A Few Thoughts on the Confederate Flag

This is going to be short but not necessarily sweet, as I only have a few things to add to the fountains of words flooding the digital lake on this topic.

A few thoughts: Continue reading

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Conway’s “Seeds” — A Good Ad … Except

Jack Conway’s campaign released two ads this week, both of which will start airing across the state, and both of which are viewable on the web site here.

I watched the “Seeds” ad, and overall it’s a good ad. Starts with his family’s seed business, and ends with his agency’s record of returning $3 to the state for every $1 spent. A solid, calm, competent ad. Except … Continue reading

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JCPS Central Office Takes Care of Its Own — and Insults Teachers In the Process

When you outsource work, you eliminate the positions. Sometimes, if you can, you try to find other jobs that those people can fill. I get that.

But who in their right mind puts someone in a teaching position when that person has no credentials and no experience — and then pays them twice the going rate?

JCPS, that’s who. Continue reading

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“Inequality Tower” – A Powerful Infographic

I love statistics. (“stat nerd” – yep) If they are well-researched and well-analyzed, they can help us see past the rhetoric and memes and outright lies that make up so much of our current political discourse. They can get us moving up the conversation meter by focusing on facts rather than opinions.

Sometimes, though, you need an infographic. A good infographic can take those stats and make them immediately understandable. A REALLY good infographic can deliver a punch as well.

The infographic “Inequality Tower” is one of the best, most powerful infographics on inequality I have ever seen. The first time I read it, I just stopped and thought about what it was saying, and how I could take action based on it. Every time I have looked at it since, I have had the same reaction.

Yes, it’s about New Zealand, and the stats apply there. The author lives there, so that’s what he addressed. However, the stats aren’t that different for the US; in fact, they are worse.

Take a look and see what you think. Then share your impressions in the comments.

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Explainer: TPP, TAA, and Other Trade Things to Know

With all of the talk about “fast track” and “TPP” and “TAA” and other fun TLAs (three-letter acronyms), I thought it might be helpful to do an Explainer covering the main terms:

  • TPA
  • TPP
  • TAA
  • ISDS
  • USTR

If you think of one I’ve left out, let me know and I’ll add it. Enjoy!

Continue reading

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This Use of Religious Freedom Is Wrong … and Dangerous

We’re all aware of the recent attempts by many across the country to use “religious freedom” as an argument for various actions. Whether it is denying service to certain people at retail establishments, or refusing to fill prescriptions for contraceptives at a pharmacy, or turning away couples wishing to get marriage licenses, the argument has been the same:

My religious beliefs do not support these actions by others, and by being forced to do so, my religious freedom is violated.

At first inspection, this argument seems to have merit. It sounds like government-imposed coercion, which has been at the heart of many religious freedom fights through the centuries. And as someone whose predecessors in the faith were punished and killed in the name of religious coercion, I can tell you that religious freedom is one of the Constitutional rights that I hold most dear.

But, even as I hold that right close, I feel that I must be completely clear when I say —

This use of the “religious freedom” argument is a flim-flam straw man that is deliberately disingenous and deceitful. It is a selfish power play, used to deny others their own rights. But it is also a DANGEROUS argument, that will ultimately come back to haunt those who use it.

More below the fold.

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The point of religious freedom is the right to practice your religion without interference from the government, or to choose to practice no religion at all with no coercion from the government. The wording of the amendment is a marvel of balance and succinctness:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Over the years, like much of the Constitution, we have had to work out the parameters of that statement within the context of the times. School prayer, city-sponsored creches, the wearing or not wearing of certain clothing — all have had to be weighed and discussed to find that balance of neither endorsing nor preventing.

In this case, though, the argument is not about one person’s practice of their faith. It is about that person’s understanding of right and wrong causing harm to another person.

An extreme example: suppose my church believed in the sacrifice of virgins? Would freedom of religion mean that my church could choose someone for the sacrifice, then proceed to kill them? Even more, would freedom of religion mean that my church could choose some random person outside the church and kill them?

Is this a silly example? Yes … and no. The example is outré; the principle is not. “MY religion allows me to prevent YOU from living a normal life or carrying out a normal activity that you are legally allowed to do.”

It’s all about Teh Gay — but as Rachel Maddow and others have repeatedly pointed out, this use of religious freedom can be used for a multitude of situations. The obvious example is inter-racial marriage, which was blocked on religious grounds for many decades. How about inter-religion marriage? How about serving food to Muslims? How about refusing to fill a prescription for depression medication, because my religion says that there is no such thing? You may say that these are silly examples, but a year ago I would have told you that there was no way anyone would allow county clerks to refuse service to ANYONE on the basis of the clerk’s religion … but North Carolina just passed such a law.

And now we come to why this is not only wrong, but dangerous. This use of the “religious freedom” argument is so blatantly illogical and prejudiced that it makes reasonable people just throw up their hands. As it spreads and is not called out by the so-called religious leaders across the country (and indeed is cheered on by some of them), it causes non-religious people to assume that religious people are not only incapable of serious thought, but are actually dangerous to society.

At some point, there will be a REAL threat to religious freedom … and no one will pay any attention, because we will have become the fools who cried “wolf” in order to perpetuate our own prejudices. And a key civil right, one of the key contributions of our country to democratic ideals, will be lost.

I am not a “religious leader.” I am just a person of faith, a writer, who sees this for the sham that it is, and who is willing to stand up and say so. May those with greater pulpits and readerships than I, also sound the alarm, and let everyone know that “freedom of religion” does not mean “freedom to hate.”

Posted in Policy and Politics, Values, Faith, Church | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

“Progressive” Doesn’t Always Mean Progressive (Looking at you, PPI)

We’ve known for a long time that the name of an organization is often a smokescreen (h/t to Source Watch):

  • Center for Consumer Freedom is a front group for tobacco, restaurant, and alchoholic industries.
  • National Wetlands Coalition opposes policies to protect U.S. wetlands.
  • The Global Climate Coalition is funded by the oil and coal companies.

Front groups just turn my stomach, because essentially they are lies from the start. They use a name that is supposed to make you trust them, then they sneakily (or brashly) push their agenda, hoping you won’t notice the disconnect.

There’s another set of groups that aren’t front groups, but they are arising as well. They are the new  “third way” organizations that are the DLC made over, trying to find a middle ground between conservatives and progressives. While I often disagree with the results (the policies are often conservative ones with the rough edges removed), I can at least sympathize with what they are trying to do. Politics is, after all, about compromise, and if we can find a way to move even part of the progressive agenda forward through compromise, then I’m willing to look at it.

Note that I said they aren’t front groups, because they don’t call themselves one thing but promote something else. If you call your organization The Third Way, then you’re being pretty clear.

Then there’s the Progressive Policy Institute. Continue reading

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Miracle: I Agree With Jeff Hoover on Debates

I rarely agree with Jeff Hoover on anything. He’s a conservative Republican and I’m a progressive Democrat, so the odds of us supporting the same programs and policies are usually somewhere between Slim and None.

Those odds got a little shorter over the weekend, though, when I found myself reading his editorial in the C-J and nodding my head Yes. Here’s what we agreed about: Continue reading

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Should You Have A Boycott List?

You’re an activist. You are committed to effecting change in your world. You know that hitting the corporate or institutional pocketbook can be an good way to get someone’s attention. But, you’re just one person. So, why should you have a boycott list? Continue reading

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More Roundabouts, Please

roundaboutWant to reduce traffic accidents, calm traffic in general, AND make your city more friendly to pedestrians and bicycle users? One word: roundabouts.

Study after study have all shown that roundabouts are exceptionally effective at reducing auto accidents and making crossing the street more safe for pedestrians. Here are some results: Continue reading

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