Archive for the ‘Equality’ Category
AUTHOR: STEPHEN D. FOSTER JR.
The separation of church and state is one of the cornerstones of America’s foundation. Conservative Christian fundamentalists have sought to crush this cornerstone in the hopes of establishing Christianity as the state religion, an action that would threaten the rest of the foundation that makes up the Constitution. These conservatives contend that the Founding Fathers dreamed of making America a Christian state at the expense of those who practice other religions or none at all.
So here are 35 quotes from the Founding Fathers. Perhaps your first thoughts are the first four Presidents and maybe Benjamin Franklin, but there were many other Founding Fathers. Many were signers of the Constitution and The Declaration of Independence. They were lawyers, judges, soldiers, merchants, farmers, and some were even clergy. And the great majority of them signed the Constitution knowing that matters of government and matters of religion would be separate.
1. “If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”
~George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789
2. “Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”
~George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792
3. “We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition… In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.”
~George Washington, letter to the members of the New Church in Baltimore, January 27, 1793
4. “The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.”
~John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” 1787-1788
5. “The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”
~1797 Treaty of Tripoli signed by John Adams
6. “Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.”
~John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” (1787-88)
7. “We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for
honors and power we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.”
~John Adams, letter to Dr. Price, April 8, 1785
8. “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”
~Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802
9. “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is error alone that needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.”
~Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Horatio Spofford, 1814
10. “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear.”
~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787
11. “I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.”
~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799
12. “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”
-Thomas Jefferson: in letter to Alexander von Humboldt, December 6, 1813
13. “Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual.
State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the “wall of separation between church and state,” therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society. We have solved … the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.”
~Thomas Jefferson: in a speech to the Virginia Baptists, 1808
14. “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”
~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814,
15. “The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the Church from the State.”
~James Madison, 1819, Writings, 8:432, quoted from Gene Garman, “Essays In Addition to America’s Real Religion”
16. “And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”
~James Madison, letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822
17. “Every new and successful example of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters is of importance.”
~James Madison, letter, 1822
18. “Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.”
~James Madison; Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical
19. “It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising the sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin. Let us, then, look to the great cause, and endeavor to preserve it in full force. Let us by all wise and constitutional measures promote intelligence among the people as the best means of preserving our liberties.”
~James Monroe, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1817
20. “When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”
~Benjamin Franklin, letter to Richard Price, October 9, 1780
21. “Manufacturers, who listening to the powerful invitations of a better price for their fabrics, or their labor, of greater cheapness of provisions and raw materials, of an exemption from the chief part of the taxes burdens and restraints, which they endure in the old world, of greater personal independence and consequence, under the operation of a more equal government, and of what is far more precious than mere religious toleration–a perfect equality of religious privileges; would probably flock from Europe to the United States to pursue their own trades or professions, if they were once made sensible of the advantages they would enjoy, and were inspired with an assurance of encouragement and employment, will, with difficulty, be induced to transplant themselves, with a view to becoming cultivators of the land.”
~Alexander Hamilton: Report on the Subject of Manufacturers December 5,
22. “In regard to religion, mutual toleration in the different professions thereof is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practiced, and both by precept and example inculcated on mankind.”
~Samuel Adams, The Rights of the Colonists (1771)
23. “That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forebearance, love, and charity towards each other.”
~George Mason, Virginia Bill of Rights, 1776
24. “It is contrary to the principles of reason and justice that any should be compelled to contribute to the maintenance of a church with which their consciences will not permit them to join, and from which they can derive no benefit; for remedy whereof, and that equal liberty as well religious as civil, may be universally extended to all the good people of this commonwealth.”
~George Mason, Virginia Declaration of Rights, 1776
25. “A man of abilities and character, of any sect whatever, may be admitted to any office or public trust under the United States. I am a friend to a variety of sects, because they keep one another in order. How many different sects are we composed of throughout the United States? How many different sects will be in congress? We cannot enumerate the sects that may be in congress. And there are so many now in the United States that they will prevent the establishment of any one sect in prejudice to the rest, and will forever oppose all attempts to infringe religious liberty. If such an attempt be made, will not the alarm be sounded throughout America? If congress be as wicked as we are foretold they will, they would not run the risk of exciting the resentment of all, or most of the religious sects in America.”
~Edmund Randolph, address to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June
26. “I never liked the Hierarchy of the Church — an equality in the teacher of Religion, and a dependence on the people, are republican sentiments — but if the Clergy combine, they will have their influence on Government”
~Rufus King, Rufus King: American Federalist, pp. 56-57
27. A general toleration of Religion appears to me the best means of peopling our country… The free exercise of religion hath stocked the Northern part of the continent with inhabitants; and altho’ Europe hath in great measure adopted a more moderate policy, yet the profession of Protestantism is extremely inconvenient in many places there. A Calvinist, a Lutheran, or Quaker, who hath felt these inconveniences in Europe, sails not to Virginia, where they are felt perhaps in a (greater degree).”
~Patrick Henry, observing that immigrants flock to places where there is no established religion, Religious Tolerance, 1766
28. “No religious doctrine shall be established by law.”
~Elbridge Gerry, Annals of Congress 1:729-731
29. “Knowledge and liberty are so prevalent in this country, that I do not believe that the United States would ever be disposed to establish one religious sect, and lay all others under legal disabilities. But as we know not what may take place hereafter, and any such test would be exceedingly injurious to the rights of free citizens, I cannot think it altogether superfluous to have added a clause, which secures us from the possibility of such oppression.”
~Oliver Wolcott, Connecticut Ratifying Convention, 9 January 1788
30. “Some very worthy persons, who have not had great advantages for information, have objected against that clause in the constitution
which provides, that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. They have been afraid that this clause is unfavorable to religion. But my countrymen, the sole purpose and effect of it is to exclude persecution, and to secure to you the important right of religious
liberty. We are almost the only people in the world, who have a full enjoyment of this important right of human nature. In our country every man has a right to worship God in that way which is most agreeable to his conscience. If he be a good and peaceable person he is liable to no penalties or incapacities on account of his religious sentiments; or in other words, he is not subject to persecution. But in other parts of the world, it has been, and still is, far different. Systems of religious error have been adopted, in times of ignorance. It has been the interest of tyrannical kings, popes, and prelates, to maintain these errors. When the clouds of ignorance began to vanish, and the people grew more enlightened, there was no other way to keep them in error, but to prohibit their altering their religious opinions by severe persecuting laws. In this way persecution became general throughout Europe.”
~Oliver Ellsworth, Philip B Kurland and Ralph Lerner (eds.), The Founder’s Constitution, University of Chicago Press, 1987, Vol. 4, p.
31. “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.”
~Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man, 1791
32. “God has appointed two kinds of government in the world, which are distinct in their nature, and ought never to be confounded together; one of which is called civil, the other ecclesiastical government.”
~Isaac Backus, An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty, 1773
33. “Congress has no power to make any religious establishments.”
~Roger Sherman, Congress, August 19, 1789
34. “The American states have gone far in assisting the progress of truth; but they have stopped short of perfection. They ought to have given every honest citizen an equal right to enjoy his religion and an equal title to all civil emoluments, without obliging him to tell his religion. Every interference of the civil power in regulating opinion, is an impious attempt to take the business of the Deity out of his own hands; and every preference given to any religious denomination, is so far slavery and bigotry.”
~Noah Webster, calling for no religious tests to serve in public office, Sketches of American Policy, 1785
35. “The legislature of the United States shall pass no law on the subject of religion.”
~Charles Pinckney, Constitutional Convention, 1787
These are hardly the words of men who allegedly believed that America should be a Christian nation governed by the Bible as conservatives constantly claim. On the contrary, the great majority of the Founders believed strongly in separation of church and state. So keep in mind that this country has survived for over two centuries under the principle of separation and it is only now when conservatives are attempting to destroy that very cornerstone that we find America becoming ever more divided and more politically charged than ever before. If this right-wing faction has their way, America as we know it will cease to exist and the freedoms we have enjoyed because of the Constitution will erode. The Founding Fathers had a vision of this
nation and trusted that the people would protect that vision and improve upon it. Now is not the time to fail them. Because the day the people fail, so does America.
© 2013, agentleman.
12 Ways JP Morgan Admitted It Ripped Off Americans to the Tune of Billions
Wall Street’s latest chapter in corporate accountability is hardly satisfying, even if it is a rare admission of wrongdoing from a major bank. On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced a $13 billion settlement with J.P. Morgan for its rapacious role in the housing market bubble and collapse.
Beyond analyses showing that the government’s supposed largest fine ever might end up “closer to $2.74 billion,” and that $7 billion of it is tax deductible—tantamount to America’s 138 milliontaxpayers each giving a $50 bill to Morgan—the nation’s business press is filled with praise for the bank turning a page.
No one should hold their breath waiting for the Justice Department to announce criminal charges against bank executives; even if Attorney General Eric Holder says the case it not closed. Instead, what Americans are left with is an odd legal creature—a so-called “Statement of Facts”—describing Morgan’s greedy sins.
This declaration is not written in plain English. So here’s AlterNet’s translation of what Morgan said that it did, followed by the relevant legalese. This is as close to a corporate confession of greed and deceit as Americans get today.
1. J.P. Morgan knew it had bad loans from the start.
J.P. Morgan made billions by buying high-interest mortgages and selling them as packages to investors, who expected solid returns. Inside Morgan, its contactors knew that they were buying loans that didn’t even meet the brokers’ standards.
“JPMorgan employees were informed by due diligence vendors that a number of the loans included in at least some of the loan pools that it purchased and subsequently securitized did not comply with the originators’ underwriting guidelines.”
2. J.P. Morgan knew appraisers were inflating values.
To get a mortgage, lenders require an appraisal as part of a clearance process. Morgan knew appraisers were rubber-stamping home values that were absurdly high, but ignored it. The bigger the loan, the more profit in interest payments.
“A number of the properties securing the loans had appraised values that were higher than the values derived in due diligence testing from automated valuation models, broker price opinions or other valuation due diligence methods.”
3. J.P. Morgan lied about these values to investors.
Their business was based on reselling bundles of loans, so they deliberately over-promised to investors and hid information that the loans would likely fail.
“JPMorgan represented to investors in various offering documents that loans in the securitized pools were originated “generally” in conformity with the loan originator’s underwriting guidelines.”
4. When asked about bad loans, they said, ‘Don’t worry.”
When asked about bad loans in their budled investments, the bank said they were looking at mortages one-by-one and carefully certified their loans.
“Exceptions were made based on “compensating factors,” determined after “careful consideration” on a “case-by-case basis.”
5. They were buying loans like sharks biting at bait.
J.P. Morgan went right to the worst mortgage mills and starting buying everything that they had written, which included very-high interest loans on home values that were overstated with unsupportable payments.
JPMorgan began the process of creating RMBS [residential mortgage backed securities] by purchasing pools of loans from lending institutions, such as Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., or WMC [Washington Mutual] Mortgage Corporation, that originated residential mortgages by making mortgage loans to individual borrowers.”[WMC collapsed and was taken over by the federal government in 2008].
6. Their sales pitches were filled false assurances.
J.P. Morgan’s sales team, which included newly minted M.B.A. business school graduates working the phones and higher-ups at industry conferences armed with Powerpoint presentations, boasted of quality controls and vetting.
“JPMorgan salespeople marketed its due diligence process to investors through oral communications that were often scripted by internal sales memoranda, through presentations given at industry conferences, and to certain individual investors. In marketing materials, JPMorgan represented that the originators had a “solid underwriting platform,” and that JPMorgan was familiar with and approved the originators’ underwriting guidelines.”
7. Meanwhile, Morgan knew it was buying bad loans.
Back at corporate headquarters, the auditors that Morgan hired to review the mortgages that they were buying found that a sizeable slice of them—from the originators like Countrywide—did not even meet the mortgage broker’s supposed standards, and lacked information showing borrowers could pay them back.
“JPMorgan’s due diligence vendors graded numerous loans in the samples as Event 3’s, meaning that, in the vendors’ judgment, they neither complied with the originators’underwriting guidelines nor had sufficient compensating factors, including in many instances because of missing documentation such as appraisals, or proof of income, employment or assets.”
8. They dumped bad loans, en masse, into loan pools.
Executives ignored their auditors and threw the bad loans into the larger pot, as if that would make them go away, as if their solution was diluting its impact. When that didn’t work on an individual loan basis, they signed off on bad loans in bulk.
“JPMorgan directed that a number of the uncured Event 3 loans be “waived” into the pools facilitating the purchase of loan pools, which then went into JPMorgan inventory for securitization. In addition to waiving in some of the Event 3 loans on a case-by-case basis, some JPMorgan due diligence managers also ordered “bulk” waivers.”
9. They had twice the bad loans as their standards allowed.
The bank’s internal standards allowed for up to 15 percent of their bundled loans to be risky. But Morgan’s auditors found that they had nearly double that figure. So they cooked their books, by re-grading those bad loans, from so-called “Event 3” to “Event 2” status, to make its portfolio look like it met the bank’s standards.
“From the first quarter of 2006 through the second quarter of 2007, of the 23,668 loans the vendor reviewed for JPMorgan, 6,238 of them, or 27 percent, were initially graded Event 3 loans and, according to the report, JPMorgan ultimately accepted or waived 3,238 of these Event 3 loans – 50 percent – to Event 2.”
10. They met with Countywide, but kept buying bad loans.
Morgan auditors obviously knew that they had a very big problem on their hands and met with the slippery loan originators. But that did not stop other executives from buying bundles of bad loans—such as ones where borrowers made up their income on loan applications. Instead of approving individual mortgages, Morgan picked up its pace and approved these loan purchases in bulk.
“JPMorgan Managing Directors in due diligence, trading, and sales met with representatives of the originator to discuss the loans, then agreed to purchase two loan pools without reviewing those loan pools in their entirety as JPMorgan due diligence employees and managers had previously decided; waived a number of the stated income loans into the pools; purchased the pools; and subsequently securitized hundreds of millions of dollars of loans from those pools into one security.”
11. They kept telling investors everything was peachy.
Even though this skullduggery, mismanagement and distortions was going on inside the bank’s offices and known to top Morgan executives, they said nothing and kept selling the bundles with bad loans to investors.
“None of this was disclosed to investors.”
12. Other Wall Street giants did the exact same thing.
During the financial crisis brought by the collapse of the housing market, Morgan bought Bear Stearns, an investment bank, and Washington Mutual Bank. These banks did the exact same thing as Morgan; knowingly buying mortgages that never should have been written in the first place and ignoring auditors.
“Bear Stearns would purchase loans where there was a variance from the guidelines that the managers or other employees deemed acceptable. In addition, Bear Stearns completed bulk purchases of Alt-A loan pools even though the rate of loans with exceptions in the due diligence samples indicated that the un-sampled portion of a pool likely contained additional loans with exceptions.”
And so did Washington Mutual, which failed was closed by the government’s Office of Thrift Supervision in 2008.
“WaMu did not disclose to securitization investors in written offering materials the information from its internal reviews concerning instances of borrower fraud and misrepresentations regarding borrower credit, compliance, and property valuation, in the origination of loans, including as to loans that were sold into securitizations.”
These terse, matter-of-fact sentences from Department of Justice lawyers are what a corporate confession of massive greed and wrongdoing looks like today. It’s not very satisfying or reassuring to know that banks like Morgan preyed on the public—with predatory loans, cooked books, false sales pitches and no real effort to rein in abuses—because they were making money hand over fist.
While they partied on, the collapse of the housing market eviscerated the life savings of millions of people, as home values fell and still have not recovered. Meanwhile, the fact that apparently $7 billion of the settlement will be deductible from Morgan’s taxes is maddening. That’s equal to every American taxpayer handing Morgan CEO James Dimon a $50 bill—as if he’s not rich enough.
© 2013, agentleman.
Transgender Day of Remembrance 2013: A Reporter’s List
I did this for the first time last year. The 20-odd transgender deaths that passed my desk during 2012 were compiled into a post presenting the victims’ names and how they died in order to convey the importance of observing the Transgender Day of Remembrance. I’m doing it again for 2013.
This is by no means a complete list. Most transgender deaths are unreported or lost due to misgendering. I should also point out that not everyone agrees on which types of deaths ought to be included in such lists. I’ve included domestic violence and suspicious deaths but excluded suicide. I’m starting with the most recent death and working my way back to November 2012:
Mercedes Demarco (aka Fernando Gomez): Died in police custody after being tased. The exact cause of death has not been disclosed by this writing.
Hilary Molina Mendiola: Pulled from a car and thrown from a bridge by two men in Mexico City.
S. Athiswaran: Found tied up and stabbed to death at her home in Bagan Ajam, Malaysia.
Eyricka Morgan: Died at a hospital after being stabbed at home in New Brunswick, N.J. A roommate has been arrested and charged with murder.
Melony Smith: Beaten to death in Baldwin Park, Calif. A suspect has been arrested.
Shaun Hartley: Found beaten to death in an abandoned house in Baton Rouge, La. Hartley was a witness to a murder for the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney and may have been silenced.
Konyale Madden: Found shot to death in her home in Savannah, Texas.
Islan Nettles: Died at a New York City hospital following removal of life support after being declared brain-dead following a brutal beating. Police have a suspect.
Domonique Newburn: Found dead in her home in Fontana, Calif. Police have a suspect.
Gaye: Found murdered in her home in Istanbul, Turkey.
J. Ratworabood: Shot to death after she was given a ride home in Khon Kaen, Thailand. The police arrested a suspect.
Mylene: Beaten to death with a hammer in Limoges, France. A suspect has been arrested.
D. Jones: Beaten, stabbed and hacked by a mob in Jamaica. No suspects have been arrested.
Hari (female name unknown): Found dead under a pile of rocks in Mangadu, India. A suspect has been arrested.
Diamond Williams: Hacked to death with an axe in Philadelphia. A suspect has been arrested.
Dora Oezer: Found stabbed to death in her home in the providence of Kusadasi in Turkey.
Unknown: Found dead in a Houston, Texas, gully.
Diana Martinez: Shot to death inside a hotel in Monterrey, Mexico.
Unknown: Brutally murdered in Hidalgo, Mexico.
Wanda: Legendary Miami entertainer was shot to death in Tampa, Fla. A suspect has been arrested.
Laura Aguilar: Stabbed to death in Rio Grande, Argentina, during an apparent domestic dispute with her ex-partner.
Cemia Acoff (aka Cemia Dove, Cici): Found in a retaining pond tethered to a block in Cleveland, Ohio. A suspect is now on trial for the murder.
Ashley Sinclair: Found shot to death in Orange County, Fla.
Kelly Young: Died at a hospital after being shot in her home in Baltimore, Md.
Milan Boudreaux: Found shot in the head at her New Orleans-area home. A suspect has been arrested.
Unknown: Beaten to death in Istanbul, Turkey.
Evon Young (aka Yung LT): Choked, shot and tossed in a dumpster. His body was never found. Five suspects were arrested.
Cecilia Marahouse: Shot just outside Fortaleza, Brazil.
Gunce Hatun (aka Dairy Babe): Shot on the streets of Istanbul, Turkey. A suspect was detained.
Transgender Day of Remembrance is Nov. 20. You can also read a report on each individual on this list, including links to sources. Feel free to share your comments or new facts on any of the trans people on this list.
Thanks for reading.
© 2013, agentleman.
The Ten Key Values of the Green Party
Originally ratified at the Green Party Convention in Denver, Colorado, June 2000
1. GRASSROOTS DEMOCRACY
Every human being deserves a say in the decisions that affect their lives and not be subject to the will of another. Therefore, we will work to increase public participation at every level of government and to ensure that our public representatives are fully accountable to the people who elect them. We will also work to create new types of political organizations which expand the process of participatory democracy by directly including citizens in the decision-making process.
2. SOCIAL JUSTICE AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY
All persons should have the rights and opportunity to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment. We must consciously confront in ourselves, our organizations, and society at large, barriers such as racism and class oppression, sexism and homophobia, ageism and disability, which act to deny fair treatment and equal justice under the law.
3. ECOLOGICAL WISDOM
Human societies must operate with the understanding that we are part of nature, not separate from nature. We must maintain an ecological balance and live within the ecological and resource limits of our communities and our planet. We support a sustainable society which utilizes resources in such a way that future generations will benefit and not suffer from the practices of our generation. To this end we must practice agriculture which replenishes the soil; move to an energy efficient economy; and live in ways that respect the integrity of natural systems.
It is essential that we develop effective alternatives to society’s current patterns of violence. We will work to demilitarize, and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, without being naive about the intentions of other governments. We recognize the need for self-defense and the defense of others who are in helpless situations. We promote non-violent methods to oppose practices and policies with which we disagree, and will guide our actions toward lasting personal, community and global peace.
Centralization of wealth and power contributes to social and economic injustice, environmental destruction, and militarization. Therefore, we support a restructuring of social, political and economic institutions away from a system which is controlled by and mostly benefits the powerful few, to a democratic, less bureaucratic system. Decision-making should, as much as possible, remain at the individual and local level, while assuring that civil rights are protected for all citizens.
6. COMMUNITY-BASED ECONOMICS AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE
We recognize it is essential to create a vibrant and sustainable economic system, one that can create jobs and provide a decent standard of living for all people while maintaining a healthy ecological balance. A successful economic system will offer meaningful work with dignity, while paying a “living wage” which reflects the real value of a person’s work.
Local communities must look to economic development that assures protection of the environment and workers’ rights; broad citizen participation in planning; and enhancement of our “quality of life.” We support independently owned and operated companies which are socially responsible, as well as co-operatives and public enterprises that distribute resources and control to more people through democratic participation.
7. FEMINISM AND GENDER EQUITY
We have inherited a social system based on male domination of politics and economics. We call for the replacement of the cultural ethics of domination and control with more cooperative ways of interacting that respect differences of opinion and gender. Human values such as equity between the sexes, interpersonal responsibility, and honesty must be developed with moral conscience. We should remember that the process that determines our decisions and actions is just as important as achieving the outcome we want.
8. RESPECT FOR DIVERSITY
We believe it is important to value cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual, religious and spiritual diversity, and to promote the development of respectful relationships across these lines.
We believe that the many diverse elements of society should be reflected in our organizations and decision-making bodies, and we support the leadership of people who have been traditionally closed out of leadership roles. We acknowledge and encourage respect for other life forms than our own and the preservation of biodiversity.
9. PERSONAL AND GLOBAL RESPONSIBILITY
We encourage individuals to act to improve their personal well-being and, at the same time, to enhance ecological balance and social harmony. We seek to join with people and organizations around the world to foster peace, economic justice, and the health of the planet.
10. FUTURE FOCUS AND SUSTAINABILITY
Our actions and policies should be motivated by long-term goals. We seek to protect valuable natural resources, safely disposing of or “unmaking” all waste we create, while developing a sustainable economics that does not depend on continual expansion for survival. We must counterbalance the drive for short-term profits by assuring that economic development, new technologies, and fiscal policies are responsible to future generations who will inherit the results of our actions.
© 2013, agentleman.
Disrespect, Race and Obama
In an interview with the BBC this week, Oprah Winfrey said of President Obama: “There is a level of disrespect for the office that occurs. And that occurs, in some cases, and maybe even many cases, because he’s African-American.”
With that remark, Winfrey touched on an issue that many Americans have wrestled with: To what extent does this president’s race animate those loyal to him and those opposed? Is race a primary motivator or a subordinate, more elusive one, tainting motivations but not driving them?
To some degree, the answers lie with the questioners. There are different perceptions of racial realities. What some see as slights, others see as innocent opposition. But there are some objective truths here. Racism is a virus that is growing clever at avoiding detection. Race consciousness is real. Racial assumptions and prejudices are real. And racism is real. But these realities can operate without articulation and beneath awareness. For those reasons, some can see racism where it is absent, and others can willfully ignore any possibility that it could ever be present.
To wit, Rush Limbaugh responded to Winfrey’s comments in his usual acerbic way, lacking all nuance:
“If black people in this country are so mistreated and so disrespected, how in the name of Sam Hill did you happen? Would somebody explain that to me? If there’s a level of disrespect simply because he’s black, then how, Oprah, have you managed to become the — at one time — most popular and certainly wealthiest television personality? How does that happen?”
No one has ever accused Limbaugh of being a complex thinker, but the intellectual deficiency required to achieve that level of arrogance and ignorance is staggering.
Anyone with even a child’s grasp of race understands that for many minorities success isn’t synonymous with the absence of obstacles, but often requires the overcoming of obstacles. Furthermore, being willing to be entertained by someone isn’t the same as being willing to be led by them.
And finally, affinity and racial animosity can dwell together in the same soul. You can like and even admire a person of another race while simultaneously disparaging the race as a whole. One can even be attracted to persons of different races and still harbor racial animus toward their group. Generations of sexual predation and miscegenation during and after slavery in this country have taught us that.
Alas, simpletons have simple understandings of complex concepts.
But it is reactions like Limbaugh’s that lead many of the president’s supporters to believe that racial sensitivity is in retreat and racial hostility is on the rise.
To be sure, the Internet is rife with examples of derogatory, overtly racial comments and imagery referring to the president and his family. But the question remains: Are we seeing an increase in racial hostility or simply an elevation — or uncovering — of it? And are those racist attitudes isolated or do they represent a serious problem?
Much of the discussion about the president, his opposition and his race has centered on the Tea Party, fairly or not.
In one take on race and the Tea Party that went horribly wrong this week, Washington Post opinion writer Richard Cohen wrote:
“Today’s G.O.P. is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the Tea Party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.”
What exactly are “conventional views” in this context? They appear to refer specifically to opinions about the color of people’s skin.
Cohen seemed to want to recast racial intolerance — and sexual identity discomfort — in a more humane light: as an extension of traditional values rather than as an artifact of traditional bigotry. In addition, Cohen’s attempt to absolve the entirety of the Tea Party without proof fails in the same way that blanket condemnations do. Overreach is always the enemy.
I don’t know what role, if any, race plays in the feelings of Tea Party supporters. It is impossible to know the heart of another person (unless they unambiguously reveal themselves), let alone the hearts of millions.
But nerves are raw, antennas are up and race has become a lightning rod in the Obama era. This is not Obama’s doing, but the simple result of his bein
© 2013, agentleman.
Trans Advocate and writer
Today, July 2nd, is LGBT pioneer Sylvia Rivera’s birthday. Media Advocates Giving National Equality to Transsexual & Transgender People (MAGNET) and many LGBT people honor this heroic transgender woman, who is credited by historians as being the person who “threw the first heel” in the Stonewall Inn that fateful night in 1969, when the LGBT community decided to fight back against police brutality. Rivera and many other trans and gender non-conforming people of color at the inn that night were “guilty” of having “gender inappropriate” clothing, which is the excuse the police used to exercise their prejudice with violence. The police were surprised when the guests at the bar decided to fight back! This riot catapulted the modern LGBT movement, and Rivera and other trans people were responsible for kicking things off.
Rivera continued to advocate for LGBT equality, particularly for those disenfranchised and homeless. Sadly, after the gay establishment was done using her to get publicity to raise money, she was abandoned by the gay community, and actually died impoverished. They expressed that “transgender issues are too extreme”. The lesbian separatist “radical feminist” community would exclude her from women’s conferences, and she was even one time escorted out of a queer women’s conference by transphobic lesbians. She was banned from the New York Gay Center for publicly, and aggressively, asking them to take better care of homeless queer youth. When Rivera used her voice to call out the oppression of trans, poor and/or people of color from Gay Inc, she was blacklisted from many organizations, media outlets and social circles. Though the Gay Male Media Mafia tried to silence her truth telling, shortly before she died she foretold the future saying,
One of our main goals now is to destroy the Human Rights Campaign because I’m tired of sitting on the back of the bumper. It’s not even the back of the bus anymore — it’s the back of the bumper. The bitch on wheels is back.
Today, a new documentary is making the festival circuit called Stonewall Uprising. Shockingly, but not surprisingly, the white gay and lesbian people primarily responsible for making the film totally “white washed” what really happened, by mainly interviewing white subjects, to having only white men on the promo poster. And it gets even more inaccurate and appalling- the film totally belittles the involvement not only LGBT people of color had in initiating our movement, but it downplays the significant role trans people had in igniting the flame that Stonewall accomplished.
Sorry Gay Inc, no matter how hard you try, your desperate attempt to rewrite history, therefore oppressing trans folk and people of color, will not work. There’s a new Stonewall happening, and this “oppress our own pattern” is getting harder to maintain as the people continue to speak out.
Before there was Harvey Milk, there was Sylvia Rivera. Yet the gate keepers of LGB”T” media all too often marginalize her influential place in history.
If Sylvia Rivera were alive today, how would she feel about the current status of transsexual, transgender and intersex people in the LGBTQ community? How would she feel about the cries of LGBT people of color who are protesting that their voices and needs are not being appreciated or included by the gay hierarchy?
On this special day honoring Sylvia Rivera’s birthday, we are calling on all gay and lesbian people to remember who started Stonewall, and to try to be more understanding, compassionate and inclusive of your trans brothers and sisters. We call on Gay Inc to remember that it was not the privileged assimilationists who first stormed the gates making it possible for this 40 year campaign for equality. In reality, it was lower income people of color who bravely defied transphobic and homophobic violence with such a resistance that the whole world knew the LGBT community had had enough, resulting in irreversible revolution.
Happy Birthday Sylvia Rivera, and thank you for taking a stand!
Sincerely, Ashley Love- organizer of MAGNET.
© 2013, agentleman.