Thursday, July 31, 2014

Israel, Terrorism- After UN ratifies state of Israel


The moment Britain left Israel, war started.

Now, we must remember that there were clashes in the area BEFORE the state was established, and that is why Britain wanted to abandon the 'deal'.

Here are some excerpts of the Macdonald White Paper (1939):

" His Majesty's Government believe that the framers of the Mandate in which the Balfour Declaration was embodied could not have intended that Palestine should be converted into a Jewish State against the will of the Arab population of the country."

 "Unauthorized statements have been made to the effect that the purpose in view is to create a wholly Jewish Palestine. Phrases have been used such as that `Palestine is to become as Jewish as England is English.' His Majesty's Government regard any such expectation as impracticable and have no such aim in view. Nor have they at any time contemplated .... the disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic population, language or culture in Palestine. They would draw attention to the fact that the terms of the (Balfour) Declaration referred to do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded IN PALESTINE."

Palestinians had 'allies' then...Jordon, Egypt, Iraq, Transjordon and Syria all came to the 'aid' of Palestinians in rejecting a Jewish nation state, though they did take Palestinian land so....In any case...Israel prevailed against all of the invading armies and kept the land they conquered for themselves, increasing their land 25% from the original British partition.  There were over 700,000 Arab refugees from this process and reports of massacres of Arabs.  The Israeli's called it a war of independence and the Arabs called it A Catastrophe.

The expulsion of Arabs from their homeland in Palestine led to refugee camps in Jordon, Lebanon and Syria.  According to MERIP, those refugees in Lebanon and Syria are not afforded equality or citizenship.

Did I mention they most still live in those camps?  How ironic that in creating a state for a 'home' for the Jewish people, they made a new people who have no home to go to.  The creation of Israel created a copy of the injustices that had afflicted the Jewish people.  

Gaining territory through war is against international norms now, and was in 1948 as well.  Egypt had captured Gaza in the war and Jordon captured the West Bank and Syria controlled the Golan Heights.  The taking of land was seen as mostly illegal by the international community. 

Since Palestine did not have a state in place when Britain left, Israel negotiated with the Jordon, Egypt and Syria for peace, while Palestinians suffered in camps and were denied human and civil rights across the ME and in Israel.

It must be said, that Israels negotiations with Jordon included access to the holy sites in Jerusalem, which Jordon did not honor.  Israelis were kept out of East Jerusalem.  

Israel and Egypt negotiated a parcel of land 100 meters wide at the border of the Gaza strip and Egypt, built a barbed wire fence and patrolled the border.

Most of these occupations/annexations lasted until the 1967 war, when Israel took over occupation and started building settlements in designated Palestinian areas. 

According to PBS, in 1954, Israeli spies conspired spoil US/Egypt relations by bombing British and US institutions in Egypt.  This was the beginning of tensions that led to the 1967 Six Days War, where Israel captured the occupied lands from Egypt, Syria and Jordon, including East Jerusalem.  They also collected even more land from the Palestinians, who still had no solid representation.

Please watch this movie to see first hand the deplorable, inhuman and uncivil atmosphere Palestinians live in now (well this was before the this last war and the last intifada).

More to come.  My heart aches and I have cried many tears researching and watching the above film.

May we learn how to heal the wounds we have carved into the ME 0:-(
I pray for peace.
I pray for help and restoration of the hearts of the Palestinian people who have been abandoned and mistreated by the world.   


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Israel, Terrorism- The Beginning

I wasn't going to write about Israel this week, but the topic is seeping our of every corner of my conscience, so, I will put it down here.

Where to start???

How about the root of the problem, born long ago in a far away place...somewhere in....Britian!

Did you see that coming?  Britain.  And, Austria, I suppose; 

Austria because that is where Theodore Herzl started his efforts to build and create a safe home for Jewish people in Palestine.

Britain, because the British had control over Palestine and promised the Zionist Congress (the precipitation of Herzl's efforts, which included gathering funds and supporters) land for their vision in Israel in the Balfour Agreement.  

Britian also promised this sovereignty to Arabs on this land in the McMahon -Hussein Letters.


So, what actually happened to the land?

Britain kept most of the land portioning other parts to new ME states, but did not give any to Israel or Palestine. 

It seems to me that the agreements with the Jewish Congress and Hussein were worded very carefully in a effort to leave room for all of the agreements Britain was making with many leaders for the ME. 

It is no wonder that the world is spinning in confusion about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Recently I've heard people supporting Israel say:

The idea of a Palestinian state is delusional, that there never was a Palestinian state

From Concord, NH to Israel, this worldview is common enough to be disturbing, especially to displaced Palestinians.   

This map even shows the area west of Jordon as Israel or Jewish Palestine:

Free Republic:  Map  (I am pretty sure the Free Republic got their map from

Hmm, that is contentious. 

Israel continually says that Palestinians do not want Israel to be a state, yet, many Israeli's do not recognize the validity of a Palestinian state.  

Ever since Jewish people have been emigrating out of their native countries and into Palestine there has been tension, especially over holy sites.

Some Jewish people were afraid of the Zionist movement and its potential to increase tensions between the Jewish religion and the rest of the world.  Then and now.  

One of the first clashes was in 1929, the Hebron Massacre.  This was before there was a state delineated for Palestine or Israel.  I think the British were hoping that there would be some process of self-determination and nation building among all the peoples.  That did not happen. 

Then, there were more uprisings and more killings on both sides.

In 1939, it was clear that Arabs were going to respond with violence to the new settlement of Israel in Palestine, Britain tried to stop the emigration of Jewish people to the area.

This was met with force from some Israelis, and the matter was put from the British onto international governing bodies.  The same year WWII began.

Jewish Zionist leadership were increasingly distraught about the plight of their people, and made a forceful plea to world leaders to rescind Britain's decision.

 "During the months of UNSCOP's efforts, Truman complained of pressure by pro-Zionist groups. In Volume II of his Memoirs, p.158, the former president relates:
The facts were that not only were there pressure movements around the United Nations unlike anything that had been there before but that the White house too, was subjected to a constant barrage. I do not think I ever had as much pressure and propaganda aimed at the White House as I had in this instance. The persistence of a few of the extreme Zionist leaders-actuated by political motives and engaging in political threats -disturbed and annoyed. Some were even suggesting that we pressure sovereign nations into favorable votes in the General Assembly.
This harsh rhetoric was mild compared to other Truman's statements concerning the Zionists and its American leaders, especially Cleveland's Rabbi Silver. In a memorandum to adviser David K. Niles, the president wrote:
We could have settled this whole Palestine thing if U.S. politics had been kept out of it. Terror and Silver are the contributing cause of some, if not all of our troubles." Source

It was stated then, and what was rationally thought has come to pass, that support of an Israeli nation would ensnare the US and the world in ubiquitous violence, as the policy was against the base human desire for self-determination and liberty- values which are core to the ideology of the United States.

I will continue with this theme throughout the week.

I hold a prayer in my heart for peace in the Middle East.  May we discover how to make whole our futures out of the mistakes of the past.

Make a great day.


Monday, July 21, 2014


We are at war at home, we are at war abroad.  Why??

War at home

I was called communist the other day by a high school acquaintance.  It is probable that the fellow was not clear on the definition, but! words have meanings and this is the meaning of communism:

A system of social organization in which all economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party.

As previously mentioned I have also been labeled (cover your kid's ears) a liberal!  The accusation in this case purported 'liberal' to mean immoral and holding a hatred toward Christians.

Hopefully readers are aware that the above label of 'liberal' is a terrible falsehood.

The societal implications for these sorts of labels are important.

If you are community/politically minded, and I assume you are if you are reading this, you probably understand that it is important for individuals to have skills to function within a community.

the use of the word community
does not = communist (please see above definition)
...see the implications of exaggerated, false labels!  It impedes the important civil work of a democracy.  

1.  We cannot have a fruitful debate if we don't agree on the definitions of terms- debating being paramount 
      to organizing, collaborating, compromising and solving problems. 

...if the above adjectives are offensive to you, how do you suppose we live together at all?

2.  Labels can dehumanize our neighbors, leaving the door open for injustices

In any case here is a map some famous/infamous leaders' political standing, followed by mine. You can take the test too!

War with Russia

Did anyone watch the Sunday morning shows this past weekend?  It was all, Russia is a bully, Russia is a goon, Russia is a mobster.  OK.  This has been true for some time.

Then there was the hard pushing accusation, Russia is responsible for the plane being shot down in Ukraine.  OK.  Maybe they supplied the missile launcher (though it is not known).

And, Russia should be held accountable for the rebels' actions in Ukraine if they supplied the missile launcher.

Just Russia, right?  I mean, WE can't be held accountable for the terrible things countries have done with the weapons we have given THEM right?

Whew!  for a second there, I thought that integrity had something to do with international politics.  What an idealistic thought.  International politics...and all politics for that matter is simply a game of who is stronger- a bully

strong enough to control the resources and divy them out to their people....

...wait, or is that a mobster? 

strong enough to remove problems in the path of our Ally's interests...

...or is that a goon?

OK.  I agree that Russia is all these things, and they have taken their Bully, Goon, Mobster tactics to different extremes than we have

I noticed Putin taking more freedom with his tyrannical authoritarianism after the Bush Administration started clamping down on us here, in the US, after 9-11.  I am sure I will make more of this point in another post.

Putin has been off cameras for the past week.  Yes, the world has humiliated him- but he is more popular at home than ever.  We should possibly want to be more careful when humiliating such a Mobster-goon-bully....or are we looking to start WWIII again.    As if Iraq wasn't enough.

How is the fate of the Crimea so important to us in the US?  Is the Crimea important enough to US interests to start a war with Russia?  Can we guess who will ally with Russia?  Probably China, and many ME countries.

The alternative is to what?  Allow part of Ukraine to become part of Russia as a part of a course of self-determination by the people of that area?

If this is about the flow of oil again, I swear!!!   F*#!, Damn-it!!  Hell!  Giant!Pisser!  For the love of G*d!

Hmm...I vote WAR!!!   No, seriously, I don't.

Please read the stories below- about a fight for a self-determined future.  We can learn from all struggles toward freedom.  We cannot insert freedom anywhere, it belongs to the people who create it together.  By the people and for the people...

The Phony War, by Tim Judah from The New York Review on Books
Fascism, Russia and Ukraine, by Timothy Snyder from same source 

War in Israel

As previously outlined in another post the advent of the nation of Israel is part of the course of history which ensnares us all.

A group called the Zionist Congress formed in the early 1900's, with members from many countries.
They wanted to re-create the biblical land of Israel according to their religious texts.
They garnered members, money and political support from the British Empire.
The Zionist Congress bought land in the area of Palestine and called their city Tel-Aviv, some other Zionists moved to their newly acquired property.
The British Empire said they would exchange some Palestinian (under imperial control) land to the Congress to further The Zionist Congress' goals. 
Britian did not give them the land promised to them after WWI,
but did help to accept the new Israel as a nation after WWII as part of a UN resolution

Viola!  A new Israel

Sooooo, the Palestinians didn't like that, nor did many Middle Eastern states who supported Palestinian's authority over their own land....

However, as the most dominant forces in the world, Britian and US economic and political policies have kept Arab interests at bay, while we extract their most valuable resource- oil.

Can you glean a cause for resentment here on the part of the Arabs? 

In any case- the Israeli's are on a religious mission to fulfill some religious text.  They have chosen to try and take over a foreign country's territory- against all the rules of modern politics. 

---really, this is old school politics, not the modern civil politics of the Geneva Convention.

Did we support the creation of Israel?  Yes.  Do we have to keep supporting their religious mission?  No.

What is our national interest in Israel?

It is not our fault that Israeli's are there- the Zionist National Congress had this plan long before WWII.

Is this about oil? Because, if it is...F*#!, Damn-it!!  Hell!  Giant!Pisser!  For the love of G*d!

Is it because 'we' identify with 'them' religiously?
       time to exercise separation of Church and State
                ...A Christian friend of mine recently said Muslims need know who else doesn't have
                   Jesus?    The Jewish religion!  The Jewish religion sees Jesus as a dangerous and false prophet.
                ...just to reiterate- the USA should not be waging wars based on a Religion's goals.  

Is not the fact that the Jewish religion and the Christian religion can work as part of a team proof that differing, even contradictory religions can work together?

So,  why are we at war?

International intervention and possible war crimes.

"This is not war, this is annihilation," said 17-year-old Hamed Ayman. "I once dreamt of becoming a doctor. Today I am homeless. They should watch out for what I could become next."

On the Media

The first Amendment of the Constitution:

"...prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights." -Wiki

There has been much talk in the past decade or so about freedom of religion and freedom of speech  but what is the significance of the freedom of the press?


by: Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

'HILE free from Force the Press remains,
Virtue and Freedom chear our Plains,
And Learning Largesses bestows,
And keeps unlicens'd open House.
We to the Nation's publick Mart
Our Works of Wit, and Schemes of Art,
And philosophic Goods, this Way,
Like Water carriage, cheap convey.
This Tree which Knowledge so affords,
Inquisitors with flaming swords
From Lay-Approach with Zeal defend,
Lest their own Paradise should end.

The Press from her fecundous Womb
Brought forth the Arts of Greece and Rome;
Her offspring, skill'd in Logic War,
Truth's Banner wav'd in open Air;
The Monster Superstition fled,
And hid in Shades in Gorgon Head;
And awless Pow'r, the long kept Field,
By Reason quell'd, was forc'd to yield.

This Nurse of Arts, and Freedom's Fence,
To chain, is Treason against Sense:
And Liberty, thy thousand Tongues
None silence who design no Wrongs;
For those who use the Gag's Restraint,
First Rob, before they stop Complaint. '

     Our founding fathers saw the press as a main vehicle for debate, civil discussion, address of grievances and perhaps most of all- for education, so that man may have reasoned discussions.

For this purpose the press should not be controlled by governing powers, who may choose the print on which the people form their opinions.

As well, the job of a journalist has foremost been to find, print and disseminate THE TRUTH, as to provide facts, from which society may argue and form its conclusions.  

Control of the media in a simple form of mind control.  The people can reason with the facts they are given.  If bad leaders print lies and misinformation, what conclusions can the people rightly make?


So come the heroic professionals of journalism- seeking the truth whatever the cost, sometimes a journalist's life itself is part of the course that brings people THE TRUTH. 

The National Society for Professional Journalists' ethical guidelines are this:  Seek the truth- and report it; Minimize harm; and Act independently.  

Who can most directly corrupt the sacred platform for truth dissemination and civil debate?

Journalists?  Media owners?  Politicians?  Wealthy individuals?

     Profit over Truth driven journalism and Apathetic consumers

There is a fateful Catch 22 going on between media providers and the consumers of media:

All businesses must make a profit. ->

As media has been liberated on the internet, news readership has gone down and news makers are trying to reach the people where they are- on the internet.  Online news sources are paid by advertisers according to ad hits.  This means the more a consumer is interested in a particular story, the more money is made off of that story.  ->

Media consumers are interested in crime and violence, and are enticed more by entertainment than by important facts of civic life.


News is mostly crime and entertainment, not seeking truth and providing a platform for reasoned civil debate. 


People don't trust the news, and it loses its purpose and value.


The news finds different ways to make money following consumer demand for crime and entertainment 

Do citizens need to be informed about community, state, national and international issues?

Do we need a truth seeking media?

Should journalists be held accoutable to the ethics of TRUTH, MINIMIZING HARM and  ACTING INDEPENDENTLY?

The founding fathers thought so... not just a free press, but TRUTH seeking press; and not just a free people- but an educated and civic minded people 

If one corrupts the product of the press in the course of making it- - the use- the value- the quality of the product suffers.  

It is a crime against all who have sacrificed to keep the institution of a free-truth seeking press alive- as the cornerstone of our Democratic Republic nation - to diminish the profession to the purpose of entertainment. 

As I conclude many times over in my political arguments, the foundation of a nation is built on communities, and the foundation of the community is made of individuals.  

The fate of our country lies in each of us as individuals, being educated on

1.  The facts of the matters that do or may affect us

2.  The responsibilities of civic life

One may blame media companies themselves, advertisers or individual reporters; but the most direct player affecting the change in media is the consumer, the individual, the citizen.

What news will you consume today?

Make a great day!


Monday, July 14, 2014


In my last post, I mentioned how frustrating it is to try and debate in a world where important words are ill defined.

Let us look at some easily available definitions of conservative(ism) and liberal(ism) in their political context.

I was going to define more terms such as neo liberal, neo conservative, realist and neo realist...but we have had quite a challenge recently with just these two terms:

conservatism (Nelson)-  A political ideology generally characterized by a belief in individualism and minimal government intervention in the economy and society; also a belief in the virtue of the status quo and general acceptance of traditional morality.
conservative (Merriam-Webster)- a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; specifically :  such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage) 
conservative (Oxford)- A person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics. 
conservative (Conservapedia)-A conservative is someone who rises above his personal self-interest and promotes moral and economic values beneficial to all. A conservative is willing to learn and advocate the insights of economics and the logic of the Bible for the benefit of all.

liberalism (Nelson)- A theory of international relations stressing the rule of law
liberalism (Merriam-Webster)-  a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically :  such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (as those involving race, gender, or class) 
liberal (Oxford)- (In a political context) favoring maximum individual liberty in political and social reform: a liberal democratic state
liberal  (Conservapedia)- A liberal is someone who supports liberalism, which is a political philosophy on the left of the political spectrum. Liberals favor an increase in government spending, power, and control, as in Obamacare. Most liberals also support the censorship and denial of Christianity because of its strong moral values. 

Nation (Nelson)- Individuals whose common identity creates a psychological bond and a political community.

Under the definition of Nation...does the USA fit the description today?  

Note: I looked for a liberalpedia and there isn't one, at least not one that is not upfront about their cathartic humorist purpose.  

 Conservapedia takes itself seriously, and by the look of the New Republicans (my own term), so do many victims who use the site.

New Republican-  US citizens who call themselves Republican or Conservative, but who are really the victims of propaganda pushed by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh etc.; Christian theocrats;  Generally deny science in favor of the Bible and the status quo;  Intolerant to diversity and individual civil rights.

Unfortunately in our times, the two definitions being used in national debate are the CRAZY ones...that is the one I made up: New Republicans; and the one Conservapedia made up.  

Pitting these two nouns against each other, there is no room for compromise...and this is why the US is where it is in politics today.  CRAZY, INCOHERENT, STUCK, STUPID, IN DANGER.

Can we please just agree on common sense, REAL definitions of conservatism and liberalism and go from there again, otherwise we may find ourselves back at the beginning...without any freedoms, under the rule of some iron fist because we CANNOT GOVERN OURSELVES.

Using the traditional definitions, there is hope for compromise and a return to a nation that is able to move forward- whether incrementally or radically based on agreed needs and purposes.

Where left and right have traditionally agreed is 1. the rule of law and 2. individual freedom.

One last point:  The fact that 'republicans' have taken on this new definition of 'liberal' is a testament against their loyalty to conservative values.  They have radically changed the widely accepted and historically used definiton of 'liberal'.

As a nation we need to ask....


Make a great day


Monday, July 7, 2014

American Exceptionalism

American Exceptionalism is inherently an egotistical idea.  The phrase was not given to this nation by our founding fathers, but imposed upon them by later generations. 

The meaning of the phrase has changed much over the years (so so many other very confusing/important words: genically modified, sustainability, Liberal, Republican...why must it be so?) 

At first the US was seen as exceptional for its fight for liberty and equality.

"The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. "  Thomas Paine 1776
"Objects of the most stupendous magnitude, and measure in which the lives and liberties of millions yet unborn are intimately interested, are now before us. We are in the very midst of a revolution the most complete, unexpected and remarkable of any in the history of Nations."  John Adams 1776
"It is a common observation here that our cause is the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own."  Ben Franklin 1777

Then, the US was seen as exceptional because, having abundant space and resources, it did not have to contend with the societal pressure of socialism.  It was thought to be immune- special in that sense. 

As Nation States became more prevalent in the early 1900's, the USA was a still a 'shining light on the hill,' respected as a moral leader for its representative government and economic opportunity.  An international social experiment that seemed to be the key to the pursuit of happiness.  

Further along in history, and more recently, America was thought exceptional for being a leader in market capitalism and militarism.  The single power in a uni-polar world.  The World Police, with a special interest in spreading Democracy abroad.

“I do not believe that Barack Obama believes that the U.S. is an exceptional nation, and the whole concept that the world is a safer place, a more peaceful place, when the U.S. is powerful, able to in fact project its will in various places around the world,” -Dick Cheney 2013
Dick Cheney's quote is a great synthesis of what has most recently transpired from the term American Exceptionalism.  From a term to guide our international force, to a term to divide the country by coding the 'others' (that is not in the new conservative camp) a new kind of liberal and those liberals as anti-American and anti-christian.

A recent facebook argument I had with a new conservative precipitated this definition of liberal:  "A new morality and social order based totally on a sect of society's own pragmatism informed by it's own custom-made definition of 'good'. And as such, is diametrically opposed to the Judeo-Christian ethic of principle as a whole."

The new American Exceptionalism is espoused by neo-conservatives (or neo-liberal, or neo-realists...the next post will explore these confusing terms.)  Chief among them, Dick Cheney, Mit Romney, Fox News, and on down the New Republican line.

There is a big difference between our founding fathers feeling as though their own struggle for independence, liberty and hence freedom was a fight that could benefit others in the world; to 'our struggle entitles us to be the dominant force in the world' to 'our dominance is based on a gift from God, and those who do not appreciate this are anti-American and our enemies'.  

In any case, as the US has moved away from its original intention of supporting a common good through Public Virtue, education and economic opportunity, to a shrieking cacophony difficult to make sense of-
The world has moved on in a global process of prosperity and self-determination.   We are no longer the only wealthy, industrious, freedom seeking nation.  Many other nations have joined the journey.

Some have done quite well following the example of a people's struggle to become and build up a United States of America.  Some others have been crushed by the self-important idea of American Exceptionalism, and the US's inherent and indefinite role as the leader. Nations in the Middle East and South America especially, in my opinion, by means of 'regime change'; and nations subject to IMF rules, like Structural Adjustment Policies.(a perspective from Africa)

Maybe we could have stayed exceptional if we had acted on US ideals based in liberty, justice and morality.

Maybe if individual citizens had an idea of what it means to be a citizen of such a nation:  to value diversity, to separate church and state, to maintain an intrepid truth-seeking media, to demand integrity from our leaders, through paying attention to public matters and involving ones self in the process.

In many cases, the US, as a nation, and as individuals have dropped the ball- with serious consequences for ourselves.  Other nations do not necessarily do worse when we fall behind.

As we loosen our grip, others may gain room to move with more liberty. 

Should we root for other countries to not reach their potential if that means being 'better' than us or equal to us?  Must US citizens and the USA be the best?...or else what?

...that is what American Exceptionalism, as referenced today, demands.  I don't think other Nation's like that kind of attitude on the international playground. We must be willing to accept other nation's strengths, without wanting to steal it, capitalize off of it, suppress or destroy it. 

I want to link this to my recent post on Middle East Liberty by sharing an excerpt from the 1997 book, Strategic Geography and the Changing Middle East,
"Historically, the Middle East has been a crossroads linking Empires, dynasties, cultures and armies in both peace and war, and those who controlled access to its vital land and water trade routes wielded great power and frequently amassed huge fortunes...The United States continues to have vital interests in the Middle East, including the survival of allies, especially Israel, and the denial of the control of Persian Gulf resources to hostile powers."
If we were to be faithful to an idea that America is exceptional based on our values of independence, liberty and freedom, we would be able to let others grow and flourish according to their abilities and capabilities.  We would lead the world, not through might, but as an example of what a nation under such principles can be.  

It is a tragedy that American leaders, like Cheney, who espouse American Exceptionalism, have destroyed its validity, through debacles such as the Iraq War, dogmatic loyalty to Israel, theocratic tendencies, abandonment of the common good, and betrayal of Public Virtue; and that international institutions we largely control, such as the IMF and World Bank, have exploited emerging nations, suppressing their capabilities for our own financial gains.   

Isn't it good enough to let go the reigns of colonialism and imperialism and to allow others their own path, their own fight for self-determination (which may be a monarchy or other form of gov't), as we continue to fight for ours?

American Exceptionalism, in our time, has become an -ism that might foster evil- by encouraging some underlying factors: poverty, discrimination, and elitism- that foster such negative outcomes.  See my previous post on a cure

There is no shortcut to freedom.  

Make a great day!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Extra: Hobby Lobby, Healthcare and Unions

Oh boy!  er...Oh girls!

Has the highest court just opened the gates for a theocracy?  ...  through mini-corporate theocracies?

Maybe not.
One cannot expect the court to rule as if future courts will make the wrong decisions, though the public fears that the court might.

Confidence in the government in general is at record lows, and will probably dip even more for the Supreme Court since the Hobby Lobby Decision.  I can understand the people's mistrust of the executive branch and the congress, but I think that the Supreme Court is the hardest branch of government for people to understand, and I think they are often unfairly...uh....judged.

The Supreme Court's work- constitutional law, has always and will always be debated.  The work is tricky with many nuances. 

The question for the Hobby Lobby case:

Should a business owner be forced to violate their religious beliefs and have a hand in 'providing abortions' for their employees?

I know using the word 'abortion' instead of 'contraception' is extreme.  Hobby Lobby is opposed to two forms of contraception:  Plan B, or the morning after pill, and IUDs.   While most health professionals do not consider these forms of contraception to cause abortions, Hobby Lobby does.

If I were in their place, I would feel the same way.  I would not think it right under our constitution to have to violate my religious rights to provide this kind of healthcare- or any healthcare to my employees.

This would not be an issue if:

1.)  Private business did not carry the societal, and sometimes contractual, obligation of providing
      healthcare  for their employees.  

2.)  We had not just passed a revolutionary (for the US) new heathcare law requiring
       birth control to be covered by all healthcare plans provided by employers

Personally, and I cannot understand why Republicans are not with me on this: I do not think businesses should be involved in healthcare AT ALL.  It is an enormous cost and hassle for businesses and has nothing to do with the core mission of selling crafts or clothes or making cars etc. etc.

I do, however, believe that healthcare is a necessity for the population.  Everyone uses the healthcare system, and everyone deserves access to healthcare.  See my previous post on Common Good

If business should not be involved, but everyone uses and deserves healthcare, and also the Supreme Court upheld that we can be compelled to pay into the healthcare system, the solution is...Universal Healthcare, provided by the gov't paid for by taxes.

This was Obama's and many Democrats original conclusion, before compromising single payer views into the unrecognizable form the ACA took, which has maintained insurance companies as the arbitrators of our healthcare.

In any case, the court says that this is a narrow ruling, and will not burgeon into businesses and corporations discriminating against or imposing religious rules on employees.

Justice Ginsberg, who dissented, does not believe it is a narrow ruling and worries that the finding shows favoritism toward Christianity and does open the door to for-profit businesses imposing their religious views on employees.

"Our right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins," she persuades.

Justice Alito wrote that the decision does not allow for business owners to impose disadvantages on others.
The matter lies on this line:  whose freedoms are being restricted the most?  A question the bench has historically asked when making decisions. 

What recourse do the owners of Hobby Lobby have if they do not want to provide abortion services which could condemn them under their religious beliefs?  

Well, they could drop health insurance.  That was the only choice.  

Obama Care does not demand that employers provide health insurance.

Employees cannot take part of the new ACA Market Place if their employers provide health insurance.

Therefore, Hobby Lobby could have opted to not provide insurance at all, leaving their employees to the new ACA marketplace.   

The requirement in place for employers with over 50 employees is this:    If you offer health insurance, but one of your employees qualifies for federal subsidies (this means that you do not pay your employees well enough to pay for the insurance you provide), then you have to pay a cost sharing fine.  The general rule is that the coverage provided should cost an employee no more than 9.5% of his/her annual income and must cover dependents, but not spouses. The fine is $2,000 per employee if the requirements are not met.  Hobby Lobby has 23,000 employees, that would be about $46 million in fines if the minimum requirements are not met.  Their annual revenue is about $3.3 billion.

I could be wrong on the numbers, I am no expert. 

Hobby Lobby pays a high wage, $15 hr.  This would mean their healthcare coverage should cost no more than about $175 a month.  Good luck on that. 

So, do employers really want to pay all this money, go through all of this headache and paperwork, when the alternative is to have government provided healthcare?

Maybe this is what republicans complained about when they said that Obama Care is a pathway to Single Payer. But, between business and government, who has the a higher responsibility for healthcare?

What recourse do women have to find these contraceptions outside of the workplace?  The court suggests that for-profit businesses be allowed the same exemption allowed non-profits who do not wish to cover these services.  The exemption
"provide(s) women with coverage for recommended preventive care, including all FDA-approved contraceptive services prescribed by a health care provider, without cost-sharing, while ensuring that non-profit religious organizations that object to contraceptive coverage on religious grounds do not have to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for such coverage for their employees or students."  
 So, basically, women will have another option.

I love this!  I love this back and forth debating on where 'one's arm ends and another's nose begins.' It is the core debate on liberty and freedom.

I am not afraid that people's rights are going to start being oppressed by religious bosses.   The Hobby Lobby case is a situation of an employer being compelled to be the actor of a religious sin, that is, in effect- providing abortions.  They can not discriminate against a worker or customer just because that worker or customer uses Plan B or IUDs.

Also, I think business will and should get out of healthcare altogether. 

The court can only make decision based upon the questions asked, precedent in law and constitutionality.  That is it.  They do not, as a general rule, reach any further.  If there are gross injustices that come from this ruling they will be arbitrated further in later cases.

Cool.  I think this is really cool-  Hobby Lobby gained the security of it's constitutional right of freedom of religion; and women, thanks to Obama Care, will be taken care of.  If, in fact, the ruling does impose disadvantages on others, new cases will be summoned and the court will rule again. 

What can you do about the decision?  Not much.  We can't vote for Justices.  We cannot influence them.  We cannot fire them.

The Justices are picked because they have the supposed expertise and judgement to decide, impartially, whose liberty has right of way according to constitutional law.  An amazing vocation and service.  A complicated task, hard for ordinary citizens to fully understand (myself included). 

The best a citizen can do is organize and lobby representatives in the legislature to repeal the ruling, if that is what one wants. 

The court just ended their term, check out a quick year in review from PBS Newshour.

Now, a bit on Unions, because I know some of you are thinking about it behind this case:

I understand that Unions have bargained for healthcare coverage, but the idea of businesses taking care of healthcare came about when people had dirty jobs, before OSHA, before workers comp and other legal saftey nets for workers.  Is it time to take this burden off of business?

I think so. 

It is also long past time we have a conversation about the power of Unions, and the pros and cons for Unions in a modern world.

Another recent decision from the courts finally allows employees who are not in a Union to stop paying Union dues.  Hear! Hear!

Now, I believe strongly in the right of employees to organize and unionize, but there have to be limits to the Union's power...limits on their control over employers and employees.  There is a time for everything, a time for unions and a time for unions to recede when an employer is just and poses no threat.

More on unions in another post down the line...

Until then, enjoy the debates!