Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Jefferson's Wall of Separation Letter 
Thomas Jefferson was a man of deep religious conviction—his conviction was that religion was a very personal matter, one which the government had no business getting involved in. 

He was vilified by his political opponents for his role in the passage of the 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and for his criticism of such biblical events as the Great Flood and the theological age of the Earth. 

As president, he discontinued the practice started by his predecessors George Washington and John Adams of proclaiming days of fasting and thanksgiving. 

He was a staunch believer in the separation of church and state.

Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 to answer a letter from them written in October 1801. 

A copy of the Danbury letter is available here

The Danbury Baptists were a religious minority in Connecticut, and they complained that in their state, the religious liberties they enjoyed were not seen as immutable rights, but as privileges granted by the legislature—as "favors granted." 

Jefferson's reply did not address their concerns about problems with state establishment of religion—only of establishment on the national level. 

The letter contains the phrase "wall of separation between church and state," which led to the short-hand for the Establishment Clause that we use today: "Separation of church and state."

The letter was the subject of intense scrutiny by Jefferson, and he consulted a couple of New England politicians to assure that his words would not offend while still conveying his message: it was not the place of the Congress or the Executive to do anything that might be misconstrued as the establishment of religion.

Note: The bracketed section in the second paragraph had been blocked off for deletion in the final draft of the letter sent to the Danbury Baptists, though it was not actually deleted in Jefferson's draft of the letter. 

It is included here for completeness. 

Reflecting upon his knowledge that the letter was far from a mere personal correspondence, Jefferson deleted the block, he noted in the margin, to avoid offending members of his party in the eastern states.

A year after Rana Plaza: What hasn’t changed since the Bangladesh factory collapse

By Jason Motlagh 
April 18, 2014--When I met Rajina Aktar in February of last year, her eyes were still red and her memory still fuzzy from the toxic smoke that had knocked her unconscious three weeks earlier.

The 15-year-old had been sewing pockets onto winter jackets when a fire broke out at Smart Export Garments, an illegal factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

Walking through the ruins, I saw what appeared to be handprints and scratch marks on the walls of the stairwell where eight workers were crushed to death as 350 people tried to push through a single locked exit.

Someone had managed to carry Aktar to safety.

In the dank basement room where she lived, she told me that with four relatives to support and no education, she expected to return to the assembly line as soon as she recovered.

“There is nothing else,” she said.

Fires in the factories of Bangladesh’s $20 billion garment export industry were occurring an average of two to three times a week then.

I wrote for The Washington Post that dangerous conditions weren’t likely to improve as long as major Western companies continued to send high-volume orders and consumers continued to demand the lowest possible prices.

Then came Rana Plaza.

When the eight-story building collapsed on April 24, the scale of suffering—more than 1,134 killed, 2,515 injured—seemed too great for even the most apathetic companies and governments to ignore.

Haunting imagery fueled protests around the world.

Parallels were drawn to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911, when the deaths of 146 garment workers in a New York City factory locked by its owners led to lasting safety reforms.

Indeed, a year later, Bangladesh’s garment industry has improved.

More than 150 mostly European companies have signed the legally binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, while 26 companies, most of them American, including Wal-Mart, Sears and Gap, have joined a separate alliance that commits them to invest in safety upgrades (and limits their liability when things go wrong).

The factories they source from are gradually being upgraded, and monitoring is getting better.

Meanwhile, foreign government pressure, including the suspension of U.S. trade privileges for Bangladesh, helped lead to new labor laws that, at face value, protect workers by making it easier for them to organize.

Emboldened workers are now speaking out against bad conditions, walking out if necessary.

And their collective efforts have secured a minimum-wage increase that will provide some financial security.

But we’d be foolish to believe that the industry has thoroughly cleaned up its act or that it will continue to try to as Western concern flags.

Reports from independent factory inspections conducted late last year painted a worrisome picture.

Dangerously heavy storage loads sent cracks down walls and stressed sagging support beams.

In some cases, basic fire equipment was missing, and exit routes didn’t lead outside.

One of the best factories in the country—a client of Hugo Boss, Marks & Spencer and PVH, the parent company of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger—received multiple citations.

And those are the front-line factories.

The open secret in Bangladesh is that there’s a vast underworld of off-the-books operations that backstop the export industry.

Sandwiched inside apartment buildings, in basements and on rooftops, underpaid and overworked employees finish orders from larger companies under fierce pressure to stay apace with fast fashion.

Hidden from view, bosses are free to abuse workers and cut corners on safety.

One afternoon last September, I snuck inside a signless Dhaka factory to see for myself.

On a packed floor without windows, workers ironed T-shirts beneath droning fans and fluorescent lighting.

In the corner, a man affixed tags to pink children’s jumpsuits priced at 5 pounds sterling.

Though I had chosen the factory at random, the fire code violations were plenty.

Evacuation maps were covered with flyers, hoses were missing from their hinges, stacks of boxes and piles of synthetic fabric blocked exits.

It was not hard to imagine the worst.

A top garment producer admitted to me that unauthorized subcontracting remains standard practice across the industry.

With so many variables threatening to disrupt production—political violence, strikes, electrical breakdowns—he still farms out some work to meet deadlines.

“There will be subcontracting every day—you cannot stop it,” he told me in his posh headquarters, flanked by a wall of framed audit certificates commending his company.

“Officially, the brands will say ‘No more,’ that they are controlling it.

But unofficially, it will always happen, and they know it.”

The U.S. government is guilty of the same negligence.

While President Obama espouses workers’ rights, our military is sourcing clothing from sweatshops, according to a report from the International Labor Rights Forum.

Military retail stores known as exchanges purchase millions of dollars worth of apparel from Bangladesh each year without vetting supply chains.

Instead, they rely on companies with dubious track records to ensure safety compliance.

That is why clothing designs bearing the Marine Corps logo were found among the ashes at Tazreen Fashions, where 112 workers died in a fire in November 2012.

The Marines responded by mandating that all licensees sign the safety accord, but a legislative measure that would have required exchanges associated with the other branches of the military to do the same was stripped out of the defense spending bill last year.

Jason Motlagh is a writer, photographer and filmmaker. Reporting for this essay and for “The Ghosts of Rana Plaza,” featured in the spring issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review, was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Greetings again, faithful Dot Calm readers!

This is Dot Calm's shadow again.
I was so depressed by all the sad news that
I couldn't resist posting a political cartoon.

Or two.
Or six.


Hum, same recipe as the "Christian" Right...

Can't We All Just Get Along?
Rodney King

Many police killings, but only Ferguson explodes

By Jesse Washington, AP National Writer

There was little violence after the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's killer last July.

Peace prevailed when at least four other unarmed black males were killed by police in recent months, from New York to Los Angeles.

Then Michael Brown was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri.

And waves of rioting have convulsed the St. Louis suburb for more than 10 days.

Why Ferguson?

The response to Brown's death turned violent because of a convergence of factors, observers say, including the stark nature of the killing in broad daylight, an aggressive police response to protests, a mainly black city being run by white officials--and the cumulative effect of killing after killing after killing of unarmed black males.

"People are tired of it," said Kevin Powell, president of the BK Nation advocacy group, who organized peaceful protests after the Florida neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman was found innocent in Martin's killing.

Powell is headed to Ferguson as an organizer and peace activist after the killing of Brown, the unarmed black 18-year-old who was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson.

Battles have raged in Ferguson almost nightly, with stores looted, police firing tear gas and rubber bullets, people tossing Molotov cocktails, and dozens of arrests.

When police first confronted protesters with armored military vehicles, assault weapons and dogs, it reminded Powell of images from the 1960s civil rights movement.

"Just a reckless disregard for the safety of the community they're supposed to be protecting," he said.

"They just don't care.

It feels like they don't care at all."

"Zimmerman was one person.

This is an entire police force.

It feels like the whole system doesn't care."

It is not all that unusual for an unarmed black person to be killed by police.

There are no reliable national statistics on people of any race killed by police, but anecdotal reports count significant numbers.

One study, relying on Internet searches of media reports, found 18 unarmed black people killed by police and security personnel in the first three months of 2012, including Trayvon Martin.

On July 17, Eric Garner was killed by a chokehold after an arrest for illegally selling loose cigarettes in New York City.

On Aug. 5, John Crawford III was killed while handling a toy gun in a Wal-Mart outside Dayton, Ohio.

On Aug. 11, Ezell Ford, a mentally disabled man, was shot dead in South Los Angeles.

The circumstances of each case are different, of course, and investigations continue.

Brown was killed Aug. 9.

The riots erupted Aug. 10, when more than two dozen businesses were damaged and looted.

Some of the rioters, according to media reports, are hardened, violent young men who speak of seeking "justice," which is often confused with revenge.

Some are coming to Ferguson from out of town, whether to show solidarity or fight the crackdown, or possibly drawn to the media spectacle.

Police have reported arrests of people from New York and California.

"It feels like a turning point," said Blair L.M. Kelley, a history professor at North Carolina State University.

"I think because so many black men die at the hands of the state."

Kelley and Powell both said that the nature of Brown's killing fueled anger.

He was shot at least six times in broad daylight, in the middle of the street, in his own housing complex.

Then his body lay in the street for hours, uncovered, in a pool of blood, before being taken away.

"There were more than 100 people there looking at his body," Kelley said.

She mentioned the killings of Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed black man who was shot by a white officer after crashing his car in Charlotte, North Carolina, last September, and the black woman, Renisha McBride, who crashed her car in Detroit, went to a nearby house, and was shot dead through the front door.

"Those happened at nighttime, away from the public gaze," Kelley said.

"To leave Brown in the street like that, it was a disregard they could feel and taste and see."

The last riots over an unarmed black death were in 2009, when Oscar Grant was killed by a white officer while lying face down on a train platform in Oakland, California.

Hundreds of businesses were damaged, cars were overturned and smashed, and more than 100 people were arrested.

Similar circumstances led to unrest in Cincinnati in 2001 and in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1996.

One of America's worst race riots ever was in 1992 in Los Angeles, after the acquittal of four white officers who beat the black motorist Rodney King.

And people in many cities rioted against racial oppression during the turmoil of the 1960s.

Science flies you to the moon;
religion flies you into buildings.

Hey, police!
Quit killing all our unarmed black teens.
You're killing our profits!
U.S. Prison-Industrial Complex

Sunday, August 31, 2014

If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door.
Milton Berle

Hey, Republicans!
IF CHILDREN are such a precious
why haven't you scooped up all those poor
Central American kids who crossed over
from Mexico?
Imagine how much richer you'd feel
if you took in those poor children...
Oh, I forgot...
They're not fetuses...They're already here!
and Republicans only deal in fetuses...
Sorry, kids...keep waiting...
Look for some Christian country w/o Republicans!

If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people--their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties--someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal,"
then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal.” 
J.F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Always remember that you are absolutely
unique...just like everyone else.
Margaret Mead

Restricting the Vote
The concerted national effort to restrict Americans' voting rights in 2012 was met with an equally dramatic pushback by courts, the press, and engaged citizens.

By Election Day, the worst laws had been blocked, blunted, postponed, or repealed.

The Center* was instrumental in leading this fight.

Representing civil rights groups, Center attorneys helped win court rulings to block harsh voter ID laws in South Carolina and Texas that could have made it harder for hundreds of thousands to cast ballots.

The Center’s suit on behalf of the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote blocked Florida’s new law, which had forced nonpartisan groups to end voter registration in the Sunshine State.

Thousands of voters were registered after the federal court ruled.

The Center led an extensive public opinion research project on attitudes toward voting.

Over 300 organizations used this cutting edge research to help win victories in Colorado, Minnesota, and elsewhere

*Center For American Progress

Megyn Kelly explains why Nancy Pelosi is sexist and Hobby Lobby is not

By Laura Clawson

Friday July 11, 2014--Nancy Pelosi's objections to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision are sexist, according to Fox News host and noted “sexism expert” Megyn Kelly.

Pelosi, of course, noted correctly that the five justices who put the religious beliefs of corporations over the health care rights of actual people (though women people, who obviously matter less than others) were all men, and suggested that this was a problem.

Here is Kelly's impeccable logic demonstrating that Pelosi is ignorant or intentionally misleading:

    “First of all, the gender of the justices in the Hobby Lobby majority is totally irrelevant,” Kelly said, pointing out that the justices who ruled in the majority for Roe v. Wade were also men. “Does Ms. Pelosi think those justices were ill-equipped to fairly decide that case? Or is it only when a judge disagrees with Ms. Pelosi that his gender is an issue.”

Or else, it's an issue when a group of one type of people acts to remove rights from a group of another type of people, but it's a different thing when one group of people acts to expand rights to another group of people.

Just a thought.

Kind of like how it was white people who enslaved black people, and that was bad, and it was also white Abraham Lincoln who signed the Emancipation Proclamation and mainly white politicians who passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, and that was good.

Funny how that works, eh?

    She added, “If Speaker John Boehner made a similar comment about the female Supreme Court justices, Nancy Pelosi would be crying sexism—and that’s what she is guilty of here.”

Yes, and this is happening in a fictional land in which there are five female Supreme Court justices acting unanimously to harm men, while insisting that their decision should in no way ever be applied to women.

This is where I point out that Megyn Kelly is one of the smartest, most-making-sense people hosting shows on Fox News.

And then we all choose one of the following responses: cringe, facepalm, or wearily disgusted head shake.

At least she's pretty.

Friday, August 29, 2014

It would only cost 0.5% of the 1%’s wealth to
eliminate poverty nationwide.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Don't We Realize We're The Laughing Stock?
Don't We Realize We Have An Unhealthy
Fascination With Guns?
Don't We Realize We Need Laws Regarding
The Weapons We Love So Much?
Don't We Realize The NRA Is Not Congress
And Does Not Make Laws And Is NOT
The Boss Over Us?
Don't We Realize We Are Becoming Numb
And Dispassionate No Matter How Horrific
The Massacre?
Don't We Realize We Shrugged Off The
Death Of 20 Innocent Children And Moved On?
Don't We Realize There Is NO Turning Back?
Don't We Realize Death Is So Final?
Don't We Realize We Will Never Again See
Those We've Lost Thru Gun Violence?
Don't We Realize We Are Being Totally Irresponsible?
People Around The World See A Violent America...


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Moving to Canada?
Was it Something We Said?
It Has Nothing To Do With Us!
Just Keep Eating Our Hamburgers.
We want To Feed You,
We just want to keep more profit!
We Can!
By Moving the Corporation to CANADA!
You pay for Road Repairs, etc.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
All right for you, Burger King!
Just be careful you don't piss us off
and we decide to