More presidential rankings

This time I go with my top five:

5. T. Roosevelt
4. Jefferson
3. FDR
2. Lincoln
1. Washington

(I generally consider Lincoln and Washington interchangeable on that list.)

Judge orders military to reinstate gay soldier

There are a number of nations whose military allows gay soldiers to serve openly with straight soldiers. The obvious reason is that being gay does not make someone a sex-crazed rapist whose only interest is to cause irreparable moral harm to other people by giving them gay. Recent polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans realize this. In fact, the U.S. military largely realizes this, dismissing fewer gay soldiers per year than they did prior to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars; they may as well be saying, ‘Okay, there’s a lot of hatred for gays out there and, really, that’s our motivation, but when it comes down to it, we need good service members.’

Fortunately, in addition to the other recent positive rulings, a judge has declared the military must reinstate a lesbian soldier it dismissed under ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. He cites the lack of constitutionality of the law due to its uselessness.

“The application of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ to Major Margaret Witt does not significantly further the government’s interest in promoting military readiness, unit morale and cohesion,” he wrote.

If it did any of these things, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ would have some validity within its scope. Unfortunately for all the bigots out there, judges are increasingly recognizing that sexual orientation is irrelevant to the effectiveness of military members.

But I think it’s worth pointing out that calling ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ a failure would be a mistake. The law was a compromise that marked a major step in terms of equal rights for gays. This is in a similar vein to when Jefferson put an end to the slave trade in 1808. That point was pivotal in the effort to end slavery, but it was also virtually all that could be done politically. Learning from his earlier days in Virginia politics, he knew any effort to end slavery was premature in his lifetime, lest he lose all political capital and ability to govern in any other area. A similar tale can be told of Clinton. Outright ending the unjustified discrimination against gays in the military was virtually impossible at the time (and it’s still proving to be difficult). But by getting the best deal he could for gay service members, Clinton made the first big step in ending the discrimination they face in the military. The fortunate difference here is that it won’t take us 57 years to reach Clinton’s goal.

They’ve got Maine all wrong

PZ has a post about the new platform of Maine’s GOP.

We shouldn’t pick on the South all the time, so here is a tale out of the eminently Yankee state of Maine. The Maine Republican party recently met to establis their official platform, and ended up getting hijacked by the tea-baggers. Their new platform contains all kinds of nutty demands.

It’s true, the platform is pretty nutty. For instance, it calls global warming a myth (because conservatives are generally hostile towards science), it bizarrely calls for the adoption of “Austrian economics”, and it wants to see the elimination of the Department of Education, but let’s slow down. This has led to a number of comments on that post which get Maine all wrong.

While I lived in Connecticut and Massachusetts, we referred to Maine as New England’s West Virginia.

How dare someone refer to Maine like that. Everyone knows we prefer to be called the far south of the far north. Also, a number of other posts get a few important things wrong. For instance, it’s “lobstah”, not this stranger “lobster”. (I recommend getting it from a restaurant that sits in the harbor; it does a wicked job of soaking up that full ocean aroma so much bettah.)

It’s seriously obvious the Maine GOP is insane. But despite that fact, I would like to still take credit for this gem:

In pursuit of these principles we endorse and shall promote the following initiatives.

II. To Establish Justice:

b. Reassert the principle that “Freedom of Religion” does not mean “freedom from religion”.

I can only hope that my recent letter to the editor (also found here) played at least a small role in spurring the GOP to reassert their inanity. I’m sure the recent, correct ruling about the unconstitutional standing of the National Day of Prayer was the main catalyst, but either way, silliness lays at the base here. Freedom of religion is impossible without freedom from religion. To say “You’re free to practice any religion you want!…so long as you actually do practice a religion” runs counter to any notion of freedom I’ve yet to ascertain in my young life. Maybe these crazies just want to live in More’s Utopia? I don’t know.

But wait, there’s more!

VI. To Secure the Blessings of Liberty:

a. Restore a vigorous grounding in the history and precepts of liberty, freedom, and the constitution to the educational process. As Thomas Jefferson said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

Really? They want to use Thomas Jefferson? Aside from not ever having stood for anything these haphazard teabaggers want today, I think he would have recognized the irony in their next line:

i. Eliminate the Department of Education and restore schools to local control as specified in the constitution.

Teabagger motto: No ignorance – unless it’s blissful.

Thought of the day

Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.

~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 30 July, 1816

Thought of the day

Nary a day goes by when my thoughts don’t turn toward Thomas Jefferson’s immense intellect.

Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights.

Madison, Jefferson, Rights, and Defintions

By Michael Hawkins

James Madison espoused a separation of church and state in much the same manner as Thomas Jefferson. The following is from Congressional minutes recorded in August of 1789.

“Mr. Madison said, he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience.”

And we can go one step further into Madison’s mind with more recordings from the same session.

“Mr. Madison thought, if the word national was inserted before religion, it would satisfy the minds of honorable gentlemen. He believed that the people feared one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combine together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform. He thought if the word national was introduced, it would point the amendment directly to the object it was intended to prevent.”

It’s hard to see how a reasonable person could misinterpret this. Madison obviously rejected the notion that religious beliefs should be codified into law, thus establishing them as the moral directives of other individuals. That is, religious beliefs should not be made law because that essentially makes government an enforcer of religion – and that is far from its role. Good government does not dictate morality.

Moving beyond Madison, a discussion of the concept of rights needs to happen. What is a right? A succinct definition is hard to formulate, but I think a good idea can be created. Something which does not infringe upon another’s rights should be a right. This alone isn’t much of a definition because it assumes the existence of rights, the very thing we want to define. But within a certain context it does give a good approximation of what a right should be; we already have established rights (free speech, religious beliefs, protest, etc), so assuming we agree on those, we can ask ourselves, does X infringe upon these? If the answer is “no”, then there’s a good chance that X is a right.

I think it is eminently appropriate to also include safety and security as one defining piece of rights. Does X cause bodily harm to me or others? Does it cause undue financial hardships? Does it put someone at risk of life or health? If the answer is “no”, we again have another good indicator that X is a right.

I hope it hasn’t escaped anyone that the previous two paragraphs are speaking of natural rights. These are rights which extend to all peoples, not merely Americans or Europeans or Russians or any one particular group. They are effectually based upon the idea that rights are to be based upon humanity and the human condition.

So why are rights so important? I think it should be obvious. If a society goes about imposing restrictions upon minorities or the meek, then the statement that some people are not equal to others is being made. This seems like nothing less than a manifested superiority complex.

Yet restrictions go beyond this statement of superiority. They implicitly say any group can be superior to another. The reasoning behind the superiority isn’t important (whether from religious doctrine or philosophical notions). What matters is that (usually unknowingly) there are people who do not accept the idea that rights are universal. They can’t. They believe that the very concept of rights can be ignored if it runs counter to some other line of thought. Does Religion X say public prayer is immoral? If so and if Religion X’s followers are a majority, they can stampede the rights of those who wish to publicly pray. This can only be because the teachings of Religion X are being claimed to be superior to the rights of others. And this can only be a true claim if rights are not universal and if we agree that morality trumps individual rights.

I, for one, disagree.

Thought of the day

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law,’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

~Thomas Jefferson

Rights and why they matter

I have found descriptions of this blog and myself on the Internet where I am labelled a defender of gay rights. That is only superficially true. I am no less a defender of gay rights than I am a defender of straight rights. It is the same fight.

That said, here is a piece I’ve written specifically for those likely to vote Yes on 1 on the upcoming ballot in Maine.

~~~

I want you to really consider the concept of rights. They are far more important than any personal beliefs one may hold insofar as government is concerned. You violate one individual’s rights and you’ve violated the rights of all people.

James Madison espoused a separation of church and state in much the same manner as Thomas Jefferson. He is recorded as expressing these views in these Congressional minutes,

Mr. Madison said, he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience.

And we can go one step further into Madison’s mind with more recordings from the same session,

Mr. Madison thought, if the word national was inserted before religion, it would satisfy the minds of honorable gentlemen. He believed that the people feared one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combine together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform. He thought if the word national was introduced, it would point the amendment directly to the object it was intended to prevent.

It’s hard to see how a reasonable person could misinterpret this. Madison obviously rejected the notion that religious beliefs should be codified into law, thus establishing them as the moral directives of other individuals. That is, religious beliefs should not be made law because that essentially makes government an enforcer of religion – and that is far from its role. Good government doesn’t dictate morality.

Moving beyond Madison, a discussion of the concept of rights needs to happen. What is a right? A succinct definition is hard to formulate, but I think a good idea can be created. Something which does not infringe upon another’s rights should be a right. This alone isn’t much of a definition because it assumes the existence of rights, the very thing we want to define. But within a certain context it does give a good approximation of what a right should be; we already have established rights (free speech, religious beliefs, protest, etc), so assuming we agree on many of those, we can ask ourselves, does X infringe upon these? If the answer is “no”, then there’s a good chance that X is a right.

But more is needed. I think it is eminently appropriate to include safety and security as one defining piece of rights. Does X cause bodily harm to me or others? Does it cause me undue financial hardships? Does it put me at risk of life or health? If the answer is “no”, we again have another good indicator that X is a right.

I hope it hasn’t escaped anyone that the previous two paragraphs are speaking of natural rights. These are rights which extend to all peoples, not merely Americans or Europeans or Russians or any one particular group. They are effectually based upon the idea that rights are to be based upon humanity and the human condition (which may extend to other animals, but I digress).

So why are rights so important? I think it should be obvious. If a society (or the world as a whole) goes about imposing restrictions upon minorities or the meek, then the statement that some people are not equal to others is being made. This seems like nothing less than a superiority complex manifested.

Yet restrictions go beyond this statement of superiority. They implicitly say any group can be superior to another. The reasoning behind the superiority isn’t important (whether from religious doctrine or philosophical notions). What matters is that (usually unknowingly) there are people who do not accept the idea that rights are universal. They can’t. They believe that the very concept of rights can be ignored if it runs counter to some other line of thought. Does Religion X say public prayer is immoral? If so and if Religion X’s followers are a majority, they can stampede the rights of those who wish to publicly pray. This can only be because the teachings of Religion X are being claimed to be superior to the rights of others. And this can only be true if rights are not universal and if we agree that morality trumps individual rights. I, for one, disagree.

Thought of the day

I have an utter rage about me at the moment. The Oppressors want to deny citizens of my fair state their equal protections on the law. This is a denial of marriage as a right at all; should the Oppressors achieve their moral imposition, they shall have succeeded in making a marriage a privilege. They seek to undermine the very concept of rights. A clear violation of the 14th Amendment, such action would also have outraged the founding fathers.

“What is true of every member of the society, individually, is true of them all collectively; since the rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of the individuals.”

~Thomas Jefferson

My recent Thomas Jefferson kick…

…continues.

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

This must apply to same-sex marriage. What arguments have been presented which counter this principle? The answer is none. The desire to institute (or rather, continue) intolerance into the law books has no good basis. No case has been made clear. No case can be made. This puts one group firmly in the category of bigots. Worse yet, the other group is categorized as the oppressed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 196 other followers