Morton Grove Park District Refuses Atheist Donation

ashtaHemant Mehta donated $3,000 to the Morton Grove Park District in response to the American Legion withdrawing funds in protest of park board member Dan Ashta refusing to stand for the pledge of allegiance. The donation was refused in spite of Mehta polling for acceptance before sending the check.

In an email to Mehta, Park District Executive Director Tracey Anderson said the Park District board “has no intention of becoming embroiled in a First Amendment dispute. The email also says Park District officials do not want to appear “sympathetic to,” or show a perceived position for or against, “any particular political or religious cause.”

The American Legion got upset that Ashta, a constitutional lawyer,  wouldn’t at least stand out of respect in an odd sort of double-speak–we fought for your right to refuse but we will not tolerate your right.

“On behalf of our post, it is with some regret that we fully respect the right of individuals to not stand during the pledge of allegiance,” Lampert said. “All veterans have been willing to lose their lives for that right, and many have. With that being said, while we support that right, we do not accept it.”

Of course veterans didn’t litigate for free speech, nor did they litigate to include the pledge back in 1954 but they did fight for the country. Ashta doesn’t consider the pledge a mandatory duty.

“This section of the agenda says Pledge of Allegiance, and I feel like we’re compelling people to speak,” Ashta explained. “So you either stand up and say it or you don’t, but either way you’re making a statement. If you come to the meeting, you don’t have a choice but to make a statement.”

“I’m not entirely sure it’s accurate to say this is a personal choice, but more of a duty. I have an obligation as an elected official to uphold the constitution,” he continued. “I have a sincere, serious relationship with the law. I study law and constitutional law is of particular interest to me. I think the Constitution is what makes this country great and worth making sacrifices for. Countries with weak constitutions usually don’t last.”

“It really saddens me when I hear people say that they think what I’m doing is disrespectful… I do appreciate the sacrifices people have made so that I can be here at this meeting. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. I have no objections to people who do stand for the pledge.”

Ashta doesn’t want the pledge removed, nor has he claimed any religious alliance, he just doesn’t want to stand and say it. The Legion pulled the Easter egg hunt funding, the Halloween funding, the Fourth of July support, and the Party in the Park support. They took their money and went home simply because some guy doesn’t want to stand and say the pledge, a rather new US propoganda originally meant for school children to bolster up patriotism after two world wars and then Korea. The Legion insists it will wait all the way to 2019 when Ashta’s term is up if they have to, or he stands. Mehta makes it clear why he’s sending the money.

Anderson said Mehta’s check included a note about the donation’s purpose being for Ashta’s “courageous protest” and from “atheists everywhere.” She said she believed Mehta’s donation was simply to make up for the loss of the veterans group’s funding. But she said that after discussing the donation with park board members, the Park District determined that Mehta’s donation was not for general programming purposes and thus should be returned.

They refused the money because it had political weight. The Legion was donating the money for politics as well or they would have insisted the donations be anonymous. The board is clearly waiting it out and seeing whether Ashta will stand or quit. Conservative news supports the Legion and sees Ashta as unpatriotic.

Others, including local resident Coursey Winkler, whose mother serves on the park board, are calling for Ashta’s resignation. “He needs to put his pride aside. He is now hurting the park and village, and as an elected official he is the voice of the people,” Winkler told the Morton Grove Champion. “At this time, I do not believe he is speaking for the people. If he is hurting the park he should resign.”

Mehta disagrees.

“It’s not like Mr. Ashta is saying, ‘I’m an atheist and I oppose the under God portion of the pledge,’” Mehta said. “I would say that though, and he’s showing respect for my right to do it even though he might not agree with me.”

Along the same line, Mehta said Ashta is admirable for not challenging people who do stand for the pledge.

“This guy is not unpatriotic; he’s quite the opposite,” Mehta said. “He is an elected official chosen by citizens in his community, and I doubt that every single person in Morton Grove is able-bodied, Christian and completely satisfied with their government. He’s reminding everyone that government is open to all. That’s about as patriotic as it gets.”

Having received half hate mail and living in a suburb Ashta has some interesting times ahead. Oddly enough his board blurb says he’s a team practitioner which usually means bullshit compromisor which is not what he’s doing. At the Nov 21 board meeting he was two  minutes late, missing the pledge and a quarter of the eight-minute meeting. Sound alike everyone is just weathering the storm for awhile. Mehta has confirmed that he will raise money every year until Ashta can sit or his term is up.

Jim Newman, bright and well

www.frontiersofreason.com

Bob Dylan Sued for Hate Speech

dylanBob Dylan is being sued for making a comparison to slavery, the Civil War era to today and the ongoing hatred between Serbs and Croats.

The 72-year-old folk-rock icon, who was awarded the French Legion of Honor earlier this month, was discussing America’s history with slavery when he made a comment that has reportedly riled up a Croatian community group…

“Mmm, I don’t know how to put it. It’s like . . . the United States burned and destroyed itself for the sake of slavery. The USA wouldn’t give it up. It had to be grinded out. The whole system had to be ripped out with force. A lot of killing. What, like, 500,000 people? A lot of destruction to end slavery. And that’s what it really was all about.

This country is just too f–ked-up about color. It’s a distraction. People at each other’s throats just because they are of a different color. It’s the height of insanity, and it will hold any nation back — or any neighborhood back. Or any anything back. Blacks know that some whites didn’t want to give up slavery — that if they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can’t pretend they don’t know that. If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.”

Well, what Dylan doesn’t mention is the Serbs are the minority Christian Orthodox and the Croats are Roman Catholic, as well as the presence of Bosnian Muslims who also stick to their own. The war was religiously aligned and can’t be blamed on racism or genocide. It can be divided into separatist or nationalist ideologies but that closely follows their religious hierarchies. They all wanted homogeneity based on ethnicity which means religion here. A nasty long set of civil, or international, wars that only emphasizes how twisted religious solidarity can become.

Amid lingering memories of the Croatian War of Independence that lasted from 1991 to 1995, the France-based Croatian community group in question has brought a lawsuit after finding Dylan’s comments unsettling.

Europe’s free-speech laws are stricter than those in the U.S., and the suit will move on to the next stages. Slate reports that it could take up to 18 months to settle, and if Dylan is found guilty, he may face a fine and formal sanction.

I suppose Dylan could be sued for libel here but it really was genocidal in that Serbs were reduced from 12% to 4%. It is a Croat community group that is suing.

Wonder what would happen if Dylan said Obama is hated because he’s black. Oh wait, it’s not because he’s black, it’s because he couldn’t be effective with so much residual hate. Further that blacks who voted for him because he was black are racists. Which seems good enough reason to me, considering the US hasn’t recovered from Confederate pride. Hell, I’d vote for a president if they just said they believed in evolution.

Jim Newman, bright and well

www.frontiersofreason.com

The Myth of Filibusters

angry GOPThe GOP, Tea Party, Conservatives, Liberatarians, and Independents are all promoting the myth that Democrats are the cause of filibustering and the GOP is just trying to keep up. Bullshit. Filibustering bloomed as a means of fighting back Kennedy, LBJ, and the Great Society movement. It has grown considerably as a normative tool for blocking governance but has never been so great as against Obama. Judging by its trajectory the only thing that will stop it is complete governmental disfunction and civil revolution. An end so egregious as to be unimaginably immoral.

Why would the GOP care? Because they are protecting, hoarding, and increasing their wealth as they eagerly seek and encourage an end of times. As Christian dominionists they welcome the destructive Jesus with his wrath and as austerity savers they hoard against the coming collapse in case they get the looming date of the rapture wrong.

It all started when they got pissed they couldn’t treat women like chattel and races like slaves, etc. The Civil War and Suffragism never died it just went undercover, barely covered.

Jim n

filibuster chart

Owning Your Public Identity

janusA cubicle friend at AMD loved to show how I was really a capitalist when I identified myself as more of a marxist with an anarchist bent al la Peter Kropotkin and Emma Goldman. In return I chided unregulated greed as the unrepentant immorality of selfish virtue that rarely became naturalized to a more egalitarian economic environment, where competition rarely is the level playing field held so dear. At core both communism and capitalism collapse into moralism requiring additional input.

Oprah Winfrey did a similar thing by saying Nyad was not an atheist because she experienced awe and wonder. Oddly enough both Nyad and Winfrey were mildly wrong. Nyad sounds like a pantheist and Winfrey like a new age spiritualist.

Dawkins and Maher teased they thought Pope Puppy was really Catholic but Obama was an atheist. Come out, come out wherever you are takes its courage from the game of hide and seek. It’s double entendre of being either to come join us or we’re going to find you teases both enticement and brutality.

In the LGBT and feminist worlds it has been extremely popular to revisit history and reconsider relationships. Not the “Herstory” kind of thing where it is shown just how much of a role women played and was then not recorded but rather what was the true nature of relationships presumed to be closeted in some way or another. This has grown to the current trend of determining whether you are comfortable in your skin (CIS) and announcing that as a means of further resolving overt-/covert intent. Perhaps another means of knowing one’s self and then (re)defining it, publicly, in the face of the other.

I certainly have gotten into trouble by using platonic lesbian or platonic homosexuality to emphasize that the sexuality part no longer seems as relevant and certainly in historical relations it gets very difficult where it was quite normal, demanded, to associate with your own gender–but did they actually experience sexual desire for each other or could they have recognized it if they had? Nowadays where we use what amounts to a social microscope there is brolove, bromance (why no sismance?), to somehow make it more acceptable to have a close, loved, male friend as best epitomized, more early, by the rugged Jack London and George Sterling, characterized by his daughter as latent homosexuality. The difficulty of definitions leads to the use of the continuum in spite of gaps such as beastiality and celibacy which altogether leads to a sexual taxonomy that is as complicated as it is proud. The absurd pop extreme of this is best shown by those silly high school movies where if a guy sees a penis and doesn’t cringe does that make him gay or somewhere in between? That’s how difficult it is for people to know themselves much less talk about it.

In religious bent this indicates just how charged the political environment has become. It’s now more important than ever to determine exactly what people are whether those people want to hear it or not. The growth of nones from 6% to 20% has led to the questioning of what a none means. Is it really 8-10% now and the surveys are skewed, moving the line sideways where none is one disassociated from church with a confused notion of what spiritual versus secular means rather than a more classic, ain’t no god(s), spirit(s), nor should there be.

Lovely it would be to think this is finesse in self awareness but there is the political aspect. Much like political lesbianism where it wasn’t so much about sex or its enjoyment but the importance of solidarity and activism. I am a political atheist is as relevant as I’m a believe-in-belief religionist. This celebration of disingenuousness has its own merit outside authenticity. One must be careful not to look too close or like the Punker says “get out of my face.”

Privacy versus transparency has always been a confusing line for me. I am a get it all out sort of person, let the chips fall where they may, yet that assumes that everything I said is actually what I wished to have said and that is rarely true, especially since I often send text out in a bottle, a sea economy, oblivious to how that text will be received, in this almost blind economy of open-sided conversation. (Add legality of practice and it all blows up in manifold suicide.) Indeed, knowing your audience becomes difficult if not impossible in its verisimilitude when the microscope resolution increases. It is not at all surprising to me that conversation has narrowed to 140 characters. If we are going to reach back to atavistic utterances then something more than a grunt but less than a spiel is all that’s wanted.

Politeness is dragged into this conversation because we just don’t know what it means to be polite anymore, even as we insist on greater social compliance. Whether cruel honesty or suicidal secrecy, either extreme has its problems. I would hope that people like Oprah and Nyad could be questioned in a public forum. I would also hope that the president’s intent could also be examined. We do not own our public identity and never have. That there must be a private versus a public identity shows the depravity of the sociopolitical arena. Until it is safe to come out on all its various levels there will be negative politics and harm in both knowing and being yourself.

Jim Newman, bright and well

www.frontiersofreason.com

Fundamentalist Lawyer Loses License

phillk2About freakin time Phil Kline former Attorney General for Kansas was slapped for ethical misconduct against Planned Parenthood.

In a unanimous decision, the court found that former Attorney General Phill Kline, 53, broke professional conduct rules and tended towards “overzealous advocacy” for his cause, Reuters reported. According to the ruling, the court was worried by Kline’s “inability or refusal” to acknowledge his misconduct.

The Supreme Court found that Kline committed “significant and numerous” violations to advance his investigations, the Associated Press reported. His infractions included repeatedly misleading or allowing his employees to mislead others – including a grand jury.

According to the Kansas City Star, Kline was found to have made “‘false and misleading’ statements to the Supreme Court about the handling of patient records obtained during the criminal investigations,” among other infractions.

“Overzealous advocacy?” That menas they didn’t have the money or time to track down the evidence. Too bad. Now if Kline could bring back the life of an abortion doctor that was witch hunted.

George Tiller, the Wichita doctor who was killed in 2009 for providing abortions, was one of Kline’s subjects of investigation. Kline also led an investigation into a branch of Planned Parenthood located in the town of Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City. In 2007, that investigation culminated in a 107-count indictment where Kline alleged that Planned Parenthood had falsified records and performed illegal abortions. The case was later dropped by current Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe.

Kline is not even repentant. Like all good evangelicals, truth matters less than what truth should be. Murder of doctors is worth it if it stops abortion., Lying is worth it if it stops abortions. Stealing, extortion, and blackmail are worth if it stops abortion.

George Tiller, the Wichita doctor who was killed in 2009 for providing abortions, was one of Kline’s subjects of investigation. Kline also led an investigation into a branch of Planned Parenthood located in the town of Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City. In 2007, that investigation culminated in a 107-count indictment where Kline alleged that Planned Parenthood had falsified records and performed illegal abortions. The case was later dropped by current Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe.

Now he’s teaching this vile puke and no doubt claiming to be victim of evil pro-choicers. Better to kill a few adults than flush some cell clusters down the toilet. Isn’t that great we shouldn’t have teachers that pose nude but losing your law license is a positive credential for Liberty U.

I’m sorry. I don’t get it. I am a family person. I quit high technology and worked at home to be able to share in raising a family and not pay for someone else to raise them. I put time, money, and effort into my family by cooking meals, doing house chores, and being present. But I guess all of that is stupid bullshit and real family is about not being gay and saving cell clusters.

Gee, when I talk to the kids they seem to want me to do things with them. When I talk to my spouse she seems to want support  taking care of house and family. All of them seem to want my attention. The rest is bullshit, pure unadulterated bullshit to gain power, continue a gendered class system, and remove children from the family.

Jim Newman, bright and well

www.frontiersofreason.com