Archive for the ‘Race’ Category

It has been said that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  This has become a true statement, especially when it comes to race relations in America.  Throughout our history we have seen everything from slavery to legalized segregation to the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

Today we sit 50 years removed from the civil rights movement.  50 years ago this past weekend we witnessed the Selma March.  We saw the marchers being attacked viciously by police of the time.  We witnessed similar beatings during other civil marches.  We saw “freedom riders” be murdered simply because they wanted to help blacks gain the right to vote.

Those times were filled with violence against protesters seeking the same civil liberties that were afforded to others but denied to some because of the color of their skin.  We saw four little girls killed when their church was bombed.  We witnessed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy.  Worse we witnessed those caught committing acts of violence walk away free because of a corrupt judicial system.

I was in high school during much of these troubled times.  I saw first hand the hate and violence perpetrated against people.  I witnessed the hatred even among my own neighbors.  No, I did not grow up in the deep south, I grew up on the South Side of Chicago.

It was during this time that I began to seriously question religion.  I saw so-called Christian Preachers teach that segregation was “God’s Will.”  I heard comments on the church steps after mass by my own neighbors complaining about the “blacks.”  The “N” word was used regularly.  I questioned how could someone spend time in church praying and still harbor such hatred.

I attended a private high school in a predominantly black neighborhood.  When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, we saw hundreds of people basically surround our school.  We were an integrated school, but like the rest of the city the majority of students were white.  School was let out early and fortunately there was no violence as we left the neighborhood.

As the 60s came to a close, things calmed down some.  People thought that we had finally crossed the line and that we had defeated racism.  That was a fanciful dream, but not reality.  Anyone who rightfully remembers those times remembers Richard Nixon and his “Southern Strategy.”  That was a strategy that basically said if he could carry the South, he could win the election.  Since the South was against the Civil Rights Bill, that wasn’t hard for him to do.

We also remember that George Wallace ran an independent campaign for President based on a racist platform.  Both Nixon and Wallace not only railed against blacks, they railed against the “Hippies” as well.  There was a clear “divide and conquer” mentality to that election.  Nixon based his coalition on segregationist of the deep south and on the Conservative Christian Cult.  It was during this election we first heard the term “welfare queen.”

Nixon won the election.  Some were concerned that George Wallace even ran with his racist platform.  The only thing about Wallace’s campaign that worried me was that over 9 million people actually voted for him.  The thought that over 9 million people were in favor of an American version of Apartheid was worrisome by itself.

As time went by, the Republican Party moved more right, especially on social issues.  The party that claimed Abraham Lincoln as its hero, and had a history of fighting for equal rights, sold its soul for votes.  It began to demonize Blacks and Latinos.  It began trumpeting fear in its platform.  And of course, if you weren’t on their side, you must be a Communist.

It has come to the point where today, 50 years after those troubled times, we see the Republican Party mired in the politics of hate.  They have taken up the mantra of the “Old South,”  they just don’t use the exact words.  As a matter of fact, if Ronald Reagan were to run for President on the Republican side today, he would never get out of the primaries.  He would be branded as a “Republican In Name Only” because he wouldn’t be “conservative enough” for the Tea Party and their Cult cronies.

It is true that we have more Blacks in CEO offices than before.  It is true that we have a Black man in the Oval Office.  But, it is also true that Blacks are still proportionately more unemployed than whites.  It is also true that Civil Rights are still under attack from the Cult and other wackos.  It is also true that unarmed black men are being shot and killed by the very Police Officers who are supposed to protect them.

We are seeing cuts to welfare, food stamps, WIC, and other programs designed to help the poor.  We are seeing education budgets for public education cut dramatically.  We have seen a dramatic rise in income and social inequality.  How can this be happening in a country that was founded on the principle that “all men are created equal?”

It is because hatred and prejudice are still rampant in too many parts of this country.  Hate seems to be the only thing that has remained constant with too way too many people.  That is a very harsh indictment on us as a whole.  We see it everywhere.  We see it on TV in speeches.  We see it in laws being passed that legalize discrimination.  We see it in racist emails that get passed around.  We see it in voter suppression laws.

Don’t think that conservatives just came up with their voter suppression laws that have been passed in far too many states.  They have had plans to make things tough for people to vote for years.  They were simply waiting for the right opportunity to put them in place.  They call it “True Vote.”  That is just code words to make sure Blacks, Latinos, Elderly, and Young Voters don’t get to vote.  These “Photo ID” laws are intended to make it difficult for these groups to vote.  They place another burden on them to “prove” they are citizens and are actually who they say they are.

These laws cost the individual time and money.  Many members of these groups don’t have a driver’s license and are being forced to spend money to get copies of their birth certificate in order to get their “Photo ID”.  Many also have to travel tens of miles to get to an office where they can get their ID.  Some as much as 250 miles.  Without a driver’s license, that is a very difficult thing to do.

These laws were not designed this way by accident.  These laws were designed to make it more difficult for them to vote because historically these groups tend to vote Democratic.  It all boils down to the same thing.  Voter Suppression.  That was proven in Pennsylvania when the Republican Leader of their legislature stated very dramatically after a similar law was passed “Photo ID law that will ensure Mitt Romney wins Pennsylvania.. Done!”

During the 50s and 60s people were murdered over their desire for equality.  Thousands of people were injured when police charged the lines and began mercilessly beating people.  Thousands of people were arrested for daring to march to protest inequality.

If we could speak to those people today, what would we say?  How could we explain to them that although there has been some little progress in race relations, we are reverting back to the days they marched?  How is it possible that America has lost its soul, again?

I guess the only thing we can actually say is “We’re Sorry.”  But that rings very hallow.  We must take up their mantle and continue the fight until racism really is a thing of the past.  We owe them that much!

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I think it is time to ask a very dangerous question.  I do not do this lightly, but I believe it is time.  The question is this.  Is it un-American, even treasonous, to pass laws based on religious belief?  As I said, this is not an easy question to ask, and it is probably even harder to answer.

We are seeing a lot of state legislatures around the country trying to pass legislation that would basically make it legal to discriminate against another group of people.  The purported basis for these laws is called “religious freedom.”  I say that the real reason for these laws is bigotry!

This attack on the Constitution is not just in the deep south either.  We have seen legislation in states like Nebraska, Arizona, Kansas, and even Hawaii.  We have entered a stage in our history where people want their religious beliefs to become the “law of the land.”  Isn’t that being un-American?  Isn’t that attacking the Constitution?

Not far from where I live there was a controversy a few years ago at a veteran’s cemetery.  The controversy centered around the so-called “Christian Flag” flying from the flagpole at the cemetery.  Many people wanted it taken down, but the Cult wanted it displayed.  There were even threats of violence against anyone who disagreed with it being there.

A co-worker at the time asked me what I thought about the issue since I am a veteran.  I told him I was against the flag.  Not because of any religious implications, but because those of us who served, served the U.S. Flag and not a foreign flag.  Since this flag was not the U.S. Flag, it should be brought down.  I also considered the flag a slap in the face to the veterans buried there who were not Christian.

In Arizona, a law was passed that made it legal for business to discriminate against gay couples.  In their law, if a baker claimed “strong religious belief” that baker did not have to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple.  Fortunately, the bill was vetoed by the Governor.

Recently in Oklahoma, a similar bill was introduced.  State Sen. Joseph Silk, the Republican chief sponsor of the bill, said:  “gay people don’t have a right to be served in every single store.” He then added:  “People need to have the ability to refuse service if it violates their religious convictions.”  Now if this sounds familiar, remember these were the same arguments used to justify the Jim Crowe laws prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Bill.

As I wrote the other day, a wing-nut in California has submitted a ballot initiative there that would make being homosexual, or at least engaging in homosexual conduct, punishable by “a bullet to the back of the head.”  Under this extreme law if you sell magazines considered to be homosexual in nature, you would face a $1 million fine and possibly be exiled from the state for life.

In Alabama where the gay marriage issue is complete mess, GOP State Rep. Jim Hill has introduced legislation that would allow judges and religious leaders not only to opt out of performing marriages that defy their religious beliefs, but also to choose not to recognize them — for the sake of “religious liberty.”

There is a very real possible side effect to this bill known as the Freedom of Religion in Marriage Protection Act.  Although intended to stop same-sex marriage it could also pave the way for probate judges not to grant marriage licenses (or divorces) to couples of different religious backgrounds.  Wouldn’t this law also allow a Catholic judge, for example, to refuse to marry a Hindu, Muslim or Jewish couple?

Senator Inhofe the other day brought a snowball onto the floor of the Senate to prove that climate change was a hoax.  That was bad enough, but he then went on to “quote scripture” to support his claim.  We have had several members of Congress quote from scripture on the floor of both chambers.  Yet when an elected member of congress used a Koran for his swearing-in ceremony, the right-wing went bonkers.

Contradictions like these have always made me ask if we are a nation based on the belief that “all men are created equal” or are we a nation based on the belief that “all men we accept are created equal?”

We are constantly hearing terms like “Christian In Name Only” and “Republican In Name Only” and “Communist Left.”  These are nothing more than code words to say that the person being referred to is not a “Real American” because they are not “Real Christians” and only “Real Christians” are “Real Americans.”  Of course, the side caveat to that is left out.  Only “Real White Christians” are “Real Americans.”

The First Amendment gives us the “freedom of religion.”  That means that every citizen can believe or not believe in whatever religion he chooses.  That does not give them the right to discriminate against someone with a different religious belief, because that would be infringing on that other person’s right to their religious beliefs.

These are all very disturbing signs to me.  If you look throughout history, countries formed either monarchies or dictatorships based on the premise that one group was better than another group.  That is not what America was founded to be.  It was founded to be a country where everyone could live in peace with equal rights.  In other words, it was founded to be a secular country.

God did not become part of our national politics until the 1900s.  “In God We Trust” was not on our money until the 1920s.  The term “under God” in our pledge of allegiance did not appear until the 1950s.  I have heard outcries from the Cult that military chapels don’t have crosses on them.  They claim this is a new phenomenon.  It isn’t.  When I entered the service in 1970, there were no crosses on military chapels because they were used by just about every denomination, even non-Christian.

It would be just as much a violation of the “freedom of religion” clause for the government to force religious leaders like Priests, Preachers, Mullahs, Rabbis or any other  minister to perform same-sex marriage in their churches if it goes against their religious beliefs.  That is their right under the constitution.  However, that right does not include Civil Servants charged with performing non-religious marriage ceremonies.

If laws like these are allowed to be introduced, passed, signed, and stand what group of people will be next to be “legally discriminated” against?  If you think these laws are “absolutely wonderful” how will you feel when your group comes under fire?  Bigotry and ignorance never rest.  They are always on the hunt for another victim.  Which means that no one is safe from their arrows.

I served the United States of America, under the Flag of the United States of America.  When the call for help came across the radios I was monitoring, I never asked that person what nationality, race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation they were.  I simply put the mechanisms in place to save their lives.  I believe that America is based on equality for all of its citizens.

You have probably figured out my response to that question.  I believe that any elected government official, regardless of political affiliation, who legislates religious beliefs into law, regardless of which religion is being used, is violating the Constitution of the United Sates.  As a result, that official is guilty of violating his Oath Of Office and should be impeached.

Let your arrows fly.

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We keep hearing the right-wing use the term “American Exceptionalism” anytime they want to criticize something.  When the AP History curriculum was unveiled, they cried that it didn’t offer enough history about “American Exceptionalism.”  Whenever they get the chance to use the term, they jump on it.  But, what does American Exceptionalism really mean?

Is it supposed to mean that Americans are an exceptional people?  Is it supposed to mean that America is an exceptional place?  When they use the term are they saying that all Americans are exceptional regardless of race, religion, national origin, sex, or sexual orientation?  Maybe they think that America can do no wrong and that is why it is exceptional.

Actually, “American Exceptionalism” is just another meaningless term that gets thrown around to make people feel good about the country.  It has no definition because it doesn’t exist.  In order to be truly exceptional, a country needs to learn from their past faults and correct them.  Have we really done that?

If you listened to Bibi yesterday, you could easily come away with the idea that he doesn’t think America is so exceptional.  Basically, he told us that we are not smart enough to understand how to negotiate with an enemy.  He even told us we were naïve about trusting other countries.  That doesn’t sound like he thinks very highly of “American Exceptionalism.”

In order to better understand this false term, we need to look at some of the less than exceptional things we did as a nation.

We are a country that held slaves.  Our Founding Fathers owned people in order to farm their plantations, serve in the house as maids and other servants, and complete general duties they were too lazy to do for themselves.  I never understood the economics of slavery, but they seemed to think it was cheaper to own slaves than to pay others to do the work for them.  As a matter of fact we were one of the last Western Nations to abolished slavery.

After slavery was abolished, discrimination was institutionalized through what became known as the Jim Crowe laws.  These laws made it legal to discriminate against people because of the color of their skin.  During World Wars I and II we drafted African-Americans into the army but segregated them from the regular, or white, troops.

When I was in school during the 1950s, we read a lot about World War II.  The Bataan Death March was very prevalent in our history books.  That was an atrocious, brutal violation of the Geneva Convention which the Japanese had not signed because they believed that they were exceptional.

On the other hand, there was very little mention of the “Trail of Tears” we forced upon Native Americans.  President Jackson decided that Native Americans were not welcome on the East Coast.  So, he rounded them all up and deported them to the Oklahoma Territory.  Thousands of Native Americans died along the trail.  Our history books said very little about that.

Although our history books talked about the Holocaust carried out by Nazi Germany, it did not talk about the genocide that America committed against Native American Tribes once we began expanding westward.  Our history books talked about Native Americans as “savages” who needed to be “tamed.”  They talked about the Indian Wars and how the Indians slaughtered hundreds of settlers.  They failed to mention that America slaughtered thousands of Indians in the name of progress.  It wasn’t until after I graduated from High School that I read about the atrocity at Wounded Knee.

Things like the AP History curriculum allows for discussions about these issues and others in our past.  What is wrong with that?  Look, America has done some wonderful things both at home and abroad.  But, we have done some horrible things both at home and abroad, too.

Our government was involved in overthrowing other governments, like the democratically elected government of Iran in the 1950s, because we were afraid they may get closer to the Soviet Union than us.  How is that exceptional?  Iran wasn’t the only country this happened in either.  We supported brutal dictatorships in Latin and South America that killed thousands of their own people.  How is that exceptional?

How is it exceptional when too many of our children attend underfunded and dilapidated public schools while states keep slashing education funds?  How is it exceptional to allow corporations to get rich, while paying their workers wages at or below the poverty line while refusing to raise the minimum wage?  How is it exceptional that too many people including low-income families, the elderly, veterans, and the disabled are forced to live in poverty and not have enough to eat while cutting food stamp funding?  How is it exceptional when it is necessary to put labels on people so we can differentiate between groups?

How is it exceptional when women get paid less for doing the same job as a man?  How is it exceptional when there are laws restricting voting rights?  How is it exceptional when legislatures pass laws that allow discrimination against our fellow citizens?  How is it exceptional when there are laws to ban people of the same-sex from getting married thus getting the same rights to inheritance, health insurance coverage as other married people?

We have heard other nations talk about their exceptionalism or superiority in the past.  Alexander the Great’s Empire, the Egyptian Empire, the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire, the British Empire, the Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany all claimed to be superior to everyone else.  All claimed to be a “master race” of some kind.  Or, they claimed that God, or the gods, was on their side.  Now we are hearing how “God Blessed America.”  Is that why we are supposed to be exceptional?

Only when we recognize that we are all part of one race, the human race, when we recognize that religion is a personal belief and allow each other their own beliefs, when we recognize that all humans deserve the same civil rights as everyone else regardless of race, religion, sex, nationality, or sexual orientation, can we then maybe claim to be exceptional.

When I hear someone talk about “American Exceptionalism,” I only hear them claim that we, America, is better than everyone else.  That sounds too much like all the other nations and empires of the past.  They all ended up the same way.  Just a few pages in the history books.  Once America becomes exceptional at home, the world may then see us as exceptional as well.

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At precisely 0000 hours (midnight) tomorrow night, the Department of Homeland Security is going to run out of money unless Republicans can get their “stuff” together.  The Republicans who want you to believe that they are the only ones interested in protecting our country from terrorists, are about to let the one department charged with protecting us from terrorists run out of money.

I am not overly concerned about terrorists running amuck in the country, however.  We all know that about 200,000 members of the various agencies under DHS will continue working.  They are considered “essential” personnel.  However, they will be working for an IOU from the government instead of actually being paid.

This tragedy is all tied to immigration reform.  Our immigration laws are archaic at best and need to be reformed.  Two years ago the Senate passed a bi-partisan Immigration Reform Bill and sent it to the House.  It has been languishing in John Boehner’s desk drawer ever since.  This was truly a bi-partisan bill.  Even 14 Republican Senators voted for the bill, and several Republicans were involved in its creation.  Should have been an easy task for Boehner to pass it in the House.

But, once again John Boehner proved that he is only interested in having the title of “Speaker of the House” rather than acting like one.  His bellicose comments about immigration reform are just another example of his unwillingness to “govern”.  He is too afraid of the Tea Party wackos in his caucus to try to pass any meaningful legislation.

After over a year of Boehner derailing a vote on the Immigration Reform Bill, the President issued an Executive Order detailing some changes in the deportation policies.  The Republicans went bonkers, as expected.  Whether or not you think the President’s actions was an overreach or not, I do not think so, is irrelevant.  Something has to be done about our Immigration Laws.

The President’s Executive Order does not make it easier for people to cross the border.  It simply lays out a plan for those already here with U.S. Citizen relations to remain without fear of deportation.  It also gives them a pathway to seek “legitimacy” as the Republicans would say.  It is not amnesty as Republicans are telling everyone.

As a result of this “fight” the Republican House passed a funding bill last year that put the DHS on the spot.  They funded every department of the government except DHS for a full year.  They funded DHS only through tomorrow and the Senate went along.  Then they passed a bill funding DHS but only if the Executive Order was withdrawn.

Naturally, the Senate Democrats filibustered the bill in that chamber.  So, now Mitch McConnell wants to pass a clean DHS funding bill and introduce a bill that would withdraw the Executive Order.  But that puts John Boehner in a corner.  He still has to contend with his wacko fringe group.  And, since he is loath to actually lead and fight the wackos, the idea of a clean bill passing the House is up-in-the-air.

The only way Boehner will be able to pass a clean DHS funding bill in the House is to use the Democrats to get the votes needed.  Although he did use them a few times in the past, that is also something that Boehner is loath to do.  He is afraid that if he goes to the Democrats to pass a clean funding bill, he will face another coup in his caucus.

All of this nonsense was avoidable.  If John Boehner had allowed a debate and vote on the bi-partisan Senate Bill, it would have passed the House.  I am sure there would have been amendments added by the fringe group, but those would have been worked out in a joint committee between the House and Senate.  There would have been no need for the President to issue his Executive Order in the first place.

With the Immigration Reform Bill actual law instead of collecting dust in Boehner’s desk drawer, we would not be in this situation right now.  The other day Boehner said about the DHS funding bill they sent to the Senate: “We did our job, now it is time for the Senate to do theirs.  This will pass if the Democrats stop saying “no” to everything.”

That is really rich coming from a man who has been sitting on the “fix” to all of this for two years!  John Boehner is the worst Speaker of the House in my lifetime.  He makes Newt Gingrich look like a reasonable man.  However, the Citizens United case in the Supreme Court added fuel to this flaming issue.

This is the kind of thing that happens when money is allowed to control politics.  These fringe wackos that Boehner is afraid of are financed by the likes of the Koch Brothers and others.  Their money has polluted and corrupted our political process to the point of stagnation.

Even still, it is John Boehner’s job to “govern” in the name of the People of the United States.  Something that, apparently, he is loath to do as well.  This whole dilemma was manufactured because John Boehner is more interested in holding the title rather than being the Speaker of the House.

There is no other reason for us to be in the predicament we are in over DHS funding.  Even big business and the Chamber of Commerce favor the Senate passed Immigration Reform Bill.  To stop this mess, all John Boehner needs to do is dust off the Senate Bill and bring it to floor of the House.  But he won’t.

I don’t use this word lightly, but John Boehner is basically a coward.  That is why we are waiting to see if there will be a partial government shutdown come midnight tomorrow night.

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So, according to Rudy Giuliani the President does not love his country.  The President does not love you.  The President definitely does not love Rudy Giuliani.  The reason this is so is because the President wasn’t raised like you.  Nor was the President raised like Rudy Giuliani.  You know what?  He is right.  The President was not raised like Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani likes to talk about his father, Harold.  He likes to tell how he was raised loving this country.  But, there are a lot of things that Giuliani likes to leave out of his stories.  He also likes to say how he would defend our country.  In one speech he said:  “I would go anywhere, any place, anytime, and I wouldn’t give a damn what the President of the United States said, to defend my country. That’s a patriot. That’s a man who loves his people. That’s a man who fights for his people. Unlike our President.”

I admit that truly sounds like someone who loves his country.  But there is also something that he leaves out of this narrative as well.  Let us take a look at the public record of how Rudy Giuliani was raised, his definition of “love”, and his patriotism.

Rudy Giuliani was raised by his father Harold.  A fine upstanding individual who loved this country and everyone in it.  Except, he was arrested and spent time in Sing Sing Prison for holding up a milkman.  He earned his living as a bat-wielding enforcer for a loan-shark operation which was operating out of a bar owned by Rudy’s uncle.

To show his love for this country, Harold, who was arrested under an alias, made sure the draft board knew that he was a convicted felon in order to avoid serving in World War II.  Additionally, five of Giuliani’s uncles found ways to avoid serving in the war too.

Not to be outdone, Rudy, while serving as a clerk to a Federal Judge, received about a half-dozen deferments from the draft during the Vietnam War.  He even got the judge to write a letter to the Selective Service to get him a “special” exemption from the draft.  So much for “going anywhere, any place, anytime to defend my country.”

On the other hand, the President’s grandfather and uncle both served in World War II.  Obama’s uncle was present when the concentration camp at Buchenwald was freed.  What he saw there apparently affected him so much, he reportedly spent six months in the family’s attic after being released from service.

Giuliani’s definition of “love” has some explaining to do as well.  Did you know that Giuliani’s first wife was his second cousin?  Did you also know that he received an annulment from that marriage because “she was his cousin?”  As a matter of fact, the priest who helped him get his annulment was actually Giuliani’s best man at the wedding!

When he was mayor of New York City he divorced his second wife.  See, he was already dating his third wife at the time.  According to records, he and his entourage of six or seven cops traveled 11 times to her Hamptons getaway at a taxpayer cost of $3,000 a trip.

Then, just to show his true love, one morning he left Gracie Mansion, the mayors residence in New York City, and announced in a televised press conference that he wanted a separation from his second wife and mother of his two children.  Watching the press conference was the first time that his wife had heard of his desire for a separation.  Now that is love.

Giuliani later doubled down on his remarks by declaring that the President was brought up by a communist grandfather.  He also claimed that his comments weren’t “racist” because The President’s mother and grandparents were white.

Giuliani also stated that the President was “more of a critic than he is a supporter of America.”  That is an odd thing for a security salesman to say since he told a group of consulting clients in Tijuana in October “America needs to stop lecturing other countries and start working on how to stop drug use in its citizens,” shifting the onus for the Mexican drug trade onto us.

Or, how about the time he was a consultant for the government of Qatar, the country his friend and FBI director Louis Freeh accused of hiding 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed before the attack. That’s the ultimate triumph of money over memory, since he’s still talking, as recently as a week ago, about the 10 friends and 343 firefighters he lost on 9/11.  Now that is love of one’s country!

So, I say to Mr. Giuliani that you are correct.  The President was not raised like you were.  He was not raised by mobsters in New York City.  The President did not have three wives, one of which was his cousin.  Nor, does he come from a family of draft dodgers.  Rather he comes from a family that honorably served their nation in a time of need.

This is one time that I like agreeing with Mr. Giuliani.  I would not want a President who has the “upbringing” that Rudy Giuliani had.  I would rather have one with President Obama’s “upbringing” instead.  But, don’t worry Rudy, the President isn’t the only one in America who doesn’t “love” you.  I don’t love you either!

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The far right is still howling about the attack on Charlie Hebdo and that “free speech” is at the heart of the matter.  They are arguing that the President did not go to Paris for their march because he “hates free speech.”  They argue that blasphemous cartoons and art are a form of “free speech.”  They also forget about all of their cries for “censorship” against art they deemed to be blasphemous towards Christianity like “Black Jesus” and “Dung Virgin Mary”.  But, we shall leave that for another time.

But, is “free speech” especially as defined by the French really at the heart of the matter?  France has a problem that they don’t like to talk about.  They surrendered to Nazi Germany during WWII.  As a result, they were collaborators in the Holocaust.  After the war, they had to do something to make sure they were on the right side.  As a result, they passed laws that made it illegal to deny the holocaust and/or make anti-Semitic comments.

As we discuss these laws deeper, you have to wonder if we had similar laws concerning “free speech” would people like Rep. Steve King, Sen. Ted Cruz, David Duke, all of the KKK, all of the Aryan Nation, and many others be in jail right now?  As you will see, they have all used “hate speech” and/or “incited violence” according to French Law.

These laws have been in existence for years.  They limit the “hate” speech that is allowed in French society.  Since the Charlie Hebdo attacks, they have started enforcing these laws harshly.  As a matter of fact, in November they added harsh penalties for anyone invoking or supporting violence.  They added prison sentences up to seven years for backing terrorism.

But, what does “backing terrorism” really mean?  Well, the French are answering that question.  Since the attack, up to 100 people are under investigation for “backing terrorism.”  One is a 28-year-old man of French-Tunisian background who was sentenced to six months in prison after he was found guilty of shouting support for the attackers as he passed a police station in Bourgoin-Jalieu on Sunday.

Another, a 34-year-old man who on Saturday hit a car while drunk, injured the other driver and subsequently praised the acts of the gunmen when the police detained him was sentenced Monday to four years in prison.   This is after, on Wednesday, the Minister of Justice told Prosecutors to fight and prosecute “words or acts of hatred” with “utmost vigor.”

That utmost vigor has resulted in several people being arrested, charged, tried, and sentenced to prison in as little as three days!  The anti-terrorism law that is being used has some very harsh provisions.  It targets “hate speech” and is more severe if the words are posted on the internet.  If the offense is spoken, the law allows a sentence of five years and a fine of almost $90,000. If it is on the Internet, it allows sentencing up to seven years and a fine of nearly $120,000.

But, what is spoken “hate speech?”  Well, it is clear that the accused did not have to threaten actual violence to run afoul of the law.  According to the actions of Mr. Cabut, the prosecutor who brought the case of the man who shouted as he passed a police station: “They killed Charlie and I had a good laugh. In the past they killed Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Mohammed Merah and many brothers. If I didn’t have a father or mother, I would train in Syria,” that is enough.

But Mr. Cabut also says that there were limits as to how far prosecutors would go.   He is sure that no one would be prosecuted for refusing to stand during a moment of silence.  Maybe not prosecuted, but maybe suspended or fired.  Thursday a parking attendant in Paris was suspended by the police prefecture for refusing to observe a silent tribute to the victims.  It must be pointed out here, that to date, no one who has called for violence against Muslims in France has been arrested or prosecuted for their “hate” crime under these laws.

As you can see, “free speech” in France is not the same as “free speech” in America.  If it were, thousands of people would be in prison for invoking violence and/or using hate speech.  Under these laws, the simple act of speaking at a white supremacist group might have landed Mr. Scalise in prison under these “free speech” laws.  Instead he is the number three person in power in the House of Representatives.

I know that conservatives and the Cult don’t care about the obvious double-standards and hypocrisy.  Just remember, when they cry about the attack on Charlie Hebdo being an attack on “free speech”, they don’t mean “real free speech.”  That is why no conservative in this country is complaining about all of these arrests of people “exercising free speech.”  Conservatives, I am sure would love to have similar laws, with a few tweaks of course, in this country.

Other European countries have similar laws.  The laws themselves infringe upon what we in America consider “free speech.”  Let’s be honest, if you are going to have laws that restrict “hate speech” you cannot allow the type of cartoons that Charlie Hebdo prints.  Many people around the world, not just Muslims since they also attack other religions, would consider those cartoons as “hate speech.”

No, the attack on Charlie Hebdo was an act of terrorism.  The cartoons may have been used as the excuse, but terrorism knows no religion, race, or ethnicity.  It is simply acts of violence against society by evil people who want to control us.  That is the point that is lost on conservatives, and why incidents like this will continue.  George W. Bush proved that when you don’t recognize the real enemy, you fight the wrong wars.  Conservatives still don’t recognize the real enemy!

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I know it is only 2015.  But, the primaries are just one year away.  Why is that so important now?  Because states that have already passed voter suppression laws need to be fought beginning right now!  We need to be sure that everyone who is eligible to vote, can do so.

Most of the states with these voter suppression laws have several things in their favor.  Mostly the cost of getting that Photo ID.  Some states claim that they will issue the Photo ID for free.  But the documents they require cost money.  Plus, many of these same states don’t have offices to issue these “free” Photo ID in every community.  Meaning that some people will need to travel far distances just to get their ID.

I have an idea that may help damper these voter suppression laws if not beat them completely.  However, I do not have the name recognition, nor the funds to try to start up something that will be required.  I hope someone out there knows someone devoted enough to at least consider my plan, with whatever variations they deem proper.

First it must be a bipartisan non-profit organization.  That means someone with the right name recognition is needed to raise funds.  It will also need fund-raisers who have worked in the non-profit business before.  Once the non-profit organization is up and running, it would work something like this.

In every state that requires a photo-ID to vote, volunteers would be recruited to assist those who need help.  The funds would come from the non-profit to help pay for things like birth certificates, gas, mileage, etc.

Advertising would be run in each state to let people know that they can get help in getting their Photo-ID to vote.  They would be directed to either go online to the non-profit’s website, or given an 800 number to call or a local number to a volunteer.

The volunteers would take the calls with a checklist of questions to determine how much help would be needed. (It must be noted that party affiliation cannot be asked .  Otherwise Republicans will accuse the non-profit of trying to rig the vote.)  If the person requesting help is poor, elderly, or simply cannot pay to get a needed birth certificate or other documents they may need, the organization would put up the money including the cost of the photo-ID, if necessary.  Once the birth certificate, or any other documents needed have been received, the volunteer would transport that person, if necessary, to the office to get their ID.

Again if necessary, the volunteer would then take that person to the voter registration place so they can register to vote.  In this way, the volunteer would be there to help that person through the entire process and ensure they get the documentation they need to vote.

Volunteers would be paid for any paperwork expenses, gas, mileage, etc.  The organization could start them out with a grant to get started.  Then each volunteer would submit expense documents so the initial money could be reimbursed thus ensuring a continuation of services.

Obviously, there will have to be training for the volunteers.  With today’s technology that is not as difficult as most may think.  With online meeting places, volunteers could receive their training without leaving home.  Volunteers could by anyone.  They may be college students, or retired people, of anyone with time to dedicate to this import mission.

I know that the voter suppression laws are bad for the country and should be overturned by the courts.  But, with a conservative Supreme Court, that is most unlikely.  So, as in the 60s, we need to mobilize to make sure that everyone who is entitled to vote, wants to vote, does vote.

The clock is ticking, though.  Hopefully, someone will see this opportunity and start the ball rolling soon.  This plan is one way to help beat the Republicans at their own game.  It will also help to keep them from stealing future elections.  But, it needs to start soon.  Otherwise, the Republicans will keep suppressing the vote wherever they can.

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