Entries Tagged as 'Politics'

Separation of Church and State

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state.

The phase “separation of church and state” comes from a letter written in 1802 by President Thomas Jefferson to the Baptists from Danbury [Connecticut]; but the concept pre-dates the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and was largely championed in it’s adopted form by James Madison (the principal drafter of the United States Bill of Rights).

The ideological basis of the separation of church and state are often credited to English philosopher John Locke and his principle of social contract.  It can also be seen implicitly in the flight of Roger Williams from Massachusetts to Rhode Island.

Many in the religious right argue that our founding fathers did not intend fro the First Amendment to create a godless country; and they continue to argue that the United States is a Christian nation, and Christian beliefs are centric to the nation and the Constitution.  However, that argument is not supported by the verbiage of the Treaty of Tripoli.

The Treaty of Tripoli, (unanimously) ratified by the US Senate and signed by President John Adams (one of the founding fathers) in 1797 contains in Article 11 the following:

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

It seems clear that it isn’t necessary to dig into the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence, or read in depth biographies of the founding fathers to understand that they never intended religion to be a central pillar of United States and that it was in fact their intent to prevent religion (particularly organized religion) from exerting control on the government and it’s policies.

Why then, two hundred years later do Christians seems to have carte blance to have the precepts of their religion imposed on the country as law and policy?

One place you can clearly see the Christians exercising control is state and local mandated ordinances forbidding retail operations on Sunday (particularly as it relates to alcohol sales).  While perhaps not as flagrant as it was fifty years ago, it’s is still clearly an affront to the religious freedom and separation guarantied by the US Constitution and a fundamental founding principal of this county.

To [mis]quote Lewis Carrol … the time has come the walrus said to speak of many things …

My personal belief is that each and every time any governmental unit attempts to impose the will of an organized religion there should be quick and severe recourse.

Religious invocations should be forbidden in any governmental sponsored event (that includes public school events, local governmental meetings, etc); civil oaths should be the default in any judicial or administrative hearing; and laws which are based solely on religious fundamentals stricken down.

Christians now account for less than 75% of the adult US population, and that number has been decreasing at an increasing rate over the past two decades with non-religious individuals the fastest growing segment (currently over 15% of the adult US population).

The United States was founded on the principles of freedom of religion (including freedom from religion), it’s time we honor the core values of those who built the framework that has endured the tests of time by ending religious persecution once and for all.

Originally posted 2010-08-30 02:00:51.

50 Years of US Peace Corp

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of John F Kennedy’s founding of the US Peace Corps (1-March-1961)… originally just a pilot program, but approved and funded by congress now as an American fixture.

The Peace Corps traces its roots and mission to 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. From that inspiration grew an agency of the federal government devoted to world peace and friendship.

Since that time, 200,000+ Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 139 host countries to work on issues ranging from AIDS education to information technology and environmental preservation.

Today’s Peace Corps is more vital than ever, working in emerging and essential areas such as information technology and business development, and contributing to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Peace Corps Volunteers continue to help countless individuals who want to build a better life for themselves, their children, and their communities.

President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps to promote world peace and friendship.

The Peace Corps’ mission has three simple goals:

  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

http://www.peacecorps.gov/

Originally posted 2011-03-01 02:00:46.

As Kagan Joins, Federal Courts’ Roles Rise In Importance

by Ron Elving

This weekend, Elena Kagan was sworn into the elite club of 112 who have served on the U.S. Supreme Court. The moment was duly noted across all news media, in large part because Kagan is just the fourth woman in the club.

But journalists also pounce on new appointments to the High Court in part to correct our perennial neglect of the judicial system. By far the preponderance of political journalism spilling out of Washington is devoted to the White House and Capitol Hill. As a rule, we pay attention to the courts when they interfere with something the other branches are trying to do.

This summer, federal judges have once again been horning in on issues of great interest and high stakes. Gay marriage. Immigration. The health care law. The post-BP moratorium on deepwater drilling. Each of these decisions will be reviewed by federal courts of appeal and ultimately by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But for that reason alone they will be generating news, inflaming public opinion and determining the direction of our politics, economics and culture.

Although most of the federal judiciary labors in lofty obscurity, at moments such as these one man or woman in a black robe can make an incalculable difference. Governors and senators and others in public life can only dream of such moments of influence.

Consider that on one day last week, one federal judge in San Francisco issued an opinion that invalidated the best known voter initiative of recent years: Proposition 8 on the 2008 California ballot, which overturned the state’s recognition of gay marriage.

Presenting extensive findings of fact from the trial before him, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker noted that defenders of Proposition 8 had scarcely attempted to refute these findings. In fact, the Prop 8 defense in its entirety was so cursory as to suggest its attorneys scarcely thought the trial court level was important. Their eye was on the friendlier venues of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.

But if liberals and libertarians were heartened by Walker, they were equally gratified one week earlier by the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton, who kicked out the key pillars of an Arizona law attempting to crack down on illegal immigration. Bolton found fault in that law’s provisions allowing state and local officials to question the immigration status of people they deemed suspicious — for whatever reason. The requirement that residents who ran afoul of such suspicion produce papers proving their immigration status was also spiked by the judge.

Bolton, like Walker, knew well how every word she put to paper would be scrutinized, analyzed and politicized. No doubt the same could be said for other judges bringing a more conservative viewpoint to bear on equally significant issues in recent days.

First of these was federal District Court Judge Martin Feldman of Houston, who spiked the administration’s six-month moratorium on oil-and-gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The administration may well have thought the argument for shutting down new explorations in the Gulf was open and shut in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon debacle. But if the shutdown was a no-brainer for environmentalists and industry critics, business folks in the Gulf states seemed to see it primarily as a short-term job killer and a long-term cloud over the economic future of the region.

Liberals were swift to note that Judge Feldman had a portfolio of stock holdings in the oil and gas sector, one that might well suffer in the event of a long-term slowdown in Gulf energy production. They also noted that the relevant federal appeals court, the 5th Circuit in New Orleans, was dominated by judges with business interests much like Feldman’s.

But the judge’s ruling stands, and is likely to stand longer than the Obama administration stands behind its six-month moratorium.

Similarly, in the same week as the Prop 8 ruling, supporters of the Obama health care law were incensed that U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond had approved Virginia’s standing to sue the federal government over the enforcement of provisions in that law. Defenders of the new health law had hoped that Hudson might uphold the historic principle of federal pre-eminence, a central issue since the founding of the Republic.

Many have noted the symbolic power of having this challenge emanate from Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy in the 1860s and the epicenter of “massive resistance” to the school integration decision of the Supreme Court in the 1950s. State’s rights may be a heading in a history textbook for some parts of the country, but they remain a mainstay of current events in the South.

Talk of nullification — the asserted right of states to ignore federal laws as they choose — has re-emerged as President Obama has pursued an activist agenda. In Texas and Tennessee, candidates for statewide office have allowed references to secession to enter their campaign vocabularies.

While no one expects another Civil War, we are clearly heading into the most significant round of state-federal confrontations we have seen since the 1960s. And that struggle has already been joined in courtrooms around the country, where it will largely be fought.

Small wonder then that Republicans in the Senate have made resistance to the judicial nominees of the new president such a salient element of their mission in these past 18 months.

To be sure, the president has seen both his nominees to the Supreme Court approved with little suspense. But the Senate has yet to allow a vote on most of the 85 nominees he has sent up for federal judgeships at the district and appeals court levels.

Same old partisan story? Not quite. The last five presidents, three of them Republicans, have seen four out of five of their appointments confirmed.

Democrats under Majority Leader Harry Reid have not been willing to call the minority’s bluff on this tactic by demanding real-time filibusters with all-night sessions and cots in the lobbies. No one wants the delay, the drama or the indignity.

But as the number of Democrats in the Senate shrinks in the November election, those who remain will need to reconsider what means are necessary to install their president’s choices in the increasingly powerful job of judge.

Original Story on NPR.org

Originally posted 2010-08-21 02:00:48.

A season of peace on Earth…

and good will toward men.

Hardly.

It would truly be the most wonderful time of the year if there were peace; even if the peace were momentary, but especially if it were lasting.

Christmas in the US is a commercial holiday, filled with greed and consumerism.

The religious zealots who co-opted a pagan holiday have a longer history of violence than peace — so when they try and tell you what the true meaning of Christmas is… ask yourself how many people who don’t share their views must die so that they can have their reich.

The emporer has no cloths.

In the US we don’t only have freedom to choose our religion; we have the freedom to choose to be free of religion and all the oppression that history shows it brings with it.  Make your choice known.

For background on Chrismas, you can view Wikipedia

Originally posted 2009-12-25 01:00:55.

Deep Throat

I watched a documentary called Inside Deep Throat — and I found it far more interesting than I think I ever found the movie.

The documentary talks about the changes occurring on the sexual landscape of America… while the sixties might have been referred to as the sexual revolution, it was really the early seventies where the battle of sexual expression was waged.

The movie was a landmark in many respects — but it’s success really had little to do with the quality of the movie, but rather the legal battles it caused — even though a presidential (appointed by Richard M Nixon) commission had already recommended that laws controlling pornography be repealed since they were largely unenforceable and that pornography caused no real risk to adults.

Watergate was only one of Nixon’s lies.

Sure the movie broke a great deal of new ground in film in general and porno specifically… but what it really broke was political and social stigma.

The trial in New York City (Judge Tyler ruled the file “obscene”) and an article in The New York Times catapulted the movie to the most profitable movie ever — $600 million US for a movie that originally cost only $25,000 to make.

The movie was eventually outlawed in 23 states; and the FBI harassed the director, producer, financiers, and theater owners.

Nixon’s four appointed Supreme Court Justices gave censorship a leg up; initially the feminist movement and the “protect our children” radicals supported the ban on expressive file; but steadily community standards changed possibly because of the VCR (and later DVD) and individuals began to demand their freedom of expression.

In most part of the country today individuals are free to choose; but believe me, there are still backward places that attempt to legislate morality — oppression controlled by the radical Christian right.


Below is a summary of court cases revolving around obscenity.

1957 Roth v. US – the Supreme Court defined obscene material is that which lacks any “redeeming social importance.”  The Supreme court combined the cases wof Roth v. US and Alberts v. California.

1964 Jacobellis v. Ohio – the Supreme Court reverses a state obscenity ruling, but issues four separate opinions laying the ground work for confusions.

1966 Memoirs v. Massachusetts – the Supreme Court attempts to better define the ruling in Roth v. US.  A work had to be proved by censors to: 1) appeal to prurient interest, 2) be patently offensive, and 3) have no redeeming social value.

1973 Miller v. California – the Supreme Court reinforces that obscenity was not protect by the First Amendment and established the Miller test but acknowledged “the inherent dangers of undertaking to regulate any form of expression,” and said that “State statutes designed to regulate obscene materials must be carefully limited.” 1) whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards (not national standards, as some prior tests required), would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; 2) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law; and 3) “whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”

1973 Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton – the Supreme Court upheld a state court’s injunction against the showing of obscene films in a movie theatre restricted to consenting adults; however, the Court differentiated the case from 1969 Stanley v. Georgia.

1990 FW/PBS v. City of Dallas – the Supreme Court ruled the city ordinance attempting to regulate “expressive businesses” as unconstitutional.

1999 Free Speech Coalition v. Reno – the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against section 2556(8) of the Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA)  stating 1) the statue is not content-neutral and aims to curb specific expression; 2) the statute was not in line with Supreme Court decisions which have held that states can only criminalize child pornography when the laws “limit the offense to works that visually depict explicit sexual conduct by children below a specified age” – something the CPPA failed to do; 3) no demonstrated link to harm to real children has been demonstrated; and 4) the language is too vague and over-broad, allowing for arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.

Originally posted 2010-09-21 02:00:41.

Nothing but the necessities…

In a school district that is struggling to keep teacher’s it’s amazing that that the Santa Rosa County Florida School District can find the money (and need) for 90 iPad2s for administrators (it’s also amazing that there are 90 administrators in a  county with only about 150,000 residents).

I’m glad to see that my tax dollars are well spent on essential items to insure that today’s school children will be properly educated and that the administrators responsible for overseeing that education will have new toys at the disposal to sit mostly unused in their desks — after all, an edict has been issued by the school district that these devices are only to be used in a professional capacity.

I wonder, will it be grounds for immediate termination the first time a games is played on,, a facebook post is made from or personal email is sent via one these essential educational tools — inquiring minds want to know.

My personal feeling would be this money would be better spent offsetting the $4.4 million dollar shortfall for the 2011-2012 school year that is necessitating the layoff of teaching staff — of course, why should I be surprised about iPad2s for administrators, after all most of them just got raises to address the inequities in their pay (I guess they couldn’t afford their own iPad2s — though they seem to expect teachers to buy a great deal of supplies for their classrooms out of their considerably smaller salaries).

Originally posted 2011-08-15 02:00:22.

Illegal Immigrants

Illegal Immigrants
By Arend Van Dam, 13-May-2011

Originally posted 2011-05-15 02:00:11.

Voting Advice With Your Paycheck

A Canton, Ohio McDonald’s franchisee (Paul Siegfried) took it on himself to include an insert in his employee’s paychecks suggesting that his employees vote for three Republican candidates, also on the note was:

If the right people are elected we will be able to continue with raises and benefits at or above our present levels. If others are elected we will not.

Sounds a little intimidating / threatening… I guess this business owner didn’t feel that election laws applied to him.

It’s really a travesty that any American wouldn’t know that it’s illegal for an employer to in any way try and influence his employees to vote for or against a given candidate or measure in an election… and even if you didn’t know it’s illegal, it’s certainly immoral.

Personally I hope Mr Siegfried finds himself in jail as an example to others who simply do not feel the law applies to them… and if I were McDonald’s I think a little more than a statement saying that their franchisee doesn’t speak for them is in order, particularly since it was on a piece of stationary bearing the McDonald’s logo.

Originally posted 2010-11-01 02:00:29.

Have to start keeping an eye on my neighbors…

Only 24 July 2010 Greg Brown, Jr (son of the Santa Rosa County Property Assessor Greg Brown) and his wife Jennifer Brown were caught on surveillance video removing his opponent’s campaign signs in the Florida State District 1 Representative race Doug Broxson.

Because of previous incidents of vandalism, video surveillance was shot by Jason Broxon (the candidate’s son) on property in Holt Florida owned by Don Dewrell.

Doug Broxson’s campaign manager, Kevin Brown (not related to Greg Brown), delivered copies of the tape to the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Department and the Pensacola News Journal.

Greg Brown insists that he and his wife did nothing wrong by removing Broxson’s signs from property owned by a Brown campaign supporter.

Brown said he saw his opponent’s signs on the vacant lot after leaving a political rally in Jay on Saturday night, and said that the owner of the land had previously agreed that Brown’s would be the only District 1 candidate allowed to place signage on his property.

I personally have a few issues with Brown’s statements.  Jay (Santa Rosa County, FL) is immediately North of our neighborhood (Brown and his wife live just down the street from me), and Holt (Okaloosa County, FL) is no where near any reasonable route from Jay to Milton — in fact, you’d have to go pretty far out of your way (Hwy 87 goes from just East of Jay to within a mile of their house; Holt would be a 25 mile or so detour — on a 10 mile drive)… so to me, there’s something missing in what he said.

Also, apparently Doug Broxson didn’t get the memo that he wasn’t authorized to post signage on that property (and it may well have been posted on the public right of way, it’s hard to tell the distance from the road in the video)… and the “conversation” between Greg and his wife makes the whole episode seem a little suspect; but regardless, it seems very suspect for a candidate to remove another candidate’s signs — clearly we’re not dealing with the sharpest tool in the shed (actually I’ve never met Greg Brown, Jr — but any candidate that puts himself in a potentially compromising situation like this might not be my first choice for making decisions that effect my livelihood).

Anyway, you can find a great many write ups on this with a quick search (you can use the search box to the right if you like).

Bottom line, maybe I need to move putting up my surveillance cameras around my property a little higher on the list — I might not live in as safe a neighborhood as I thought.

Originally posted 2010-08-11 02:00:23.

One Nation Under…

Most Americans seem unaware that the original Pledge of Allegiance did not contain the phrase “one nation under God”.   Our fore fathers, while religious, believed in the separation of church and state; and made it a guiding principle of this nation that there would be no state or state supported religion.  They believed that each and every individual should be able to make the choice of what beliefs that they would hold sacred, to choose their religious affiliation, or to choose to be free from religious affiliations.

Much as George W Bush capitalized on American fears to push through the Patriot Act (which should be considered one of the least patriotic things ever pushed on the American people by the US Government), the “Communist Threat” (and hunt) were used in the 1950s to change the Pledge of Allegiance to add “under God” as well as add “In God We Trust” to our currency to delineate the popularized differences between the “godless communists” and the “god fearing” people of the West.

As an American I am incensed by these charades where our politicians use popularized movements to take America further from it’s founding principles.

I say, let’s look back to our founding principles and resume the course originally set.  Time for the Patriot Act to be repealed, time for the Pledge of Allegiance to cleaned of it’s religious overtones, and time for our currency to follow the guidelines of separation of church and state.

Originally posted 2010-02-27 01:00:44.