The Watering Hole; Thursday July 30 2015; Travesty and Religious Freedom

“It’s our sacred land — it’s where we come to pray.”
Carrie Sage Curley, an Apache woman

Religious Freedom is, on its surface, a relatively simple concept, one which implies the freedom to believe as one chooses, one which implies the freedom to practice said beliefs without interference by others. Sounds simple enough, but is readily complicated if or when the practice of a given set of religious beliefs requires the imposition of such beliefs on others. One of the more common examples of such imposition is the current thesis that those who believe gay marriage to be evil are, by virtue of their religious freedom, implicitly permitted to publicly discriminate against those who do not share their same beliefs. There is, obviously, more than a little resistance to that particular belief.

At the same time there’s this, the other side of the ‘religious freedom’ coin, a situation where the ‘religious freedom’ concerns of Native Americans are either overlooked or completely disregarded. A current and ongoing example began last December when Arizona’s pair of Republican Senators (John McCain and Jeff Flake) attached an 11th hour rider to the “must pass” National Defense Authorization Act. The rider authorized the ‘swap’ of 2400 acres in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest in exchange for 5300 acres of Arizona land privately owned by a consortium of multinational corporations (British and Australian) whose sole interest in Arizona is copper mining. The problem is, the land which McCain and Flake effectively handed over to the multinationals contains a portion known locally as Oak Flat, an area considered by the Apache People to be sacred. Their reaction is detailed and discussed in the Think Progress essay entitled Citing Religious Freedom, Native Americans Fight To Take Back Sacred Land From Mining Companies. Here are some appropriate excerpts which discuss both the impacts on the Apache People as well as their ‘religious freedom’ based reactions to same.

Arizona’s Native American population was outraged by the deal, having fought against several efforts by Republicans in Congress to broker similar agreements over the years. Some locals have argued that the land grab shortchanges American taxpayers, since profits will go primarily to companies rooted outside the United States. In addition, environmentalists and the Apache people have repeatedly expressed fears that, since the mining industry is often exempt from portions of environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act, the invasive copper mining project could damage the area’s water — a resource many Native Americans claim a spiritual obligation to protect.

“I have a great-grandmother who is buried at Oak Flat — we want to respect her, let her rest in peace,” said Sandra Rambler, an Apache woman from San Carlos, Arizona. “My granddaughter had a [religious] dance there last year, and I’m hoping that my future grandchildren will dance there as well.”

The religious connections to Oak Flat are so powerful that mining the land could constitute a violation of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. That law, which was passed in 1978, stipulates that the federal government has an obligation to protect the religious liberty of Native Americans — including guaranteeing access to sites they hold sacred.

“It’s the same thing as a church,” Curley said. “We protect these temples, why can’t we do the same for our sacred land?”

Representatives from Resolution Copper have rejected such claims . . .

[. . .]

The campaign crescendoed this week in Washington, D.C., when a group organized largely by Native American advocacy organization Apache Stronghold staged a series of protest actions over the course of two days. In addition to a procession at Rock Creek Park, Native Americans embarked on a spiritual “run” throughout the city on Tuesday that concluded with a prayer service in front of the White House. And on Wednesday, a hundred or so supporters rallied on the West Lawn in front of the U.S. Capitol building to dance, chant, and give speeches expressing their frustration with the mining project.

“We have a freedom of religion,” Wendsler Nosie Sr., an Apache elder and former tribal chairman, told the crowd. “Congress shouldn’t ignore rights of people … It’s not right. Congress should repeal the law.”

Participants at the rally hailed from a number of different tribes, but they were unanimous in their condemnation of efforts to mine Oak Flat.

“I feel violated — I feel like I’ve been raped,” Rambler said, choking back tears as she spoke about the possible destruction of a place she calls holy. “I feel that the earth has been raped. The Native American people are the caretakers of Mother Earth. When she’s violated, we’re violated. When you desecrate the land, you desecrate us.”

“When you take that away, you take away the identity of the Apaches,” she said.

My guess is that there are few reasons for optimism amongst the Apache People and other sympathetic Native Americans. First of all, the Oak Flat corner of the Tonto National Forest is federal land, and is NOT parcel to the adjacent San Carlos Apache Reservation. Second, there’s undoubtedly lots of money to be made in the mining project, and we all know what THAT means. Third, the land is sacred only to the Apache, and even though there’s that 1978 Native American religious freedom law, there’s gotta be a way around it, right? I mean, what kind of ‘religious freedom’ could a bunch of heathen Apaches ever want anyway, much less deserve? They’re not Christians, after all. Heck, they’re not even white!

As the cited article further notes,

It remains to be seen whether Congress will repeal what Rambler called the “sneaky rider” that McCain and Flake used to create the controversy. There is ample reason to be skeptical, as American history is rife with examples of Native Americans consistently losing fights with the federal government over land. As the Huffington Post noted this week, Native Americans in Hawaii and California are currently embroiled in efforts to keep outside groups from developing on their sacred spaces.

In the final analysis, I can’t help but recall the words of a long dead aboriginal chieftain who summed up a huge segment of his world in one brief paragraph, when he said,

“We know that the white man does not understand our ways.
One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is
a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever
he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy —
and when he has conquered it, he moves on.”
~Chief Seattle (Suqwamish and Duwamish)

 Chief Si’ahl (Seattle) spoke those words more than 150 years ago. Sadly, they’re as true today as they were then, as the ongoing travesty involving 2400 acres of land, sacred to the Apache People, demonstrates.

Meanwhile, it seems only fair to apply the word “travesty” to the concept of ‘religious freedom’ both in the current Christian and Apache issues, but for completely different reasons. Travesty is defined (Dictionary.com) as: a literary or artistic burlesque of a serious work or subject, characterized by grotesque or ludicrous incongruity of style, treatment, or subject matter.” Seems to me that’s a close fit in both cases because (a) to the Apache People, ‘religious freedom’ is presumed to disallow the desecration of land which they consider sacred, land in which ancestors are interred. In case (b), however, no land, no resources, nothing sacred is destroyed or at risk; the ‘religious freedom’ case is based strictly on their presumed “right” to discriminate against those whose beliefs and/or lifestyles are considered to be in conflict with alleged biblical premises.

It seems a safe bet to thereby point out that if (a) Apache concerns are unheard or disallowed, or if (b) the right to discriminate against people of different lifestyle/viewpoint is heard and eventually upheld, then the most descriptive word that suits and describes probable outcomes in both cases is a simple one. TRAVESTY. Dare we hope that such will not be the case in either instance? Maybe, but I’ll not hold my breath in anticipation.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole: Tuesday September 23, 2014 Environmental News and Food Politics

So the climate march was big, almost 400,000 in New York. Will it change anything? Did 500,000 marchers stop the Iraq war from going forward? Well the UN Secretary marched in this one, but I’m afraid climate change will be addressed locally for the next who knows how many years. Nothing will change in Washington. We need  Democratic presidents to continue to be elected until the Supreme Court can be changed, so that gerrymandering can be legally ceased, and this the balance of power (one person = one vote) can be restored. Right now Republicans hold a hugely unfair advantage in many rust belt and mid Atlantic states because of the way districts are drawn at the state rep level and the congressional level. I weep when I think of how long it will take for our political apartheid (marginalizing Democratic majorities) to be rectified. This will be a 50-100 year war, I am afraid. The stakes are high. The powerful never relinquish willingly.

 

 

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 17, 2014: Fraud The Vote Story

In our last episode, we talked about a group calling itself “True The Vote.” Their motto is “equipping citizens to take a stand for free and fair elections.” They also consider themselves “the nation’s leading voters’ rights and election integrity organization.” They are big on election monitoring, and they have this belief that there is a significant problem with voter fraud in this country. “We are helping stop corruption where it can start – at the polls.” Actually that’s where it ends. It usually begins much sooner than someone walking into the polling booth, and is often done to avoid having to do just that. So, believing that requiring every voter to have a photo ID would solve the problem, they support Voter ID laws. So I do not support them. Might as well get that cleared up from the start. I’m not a journalist, I’m just a blogger with a liberal stand.

Before continuing, let’s do something True The Vote doesn’t do, and that’s point out that there are various kinds of election fraud. Not all election fraud is in-person voter fraud, where someone shows up at a polling place and illegally tries to cast a vote under a false identity. Of all the kinds of election fraud, this is probably the only kind that would be prevented by a sanctioned photo ID. A photo ID would not stop voter registration fraud, or absentee ballot fraud. Nor would it do anything to deter tampering with the results of the election. The Constitution was amended to stop the racist practice of requiring black and Native American voters to pay a poll tax before casting their votes in a federal election. The Supreme Court ruled in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections “that making voter affluence an electoral standard violated the Equal Protection Clause.” You can’t make people have to pay something in order to vote. And requiring them to obtain some kind of photo ID will cost them money, one way or another. The concern is for poor people, who do have a right to vote and often cast it against political parties that favor the wealthy. Coincidentally enough, this is the same party that is trying to make it harder for poorer folks to vote, because they know whose vote they would get. It’s blindingly obvious to anyone with an IQ in the three-digit range.

To justify support for requiring photo IDs for every voter, True The Vote gives a list of incidents in 46 states meant to illustrate the existence of voter fraud, and therefore the need for photo IDs. And while each may be an example of some kind of election fraud, even voter fraud, none illustrate the kind of massive fraud Republicans say is going on that photo IDs would prevent. Strangely enough, there is so much voter fraud being committed by people casting votes for Democrats that the Republicans have managed to control the House of Representatives and most state legislatures for about a decade. So it’s really, really hard to believe that voter fraud is any kind of problem at all. In fact (a word repugnant to those who disdain thinking), if one party was committing the kind of massive fraud the Republicans say is going on, wouldn’t it make sense that that party would control the House of Representatives and most state legislatures? Hey, Republicans! We’re not the stupid ones. Even your own Rick Santorum admitted it. It’s simple, Republicans: Either there is no massive voter fraud problem, or there is one and your party is committing it.

So is the kind of voter fraud photo IDs would prevent really happening in massive numbers? Let’s look at each of True The Vote’s examples. And remember, a lot of things are wrongly called “voter fraud,” so just finding news articles about people described as being charged with “voter fraud” does not automatically qualify as valid examples. Voter fraud is, in simple terms, trying to fraudulently cast a vote. And while absentee ballots are an easy way to commit voter fraud, they are not the kind of voter fraud a photo ID would prevent. In fact, they are exactly the kind of voter fraud one would commit if one couldn’t pass the photo ID check. So right away, we can see that requiring a photo ID is more likely to increase absentee ballot voter fraud. Just saying.

Absentee ballots are the fraud committed in Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut [limited free visits], Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming. If your problem is with absentee ballot fraud, requiring a photo ID isn’t necessarily going to prevent that, especially when it’s elected officials doing the fraud.

Voter registration fraud, where the problem involves how voter registration efforts were done illegally, not in-person voter fraud, were the problems in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada (a constitutional issue involving ACORN which went out of business years ago), North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington,

Illegal vote solicitation or buying was the “voter fraud” committed in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Texas. That’s a fraud committed by the candidates, not the voters involved. And I’m pretty sure they already knew the identities of the voters, so photo IDs would not have prevented those crimes.

Residency issues were the culprit in Kansas, Maine and New Hampshire. An interesting thing about the New Hampshire story is that they give figures that show voter fraud is not a serious problem. They investigated 8 cases out of about 711,000 votes cast. That’s about one fraudulent voter in 90,000. Are photo IDs needed to stop such a crime wave?

Illegal voting (which involved convicted criminals voting, or some other non-identity issue) happened in Minnesota and Tennessee. And even if a photo ID would have prevented these two crimes, does that justify requiring every citizen to present a photo ID?

Petition fraud would not have been stopped by Voter ID laws in Michigan (Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s staff committed that crime), Ohio, and Wisconsin.

The justification for having Voter ID laws in Arizona was because someone ran for office in the wrong district. I’m pretty sure no one doubted who she was. And she was the candidate, not the voter.

And the link doesn’t work for the stories about Alabama, California, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia. It doesn’t prove your point when the link to your evidence doesn’t work. It’s like directing a shopper to an aisle that doesn’t exist. “Yes, Angus steaks at forty cents a pound are in Aisle Pi-R-Squared.”

The missing states were Delaware, Hawaii, Montana, Vermont, and District of Columbia. Four of these are generally considered blue states, but apparently there is no voter fraud happening in any of those places. And Montana is usually considered a red state, but they could find no voter fraud after they elected a Democrat as governor. You would think that if the Democrats really were casting votes for dead people, or voting under a false identity, there would be a lot of it going on to give them such control over those states. So why couldn’t True The Vote find any examples from them? I don’t know, maybe because it isn’t happening on such a massive scale?

Remember, the argument the red states are making is that there is such a massive voter fraud problem that the only way to stop all this illegal voting is to require every person stepping up to the voting booth to first present an acceptable photo ID (and government-issued student photo IDs are sometimes not considered valid). Yet they are unable to come up with any evidence that the problem is that big. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that nobody ever tried to illegally cast a vote. I’m just saying that it doesn’t happen so often that the only way to prevent it is to require people who may not have acceptable photo IDs (elderly people, students, nuns) to spend money to get one.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss voter fraud, True The Vote, lying conservatives, or anything else you wish.

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 12th, 2012: Wallowing in Filth

Thinking that I would just check the Patch local newspapers online to see the local reaction, if any, to the Obama re-election, I somehow ended up wallowing in the filth on the Washington Times.

Not that there wasn’t any filth in the local online ‘news’ – there were plenty of stupid, ignorant, and racially intolerant comments following the above article.

The second piece that I found in the Patch talked about the author’s experiences at the polls in Rockland County, NY (across the Hudson River), where, he alleged, poll workers were wrongfully denying certain non-white and younger voters’ rights to vote, and/or giving voters incorrect information. A woman commenter responded by listing several instances of alleged hanky-panky by Democratic pollworkers, among other things. Then the commenter threw in a link to The Washington Times, and I gave in and clicked on it. Naturally, I wish that I hadn’t. Reading many of the comments following that article made me want to shower, at the very least. However, I did at least run across a possibly useful site which includes a map of which States have, or are considering, photo ID voter laws.

Here’s a few more articles from the Washington Times that ought to raise one’s blood pressure:
“The Rising Number of States Seeing One Party Rule”; and,
“Companies Plan Massive Layoffs as ObamaCare Becomes Reality;

And if all this wasn’t enough, here’s some more crap from Newsmax.com: Fearmongering about “Currency Wars”; plus, just take a look at some of the “articles” listed on the home page at Newsmax.com: “FBI Suppressed Petraeus Scandal to Protect President“, and “Norquist to Newsmax: Don’t Surrender Bush Tax Cuts.”

This is our daily open thread–Had enough? I know I did!

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, October 31, 2012: Romney’s Zombies: Mormons posthumously registering voters.

Walker, The Zoo’s top underground reporter, digging up a new story.

It’s a widely known secret that Mormons baptize the deceased into the Mormon faith. But they have added a new twist in what most regard to be a bizarre practice: Mormons all across key battleground states have been secretly registering the deceased. Using their posthumously issued Baptismal Certificates as IDs, they then register everyone they have baptised into the Mormon faith as a Romney Republican. They also fill out a request for an absentee ballot on behalf of the deceased.

It is rumored that this registration drive has added hundreds of thousands of voters to the rolls in the key battleground states of Ohio, Virginia and Florida, and may prove to give Romney a victory in each of those states. In fact, it appears they have stepped up their efforts, baptizing, registering and casting an absentee ballot is now encompassed in a single ritual.

“County clerks began to question our voter registration drive” one individual involved in the practice spoke, on condition of anonymity. “but when we invoked the First Amendment Freedom of Religion, they usually back right down, especially in the South. “Cept that one in Dade County, Florida. She rejected one of our newly baptized into the faith just because his date of birth was approximately 1837. Heck, Lincoln freed the slaves, we’re just freeying their souls. Go figure.”

Romney, when asked about it, said “We’ve had dead people voting for years. Why should this election be any different?”

HAPPY HALLOWE’EN EVERYONE.

OPEN THREAD:

TRICK

TREAT

OR POST

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 22nd, 2012: Mixed Emotions

Since I’ve been wallowing in the throes of depression – Rmoney and Obama are more-or-less tied in the polls, Republicans are doing everything possible to disenfranchise likely Democratic voters, CEOs are threatening their employees if they don’t vote for/donate to Rmoney, my Jets lost in overtime to the damned Patriots, the list goes on and on – I thought I’d throw out something to start the week on a lighter note.

Our current local State Senator, Republican Greg Ball, had some issues with women (among other things) that plagued his last campaign, but still managed to win. His 2012 challenger, Democrat Justin Wagner, has been sending out a series of mailers taking advantage of Ball’s misogynistic reputation. Here’s the front covers from the four mailers that we received – enjoy!

Not so amusing is the fact that tonight is the third and final Presidential debate between President Obama and Elder Professional Liar former Massachusetts Governor Rmoney. So here’s just one more Foreign Policy article, listing 50 questions that various and sundry people would like to see asked of both candidates during tonight’s debate.

(Note: I could not figure out how to get the “Not so” out from between the pictures, so if any of my fellow Critters can edit that and put it at the beginning of the paragraph below them, please feel free to fix it for me.)

Last, but obviously not least: HAPPY 24TH ANNIVERSARY, HONEY!

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 8th, 2012: To Vote or Not to Vote

Last week a friend at work brought in a recent copy of the Norwalk (Connecticut) Community College’s campus newpaper, TheVoice, so that I could read one of the opinion pieces. This particular piece, written by James Marchese and originally published on September 17th, was entitled “Why I think voting is a waste of time.”

While I agree with some of the reasons that Mr. Marchese puts forth, he demonstrates a lack of knowledge which undercuts his premise:

“Our politicians have no accountability for what they say. To get elected they are willing to bend the truth about what they will do in office. Most often, it is promises to “change” whatever is ailing our society at the time. Though how often does a fundamental change take place? There is often talk of it, but when push comes to shove, things often stay the way they are; politicians normally take that as the safest route.”

The lack of accountability for what politicians say stems from three main problems:
1), when a politician speaks, it is usually either in front of a friendly audience of supporters who don’t care whether the politician is factually correct; or it is in front of journalists who may or may not question the politician’s “facts”, and the journalists who do dare to question a politician who is obviously lying receive short shrift or are simply told that they are just plain wrong.
2) The quality of what passes for journalism in this country, particularly on the televised “news” shows, is sorely lacking any interest in researching the background or the veracity of a politician’s claims. The internets are not just a “series of tubes”, they are a trove of information which can be accessed in a matter of seconds. In addition, many “journalists” are more than willing to trade fact-finding for access to an influential politician, particularly when that politician is a Presidential candidate.
3) Once a politician does get into office, even with the best intentions in the world, he or she is immediately faced with the Borg-like mentality of ‘be assimilated or die’ (the ‘die’ part meaning that none of the politician’s ideas will ever see the light of day), otherwise known as “go along to get along.”

“I see lots of back-and-forth over trivial subjects, but the aspects of our country that need to be scrutinized the most are entirely left alone. For this I mostly blame lobbyists, who are people employed to persuade politicians on certain decisions. How they persuade them exactly, I am not sure. Still I believe someone voted into office by the people should stand with the people they represent, not the people schmoozing them.”

I agree wholeheartedly with the writer’s first and last sentences in this paragraph, but the rest of it betrays his naivete about what has been going on in Washington, DC, for decades. How do lobbyists persuade politicians to do what the lobbyists want? MONEY, MONEY, MONEY. If the writer has not grasped this concept, it is certainly an indication that he has never, ever been paying attention.

“I believe if politicians really cared about the people they would make more decisions based on what is best for them, and not on what their party’s standing is. In some cases our elected officials reject new bills and policies just because a rival created it. Our government should not operate out of spite, they should be setting an example and learning to cooperate to really decide what is best for the country.”

This, too, I agree with. However, again, while Mr. Marchese seems to be aware of at least the idea of obstructionism in today’s Congress, he apparently has no idea of which party is doing the obstructing. If he did even the most minimal research, he would find that the Tea Party Republicans have been doing their utmost to prevent ANY legislation which might compromise their own etched-in-stone ideas about minimal government, or which might allow the Democratic President anything that resembles a victory, even at the cost of hurting American Citizens.

“I have been called un-American, an idealist, and even a communist on occasion. [Try being a Liberal, the name-calling is even worse.] The fact of the matter is, that I refuse to participate in something that I value as having no merit. I personally refuse to give people power over me when there is no way to guarantee they will act in the best interest of the people. Politics is often too dirty a game for my taste.”

So, Mr. Marchese believes that exercising his Constitutionally-given right to vote has no merit. And while he “refuse[s] to give people power over [him]”, his very refusal to do so actually gives politicians and government the ultimate power over him, i.e, ignoring him completely. Yes, politics is a dirty business, but it is NOT a game. It can be, literally, the difference between life and death for some, and the difference between keeping your rights or losing them. With so many people being purged from voter rolls, along with other voter-suppression tactics going on in so many Republican-governed states, the right to vote should not be tossed aside so readily. In my opinion, Mr. Marchese’s decision to not sully his hands by participating in the electoral process implies not only a lack of concern for the future of this country, but also an innate selfishness that belies his supposed concern for “the best interest of the people.”

This is our daily open thread — got anything to say?