Thursday, May 27, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I was prompted to reexamine my assumption that SB 1070 was unconstitutional by something President Obama said in the joint press conference with President Calderon- he said that he was instructing the Justice Department to "...look very closely at the language of this law to see whether it comports both with our core values and existing legal standards as well as the fact that the federal government is ultimately the one charged with immigration policy." Did you notice what is different about that from what other members of the administration like Eric Holder, Janet Napolitano, and Michael Posner and P.J. Crowley of the State Department said? President Obama didn't say it was unconstitutional. Given that all the others mentioned admitted that they have not read the law, and the President sounded like he had, I began to wonder if the President was using more circumspect language because he wasn't so sure it would be overturned.
That caused me to do a search for a legal opinion of the law that was written by someone not involved in the suites against it, and I found I may indeed have been wrong in my assumption that it is unconstitutional. Here is an article from The Jurist: Arizona's Immigration Law: Constitutional, But...
JURIST Guest Columnist William G. Ross of Cumberland School of Law, Samford University, says Arizona's controversial new immigration law appears to be constitutional, at least on its face, but the state must be scrupulously careful to avoid even the appearance of any kind of discrimination against Hispanics...." From the The Washington Times: "WINN: Arizona law will triumph in court
Constitutional challenges have little support in case law... John Winn teaches business and constitutional law at Shenandoah University in Virginia. He served in the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps from 1985 through 2005, including five years on West Point's law faculty." From The North County Times (a San Diego newspaper): "REGION: Three USD professors say Arizona law is constitutional Arizona's controversial new immigration law probably would withstand legal challenges on constitutional grounds, according to a panel of three University of San Diego law professors."
If you're as surprised as I was, here's the short form of the argument: the federal preemptive power only matters if the state law is in conflict with the federal law; states make laws identical to federal laws all the time, and the courts uphold them. Reading that, I remembered a USA Today story from yesterday about a court decision in banking law: "In a partial victory for banks, the Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed an amendment that would largely prevent states from writing new laws to protect consumers from questionable financial products even if no federal law exists. However, the measure preserves states' authority to enforce federal rules." (my emphasis) Does the Arizona law agree with federal law? Well, reading the law, I saw that every section uses the federal statutes for definitions and procedures. In fact, in fifteen pages of actual text, federal law is referenced eighteen times! There are other points discussed, but you're better off reading the professors than my interpretation of them. The net is that there's an excellent chance the law will be upheld in the courts. And they didn't say it that way, but it seems a near certainty that it will be upheld with whatever minor changes the courts might demand.
If upheld, it is another certainty in this climate that other states will in fact pass such laws- and not just the seven states already considering it; here in Indiana there are at least two state senators waiting only for the court results to introduce similar legislation, and I'm sure many other states are doing the same.
This suggests to me that going to Arizona and protesting will have more impact than boycotting. On one hand, winning the hearts and minds of voters seems the only way to stop the promulgation of the law if it is constitutional. On the other hand, if that many states do pass the law, we might wind up boycotting so many venues that the only place left to hold a GA is Oaxaca. Assuming we have our papers in order, of course.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
"Fully 73% say they approve of requiring people to produce documents verifying their legal status if police ask for them. Two-thirds (67%) approve of allowing police to detain anyone who cannot verify their legal status, while 62% approve of allowing police to question people they think may be in the country illegally.
After being asked about the law’s provisions, 59% say that considering everything, they approve of Arizona’s new illegal immigration law while 32% disapprove."
This suggest a course of action to me. The boycott resolution that will be voted on at GA next month calls for an amount of money to be raised equal to the penalties we must pay for the Standing On The Side Of Love campaign. I propose that if the resolution fails, that provision be submitted separately, with the money to be used to place a series of articles in major publications delineating the Constitutional issues involved. Appealing to emotions clearly isn't working; perhaps appealing to the general reverence for the Constitution will. This course of action has the following advantages:
That is the argument that will appeal most to conservatives, Republicans, and those over 50- the groups that currently most strongly support 1070. Splitting off the more libertarian minded conservatives will erode support for 1070 more than any amount of protests would.
We may be able to partner with a legal organization such as the ACLU, or another church to split costs. There will probably be famous name lawyers who will submit such articles at reduced cost or even pro bono, as it's an educational effort.
An educational program like that can be used for other social justice issues in the future; some of the partnerships we might form putting this together may become long term.
It would be a great thing to have our name attached to. We are proud of being the church where reason and religion meet; what better way to show it?
Wall Street Journal has been catching flak for publishing a picture of SCOTUS nominee Elena Kagan playing softball: Was it code language (code image?) calling her a lesbian? Yes, says Cathy Renna, a former spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamatio- "It clearly is an allusion to her being gay. It's just too easy a punch line." No, says Journal spokeswoman Ashley Huston- "If you turn the photo upside down, reverse the pixilation and simultaneously listen to Abbey Road backwards, while reading Roland Barthes, you will indeed find a very subtle hidden message."
I'll admit to being not qualified to judge. In the first place, I seem to be a bit tone deaf to code language- for example, I didn't get that complimenting a fellow senator for being very articulate was racist code language. My first thought seeing that picture was, "Cool- a Justice who's regular folks, playing softball and drinking beer, (One follows the other, right?), not another martini-sipping relic of earlier times, no more headlines like Supreme Court clueless about pagers, texting and e-mails..." I took it as a play on "stepping up to the plate"; "switch hitter" didn't occur to me. To tell the truth, I still don't quite get a relationship between softball and lesbianism; I've played softball with women that I had very good reason to believe were heterosexual.
My second thought was code language or not, what difference does it make? I was remembering an exchange many years ago with a friend who did not yet understand the difference between a libertarian conservative and the religious right. I had been admiring a K. D. Lang tune, and was asked, "Does it bother you that she's a lesbian?" I said, "Well, it's not like she was going to f*** me, anyway- who cares?" This isn't the 1940's- we have out of the closet elected officials nowadays; does it matter to anyone other than the obituary writer who will someday write, "She is survived by..."?
Is she gay? Or has she just not found a guy she wanted to marry? I don't know, and I don't care. And you know what? I don't think the general public cares, either. The public is often underestimated. I'm remembering a ABC TV segment where actors were sent into a sports bar in New Jersey- a gay couple, and a provocateur couple to make homophobic comments. Much to the surprise of ABC, the regular patrons of the sports bar challenged the nasty comments the provocateurs were making, and demanded that they leave.
I have a novel idea- instead of asking her why she isn't married, how about asking her about her opinions on the extensions of the commerce clause, or her criteria for eminent domain?
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
But more importantly, this article gives details the Rasmussen article did not- the actual question asked, and a demographic breakdown. Here is the question: "Next, a new Arizona law may soon go into effect regarding one’s U.S. citizenship status and right to be in the U.S.. The new law would require police officers in Arizona to question anyone about their immigration status if an officer suspects the person may be in the country illegally, including anyone who looks or sounds foreign. Those found to be here illegally could be jailed up to six months and fined $2,500. Do you favor or oppose the governor signing such a law if it is sent to her by the legislature?” Some might say the question is just a tad biased, as the words "including anyone who looks or sounds foreign" not only do not appear in the law, but are explicitly forbidden as the sole determining factors- but leave that aside for the moment. Here are the demographic breakdowns:
-------------------------------Favor --Oppose --Unsure
Overall ----------------------52 %-- 39 % --------9 %
Republicans ---------------76 % --15 % --------9 %
Caucasian ------------------65%---28 % --------7 %
Age 55+ --------------------62 % --31 % --------7 %
Independents -------------60 %---30 % ------10 %
Men -------------------------56 % --40 % --------4 %
All registered voters -----56 % --34 % ------10 %
Age 35 to 54 --------------53 % --41 % --------6 %
Women ---------------------49 % --38 % ------13 %
Age under 35 --------------45 % -43 % ------12 %
Democrats -----------------30 % --58 % ------12 %
Non-Hispanic minorities 29 % --63 % --------8 %
Hispanics -------------------21 % --69 % ------10 %
Note those last two lines- even with what might be called a leading question, more than one in four Non-Hispanic minorities supports the law, and more than one in five Hispanics. That suggests to me an answer to who is right- the Governor of Arizona, who says "In 2009, Phoenix had 316 kidnapping cases, turning the city into the nation's kidnapping capital. Almost all of the people kidnapped were illegal immigrants or linked to the drug trade.", or her critics who say that crime is going down in Arizona. If those crimes are not happening, why would 21% of Arizona Hispanics support the law, with another 10% not sure?
That is not a good argument for an unconstitutional law, but is sure is a good argument for securing the border.
Discovered by Sir Isaac Newton on trash day as he heard the cart approaching.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Said President Obama at Hampton University, Virginia, Sunday. One such claim he made himself- "With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, -- none of which I know how to work --..." That wasn't the impression I got a couple years ago:
But I'll give him the benefit of the doubt; perhaps he plays his games on his Blackberry; after all, "...information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation,"
Why? Michael Graham, author of "That's No Angry Mob—That's My MOM!" (Regnery, 2010), says, "Many women gave the most obvious answer: "If we waited around for you men to do it, it would never get done.", and provides some quotes to illustrate: "When I asked Christen Varley, the Boston tea party leader, she said it's because moms tend to be "the CEO's of our households. We do the shopping, bill paying, budgeting, etc. We know less money means less freedom. Maybe if the president and Congress did the grocery shopping, they'd know why we're mad."... "Motherhood itself has become a political act," says Ms. Loesch. (co-founder of the St. Louis tea party) "And the tea parties are an extension of our need as moms to protect the future for our children."... The tea party idea "just clicked in the minds of conservative women," she (Keli Carender the Seattle-area mother of the tea party movement.) says. "Most women I know are thinking 'I'm taking care of my family and the government's taking care of it's business—right?' Then they see what the government is really doing and they saw 'Whoa, whoa! I guess I've gotta take care of their mess, too.'"
It's only fitting that this story was published on Mothers Day; mothers usually have to be the ones to take care of childish messes... here's hoping that we, as a nation, stop behaving childishly so the mothers of the nation won't have to clean it up in the future.
Saturday, May 08, 2010
I do agree with the mother's take on the important lesson her daughter should learn from this; indeed, from my experience in public schools, I'm surprised it's taken her 'til third grade to learn it.
P.S. It occurs to me that her having only a single piece may be a clue to why she got the harsh treatment; they were probably trying to make her squeal on Mr. Big, the supplier.
Friday, May 07, 2010
That is the first question thrown out by the new UU Salon. "Does it exist before we are born? Does it disappear when we die? It is unchangeable, or capable of growing/shrinking/strengthening? Can you lose your soul, or gain one?" Here is my take, though I'll take the points slightly out of order.
To answer the question, "What is a soul", I need to ask a different question first. Who’s in control of your life? No, I’m not asking if you have an overbearing parent, spouse, or boss, or whether you’ve committed your life to Jesus or to Satan. What I’m asking is, when you speak, who’s talking? If your answer is, "I'm in control of my life," we need to look a little closer.
Do you prefer Ginger or Maryanne? (Or Bob or Steve?) Why? Any healthy body would satisfy instinctive/biological needs. What is your favorite color? Blue? Why? Some have told me it was the color of their favorite flower, but... so what? Why do you like that flower? What is your dream job? What job would you hate to be stuck in? Why? What rational process did you use to choose any of those answers? Odds are, if you keep asking why, your ultimate answer will be, “I don’t know- I just like them.” If you did come up with reasons, I’ll guarantee those reasons won’t bear close examination. All of them will boil down to "I just like that one."
The being who made those decisions- all the important decisions of your life- is the real you, a soul. All those things we think of as "me"- our rational minds, our proud intellects, our conscious selves- are tools the soul uses to manipulate its environment, no different in essence from our hands. The conscious mind does not control our wants, our dreams, our identity- that is why, for example, one cannot decide to be straight or gay. The soul is the "you" who has the answers to all those questions. That soul is who the Divine speaks to.
Some people I've tried to explain this view to have thought that I was saying that the soul is just the instinctive, hard wired, "lizard brain" level of ourselves- but it much more complicated than that. As I mentioned above, there is no biological imperative to preferring Ginger over Maryanne. There is no biological explanation for preferring a red car to a blue one, or the scent of lilac over roses, dogs over cats, rum over (shudder) bourbon, etc.
Does the soul grow? Yes. Although the conscious mind, what we normally call our "self", does not control our behavior, it does influence it. It's a symbiotic relationship; the soul depends upon the mind for its perceptions, its understanding of the world. We are composite creatures, in this respect; we live in two worlds- that which we can see, and the virtual world in our minds. The lowest animals live only in the world they sense around them; higher animals add memory of where they've been, a virtual expansion of their senses. Still higher forms add speculative imagery; they extrapolate what they can expect to find in new but familiar territory. By the time you get to higher mammals, their virtual world is detailed enough to predict cause and effect- anyone who's been around dogs and cats can see them sometimes obviously performing thought experiments, trying to figure a situation out.
But the human virtual world is so complete that we can mistake it for reality. It has been demonstrated that false memories can be implanted by another, or accidentally developed by one's self. Perceptions can be altered deliberately. Take the classic "Is it a vase, or two faces" optical illusion- with practice, one can train one's self to always see it one way, so much so that it now takes an effort of will to see the other. This is how the mind can influence the soul, by changing the perceptions the soul uses to make decisions. I was panicked by a false perception, and countered it with another, in this incident.
It's not just one-time events that perceptions control, but entire lives. People troubled by a conflict between their sexual identity and the instinct to fit in- a powerful instinct; while we were still evolving, it meant life or death- has driven some to deprogrammers, trying to change who they really were. But a change in perceptions- first, that most people don't actually care what one does behind closed doors, and that perhaps it's those who object that are not normal, in that they lack basic human empathy- can help resolve the conflict. Changing one's perceptions of those who disagree with you from enemies or fools to fellow travelers who've had different experiences and perspectives brightens one's spirits and makes one a more persuasive debater in the bargain. Things like this are growth of the soul.
But the opposite can also occur- a bleak outlook can make one ill, physically and emotionally. As I wrote here, "Is life "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.", or is this "the best of all possible worlds", with any hardships being just a foible in a thing of beauty, like getting a flat tire on a Lexus? Both are equally true, for by believing them, you make them so."
"Does it exist before we are born? Does it disappear when we die? These questions beg the question, "Does the soul exist independent of the body?" I don't know that this can be resolved, as the conscious mind that considers such questions is utterly dependent upon the physical shell. How can one have memories from before one had the capacity to form conscious memories? As to surviving after death, one can make a case; we are no more our brains than the word processing program I'm using is the computer- we are software, not hardware, and it's possible that the energy patterns are recorded somehow. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about it. "One reality at a time," is my motto; the Divinity I perceive is not petty or small; if I make myself worthy of this existence, I need not fear the next.
To me, undue concern over an unknowable future in an unknown reality is an abuse of religion. I believe that the proper role of religion is to address the needs of the soul in the here and now... helping one make sense of life's daily absurdities, sharing pain and joy, understanding how to live and how to die.
Whereas the state of Arizona has recently enacted a law—SB 1070--that runs counter to our first principle, affirming the worth and dignity of every person,
Whereas the Association stands in solidarity with allies using a widespread economic boycott of Arizona as leverage for Love against this hateful legislation;
Be it resolved: we will not meet in a state of fear.
Accordingly, the Assembly hereby:
• Directs the UUA General Assembly Planning Committee to recommend to the Board of Trustees an alternate location for General Assembly 2012 at a location outside the state of Arizona;
• Pledges to generate from Member Congregations the amount sufficient to cancel arrangements in Phoenix for GA 2012;
• Pledges further to generate an equal or greater amount to fund ongoing efforts to Stand on the Side of Love in Arizona.
• Pledge to renew and redouble our efforts to become a multicultural, anti racist Association; to live as a people standing faithfully in opposition to systematic racism in our congregations, local communities, and in our own lives.
This was passed at a special online meeting* of the board that as many observers as the technology would allow were invited to participate in- a procedure I applaud and appreciate. The discussion was wide ranging, with many points brought up that are worth all our consideration. I have names attached to some of these, but as I wasn't able to capture actual quotes, it wouldn't be fair for me to put words in their mouths by attributing my faulty memory to them.
Cancelling will cost about $615,000 in penalties; shortfalls would have to come out of programs. (That's why fundraising is mentioned in the motion) It may also cost us in the future, as the convention business community is actually pretty small and tight-knit; cancelling may mean other cities might require advance money and more penalty clauses.
The deadline for making a decision is somewhat uncertain. As I understood the procedure, we have "dibs" on the dates in 2012, but not an absolute commitment; if another convention inquires about using the facilities, we will then be given a few days to make a decision. Since there's no way of predicting when or whether someone else will ask, the deadline for the decision is not at this moment firm. (If this is incorrect, someone in the know please correct me)
It was pointed out that going to Phoenix may put some of our own members at risk, and that they may not attend for that reason. A potential boycott of our own GA by our own members was also brought up as a risk of keeping GA in AZ.
The question of our selection policy was brought up, including the risk of our moving the 2012 GA to another city that would be unacceptable to some for different reasons.
There was discussion of whether it might be better to go and protest, that if our intent was to do something rather than make a statement, that might be more effective. Inquires about groups putting together public witnessing were made.
One question I have concerns the 2011 GA in Charlotte. In the most recent "Standing On the Side of Love" email, we were warned about seven other states that were contemplating passing their own 1070- and North Carolina was one of them. If this happens, would we be able to boycott, or would there not be enough time to change plans?
I wish I were able to attend GA next month; this may be an historic debate.
*If we can put together a virtual meeting at a moment's notice, how come the Global Warming conferences always have to be physical meetings at places like Helsinki, with all the burning of jet fuel that involves? Just asking.
Thursday, May 06, 2010
I have registered to attend, and will blog about it- live blog if possible. More tonight if live blogging; otherwise tomorrow.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
To begin with, it's simply not true. Tens- depending on the issue, hundreds- of millions of Americans are not "ists" who base all their decisions on "isms". That's a problem with calling our position on everything "Standing On The Side Of Love"- sometimes we come to really believe that those not standing with us are all haters. It seems to me that some UUs, despite all our vaunted reason, understanding, and tolerance are simply incapable of believing that anyone could genuinely care for people and still come to a different position than ours.
Secondly, it's counterproductive on many, many levels. To begin with, when you call someone an "ist" of any kind, you've just written them off in your mind. After all, "isms" are irrational, and irrational people cannot be convinced by rational argument. If you've been doing this, I give you the words of Benjamin Franklin from 1776: "These men, no matter how much we may disagree with them, they are not ribbon clerks to be ordered about - they are proud, accomplished men, the cream of their colonies. And whether you like them or not, they and the people they represent will be part of this new nation that YOU hope to create. Now, either learn how to live with them, or pack up and go home! In any case, stop acting like a Boston fishwife."
And, of course, they will write you off as well. You just deeply insulted them; they can here the contempt in your voice. They know that you, too, are incapable of being moved by their arguments, so why should they bother to enter a dialogue with you? For example, last night Mayor Bloomberg of New York speculated on the nature of the terrorist who planted the car bomb in Times Square: "Home-grown, maybe a mentally deranged person or somebody with a political agenda that doesn't like the health care bill or something." How do you think NY attendees of Tea Parties and Town Hall meetings who opposed the Healthcare reform bill felt, knowing that's how he sees them? What do you think the odds are that they'll ever listen to another word he says on the subject?
And, of course, if you assume irrational motivations for all your opposition, you won't even try to understand their actual motivations, their real fears. And since you don't understand what they really want, you'll miss all opportunities to find a genuine compromise, or an outside of the box answer. If, for example, you're convinced that all those against the "living wage" proposal are just a capitalist pigs operating on the "I got mine, Jack!" principle, you'll miss opportunities to get their cooperation on other assistance programs that don't trigger their fears of economic backlash.
And lastly, it's just plain unseemly. We're religious bloggers. We're supposed to be the good guys. If we can't discuss an issue without demonizing the opposition, who can? If UU bloggers- including ministers and religious professionals- cannot write with compassion, cannot display any faith in their fellow man, what does that tell the world about UU itself?
*To this day, I cannot understand how polling better before the election than any other candidate of his party since Roosevelt, and getting the highest first-term landslide in a century is evidence of racism. OK, technically, LBJ got a higher vote, but I don't think that counts as he was a sitting president, even though not elected.
Monday, May 03, 2010
Saturday, May 01, 2010
Today is a serious religious ritual for the devotees of Equus like my beloved- The Kentucky Derby. I was never a horse person before meeting Ginger; I have since learned that the animal hierarchy goes cats, people, horses. For that, and other family tradition reasons, the Kentucky Derby is a ritual at our house, one I've come to enjoy very much. I love the food- last year we had burgoo; this year hot browns. I love examining and selecting horse for the family betting. I love the hats and outfits. (I almost picked the winner on the basis of the jockey's silks looking like the Star Trek logo.) I love almost everything about the Derby.
There's just one dark cloud in this glorious sky: the Mint Julep. I cannot abide Bourbon. To finish a Julep would require from me a greater control of the gag reflex than that demonstrated by Linda Lovelace. So throughout the festivities I consumed Martinis. Wait, I tell a lie- some of them were Gibsons. I confess it! When the trumpet sounded "To The Post", I saluted with a Martini!
I'm sure most UUs will forgive me; we're good with blasphemy. But I'm not a fool- I'll give it a month or two before entering a Kentucky congregation.