons killing off people around them.  Then there were the endless investigations of everything related to them.  And the industry didn't stop when President Clinton left office.  After Hillary was elected to the Senate, it kept going, only now focused on her.

In all my time paying attention to politics, I have never seen someone who has been attacked as much or as viciously as Hillary Clinton has.  From heading the health insurance reform group during the first part of President Clinton's term to the present, Hillary Clinton has been attacked from all sides.  Consequently, she tends to be less transparent and forthcoming than she should be, and I can't say that I blame her.  If I had people after me for over twenty years the way she has, I would be reluctant to share things with people too.

Am I saying Hillary is perfect?  No, I am not.  What I am saying is that we have an amazing woman who has held up under attacks that would make most people run screaming in the other direction.  We have someone who has grace and poise to make it through some really, really tough times.  We have someone who has been shown to be fundamentally honest and trustworthy by non-partisans who have investigated her.

The one thing that always has to be kept in mind is that she is a politician and that means that she will sometimes alter her position on issues, which is a good thing.  A good leader never gets too far in front of the people they want to lead, rather they do their best to show the way to go and let people get there.  Sometimes that means that they need to take some time to reveal what they truly believe.  For example, take marriage equality.  Until relatively recently (the last 5-6 years) almost no one was for marriage equality.  Most people (even LGBT groups) were going for something close like civil unions or something like that.  So it is completely understandable that a politician would come closer to that.

While I understand what people are probably screaming about having principles and sticking to them no matter what, that sort of thing is a bad idea in governing.  Having principles is good, but governing in a democracy is always going to require a certain amount of give and take, with each side conceding some of what they want.  A great leader will take what they can right now and then come back later for more.  That sort of pragmatic incrementalism is a quality particularly essential in a president.  While a legislator can be more dogmatic and doctrinaire, a president has to be more flexible.  I know that is not what the fanatics on the left or right want to hear, but it is reality.  Some people think of it as "selling out", but it isn't.  It is governing and getting things done.

Then there are people who are saying that there is no difference between the two parties or between Trump and Clinton.  I won't say anything other than they are delusional, ignorant, or lying.  Just look at what they each stand for.  Clinton has always fought for children and families.  Trump has fought for himself and his own self-aggrandizement.  'Nuff said.

And then there are the people who are saying that they will only vote for a third party.  As you can probably guess from my journey, I don't have a problem with that in general.  However, this election is anything but a standard election.  This election has the potential to place a man who doesn't have the self-control of an infant in the White House.  This election has a nominee who never should have gotten this far, except for the fact that the many, many GOP voters are being driven by a sense of racial ans sexual animus and are willing to support a man who I wouldn't trust with anything, much less the whole country.  At this point, voting for a third party candidate means that it is that much more likely that Trump will be elected, meaning that other people will pay the price for your "clean conscience" and principles.  That is extremely immoral.  Only someone who is coming from a place of privilege can do such a thing.  So don't expect me to applaud or even respect you for making that sort of decision, because I won't.  In fact, I will lose so much respect for anyone who makes that sort of choice in an election which is this critical.

So vote for Hillary Clinton because she is a good and trustworthy person who we can and should place in the Oval Office.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Some thoughts about intolerance and other issues

I was talking with a co-worker earlier today who was asserting the standard conservative talking point about religious freedom being threatened and that kids couldn't pray in school, etc.  When I pointed out to them that students can pray, it just be led by someone affiliated with the school, they just said that "We'll just have to agree to disagree."  Which is a crock of complete and utter bullshit.  There is nothing to disagree about here, it is black letter law.  The courts have repeatedly ruled that yes, students may pray in school as long as the prayer does not disrupt school and as long as the school does not use the power of the school to promote it.  That would include teachers leading the prayer during school hours or school sponsored events.  So, for example, a school could allow a religious group to voluntarily meet after school (or even during lunch) as long as the school doesn't place its thumb on the side of the group and as long as the school allows any religious group to do the same.

What gets me about this idea is the assumption that *EVERY* point has two sides.  While I can accept that as a general rule, there are instances where that is demonstrably untrue.  This is also true when it comes to climate change and other scientific or medical issues.  While you may always have a few crackpots who argue with things due to their ideological bent, that does not mean that their "side" is equally valid or deserving of attention.  Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that people don't have the right to believe what they want, because they absolutely do.  But if they believe something that is demonstrably (and objectively) wrong, then that does not deserve respect.  I do want to make sure that it is clear that I am talking about something being objectively wrong, not just wrong according to someone's religious beliefs or something else that cannot be proven in an objective manner.

Another thing I have seen, and not just recently, is the idea from various people that all intolerance is equal.  Again, this is demonstrably false.  There is intolerance like the sort shown by Kim Davis that aims to stop other people from asserting their rights and then there is intolerance of intolerance, in other words not accepting the intolerance of people who would deny the rights of others.  It should be obvious to anyone who is intellectually honest that the second is much, much different from the first.  Being tolerant does not mean that you accept absolutely everything.  If there is injustice or something similar going on, it is our duty to attack it head on to defend others.

Which leads to another point which I (and others) have repeatedly made.  *THERE IS NO ATTACK ON CHRISTIANITY OR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE UNITED STATES.*  Any suggestion to the contrary is ignoring reality and the person asserting it should be laughed out of a serious discussion on the subject.  Religious freedom means that you have the right to believe what you want to to practice your religion.  As with any right, there are limits on it.  Your religious freedom cannot impede on my rights.  So, for example, if your religion says that eating a particular food is wrong, you do not have the right to refuse to sell me said food if the store you are working in sells it.  If the store doesn't carry it, that is (of course) a totally different story.  Likewise, if someone opposes a same-sex couple getting married, that is their right, but if they offer a (non-religious) service (i.e. cake baking or hosting weddings) then they cannot refuse to serve a same-sex couple.  And if they are a public servant, that holds doubly true.  The assault (if there is one) is on the false, expanded version of religious liberty, which is really just using religion as an excuse to discriminate against people.