Yet another blog for spewing. This one may end up with a lot of religious and social content.


Frugal For Life

Frugal For Life - a nice little blog on budgeting, and living within your means.

One little blurb I like:
B Buy what you need, not what you want.
U Use it up, wear it out or give it away
D Don't spend what you don't have yet
G Garage sales, thrift shops, pass downs
E Eat at home or make it at home
T Tracking your spending
S Simplify your life



Hello, America

Well, the borrow and spend Rethuglicans have been given a setback. Not because the Democrats had better ideas, but because people were sick of the Neo-Con crap.

What we really, really need is a party of pragmatic adults, with principles, ethics, and a will to do what is best for the future of our nation and the world. Sadly, that isn't really the Democrats, although they do better than the current crop of Republicans.

I still want to see a party with a platform actually built on these planks:
  1. People are free to do as they wish as long as it harms no one else. However, if you want to kill yourself using public resources, expect your estate to be sued for costs and emotional distress to those who must clean up your mess.
  2. If you're spending public money, or costing the public money, the taxpayers have a say. Don't be frivolous with it. We will pay for value, not cheap pork or overpriced sausage.
  3. The constitution is the supreme law of the land. Our republic is founded on the principles therein, and the rule of law over the rule of men. Respect it, don't use it to deny rights and priviledges to groups that are unpopular.
  4. We believe in getting good value to the taxpayers for their expenditures. Infrastructure, education, health care, and other investments in our land and its citizens have historically yielded good returns on investment. Don't waste the momentum on "I got mine, everyone else go hang." attitudes and shortsightedness.
  5. Decisions that we as a nation make in the next few years will have major effects on the entire planet for the next century. We need to think of the future, and plan for it. There is no "Armageddon, Jesus gets you out of jail free." in the real world.
  6. Integrity goes a long way. Better to be honest, and treat people right, than to be a hypocrite and a sleazebag. Private kinks are fine, as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult. Just don't say "X is bad" and be hip deep in doing X.

Now, neither the Democrats or Republicans will sign on to something like this. For that matter, neither will the Libertarians (they are the worst offenders on item 4.) So it ends up having to be yet another 3rd party.

I am inclined to call it the Adulthood party - because it treats the citizens and the government as an adult responsibility, not some kids' game.


Marriage, Religion and Government

Most people will agree that marriage in the US is very much a religious institution. Many faiths and denominations have such things in their holy books, although some of them (Deuteronomy 25:5-6) are now viewed as quaint or obsolete - like a man marrying his dead brother's wife (Yibbum).

It is the religious nature of the institution of marriage that fans the flames against gay "marriage" in so many people - it "profanes" the institution in their view. Well, you can't profane something that isn't sacred.

Then we have the government, and the Constitution. Let's look at Amendment 1:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
So, in essence, Congress can't make laws about religion, or religious institutions, or to prevent religious practices (that don't endanger others.)

Well crap! Having government established criteria for marriage (an ancient religious institution) runs right smack against the First Amendment!! The government has no business regulating marriage, or giving benefits for marriage, or rights only to married couples. None. Marriage is religious.

But what about inheritance, survivors pensions, visiting rights in hospitals, married filing joint, and all of that which is currently attached to marriage?

It needs to go. All of it. No more marriage licenses. None. Marriages can only be performed by a religious authority, who sets their own faith-based criteria. No civil benefits should accrue from such a ceremony.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion: marriage is such an establishment. Return marriage to the churches, synagogues and mosques where it belongs.

But the rights and priviledges formerly accorded to "married" couples? Well, they belong as a civil matters, not religious. Inheritance, childrearing, hospital visitation, final decisions, taxpayer status - all of those are civil matters, not religious ones. They require their own civil statute, and civil institution. They are rights and responsibilities gained from a civil contract, currently tied to the otherwise religious institution of marriage.

Break the link between the civil and the religious. Makes all unions/legal pairings/whatever be civil unions. Hetero or homo, it doesn't matter. The civil part is a civil union. Go before a justice of the peace, both declare your intent to enter into a contract of union in front of witnesses, and the contract is legally recognized.

Since it's civil, it can be regulated for the sake of the public health (brother/sister or father/daughter unions, for example), but otherwise it falls under the equal protection clauses. If the couple wants a religious marriage too, then they can have one, in the religion of their choice.

The justice of the peace could even deputize the religious officiant to perform both the marriage and the recognition of civil contract at the same time. That's really what we have now, but it's all buried under the religious institution of marriage.

It takes the government completely out of the institution of marriage. It maintains the civil contract part that is the government's bailiwick, and gives marriage back to religion.

Oh, and divorce? A dissolution of the civil contract - only. If you want to marry again in your church, you have to dissolve the marriage according to their rules.

Furthermore, if a religion believed in polygamy, they could marry groups. But civil law would govern who had the civil union contract, and thus the tax benefits and such.


Calling all Christians and Americans

Look here and ask yourselves, deep in your heart of hearts, "What Would Jesus of Nazareth Do?"

Then ask youselves if the party that supports this type of shit is really representing your "morals", or whether you're just being used for your faith.

Even I, as a pagan/heathen/apostate, recognize that torture is immoral, unethical, and wrong.

Even I, a civilian, recognize that systematically violating and flaunting the Geneva Convention is detrimental in the long term to the health and safety of our troops, to the morale and moral ceratinty of our forces, and to the very principles on which this country was founded:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
-- U.S. Declaration of Independence

What do real Americans say about torture? NO!!


True Colors: Theocrat

Well, yet another Republican operative has dispayed her true colors as a wannabe theocrat: Harris Clarifies Comments on Religion. If you read the article, the "clarification" is merely a mealy-mouthed restatement of the theocrat position. Here's another: Harris Calls Church, State Separation 'A Lie'.

If you want to be really ill, you can find the original interview, in all of it's flaming bigotry, here.

She later said that she didn't mean to offend anyone, "My comments were specifically directed toward a Christian group," -- Harris attempts to defuse controversy. Great. To me, that means that they were supposed to keep the secret, so they wouldn't "offend" any of us while they took over our nation and warped our goverment!! Keep everyone else in the dark and fed bullshit until the theocracy was a fait accompli!

Now, I have to admit, it's nice of one of them to finally state unambiguously what most of them believe. You see, the criticism within her own party seems to be along the lines of "gee, don't say that." Now, one of her opponents was a little more forthright, but others aren't. This little gem represents one of the typical backpedalinds by her fellow Christian Republicans:
Ruby Brooks, a veteran Tampa Bay Republican activist, said Harris's remarks "were offensive to me as a Christian and a Republican."

"This notion that you've been chosen or anointed, it's offensive," Brooks said. "We hurt our cause with that more than we help it."
-- Rep. Harris Condemns Separation of Church, State

Is this the type of person and party we want governing our pluralistic society? This person "certified" the dubious 2000 Florida ballot, which indirectly led us to having the worst government that this country has seen since the depression. Hell, even Nixon did more good in the international sphere than baby Bush has.

Now, I agree that religious people need to be involved in politics. This nation has a variety of deeply held religious beliefs, and these inform our consciences, and our duty to our fellow human beings. But I don't see legislating against gays, abortion, fair use or a social safety net to be in line with that concept.

When people insist on writing legislation to make an entire secular, pluralistic nation follow only the dictates of some of the most repressive theocratic regimes of the Old Testament, they are not carrying out their duty to their fellows. They are carrying out a misguided "mandate" from a long dead era, one that their own religion has deprecated!

Until these barbarians can be educated on their own religion with the meaning of the words spoken by their own "savior", they need to be relegated to the dustbin of politics. They and their hatred have no place in a pluralistic society and constitutional republic.


Fundamentalism, Theocracy, and Imposing Your Beliefs on Others

My religious right dittohead brother-in-law (good gods, he cites the Family Research Council as a primary, credible source - what a joke!) chastises "liberals" for whining about Christian theocrats, but not about Muslim theocrats, in Christianity, Theocracy, and Reason. Apparently he hasn't been reading the "liberal" sources I have. He's a nice enough guy, but damned naieve. He can't seem to see past his own sense of holy bliss and hearing the "word" of God enough to walk in someone else's shoes.

Then again, this is the polarized individual who listed in his "Overrated Things":
Political moderates. Most are liberals who don’t want to admit it. Grownups think things through and take principled positions.
Sorry, Stan, but grownups don't see things in terms of binary options, but as a continuum. It's little kids, those who think like them, and computers that see things as black or white, yes or no, good or bad, one or zero. While your religion may encourage that particular self deception, the real world doesn't work that way.

But back to the original subject: theocracy, and those who advocate imposing religious ethics and practices on those who may or may not believe.

In this country, the theocrats making the most headway are the anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-patient-trust refuseniks. I wrote a rant in my LiveJournal about Ethics, Religion, and Doing Your Job that spells out my opinion of those people. If they get away with this pushing of personal religion on the unsuspecting public, it will be due to their dominionist lapdogs in the statehouse and congress. Yet these same people would scream bloody murder if a vegan cashier refused to ring up their hamburger purchases, and would insist the person be fired for not doing their damned job!.

But these whackos are only the public tip of the iceberg. There is the whole Dominionist concept, beloved to fundamentalists who want a Christian theocracy in the US. Similar is the Christian Reconstructionism sewer, dominated by the nutjob Gary North. There are milder forms, of course, but all have the same agenda: impose "Christian" (but WWJreallyD?) law and codes of conduct on all citizens, regardless of their beliefs.

Then we have Islamism, also called Islamic fundamentalism. They want to either destroy the West, or bring it under sharia and dhimmitude. They also want to bring their own primary nations under theocratic rule, and make life uncomfortable for religious minorities. Iran has already done so. Iraq and Afghanistan are tending that way - with sectarian spats on top of it all. They often have conversion away from the dominant religion as a heresy and punishable by death.

Then we have places like China, whose state religion is the absence of religion (atheist state, or State Atheism). I find this to be just as much of a fundamentalist outlook as the others. They've lightened up a little bit since the 70's, but still regard any strong religious grouping to be a challenge to the state, and require atheism to be a member of the Party (which is required of people in government)

So what do these fundamentalists all have in common? Simple: they desire to legally, or by the use of extra- or quasi-legal violence, enforce their narrow interpretation of religious values on all citizens, regardless of the individual's personal beliefs. You can hold any religion, some of them say, but only as long as you observe the strictures and laws of our dominant religion. If you try to exercise your own beliefs and principles, or even try to share your differing opinions, you will suffer legal and/or social sanctions. This is common to all of the above:
  • fundamentalist Christian (I have seen serious websites advocating the death penalty for homosexuality, adultery and abortion),
  • fundamentalist Moslem (they have the death penalty for homosexuality and adultery), and
  • fundamentalist State Atheism (look what they did to Falun Gong and all of the viciousness in Tibet.)

  • So yes, this liberal-leaning moderate complains about fundamentalist theocrats of all varieties. They all suck. They all are a threat to freedom of conscience, freedom of choice, and personal rights. Just because the fundamentalist Muslims are "bad" over there doesn't mean that sane people can ignore the shenanigans happening right here.

    Seriously, a vegan fanatic shouldn't be a butcher or a steak house cook, and an anti-reproductive-choice fanatic shouldn't be a pharmacist or an EMT. It's real simple: stay out of professions that might compromise your "morals", or suck it up and do your job. And for the sake of all that you hold holy, quit trying to be someone else's concience! It's not your place, it's not your right!


    Privacy, Surveillance, and Why It Matters

    I posted a bit of this in my LiveJournal a month ago. But with the new, and ongoing, revelations about the NSA data mining of phone calls (numbers and duration!), it bears repeating again and again.

    A lot of conservative and right wing people are advocating that the government is right to accrete to itself more and more surveillance and domestic intelligence gathering powers, in spite of past abuses and the wiretap act. The PATRIOT Act and its sequels are just the tip of the iceberg, IMO.

    The latest bit of crap about the NSA having all our phone log data is just more of the same. Especially when it turns out that those same call logs, "for terrorist tracking", are being used to "investigate leaks" by finding out who has called reporters about government misconduct! (Yes, folks, secret prisons and extraordinary rendition are misconduct!) First amendment? Whistleblower protections? Kiss them goodbye!

    I have to ask anyone advocating surveillance, spying, monitoring, tracking, logging, pervasive IDs, biometrics, and all of the rest of the "nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide" type of crap to do this simple exercise:
    1. Imagine that your worst nightmare has come to pass, and the government is entirely made up of the party and politicians you hate and/or fear the most - for conservatives, think of Congress and the White House filled with Hillary and Bill Clinton clones.

    2. Imagine that this government of people you loathe has been given *all* the tools you now advocate or allow for monitoring, identification, surveillance, telephone call logging, and spying on undesirables.

    3. Imagine that this government that you loathe now considers you to be an undesirable, a terror suspect, a pesky political opponent, or otherwise anti-American.
    Are you still so sure that you want to give the "government" (current and future) the authority to use these tools?

    You see, you aren't just handing the good ol' boys of the Bush administration these powers, you are handing the government, in perpetuity, these powers - regardless of who is running it. If, and when, you lose your predominance, the people who you hate, and that hate you, will have the tools to make your (and your descendents) lives miserable - and you gave them to them with a cheer and a "damn straight".

    Doesn't that make you feel brilliant?



    It's in the news. Congress and the Rethuglicans are split on it, supposedly. The far right is whining about it, in a thinly veiled racist sort of way. The jerk on the radio was moaning "But they're illegal, they shouldn't be here!". They, of course, being Mexicans, what the jerks call the "brown tide." "They're trying to take over California!" bigots moan.

    First, immigration - illegal, legal and quasi-legal - is more than just "mexicans". It's quotas, by country of origin, so we don't let in too many "brown people", unless they will indenture themselves to corporations with an H1b. It's a system that is currently broken, lumbering, and downright nasty.

    Not too long ago, the discrimination wasn't against Mexicans, it was against the Irish. NINA - no irish need apply - was a common sight around the turn of the last century. Now some of the decendent of those Irish immigrants are wanting to keep the Mexicans out. In every region, there has been discrimination against one, or several "newcomer" minority. Irish, Chinese, German, Japanese, Slavic, etc. - you name it, it is, or has been, there. It's all hypocrisy. The only people in this country who aren't decended in part from imigrant stock are full blood Native Americans.

    Now, the big moan is about taxes and services 'used' by immigrants. "Oh, these people pay nothing and use up everything" is the crap I hear. It's bullshit. Here's why:
    1. In California, we have sales tax, and not a trivial amount. The only thing we don't get soaked for is basic groceries. Even illegal immigrants need clothes, and other taxable goods. So they pay there.

    2. Illegal immigrants usually rent their housing. Their landlords pay property taxes out of the rent monies received. So, they pay, indirectly, property taxes just like the rest of us who rent.

    3. If the immigrant drives, they pay for gas. Gasoline is taxed out the wazoo, both state and federal. Even if they use transit, they have to pay.

    4. If they use a fake SSN to get a standard W2 type job, they have taxes withheld, just like everyone else. However, if the SSN is fake, they can't file for a refund, or even get an EIC. So they pay more in income tax than a legal immigrant or citizen making the same wage.

    5. Public services at hospitals - they don't use these any more than the rest of the working poor do. In fact, the homeless, disabled and welfare mothers use these more.
    So, essentially, everyone who lives, shops, and works here pays into the tax system, illegal or otherwise. Therefore, the services funded by those monies should be available to them. They're not "taking" any more than a homeless person, or a uninsured WalMart employee does. There is no "theft" to get righteously indignant about.

    Now, the real problem that these people have: they are not "white". In fact, "white" people are no longer a majority in California. Waaah, waaah, waaaahmbulance!!

    A lot of immigrants these days aren't "white" - East Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic, Jamaican, Polynesian, etc. Too bad, that's the way the world is - not everyone looks like everyone else. Most of the H1b and L1 corporate indentured servants are not "white" either. It doesn't stop companies from buying hiring them for the "prevailing wage" - in bumfuck Idaho - for a job here in the Silicon Valley! Let me clue you, $40,000 is not the prevailing wage for a software developer here in Silicon Valley!

    Immigrants, regardless of paper status, are good for the economy from a "classic" conservative, pro-business viewpoint. They accept jobs that no one born here would consider, they have a strong work ethic (something that seems to have been lost in the last few generations born here), and work for less because they don't expect all of the yuppie luxuries that citizens seem to think they are "entitled" to (cable TV, or even a TV, is a luxury, folks.)

    The worst misinformation is the smear that somehow illegal immigrants are all garbage, criminals just here to take our hard won pelf. They aren't. They're here to work, and build a better life. There are no more criminals among the illegal population that there are among the legal and/or citizen population, and maybe fewer.

    Now, I mentioneded the quotas and the rest of our system. From About The USA
    "The revised immigration law of 1990 created a flexible cap of 675,000 immigrants each year, with certain categories of people exempted from the limit. That law attempts to attract more skilled workers and professionals to the United States and to draw immigrants from countries that have supplied relatively few Americans in recent years."
    It still is rigged against persons of color.

    From Green Card Lottery Q & A about the 55,000 person "Green Card Lottery" -
    "Eligibility is determined by country of birth. Persons born in China, Taiwan, India, the Philippines, South Korea, Pakistan, Vietnam, the United Kingdom, Poland, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, El Salvador, or Jamaica are ineligible, regardless of their country of citizenship or the country in which their parents were born. Persons born in all other countries - including Northern Ireland and Hong Kong - are eligible."

    Gee, looks like Mexicans and other brown folks aren't wanted. The other ways, and the only ways for people from Mexico, are either family relations (spouse or child), or employment as a skilled worker, having an advanced degree, being an 'executive', or (slowest) an unskilled laborer/domestic with no one else willing to do the work (the last takes about ten or more years to get a green card, and the quotas are low.) Also, large population countries like India, Mexico, China and the Philippines have the same total quotas (7% of total immigration) as a small country like Lichtenstein - so it's rigged against them, regardless of skills or need.

    Maybe the person can go the indentured servant to a corporation route, and maybe the company might sponsor them for a green card. In the meantime, they are often stuck for all of the expenses of their indenture processing if they decide to quit because of the abuse that is prevalent in that kind of situation. As far as I am concerned, the H1b program is a fraud against the skilled citizens of this country who are displaced from jobs and those who enter into thinly veiled servitude for the chance to be sponsored for a green card by their corporate masters.

    Now, how I would fix things:
    1. Do away with the H1b program. Let those people come here with green cards, as skilled workers, and compete on a level playing field against those already here. Yes, salaries will go up, since companies will no longer be able to retain these people for cheap by holding the H1 visa over their heads.

    2. Change the quota system. When assigning a quota to a country of origin, do it on a basis of percentage of the world's total population. Exempt asylum seekers from the quotas entirely.

    3. Make smuggling illegal immigrants a felony, if it isn't already. The "coyotes" often endanger or kill these would-be americans for money, and sometimes deliver them to essential slavery.

    4. Have an amnesty for all illegal and out-of-status people here - let them apply for a green card without prejudice. They have been screwed by the quota system, when we fix it, they need a retroactive way to get legal.

    5. Tax companies who bring over L1 and other workers for more than 6 months a "guest worker services" fee to replace the US income taxes that these people would otherwise pay if they were a green card holder. If they really need the person, it would be a minor expense.
    America is a nation of immigrants. If someone wants to come here, work and build a life for them and theirs, let them. It's what my ancestors did.


    "Liberal" Media? I Don't Think So!

    Gee, the media is soooo "liberal" in it's bias. That's why shows like ABC’s This Week only have Religious Right talking heads like Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and Pat Robertson on the show, often several times, but have no leaders of mainstream denominations like American Baptist or the United Church of Christ. See Accessible Airwaves for news about this, including the fact that ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and the WB refused a paid advertisement that pointed out UCOC's message of inclusion because it was "too controversial". Yet they'll take anti-abortion ads, give guest slots to bigots, religious exclusionists, and moralistic busybodies, and freeze out the voices of reason and inclusion because it doesn't pander to the supposed power of what is really a loud, obnoxious, hypocritical minority of religious right yammerheads. Hell, they might as well call Fox News the "Republican Religious Right channel".

    Mainline churches should be silent while Religious Right political leaders get to speak their mind?

    Do you care?


    A Time Honored Tradition

    Now, to piss off pro-lifers. You see, long before the rise of the AMA, or any male dominated medical profession at all, women have been providing pregnancy termination services to each other. Midwives, herb wives, and other things. Fertile as a turtle? Take these herbs to space your children. Can't feed another right now? Here, let me help you deal with it.

    Now, with the triumphs of the religious fanatics in office at the state and federal levels, such services are on their way to being forbidden to the medical profession. The subsequent risk to pregnant women isn't even on these judgemental fanatics radar. After all, if a woman dies giving birth, it's "Gods Will", especially if her "sacred" child is saved. So what if the pregnancy itself could kill her, the sacred fetus might be a *boy*, and thus one of the chosen of Gawd. Girls are useful too, but only to breed more of the faithful for Gawd's armies and keep their houses.

    So the knowledge from the 60s is again available. For one, see Molly Saves the Day: For the women of South Dakota: an abortion manual. Here's another link chock full of information: Can we safeguard abortion?

    I would rather it didn't come to this, but between the triple whammy of useless "abstinence only" sex ed, pharmacists being able to exercise their consciences over your prescriptions, and the abortion ban folks being emboldened by Bush's lousy ideologue Supreme Court picks, it is time to return the control of women's bodies to women, not the medical profession or the "law" of old rich white men with a god complex.


    Let's Play...

    Can you Spot the Persecution? Are your religious beliefs persecuted? Brando gives a little quiz on what is, and is not persecution. Some folks (you know who you are) cry "persecution" and "culture war" like the little boy who cried "wolf".

    So if you and yours haven't suffered real persecution in this country, Shut the Fuck Up about how your religion is suffering from US culture! You can't be persecuted by the dominant culture when you are the dominant culture.


    Endangered Net Anonymity and Pseudonymity

    It is now a crime to "annoy" someone via the net and/or to do so anonymously.

    Buried deep in the new law is Sec. 113, an innocuously titled bit called "Preventing Cyberstalking." It rewrites existing telephone harassment law to prohibit anyone from using the Internet "without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy."
    This is bad. As many know, I write under a pseudonym. "Ravan Asteris" is my "nom de net" - it is not my real name. Thus, if anyone finds my rants, opinions, or even jokes "annoying", I have a big problem. Even if I don't, the way it seem to be worded would bar even this posting - I am not, and will not, expose my "identity". Sod off, Congress, I won't be one of your "papers in order, even on the net" clones.

    I've used this pseudonym for years. I've griped again and again about attempts to force me to give up my pseudononymity, both on-line (see the soc.religion.paganism RFP archives), and in real life. Always with some sort of "security" or other justification.

    It's the prying, surveillance, "safety first over liberty" sheep versus the basic rights to privacy, anonymity and pseudonymity, again and again and again! People pooh poohed my slippery arguments, have given me the old, tired "if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide" bullshit. Now look, where we're going.

    It's really no one's business WHY I want to be pseudononymous. It's no one's business why I don't want my finances, comings and goings, grocery shopping, hobbies and bra size hung out in public for anyone to examine and make assumptions about.

    I am sick to shit of people who can't (or won't) respect the privacy of others. Now the jackasses in Congress have slipped yet another nail into the coffin of basic rights and privacy in this country.

    Now, before some pathetic conservative douchebag apologist for the authoritarian state chastises me for being "intolerant" of people who "like to know who they are talking to", I have this to say: It's my rights that are being trashed, not yours. You don't have a right to know my identity and/or biographical details.

    No one says you have to be anonymous, or pseudononymous, and if you don't like reading and talking to pseudononymous bloggers, click away - go elsewhere and stick your head in the sand! After all, if you really believe "if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide", then why don't you post your name, social security number, mother's maiden name, address, bank account number, phone number, latest medical test results, prescription list, and driving logs. The government and numerous companies can buy this information about you already.