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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

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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“This is simply no way to treat our oldest and first ally. President Obama should have stood with France in person, defending Western values in the struggle against terrorism and showing support for the victims of this despicable act of terror. Skipping this rally will be remembered as a new low in American diplomacy.” Rick Perry

Ever since the President decided not to attend the anti-terrorist march in France, the conservatives have been having kittens.  According to these conservatives, we have basically snubbed our closest ally.  We have shunned them in their time of need.  We have abandoned them at the very moment they need us the most.

Rick Perry is not the only one who is jumping on the bandwagon either.  We are hearing from all of those wacky conservatives about how important it should have been for the President to go to France for the march.  He should have walked arm-in-arm with the French President, German Chancellor, et.al.

According to conservatives, France is and always has been our closest ally and we should show more respect towards them.  After all, they have stood by us when we needed them.  They have always gone to war with us against the terrorists.

How quickly they forget.  Or, more appropriately, how quickly they deliberately change their minds for political gain.  Remember “Freedom Fries” or the House cafeteria “Freedom Toast?”  Remember when conservatives considered France as the worst European Country?  All because France declined to participate in the “partnership of the willing” in the Iraq Invasion during George W. Bush’s presidency.

How about when John Kerry ran for President against Bush.  Because Kerry spoke French, he was also labeled as “looking French” by his opponents.  Maybe you remember this 2004 New York Times report:

But perhaps the surest indication that the looming political season will be ugly has come from repeated Republican suggestions that Kerry “looks French.”

Not only that: the senator is said to betray a dubious fondness for things French, even the language. A recent comment from Commerce Secretary Don Evans that the Massachusetts Democrat is “of a different political stripe and looks French” was only the latest of several jibes, mainly from conservative talk-show hosts and columnists, that have included allusions to “Monsieur Kerry” and “Jean Chéri.”

For some months now, the Republican House majority leader, Tom DeLay, has been opening speeches to supporters with an occasional routine. He says hi, then adds: “Or, as John Kerry might say, ‘Bonjour.’”

The remark “always brings the house down,” said DeLay’s spokesman, Stuart Roy, who added that its purpose was to highlight “Mr. Kerry’s lack of support for the war on terror and the way he seems to be in agreement with the arguments of the French.”

Of course, that even minded Congressman Randy Webber of Texas just had to make the obvious comparison between the President and Hitler in a tweet.  In his tweet, since deleted, he said even Hitler knew the importance of going to Paris.  Yesterday, he apologized for the tweet.  Not that the comparison wasn’t apt, but because it may have offended some people whose votes they need.

“I need to first apologize to all those offended by my tweet. It was not my intention to trivialize the Holocaust nor to compare the President to Adolf Hitler. The mention of Hitler was meant to represent the face of evil that still exists in the world today. I now realize that the use of Hitler invokes pain and emotional trauma for those affected by the atrocities of the Holocaust and victims of anti-Semitism and hate,” Weber said.

According to that dove Lindsey Graham, the attack was “America’s Fault” and no one else.  He said:

“I fear our intelligence capabilities, those designed to prevent such an attack from taking place on our shores, are quickly eroding. I believe our national security infrastructure designed to prevent these types of attacks from occurring is under siege.”

So Lindsey Graham seems to think this was not merely an attack on Charlie Hebdo, it was an attack against our intelligence infrastructure.  He later explained on Hugh Hewitt’s show:

Here’s what I take from Paris. We should reevaluate our Defense policies on several fronts…We’re in a religious war. These are not terrorists. They’re radical Islamists who are trying to replace our way of life with their way of life. Their way of life is motivated by religious teachings that require me and you to be killed, or enslaved, or converted. The President of the United States tip-toes around the threats we face, and he is trying to diminish the religious aspect of this war. Why? I don’t know. And he is not engaging the enemy in an aggressive fashion, which makes it more likely we’ll get attacked. What he’s doing is pretending to want to destroy ISIL when in fact, he’s trying to get out of office without having to commit American ground forces to do the job as part of a team in the region, because he made a campaign promise. His campaign promises, Hugh, are getting a lot of people killed!

Of course no one is mentioning that the President is currently bombing the hell out of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.  Nor are they talking about his seeking an AUMF for that war with no timetable, geographical limitations or ban on the use of ground troops.  All of that is obviously just “liberal” wussiness.

Finally, the Canadian Senator couldn’t be left behind either.  He was up with a Time op-ed that said:

“The absence is symbolic of the lack of American leadership on the world stage, and it is dangerous. The attack on Paris, just like previous assaults on Israel and other allies, is an attack on our shared values. And, we are stronger when we stand together, as French President François Hollande said, for “liberty, equality, and fraternity.”

So, now that the conservatives have something to yell about, France is suddenly our biggest ally.  We snubbed them by not having the President there during the rally.  It was not only a snub, it was “dangerous” for him not to be there.  Very suddenly, France has gone from “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” to our best ally that the President has just thumbed his nose at.

And how did our oldest ally take all of this?  A spokesperson for French President Francois Hollande said that the French government was not offended by the president’s absence. “President Obama supported France in their common struggle against terrorism,” the spokeswoman said, calling Obama’s visit to the French Embassy to sign a condolence book “a rather exceptional gesture.” She said that Obama’s actions since last week’s attacks have been “very important” to Hollande.  Maybe the conservatives think they are just being overly nice.

This is the kind of idiocy that comes to the forefront when politics, not governing, is the only thing that matters.  Anything to get a headline is fair game.  Even changing sides when it comes to an ally you have hated and ridiculed for over 10 years so you can pick on the other side.

I wonder if the conservatives will remember all of this next month.  That is when they will have to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security for the full year.  You know, the agency most responsible for protecting us from these terrorists?  So far, that funding doesn’t look good.

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Fox News likes to claim that it offers “fair and balanced” news reporting.  Of course we all know that is total crap.  If you consider propaganda as “fair and balanced” they may have a point.  But, most people see propaganda for what it is.  And, it is not “fair and balanced.”

Since the attack on Charlie Hebdo last week, Fox News has done everything in its power to scare the hell out of the world.  They have looked for all sorts of nasty things to say about Muslims in general.  Despite the Christian Theocratic form of government they want for America, they continually harp on the idea that Muslims around the world are trying to put Sharia Law in place in every country.

They have even come up with a new twist on this whole mess.  They call it “no-go zones.”  No-go zones are areas in cities where non-Muslims will be attacked if they dare to tread.  That is because the areas in cities are “controlled” by Muslims who have instituted secret police and enforce Sharia Law on everyone.

To accentuate this point, Fox News on Sunday trotted out that infamous “Islamist Terrorist Expert”, Steve Emerson.  If you were to ask Mr. Emerson, he will tell you that he is “one of the leading authorities on Islamic extremist networks.”  So, we should all listen to what he has to say on this subject.

According to Mr. Emerson, there are cities where Christians, Jews, even Hindus won’t go into.   “In Britain, it’s not just no-go zones. There are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.”  I am sure that is news to the people of Birmingham.

Birmingham is the second largest city in England.  Just to show how much Mr. Emerson really knows, over 65% of the citizens of Birmingham claim to be either Christian or non-religious.  Yet Mr. Emerson seems to think that Birmingham is one of the European cities  “where Sharia courts were set up, where Muslim density is very intense, where the police don’t go in, and where it’s basically a separate country almost, a country within a country.”

In reality, one in five people in Birmingham practice Islam.  I wonder how many Muslims in an area it takes for Mr. Emerson to consider too scary to visit.  He doesn’t think that the problem is just confined to Birmingham either.  Mr. Emerson said that parts of London are too scary, too.  “Parts of London, there are actually Muslim religious police that actually beat and actually wound seriously anyone who doesn’t dress according to Muslim, religious Muslim attire,” he said.

Oops, there aren’t any of these instances that really exist.  There are no religious police and there aren’t any Muslim courts in these cities either.  Still, Jeanine Pirro, the host of the show, apparently believed what Emerson was saying, and it all seemed terrifying. “You know what it sounds like to me, Steve? It sounds like a caliphate within a particular country,” she said.

After the show, he was challenged by Raf Sanchez, from the British Newspaper The Telegraph.  As you can imagine, Emerson backtracked really fast.

 “I have clearly made a terrible error for which I am deeply sorry. My comments about Birmingham were totally in error. And I am issuing an apology and correction on my website immediately for having made this comment about the beautiful city of Birmingham.”

“There was no excuse for making this mistake and I owe an apology to every resident of Birmingham. I am not going to make any excuses. I made an inexcusable error. And I am obligated to openly acknowledge that mistake.”

If you noticed, he said he is issuing an apology and correction on his website immediately.  He even went so far as to say he would take out an AD in a Birmingham newspaper to apologize to the citizens.  He even offered to make a charitable contribution, apparently in an attempt to atone for his sins.  Since I do my research,  I went to his website this morning, and guess what?  No apology was found!

But, you will also note that he did not say that he would go on the air on Fox News to apologize and recant the statements he made.  I believe there are two reasons for this omission.  First, I don’t believe Fox News would allow him to recant his statements.  Secondly I don’t believe he is earnest in his apology and is still trying to fan the flames the fear of Fox News watchers against Islam.

That is Fox News version of “fair and balanced.”  Yet, the rest of the media won’t take it to task either.  Yesterday I wrote that Fox News is calling the negotiations with Dish to keep Fox News with the provider as censorship.  Let’s be honest.  Fox News is about as “fair and balanced” as the Spanish Inquisition was.

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It has become as inevitable as the sun rising in the east.  Ever since the atrocious attacks at Charlie Hebdo in Paris the other day, there has been a lot of hand wringing, especially by the conservatives in the U.S.  As you expect, they are even claiming that it was a lapse in intelligence by American Intelligence Agencies that allowed the attack in Paris.  They are clamoring that the NSA needs even more power to snoop on everyone.

The right is arguing that this is a first step by the Islamic Terrorists and we can expect similar attacks in our own country.  The Canadian Senator even said that the murders were “a reminder of the global threat we face.” Then on Facebook he said that they should be considered “an attack on us all.”  I will admit that Fundamentalist Islam Terrorist attacks are something we need to be concerned about.  The attack on Charlie Hebdo was atrocious, it was vicious, it was criminal.

However, the problem with fundamentalist terrorism is that it is not confined to Islam.  As I have written before, fundamentalist terrorism is all around us and comes from all corners of religious beliefs.  Something that has seemingly been lost because of the Charlie Hebdo attack, is that right here in America there was a bombing at a NAACP Office in Colorado Springs, CO.  No one was killed or injured in the attack, but it happened.  There were three White Supremacists arrested in Georgia for planning a terrorist attack in this country.

The right is saying nothing about either of these cases.  Yesterday, the FBI released a sketch of the suspect at the Colorado Springs attack.  I checked on Fox News website today, and there is nothing about the attack or the sketch.  There are a bunch of stories about the Paris attack though.

Yes, I know that the Paris attack resulted in the deaths of 12 people, plus the deaths of three of the four suspects in the attacks.  But, right here at home we have a terrorist attack against the country’s oldest civil rights group and the conservative’s propaganda machine doesn’t even run a copy of the sketch to help catch the terrorist.

As I wrote the other day, terrorism is a scourge of humanity.  The attack in Paris was because the magazine ran what many believe to be offensive cartoons.  Yes, Charlie Hebdo has a right in a democratic society to run such cartoons, and it is extremely criminal to attack them for that reason.  The attack was carried out apparently by radical fundamentalist Muslims.

In Colorado Springs, a civil rights group was attacked.  The sketch shows a bald white man in sunglasses as the suspect in the crime.  In Georgia, three white supremacists were arrested for planning a terrorist attack.  Why are they similar to the Paris attacks?  Because white supremacists claim that the Bible says whites and “others” need to be segregated.  Some may consider this a lame argument, but it is just as fundamental to white supremacist beliefs as similar attacks are to radical Muslims.

I would think that the right would be up-in-arms about a terrorist attack in Colorado Springs.  Know what else is there?  The U.S. Air Force Academy!  Who can say if these white supremacists won’t target it next!  The Academy is integrated, so it would seem to fair game for white supremacists as well.

If we are going to conduct a war on terrorism, we need to conduct that war against all terrorism.  We cannot just pick an enemy because of religious differences.  We need to work hard to erase all terrorism, regardless of who is using it.  That includes white radical fundamentalist Christians as well as radical fundamentalist Muslims.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “the West” must respond to the massacre by ceasing to “appease leaders of Muslim organizations in our societies.”  If that is true, then we must soon hear from someone like Glenn Beck that we should cease to “appease leaders of Christian organizations in our societies” as well.  When the terrorist is a white Christian, one can take a long nap during the silence of Conservative Christian Leaders speaking up against that attack.  Even if they do speak up against such an attack, they usually follow it up with some sort of rationalization for it.  Like the “left caused the attack” by their policies.

We have had several cases of domestic terrorism carried out.  There have been abortion clinics bombed, abortion doctors murdered, the Federal Building attack in Oklahoma City, and others too numerous to name.  Terrorism does not know color or religion.  All colors and all religions are just as guilty as any other.

Terrorism is terrorism.  I don’t care who the terrorists are.  If we are to really understand terrorism, we need to stop letting our politicians scare the shit out of us when a terrorist attack is carried out by a Muslim.  We must ask them why that is more evil than a white Christian carrying out a terrorist attack on our shores.  Shouldn’t we be just as afraid of them as the Muslims?

After all, the attack at the NAACP office in Colorado Springs was apparently carried out by a citizen of THIS country.  I am thinking that citizens of Colorado Springs would consider this attack much more dangerous to us than the attack in Paris.  Innocent bystanders could have been killed by this bombing right here at home.  Where is the outrage?

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There was a deadly attack on a satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris the other day.  There is no doubt that the attackers were indeed Muslim.  They attacked the magazine because they were “offended” by the satire it used to describe Islam.  Yes, all of the pundits and politicians are calling it a “terrorist” attack, and rightly so.  But, they are ignoring one simple fact.  These terrorist attacks are religiously based.  And, followers of Islam are not alone in their terrorism either.

As you know, I have written several articles attacking the Conservative Christian Cult here in America.  Still, I usually try to be tolerant towards people with a belief in religion.  Yes, I am not a religious person in the definition of these religions.  But, I remember the teachings I received in my youth and try to be tolerant of other’s religious beliefs.  I am starting to get a different perspective on this issue.

I find it very difficult to keep believing that any institution that is based on any form of dictatorship is a viable belief system.  How can people, especially those who live in a democracy, continue to blindly follow any institution that is dictatorial on how we should behave?  That is an oxymoron that escapes me completely.  Religions still use words like “king” or “lord” to describe their god.  How Medieval!

None of the religions of the world are exempt from this either.  We see religion used to discriminate, subjugate, and even kill others who do not believe as the “leaders” of these religions want them to believe.  Yes, Islam has its radical sects that don’t worry about killing anyone who is not a follower.  It is also true that Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and even Buddhism have their sects as well.

Religion has been the cause of thousands of wars and conquests throughout history.  Why?  If, as all of the major religions teach, we are all children of some mysterious god, how can it be okay for us to kill each other in that god’s name?  How is it possible that rational people can actually believe in any religion that teaches it is okay to commit genocide against some other group who doesn’t believe what we believe?

That is the thinking from Medieval Times.  There were wars of conquest based on religion.  Crusaders had to “rescue” the holy land from the barbaric Moors.  It was not uncommon to slaughter men, women, and children during these Crusades either.  Even if they weren’t combatants.  Islam was spread across the Mideast and Africa through war and intimidation.  If you didn’t convert to Islam, you were killed.  Judaism was just as bad.  Both Jews and Christians look to the Old Testament or Torah and claim they are literal.

If that is so, then the god they worship is a genocidal maniac!  Remember the writing about the fall of Jericho?   The Bible clearly states that the Hebrews were ordered by their God to slaughter all of the inhabitants of the city, men, women, and children.  Today that god could be charged with “crimes against humanity” under genocide.  If humans understand that genocide is a crime against humanity, how can anyone believe in a god that orders them to commit genocide?

I am sorry, but that is not what I believe we are the earth to do.  We are not supposed to kill each other off in the name of any god.  To use the believer’s own words, how is that being “moral?”  My simple answer is that it isn’t!  Yet we continue to allow these wackos to keep in their ways without calling them out for what they are.  There is a simple fact in life that no one wants to say openly.  Religion fosters and encourages terrorism!

The real problem is that religion takes children and indoctrinates them into their way of thinking.  Whatever you call your religious classes, they espouse the theory that only your religion is the “right” religion.  This indoctrination has another name, it is called brainwashing!  Even Hitler understood this concept when he formed the Hitler Youth groups.  It is all the same to me.

The government defines terrorism as an act of violence that causes destruction and/or death to further a cause.  However, there are many forms of terrorism.  Denying people their civil rights because of religious beliefs is terrorism.  Turning up at funerals of military personnel saying they were killed by god in revenge of support for gay rights is terrorism.  Creating phony situations like the War on Christmas is terrorism.  And the list goes on and on.

I know that every act of terrorism is not necessarily religious based.  But, these forms of terrorism are the most prevalent in today’s world.  No, it is time to speak the truth.  As long as people are going to continue to blindly follow dictatorial religions, we will be cursed with terrorism.  That is because these ideas are the teachings of dictators who hate freedom and free thought.  Those are the two things that religious leaders hate the most because they are the two things that end their domination over people.

You have the right to believe in your god.  You have a right to believe in an after-life.  You do not have the right to discriminate against or kill others who do not believe as you do.  If you do, regardless of your religion, you are simply a terrorist!

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2015 is here!  The Republicans will take over congress next week.  With that, there is a lot of talk in the media about what we can expect from a Republican congress.  Depending on what side of issues you are, some of the talked about things include the DHS Funding battle in February, Immigration Reform and whether or not anything will be done about it, Keystone XL Pipeline, and other “hot topics” Republicans have done nothing about for six years.

I am a little more interested in some other things that could cause real problems for real Americans.  These items are so far under the radar of the national media, that once they raise their ugly head, everyone will wonder where they came from.  What I am talking about is the future of four agencies of our Federal Government.  They are the Department of Labor, Department of Education, Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Post Office.

All four of these agencies are at the top of the Republican “hit list” of agencies they want to shut down.  They are also four agencies that actually protect and/or serve the American People.  However, since there are business people who hate them for either “regulating” their business or look at something they can take over and make billions of dollars off, Republicans will do everything they can to cripple or eliminate them.

Why not take a look at each department and see why the Republicans want them to go away.

Department of Labor:  The Department of Labor has been a thorn in the sides of Republicans for years.  This Department regulates labor laws and regulations.  Under OSHA, it also regulates safety in the workplace.  When there is a dispute between labor and management, the Department of Labor is the first agency to investigate it.  Since Republicans claim that the Department of Labor usually takes the side of the employee, they don’t want this bothersome agency around anymore.

Without the Department of Labor, they will have a freer hand in attacking the unions even more than they already have.  Especially public Labor Unions like Police, Fire, Teachers, Government Employees, etc.  The head of the New York Police Union has been very critical of the Mayor over the shooting of the two police officers.  But, if the Republicans had their way, his phony-baloney job wouldn’t even exist.  There would be no police officer union.

OSHA has been a thorn in their sides because they regulate safety in the workplace.  If a company is endangering their employee safety, OSHA is the agency that moves in and takes action against the company.  Companies have argued for years that OSHA is too intrusive and is hurting their bottom line.  Never mind about the safety of the workers.  Hazards to their health apparently are simply part of the job.

I predict that there will be additional fights over the Department of Labor.  I also predict that if they can’t do away with the entire Department, OSHA will definitely be in the cross-hairs.  Don’t forget, the Department of Labor was on every Republican Presidential “hit-list” in the 2012 Presidential Election.

Department of Education:  This is something else that Republicans really hate.  They don’t want any Federal Standards that will force schools to actually educate students.  They are against Federal regulations in how to run a school and how to spend the money.  What they don’t hate is the money that comes from the Department of Education to local schools.

What they want to do is spend the money any way they wish.  They always argue over “local control” of Public Schools.  They say that the local community knows best what its students need to learn.  That may all sound great in theory, but in practice, especially in a global economy, that argument is lame at best.  I don’t care if you are going to school in New York City, or some rural area where no one ever leaves the county, you need a first class education in order to compete in a global economy.

There are two battle cries of the right in this battle.  The first is “vouchers” and the second is “charter schools”.  They argue that parents should have a choice where to send their children to school.  But, when it comes to vouchers, what they are really saying is that parents should be able to send their children to private schools at the taxpayers expense.  Vouchers drain the Public School funds, reduce attendance at Public Schools, and help in the “closet” segregation of our education system.  It also helps ensure that children with disabilities or learning disabilities are left behind.

Charter schools are becoming even worse than the voucher system.  These are schools run by organizations and/or companies.  They get all of their funding from the Public School system.  But, they argue that they don’t have to follow the regulations of the Public Schools or the Department of Education.  Again, children with disabilities and learning disabilities are usually left behind and not allowed to enter the charter schools.

Additionally, there have been numerous reports from around the country about fraud and abuse in charter schools.  The fraud has amounted from the thousands of dollars to millions of dollars.  They have become so common that some people in the public are fighting back.  Some areas are even demanding a moratorium on creating more charter schools.

As a result of these two programs that are loved by Republicans, the Public School system in America is in crisis mode.  Poorer students are not being allowed to enter the charter schools, and the private schools of choice say they don’t “measure” up to their educational standards.  As a result, these students are being robbed of a good education because money is being given to “alternative” schools.

Additionally, Republican states are slashing Public Education funding.  Just look at New Jersey where Christie has cut over a billion dollars in Public Education.  Rather than giving Public Schools a fighting chance to actually educate our children, Republicans are trying to shutdown Public Schools.  If the poor and/or disabled cannot get into a private or charter school, well that is just too bad.  Why do they need an education anyway?  They won’t be able to do anything with it.

The biggest thing in this fight, of course, is that Republicans want to reintroduce religion into public education.  Not just any religion mind you, their religion even if you disagree with their beliefs.  One could even call it an attempt at “mind control” of our children.  The Department of Education will surely be under attack from the Republican controlled congress.

Environmental Protection Agency:  You know this agency will be the first to be attacked.  In the cromnibus bill that passed the last congress at the end of the year, the EPA took a huge hit to their budget.  Remember, this is the agency that protects our drinking water, land, and air from pollutants that will actually kill you.

Of course by regulating how much pollution companies can actually produce, it is argued these regulations are a direct threat to the bottom line of companies like oil, gas, and coal.  Republicans want these companies to thrive.  Manly because they get millions in contributions to their campaigns from these companies.

Ever since the EPA began, under a Republican President named Richard Nixon, Republicans have complained that the EPA is simply a “job killer” because of the regulations they mandate.  There is no proof that clean air and water have killed jobs, but they still scream about it.

With Republicans claiming that climate change is a hoax, there is no reason to believe that the EPA won’t be under fire even more in 2015.  The one agency we have that can actually help reduce carbon emissions is the one agency the Republicans argue is not necessary.  Nor, do they want the EPA to regulate clean water.  Look at the Duke Energy coal ash dumps in North Carolina.  They still haven’t cleaned up the coal ash, and they aren’t going to be forced to by the state either.  So, that ash with its carcinogenic pollutants will linger at the bottom of the river poisoning the drinking water of communities.

I could probably write pages more about how much the Republicans hate the EPA.  But, there is enough evidence to show that without anymore ink about it.  Just be certain, the EPA is facing a very dangerous time in its existence.  If the Republicans are able to close down the agency, people like the Koch Brothers will have a free hand in polluting our air and water.  If you die from that pollution, oh well.

U.S. Post Office:  In fairness it took me a long time to figure out why the Post Office is such a threat to Republicans.  You would think that an agency which was created in the Constitution would actually be loved by Republicans.  But they hate the Post Office.  One reason they hate the Post Office is because the mail carriers actually have a union.  Republicans have always hated anything involving unions.

Here is the point.  The U.S. Post Office gets no money from the Federal Budget.  It is run as a private company.  You would think that Republicans would be in love with that business model.  But, they hate it so much they are trying to close it down and “privatize” it.  A few years ago, the Republicans came up with a scheme that would guaranty the Post Office would lose money.  They “regulated” that the Post Office must pre-pay the insurance coverage for its retired employees for 75 YEARS and that they must do so in 10 years!

No other government agency, nor any private business, is required to follow this “regulation”.  Remember, Republicans hate “regulation”.  So, why put such a regulation on the Post Office?  There is only one reason.  They want to close it down and give the business to private companies so they can deliver your mail and make billions more in profit.

Last year, the Post Office actually turned a profit.  According to statistics I could find, they made about 1 billion dollars.  However, because of the “regulation” arbitrarily placed on them by the Republicans, they are showing a loss of around 4 billion dollars.  So, a profitable government agency is being forced to lose money and close down sorting centers and post offices because of “regulations” that Republicans placed on them.  The same type of regulations they claim to despise.  The irony is that the areas most hurt by this attack are rural areas where their base lives.

In earlier years, the Post Office was allowed to offer some banking services as well.  If they were allowed to offer these  services to help the poor and rural areas, they would still make money, even with the regulations put upon them.  These services were things like saving accounts and money orders.  Some have even called for them to be able to offer prepaid credit cards or debit cards.  But, that would cut into the big banks business, so it will never happen.

Because of this attack on the Post Office, we are already looking at the mail slowing down.  That Birthday Card you send to your mom across town is more likely to take up to three days now because of the cuts the Post Office is being forced to make.  This is one time where “regulation” is forcing a business to shut down.  But, you won’t hear Republicans saying that.  They will claim that the union forced the closure of our Post Office.

As you can see, every one of these departments or agencies directly serve the needs of the people.  They are also standing in the way of private companies making billions of dollars in new profits off the taxpayers.  Yet, because of these new profits envisioned by Republicans for their business cronies, they are the very agencies they want to shut down.

According to them, our children’s education, our drinking water and air, our safety, our land, even our mail is in jeopardy.  Republicans believe that private companies are the answer to everything.  As Herbert Hoover said, “the business of America is business.”  Remember what happened under his administration?  We wound up with the Great Depression.   And guess what, there were no “government regulations” at the time that hampered the bottom-line!

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This is the time of year when we fondly look back on our childhood.  I remember growing up on the South side of Chicago in the 50s and 60s.  I remember those cold winter days and nights that seemed to warm up with all of the decorations on just about everyone’s house.  As everyone does, as a small child I was taken to see Santa Clause and ask for my presents.  It was a joyful time of year.

With the middle-class being very strong during those years, everyone seemed happy.  I know that everyone wasn’t really happy with everything, but at least during the holiday season everyone appeared to be happy.  Of course the vast majority of people in our neighborhood were Christian, but there were Jews and some athiests in the neighborhood as well.  Even back then, we often told people “Happy Holidays” as a greeting.  Especially people we did not know personally, because we didn’t know what holiday they were celebrating.  Merry Christmas was something we said to people we knew were celebrating Christmas.

During the sixties the cry about the “commercialization” of Christmas really became louder.  This concern goes way back in history, but with people actually making a livable wage they were spending what they could afford on presents.  This, along with the growth of television created a host of commercials about everything from toys to clothes to tools to appliances.

Over the years this holiday season has changed dramatically.  In my youth, stores did not open on Thanksgiving just to get more money.  People were not forced to work that holiday for the sake of greed and profit.  Workers actually were a valued part of a company.  People really did stay with one company for their entire career because that company valued them.  That too has changed.

So here we are some 50 years from my youth and we are about to celebrate the holiday season.  There are still some complaints about the holiday season being over-commercialized.  But more and more we have started hearing the wails of people who believe that there is an actual “War on Christmas.”  Rather than spending time talking about what Christmas means to the average Christian, the Conservative Christian Cult is talking about how those “others” are trying to take Christmas away from us.

During this season there are basically four holidays celebrated.  One is Christmas.  Another is Chanukah.  One is Kwanzaa.  Each of these holidays have a very real meaning to those who celebrate them.  I know I said four and listed three.  That is because people who do not believe in any of these religions or cultural holidays still celebrate the holiday season.  They simply attach a more secular or humanist view to them.  That is just as much of a holiday as the others and is the fourth holiday.

Who has the right to refuse to honor those people and their holidays?  Why is it okay to say Merry Christmas and not Happy Chanukah or Happy Kwanzaa?  Or, for that matter Happy Holidays?  The only answer can be that some people refuse to recognize those other holidays.  They refuse to offer tidings to anyone who does not celebrate Christmas only in the traditional Christian theology.

That is the real shame and the real problem about the holiday season.  Rather than celebrating the holidays and offering good cheer to everyone, some have made it into a cultural war.  The real “War on Christmas” is being fought by those who want to fight this cultural war.  That is not in the tradition of Christmas, Chanukah, or Kwanzaa.  That is mean-spirited and hateful.

So I want to take the opportunity to wish everyone a Very Happy Holiday.   Whichever holiday you celebrate, may you find warmth, happiness, and cheer with your family and friends.  I will share one little private tidbit with you.  While we sit down to our holiday dinner, remember there are thousands of Americans who won’t be able to be with their family.  These include our military, police, fire, border patrol, doctors and nurses, and a whole bunch of others who must work on Christmas to help protect us.

When I retired from the Coast Guard, we started a little family tradition of our own.  We set out a complete set if dinnerware and leave the chair in front of it empty.  This is to remind us of all those who cannot be with their families on that day.  We even offer a little toast to them for their dedication and sense of duty.  Without them, our holiday season just wouldn’t be the same.

As we celebrate, remember, unlike our ancestors in ancient times, we don’t have to light bonfires in order to coax the sun to come back and warm us.  It will be back in a few months.  But maybe we should be building bonfires anyway.  Just to remind us that what really counts during the holiday season is the love we should all have for our fellow humans whatever they believe.  Otherwise, that child in the manger Christians celebrate will weep again this year.

 

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