Tag Archives: constitution

MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN? THIS ELECTION SEASON I’D SETTLE FOR MEDIOCRITY.

drumpf

 

Earlier today I blew up on Facebook. I called friends who generally share my views stupid and those who don’t stupider. Much of my heartfelt enmity is the result of the rise of Drumpf.

Why do I refer to him as Drumpf? You can thank John Oliver for that.

Immediately after my viewing of this episode I downloaded the Chrome extension that converts Drumpf to Drumpf (I have found I can’t even type the actual name here without it undergoing the transformation) on stories in my browser. It is one small consolation to see this at work in the headlines and stories I see on Slate, Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, and elsewhere, even on sites that lean farther right.

I deplore the lowlghts from all the 2016 campaigns. Our Presidential  electoral process is in the gutter, dragged there by Drumpf who has been joyfully joined there by Marco Rubio  who questions the size of Drumpf’s penis; by Ted Cruz simply being Ted Cruz; by Jeb Bush forced to defend charges of being a mommy’s boy; by Ben Carson, who fell in while sleep walking; by John Kasich, who destroyed any possible claims of being a moderate by defunding Planned Parenthood; and by the millions of presumably sentient human beings who listen to all the crazy talk about immigrants and an out of control government who couldn’t pass a U.S. citizenship/civics test if it were an open book exam and the original Declaration of  Independence and Constitution were splayed in front of them.

Holding them hostage there are David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremicist groups armed to the teeth courtesy of the National Rifle Association, crazed Evangelicals who believe Drumpf somehow possesses better Christian bona fides than the Pope when The Donald is probably more likely to provide a quote from a Smokey Stover comic book than from II Corinthians when asked about his favorite Bible passage.

Let us not forget the Secret Srvice which somehow has improved its training to the point that a reporter who wanders 10 inches outside the designated journalist area at a Drumpf rally is strong armed when only a few months ago intruders inside the White House grounds stole President Obama‘s favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe before being hustled to the requisite nearby mental hospital for observation.

Oh I’m not forgetting the Democrats. Their participation is in somewhat shallower waters near the curb cutouts that allow wheelchair crossing rather than in the middle of the block, but where the H2O is equally putrid. This time it is not so much the candidates themselves…Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton …hurling invectives at each other so much as it is the so-called BernieBros who have been accused of ugly misogynistic characterizations of the other camp while feminist icons Like Gloria Steinem, though using politer language, are equally sexist in how they portray young female Sanders enthusiasts.

And from these nominal Progressives come the enabling threats to withold their vote from the nominee should he or she not be the one they love to death at this moment. Enabling threats because by doing so they will practically guarantee that our next President will have a bulbous red nose, bizarre multi-colored makeup, a fright wig,  and will be making nonsense noises as he struts around the circus ring. Of course all but Drumpf will need to be fitted for this outfit.

Accompanying this flotsam down the gutter where it will eventually empty into the stream that will make the water supply of Flint, Michigan seem utterly pristine by comparison are various pundits, analysts, economic gurus, and the like offering opinions that may be parsley, rosemary, or thyme, but most certainly not sage.

Perhaps the only good that is coming from this is Spotlight. No, not the latest Oscar winning film but the harsh relentless glare focused on the entire Presidential nominating process that places premiums on a candidacy that begins within weeks after the prior election and is fueled by endless speculation, pollmongering profiteers, the need to fill cable TV news with anything but substance, and the proliferation of web sites whose sole purpose is to promulgate lies, denigrate anyone with opinions different from theirs, and disregard anything remotely likely to benefit the America they all profess to love but which they incessantly subject to virtual domestic violence while declaring their fealty between bruising blows.

Super Tuesday is an agglomeration of primaries in states and American Samoa which would be significant just for the sheer numbers of opportunities for voters to express their choices were it not for the media telling us that the issues have been decided by the primaries/caucuses already consigned to history in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina and whch have a combined poulation dwarfed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania whose own 2016 primary is not until April 26, a date by which the names of many former candidates will be not even a memory and which may represent only the merest possibility of ultimate success to the horses (asses) still in the race.

All this makes the Swiftboating of John Kerry in 2004 look more like the highest level of forensic debate by comparison.

Oh, hell. I’ll admit it. I, too have awkwardly stepped off the curb and fallen into the slime. But the murky waters are deep and I really can’t swim so I am about to drown in this torrent I am now a part of.

In splashing around for survival I might occasionally send splurges of nastiness into the open mouths of others, but they were there first voluntarily.

TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OUT OF NONSENSE

Okay, I’ll narrow the field for you since there is so much nonsense afoot at any particular time.

We have learned that the IRS targeted right wing groups regarding their tax-exempt status or efforts to secure that status. I’ve already addressed this issue and I can safely maintain that I’m agin’ it! https://umoc193.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/no-country-for-old-tax-exempts/

We have also learned that the Department of Justice obtained at least two months of phone records of Associated Press (AP) journalists in an attempt to determine the source of leaks in conjunction with anti-terrorist activities.

There is no doubt these actions by our government are extremely troubling and the Obama Administration is deservedly taking heat.

Piggy-backing on top of the renewed Benghazi investigation Republicans in Congress are undoubtedly feeling their oats. Especially joyful at these revelations are those on the right who are constantly preaching of the evils of the federal government and warning of complete government suppression.

Infortuitously for Obama and his minions, it will be easy to exploit these missteps to make political hay that even, conceivably, could carry over into the 2016 Presidential campaign.

However much one is offended by these actions, and I am sorely offended, I really cannot say that they signal a seachange in government misdeeds that threaten our very Republic.

Senate Majority Leader Democrat Harry Reid offered his two cents that the IRS focus on Tea Party groups is no different than when the agency picked on Greenpeace and the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California during the Cheney…er…Bush Administration without a peep of protest from Republicans. http://www.salon.com/2013/05/14/reid_republicans_hypocritical_for_benghazi_irs_outrage/

In the former instance Greenpeace was subject to an extensive IRS audit due to allegations its advocacy passed lines of permissibility for a tax-exempt. It seems that a supposed watchdog group, heavily financed by Exxon, instigated this audit. Exxon, of course, is the natural enemy of Greenpeace. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0322-10.htm

The Church got into trouble when its former Rector, Rev. George F. Regas, gave a guest sermon chastising Bush for the Iraq war. http://articles.latimes.com/2005/nov/07/local/me-allsaints7

Neither did spying on journalists originate with the Obama DOJ.

But obtaining phone records of journalists is an extreme course of action that has serious ramifications. There are special rules in place in the United States that authorities are supposed to adhere to when obtaining journalists’ communication records, and they’re intended to protect press freedom and stop prosecutors from compromising journalists’ constitutionally protected newsgathering role. Federal regulations instruct investigators that they can obtain journalists’ phone records only as a last resort, and the decision to seek the records should receive the “express authorization of the Attorney General.” The authorization should be given on the basis that “effective law enforcement and the fair administration of justice” is deemed, in the specific circumstances, to outweigh “the public’s interest in the free dissemination of ideas and information.”

In recent years, however, the FBI has flagrantly disregarded these rules on multiple occasions. A scathing 2010 review by the DoJ’s inspector general criticized how the feds had spied on Washington Post and New York Times reporters in a leaks investigation carried out in 2004. The feds obtained 22 months of reporters’ phone records “without any legal process or Attorney General approval,” the inspector found, which illustrated “the absence of internal controls” and was judged to be “negligent in various respects.” The same report detailed two other cases of the FBI obtaining reporters’ phone records without following the proper procedures. One of these cases was described as “deficient and troubling” and the other a “clear abuse of authority” that violated the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, federal regulation, and DoJ policy.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/05/14/ap_reporters_allegedly_spied_on_by_the_justice_department_aren_t_alone.html

Also in the past American journalists have allowed themselves to be used by the CIA for intelligence gathering, i.e. spying, mostly furing the Cold War. Carl Bernstein gave a lengthy review of this practice in this essay. http://www.carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php

So the great concept of Freedom of the Press has often been compromised in the past and, on occasion, it is the Press doing the dirty deeds.

Our level of disgust when we are informed of these abuses usually depends on whose ox is getting gored. That is, if the party in power is one you are antipathetic towards, your umbrage will reach record highs.

It often develops that the offenses are dreamed up at the lower levels of bureaucracy, whether out of a misgiuded sense of loyalty to the administration then in power or from an inner need to feel self-important by wielding power not actually granted to you.

But these offenses and abuses are most egregious when they are the product of the high political appointees to office who are most likely striving to consolidate and enhance their designated powers.

However outraged we are over the AP spying, we seem to be less so when faced with the erosion of 1st and 4th Amendment rights when it comes to fighting terrorism. In Salon, Natasha Leonard enumerates the steps taken, laws enacted, etc, that seem to have us going quickly down the slippery slope. Again, though not new with Obama or even George W. Bush, since 9/11 the government has sought and been granted greater access to our personal lives, all in the name of “anti-terrorism.” http://www.salon.com/2013/05/14/whats_so_special_about_journalists/

Reg Henry of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opines that these current scandals are simply more of Obama’s opponents crying wolf. http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/reg-henry/obamas-opponents-do-a-lot-of-crying-wolf-687665/

I take a more wait and see attitude before judging the impact of these matters. I’ve already clearly stated that the IRS actions merit full investigation.

I do have a suspicion that there will be no sustained effect on the Obama Presidency. I’ve had my own bones to pick with him but to date these latest “sins” don’t appear to be anywhere near as serious as what I’ve been railing about.

In the end, history will tell us which it is. We do not, however, need to wait thirty years or so in order for that history to be written. These scandals often have a way of working themselves out so that in a few years down the road we will need stark reminders to recall they ever occurred.

KEEP DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LAWS STRONG

The state of New Hamshire may weaken existing domestic abuse/violent laws if a proposal by one of its lawmakers comes to fruition.

Under existing law in New Hampshire, if an officer arrives at a home and sees a victim who displays clear signs of having been battered, the officer is allowed to arrest the perpetrator based on probable cause. State Rep. Dan Itse (R), the sponsor of two new bills (HB 502 and 503) that would modify that law, wants to require the victim to file a complaint before an arrest can take place.   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/04/new-hampshire-domestic-violence_n_2618152.html

Rep. Itse’s stated concern is that this warrantless arrest is in violation of the Constitution. A quick reading of the New Hampshire Constitution does not reveal any strict prohibition against warrantless arrests though it does provide guidelines as to when warrants may be issued.

What is important to remember here is that in common law warrantless arrests could be made by a law enforcement officer for felonies and for misdemeanors committed in their presence which were a breach of peace.

There are two important points here about misdemeanor arrests without warrants.

One is that the purpose of a warrant in the first place is to fully inform the arrestee of the nature of…and the basic facts behind…his arrest. In West Virginia when such warrantless arrest is made our Constitution mandates that a written warrant be issued forthwith.

Now unless some case law has arisen since around 1982 there is no judicial expression of what exactly “forthwith” means. It was around that year when I successfully had a client’s drunk driving arrest nullified and the case dismissed because while he had been properly arrested during a traffic stop by Morgantown police, he languished in jail with no warrant issued for a full weekend because the municipal judge was not available until Monday.

My argument, which was a winning one, was that while forthwith may not mean immediately upon say arrival at the station house, it certainly meant as soon as practical which would require a judge being available, on call if necessary.

Point two is that if an officer were required to procure a warrant before making such an arrest, the time it would take simply to appear before a judge to have said warrant issued even if currently on duty, would necessarily result in the defendant-to-be absconding.

So even old by the book UMOC acknowledges that such arrests are perfectly legal if the warrant falls within a short time after the arrest.

In a domestic violence case the victim is often likely to be willing to press charges and see her/his abuser jailed if it happens immediately after the incident. To expect a battered woman to follow up after the police leave and file a proper complaint flies in the face of reality.

Victims are notoriously reluctant to follow through on charges and the reasons for and exploration of why this is so would fill volumes. In fact in recent years police in most jurisdictions have been empowered to proceed with an arrest given the proper set of circumstances establishing probable cause for an arrest even if the victim does not wish to have the offender taken into custody.

Another personal example can illustrate what can happen when an abused woman has second thoughts.

About twelve years ago I was present in a private club in the early evening when one of the female members came rushing in obviously distraught and obviously having been punched. As others were comforting her she blurted out that her husband had become violent and that he was in their house with a loaded gun threatening to shoot himself. I asked if she wanted me to call 9/11 for the law and she said yes.

Sheriff’s  deputies responded and she told them what had occurred and they went to arrest him while one stayed behind to get witness information from me, since I had made the call.

Later I was contacted by an assistant prosecutor who asked what knowledge I had of the incident. Of course I had not personally seen the attack but both parties had been in the club earlier and after the wife left, the husband said a few ugly, derogatory things about her, though he did not threaten her.

I received a subpoena to testify when the case came up in magistrate court. By then I had heard the wife was refusing to cooperate despite the fact that the law did not permit her to simply drop the charges. I made my appearance, testified truthfully to what I had witnessed and left. He was convicted.

The next time I saw her at the club was late one night and she was drunk and followed me outside when I was leaving and cussed me out something fierce for having “lied” in court and expressing disgust that now Bob couldn’t have guns for hunting due to his conviction.

That is the sad truth about too many victims of domestic violence who will make excuses for their attacker and far too often return to him only to be abused again.

So if Rep. Itse expects that after the police leave a domestic violence scene without arresting the miscreant that the victim will willingly then file the proper complaint to put the man in jail, he has a hell of a lot to learn about this problem.

I believe the law there as currently written and applied passes muster with federal and state Constituiions and should remain as is. And we need to be on the alert in our own home territories for any effort to weaken these laws.

Domestic bliss may not be the outcome but less domestc abuse will be.

A BRIEF PRIMER ON THE SECOND AMENDMENT

This is not intended as a scholarly or comprehensive work with multiple citations from many many sources. Rather it is designed to lend a basic understanding of what the Second Amendment right to bear arms means from an historical viewpoint prior to our Comstitution, what is contained in the Constitution itself, and the effect of the landmark case of District of Columbia v Heller, 554 US 570, (2008) that clarified, if not broadened the rights of individuals to possess and use firearms.

Let us start from the American Revolution in which the embattled farmers stood against the British Redcoats at Lexington and Concord. These were militias, de facto if not officially blessed by any government. Naturally the men here provided their own weapons as there were not public armories from which weapons could be drawn.

Once the Revolution was in full force, General George Washington commanded a regular Army while militias in several colonies played a critical role.

All this should be essential knowledge for any American and the particular details are of little practical concern here.

Once the war was won the former colonies were bound together by the Articles of Confederation, which soon proved to be pretty inadequate as a mechanism to govern what was one nation.

Eventually a convention was convened in Philadelphia in May 1787 that would lead to the adoption of our Constitution, the basis for our form of government today.

There was much debate among the delegates as to exactly how to either reform the Articles of Confederation, their official assigment, or to create a new form of government which the delegates became determined to do.

Apart from the Convention itself three of our most literate and erudite founding fathers wrote extensively on what criteria should be considered in strengthening the central government. This collection of 85 essays by John Jay, James Madison, and most especially Alexander Hamilton became known as the Federalist Papers.

In no way are these documents an official part of our laws but their importance is considerable in that they reflect much of the thinking and discussion taking place among the delegates who actually created the Constitution. And, of course, James Madison is deemed the father of that document just as Thomas Jefferson is credited with the Declaration of Independence.

It has become very popular and common among conservatives to use the Federalist Papers in support of their notions of the “original intent” of the Founding Fathers in creating the terms of the Constitution, particularly so when trying to limit the government in any way shape or form.

So let us examine the 2nd Amendment in this light.

From Federalist Papers # 29 by Hamilton:

Of the different grounds which have been taken in opposition to the plan of the convention, there is none that was so little to have been expected, or is so untenable in itself, as the one from which this particular provision has been attacked. If a well-regulated militia be the most natural defense of a free country, it ought certainly to be under the regulation and at the disposal of that body which is constituted the guardian of the national security. If standing armies are dangerous to liberty, an efficacious power over the militia, in the body to whose care the protection of the State is committed, ought, as far as possible, to take away the inducement and the pretext to such unfriendly institutions. If the federal government can command the aid of the militia in those emergencies which call for the military arm in support of the civil magistrate, it can the better dispense with the employment of a different kind of force. If it cannot avail itself of the former, it will be obliged to recur to the latter. To render an army unnecessary, will be a more certain method of preventing its existence than a thousand prohibitions upon paper. http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fed_29.html

 Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution delineating the powers of Congress:

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

This is the Second Amendment:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.  http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html

Read those three passages in conjunction with each other and realize I have presented them in the same order in which they were written.

I believe that gives great weight to the notion that the right to bear arms is inherently granted only so far as the militia is concerned.

As we all should know the Supreme Court is the ultimate interpreter of our Constitution. Thus we have this part of the holding in District of Columbia v Heller, the 2008 case deciding individual gun ownership was permitted by the 2nd Amendment:

“(a) The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 2–22.
(b) The prefatory clause comports with the Court’s interpretation of the operative clause. The “militia” comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens’ militia would be preserved. Pp. 22–28.”

The Court also recognized that some state constituions, predating the federal one, protected ownership of guns.

But (and there are often big buts in SCOTUS cases) the Court also ruled:

2) Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons. Pp. 54–56.”

Taken all together, the basic state of the law is that generally firearm ownership is protected but the government  does have some power to limit the types of guns and who may own them and where they are permitted.

In this time, now a month past the tragic and horrific murders in Newtown, Conn. there is ample rhetoric calling for more controls on at least the type weapons usually put to work in these mass slayings while at the same time our 2nd Amendment defenders resist any limitations whatsover.

Our reality is that the 2nd Amendment, is not absolute. It, like the other provisons of our Bill of Rights, is to be cherished but, in practice and under certain conditions is most definitely not unlimited.

SEPARATED AT BIRTH?

The unholy trinity of Republican women who manage to utter the most outlandish statements are at it again. This trinity consists of Ann Coulter, Michelle Bachmann, and Sarah Palin.

They appear at times to be identical triplets in their mangling of facts and logic and knowledge of the U.S. Constitution…and often the English language itself. So they could have been separated at birth.

Ann Coulter has arisen from quietude to regain her place at the head of the table of these women who seemingly serve up everything at their pot luck dinners except for the much needed protein rich dish….TRUTH.

Now I find Harry Reid’s assertion that he has a “secret source” who told him Romney didn’t pay taxes for ten years somewhat difficult to swallow. So Coulter’s announcement on Sean Hannity’s show that she has a “secret source” saying Obama was born in Kenya is appropriately mocking. (Though we know deep down she believes that, secret source or no.) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/03/ann-coulter-sean-hannity-obama-john-kerry_n_1736875.html?utm_hp_ref=media

But, in her inimitable style, Coulter raises other allegations that are simply bizarre. One is that when Obama ran for Illinois State Senator to follow in the seat held by one Alice Palmer, he somehow accessed her medical records, discovered she had breast cancer, and used that fact to persuade Ms Palmer not to run for re-election.

Never mind that Alice Palmer opined about seeking a Congressional seat likely to be vacant almost two years prior to the end of her term.

Never mind that when she decided to run for Congress she met with Obama and backed his effort to succeed her in the Illinois legislature.

Never mind that the only mention I have found about this cancer is in the far right wing of the blogosphere mental hospital.

Never mind that Alice Palmer is alive today, seventeen years after her run for Congress.

Oh, never mind.

Sarah Palin and her husband Todd this week allowed their photogenic visages to be placed across the backdrop of a Chik-fil-A restaurant to demonstrate their support for…well read it in Sarah’s own words from her appearance on Fox’s Greta Van Susteren show:

Here is a portion of the transcript:

PALIN: Well, that calling for the boycott is a real — has a chilling effect on our 1st Amendment rights. And the owner of the Chick-fil-A business had merely voiced his personal opinion about supporting traditional definition of marriage, one boy, one girl, falling in love, getting married. And having voiced support for kind of that cornerstone of all civilization and all religions since the beginning of time, he then basically getting crucified.

I’m speaking up for him and his 1st Amendment rights and anybody else who would wish to express their not anti-gay people sentiment, but their support of traditional marriage, which President Obama and Joe Biden, they both supported the exact same thing until just a few months ago, when Obama had to flip-flop to shore up the homosexual voter base.

.http://www.politicususa.com/sarah-palin-dooms-chick-fil-a-constitutional-lecture-gay-hating-chicken.html

Nothing to conclude here but that the favorite tax that Palin hates is the syntax.

Sarah, Sarah Sarah, no one here has been denied a right to speak out, not Dan Cathy the company’s owner, not you and hubby and backers who gave the eatery a record sales day, and not the folks offended by Cathy’s words and financial support for anti-gay causes. All have been quite vocal as a matter of fact.

Possibly too vocal. It seems some of the restaurant’s workers have been berated for anti-gay views simply because they are employed there. Or other customers openly talk trash about gays to these workers who themselves may be gay.

All this teaches us is that, like we have separation of church and state, we should also have separation of food and politics.

But the Queen Mother of this evil triumvirate remains Michelle, not my belle.

Her transit across the GOP primary trail was as a Soviet era satellite blazing brightly across the skies before plummeting into an Iowa cornfield destroying her Presidential dream. She heard more voices than Ray Kinsella and like him, she created something totally illogical. But instead of a baseball diamond carved out of a cornfield, Bachmann created bogeymen and provisions of laws that were nonexistent.

Lately Bachmann has resurrected the “red scare” of the 1950’s as a “there’s a Muslim radical under every bed in the State Department” meme. I do not for one moment doubt her sincerity. I do doubt her sanity.

I suggest she hie herself to Concord, New Hampshire to join with the new Minutemen as they repel the Muslim Brotherhood, the Redcoats of today.

Since our three mavens of the misspoken are so wont to spew their words before audiences, perhaps to satisfy their lust for attention they can join a traveling troupe performing Shakespeare’s Macbeth cast as the three witches.

They are already familiar with eye of Newt.

AMERICANS, STAND UNITED

Today is the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks which were horrifying. Like millions of others I watched in dibelief on that day as two skyscrapers were destroyed and a total of almost 3000 people were killed there and in the Pentagon crash and in a Pennsylvania field.

I take no issue with any of the folks who strove to prevent or alleviate the effects of that tragedy. They either died themselves or suffered debilitating injury or illness as a direct result.

I take no issue with the members of our military who were sent off to war in the aftermath and of whom far too many (more than zero) returned to our shores in caskets. Or the thousands more who left major chunks of their bodies or their sanity behind when they came home. Or all of the ones deployed overseas, in direct combat or not, who suffered separation from their families or had to make other grave personal sacrifices to fulfill military onligations. Indeed many who never went overseas also made sacrifices ordinary citizens have not been called on to do.

I do take issue with the United States government for using these attacks as presumed justification for initiating and prosecuting two interminable,  needless, costly and illegal wars that have killed twice as many Americans as died on 9/11. In the process we have managed to kill or maim hundreds of thousands of foreign citizens who had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. If we haven’t killed them ourselves we have fostered conditions where other have managed to do the killings.

I do take issue with the United States government for using these attacks as justification for instituting or expanding constitutionally questionable intelligence operations, surveillance, arrest for and prosecution of activities that prior to that date would not have been thought to be illegal.

I do take issue with the United States government for instituting and maintaining illegal and unconstitutional rendition, detention, and torture in the name of fighting terror.

I do take issue with those American citizens who have been exposed as racial and religious bigots who have themselves done harm to Muslims in the U.S. or who have encouraged discrimination against Islam and its practioners all in the name of Cristianity. Jesus would be appalled.

I do take issue with those of us among our citizenry who have followed as sheep the assault on their constitutional rights or the misdeeds committed by their government against others, including the wars,  and who have not raised so much as a whimper in protest.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin Franklin

An editorial in today’s post-Gazette urges Americans to stand united as we seemed to do on that fateful day.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11254/1173484-192.stm

But perhaps it does take an anniversary to reclaim the spirit of the nation that prevailed in the weeks after 9/11 when United We Stand was its true slogan.

I cannot and will not dispute that call for unity.

 
We should stand united in demanding our government immediately bring homw all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.We should stand united in insisting upon the repeal of the reprehensible (Not)Patriot Act.We should stand united in fighting by whatever legal means necessary the unlawful and unconstitutional surveillance of our citizens and residents that takes place outside the Patriot Act.

We should stand united in insisting on the total closure of the abomination at Guantanamo and release all the prisoners there. Even if they could be found guilty of something, which should have been handled in civilian courts from day one, they have now been held far beyond any Constitutionalally permissible speedy trial limit which is an affront to the very principles this nation was founded upon and which purportedly we are so vigorously defending.

We should stand united in insisting on the total reorganization or elimination of the Department of Homeland Security. It is an inefficient, costly and non-cost-effective entity that in no way accomplishes true “homeland security”.

We should stand united in insisting upon proper observance of our heritage and respect for our Constitution by rejecting any and all attempts to control or eliminate the Muslim religion in this country.

We should stand united in insisting on the investigation and prosecution of those from the Bush administration who promulgated two unnecessary wars and who countenanced torture and lying and any other nefarious means of pursuing these and any endeavors in the so-called “War on Terror”.

We should stand united in insisting on the investigation and prosecution of any members of the Obama administrstion who have perpetuated the affronts to our liberty as stated above.

We should stand united in insisting upon our nation never again overreacting to what were blatant criminal acts, as horrific as they were, but pure criminal acts nonetheless.

 
We should stand united in insisting that we ourselves should resist the brazen and flagrant appeals of our politicians to flout our Constitution, our liberties and our overall abuse of morality and reason.
 
United We Stand? Hell, at this point it’s barely  United We Kneel.
 

BEHOLD THE CAMEL

A camel is a horse designed by
committee.
Alec
Issigonis
We finally have an agreement to raise the debt ceiling and lower the standards of government. It has been constructed much like a patchwork quilt, with bits and pieces from here and bits and pieces from there. There have been committees, gangs of six, sissy boys holding their breath until they turn blue (Eric Cantor) and petulant outbursts from strangely tinted Buckeyes.
Yes, we have a group of collaborators convening with every intention of creating a super horse and ending up the architects of the ugliest  meanest camel in existence.
Appropriately enough the mutant creature spits out the front and shits out the back, but has enough built-in humps to supply a large stable of the ships of the desert.
And this camel most certainly will be traversing the desert on a horse’s ass with A name, one President Barack Obama. And the desert it will be traversing is the wasteland of the American economy that is destined to be, due to the short-sighted, narrow-minded, pedantic whores occupying the two large chambers in our Capitol.
Yes, those with nostalgic fondness for the nineteen thirties may soon be able to experience that period close up.  I hear the latest episode in The Thin Man series is already in production. Fred and Ginger will be repersonified in physical entities bearing a remarkable resemblance to Hines Ward and Kirstie Alley.
I myself am not focused on entertainment or style. Instead I have arranged for a steady supply of pencils to purvey and a variety of colorful cups to hold them and the stray coins I might generate, all the better to eschew boring the hedge fund managers and commodities speculators hustling past me on the street on their way to get their voluntary annual payment of $25 to the federal government in the mail. After all, there has been a steady call for sacrifice and they ARE doing their part.
While there is practically no elected resident within the 212 area code lacking fault for this zoological disaster, our Commander in Chief draws my primary ire. Recently I opposed the exclamations of his lack of leadership since it was evident that the Republicans in Congress, with the split in control,  wielded huge leverage that they exercised with the full and only intent to NOT follow his lead because they were hell bent on destroying Obama.
But there is this formidable Constitutional empowerment for the Executive branch called the VETO!! Once the Senate meekly acquiesced in passing this travesty legislation today, I was rushing to Washington, D.C. fully prepared to offer my own balls up for transplant to Barry so he would scrawl an enormous X across the bill, rip it in half, light the pieces on fire and shove them up the asses of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.
Alas, I arrived too late to serve my nation.
The many humps of this neonatal camel to which I referred earlier are the potential—nay, almost certain—obstacles to be encountered as the legislation is effectuated.
Chief among these obstacles may be, indeed should be, the constitutional challenges likely to be mounted. This law abidcates the Constitutional responsibility of Congress to pass legislation in at least three ways. The first two are the powers granted to the President to further raise the debt ceiling of his own volition absent a super majority 2/3 vote of both houses to disapprove.
The third is the super secret Sub-Congress established to impose further spending cuts. Now “sub”, in sexual kinkiness parlance (so I am told), has its own connotations. In this case the  members of that non-august body  will deserve the floggings they receive with whips, wide leather belts, and cats-o’-nine-tails that would be employed with participants in the sexual acts that designation entails. (Anthony Weiner is already appealing his resignation from the House.)
Of course sadism always rears its ugly head when:
What we’ve got here is a failure to
communicate.
Donn Pearce (Author of Cool Hand Luke)

But then perhaps Congress did really communicate with the folks out here in America. Unfortunately the message seems to be “SCREW YOU!”

GAY MARRIAGE MAKES ME HAPPY

Last week the state of New York passed a law legalizing the performance of marriages between same gender parties in that state, joining six other states and the District of Columbia in doing so.

That state’s legislators are to be congratulated for doing so even if some of the usual political horse trading and political contributions from interest groups may have been at least partially responsible for this accomplishment.

I have nothing personal to gain from this as I shall confess that I am not gay. But also, at this stage in my life under my current circumstances I have little or no personal stake in the marriage of heterosexual couples. (Ladies, my deepest apologies for your shock and sorrow.)

I do not know many gays, or at least people who identify themselves as such. The ones I am familiar with are—SURPRISE—pretty much the same as my non-gay friends and acquaintances. They work, they love, they worship in their churches, they may even raise children.

The only way they truly and consistently differ is how they conduct their sex lives and express their sexual feelings (even that may be no different in quality). What they do behind closed doors concerns me not a whit.

If for some reason you disagree with me about their right to privacy in their sex lives, please be prepared to detail your own sexual practices as you comment in protest of my opinion.

Now I’m sure many Americans will take comfort from the fact that the state they reside in does not officially permit such marriages and may indeed have taken steps to officially outlaw them.

Well, don’t. There has been so much emphasis on the Constitution the past few years with loud complaints that the federal government has exceeded its Constitutional limits in exerting power. I won’t address that issue, but if you preach adherence to the Constitution, then you must recognize the obligations of all states to acknowledge and accept a marriage legally created in another state, whether that same marriage could have been created there.

Article IV of the U.S. Constitution deals with the rights and responsibilities of the states. Section 1 reads:

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof

States have almost always had different requirements to enter into a legally recognized state of matrimony. Some may have an age of consent of 14 while others require the parties to be at least 18, without parental permission.

Some states permit marriages between relatives of as close consanguinity as first cousins while most do not.

Some states permit couples to enter into a “common law” marriage by living together for a given number of years if they give some public indication that their intent is to do so is as a married couple, even with no license. W.Va., among other states, does not permit a common law marriage to be established.

However, for instance, a couple that has established a common law marriage in Pennsylvania that moves to W.Va. does so having all the rights and responsibilities attendant to a legal marriage remaining intact.

Likewise a couple who have married in a state with an age of consent under 18 that now lives in a state which has 18 as the minimum age, and the couple is still under 18, lose no rights nor the validity of their marriage by doing so.

There does exist an abomination known as the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) which is a law passed by Congress in 1996 that essentially defines a marriage as between one woman and one man and further states that a same-sex marriage permitted in one state does not have to be recognized in another state where such marriages are not authorized.

DOMA is clearly and utterly unconstitutional. It violates the provisions of Article IV Section 1 as cited above. Congress cannot unilaterally abrogate a requirement of the Constitution. DOMA is currently under attack in federal court and the Obama administration, in one of its few acts exhibiting balls, has refused to defend it.

There is also talk in Congress about the repeal of DOMA but I’m not holding my breath since that band of idiot brothers cannot even come to agreement on admittedly more vital issues facing the nation.

Why is gay marriage important? Better you should ask “why is breathing necessary for life”? It is important because if you consider marriage as necesssary for the ultimate fulfillment of any heterosexual couple’s love for each other, then you should be aware that gay couples love each other in the same way.

Last year in the runup to the eventual repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell rules for the military, a young woman  eloquently expressed how thse issues affect her very humanit in an op-ed piece in the Post Gazette. Perhaps her words will be persuasive.

She was homosexual but desired a career in the military and was in a reserve unit. She agonized over being unable to share even the mundane aspects of her every day life with colleagues because it involved a gay partner.

One of the worst aspects of being closeted is not just
feeling like less of a person, but becoming less of a person — less open, less
honest, less trusting.

After several years, I was no longer willing to live in
fear of being found out, or to continue compromising my integrity. I finally
came out to my commander and was subsequently discharged — for “moral and
professional dereliction,” as my Army discharge papers read.

While her discharge was being processed she spoke often with her Commander who did not want to lose her services but had no choice under military law.

He finally understood my point: The person you build a
life with is not a hobby or a “lifestyle” you can just as easily keep private as
not. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is not about discretion, but the dehumanization of
gay service members simply because of who they love.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10052/1037169-109.stm

So it is with gay marriage. It is nothing more than an affirmation of that couple’s humanity. especially in relation to each other.

A long-time close friend of mine, Harry, entered into a brief hetersexual marriage in 1970. Several years later he emrged from the closet and became openly gay. Still friendly with his ex-wife, he has had a loving and devoted partner for just over thirty years now.

As avowedly straight as I am, my one foray into matrimony or any type of committed relationship lasted just over eleven years officially, though we separated permanently prior to our tenth anniversary. Yet my failure would garner more official recognition in many states than would Harry’s success.

There is no way that is morally right.

To deny Harry and Mark and other loving couples like them their right to formalize and sanctify their arrangement is nothing short of an obscenity. That more opportunities for them and others to do so now exist  is a blessing for this nation and an indication that sanity sometimes rules.

Thank you, New York Legislature.

Let us hope such sanity spreads like wildfire.

TURN BACK THE CLOCK

Major League Baseball has this idea called “Turn Back The Clock” days, where the two teams playing wear uniforms like they did seventy-five or more years ago.

It’s for nostalgia purposes to remind the fans when players weren’t millionaires and played “for the love of the game”. Not to quibble but the players in those days all had light skin, were generally uneducated and were considered chattel by the team owners.

Though the players were great, they were not nearly as well conditioned as today’s players are. And careers were quirky long. Some players could survive 20 years or more, but often relatively minor injuries shelved them, injuries that today could be treated, surgically addressed and still permitting the athletes to reurn successfully to the diamond.

So even with this pitch toward the old-fashioned and the induced illusion (thankfully only temporary) that everything about baseball was superior in the old days, the reality is that today’s game is just fine. Your favorite pitcher can survive Tommy John surgery and resume striking out opposing hitters at a fearsome rate. An All-Star catcher can suffer a horribly broken ankle and come back the folowing season to hit .320 and steal 22 bases, a remarkable total for one at his position.

So no one really wants to turn back the clock. Nor can it be done in reality, Michael J. Fox movies notwithstanding.

Yet, many politicians today are playing their own “Turn Back The Clock” games, only this time it is with our economy vis a vis the budget of the federal government. Their rhetoric would seem to equate regulation and providing a safety net to the less fortunate with the use of steroids and  other performance enhancing drugs in baseball, though the former are deemed to be far more pernicious..

It seems our conservative politicians, at least the ones making the most noise, have this quaint notion that if we just removed government from the equation to the greatest extent possible, allowing business to flourish unimpeded, that our economy would be so prosperous that everyone who wanted one would have a job.

Further, there would be no need for social programs because everyone could fend for themselves. The few misfits not working and not enjoying at least having the basics in ample supply, were simply themselves at fault for not trying.

But then that damned federal government came along, determined that the businesses were not always playing fair and started telling them how to conduct themselves. Even worse the government has taken on the cause of those without a job or without the resources to ensure a comfortable retirement or who, individually, don’t have the power to make their employers provide a safe work environment or a decent wage.

And god forbid we should do anything to keep our citizens healthy by establishing any sort of guaranteed health care system at a reasonable cost.

But what really galls these nostalgia lovers is that none of the devices or programs created by the government to offer these protections was foreseen by our Founding Fathers and placed explicitly within our Constitution.

No matter that that wonderful document is beautiful in its simplicity and exhilarating in its potential. In some ways rigid in its enumeration of our rights, but superbly adaptable by appointing our Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter of both its inclusiveness and exclusiveness, the Constitution has permitted a process by which developments in law and science and medicine and social thought can be embraced within our governance to better serve the people of the United States of America.

I have read the Constitution and the Federalist papers and keep them within easy reach of my reference needs. I understand the  ideals of Jay, Hamilton, and Madison from the Papers were incorporated into the Holy writ. But there was far from a 100% transferrence.

Compromise was the order of the day as it should ever be in politics. The most glaring example is in its shameful treatment of slavery. But the very notion of the Bill of Rights was a bow to certain interests. After all, they came in amendment form, not within the body of the document itself.

And while ideals are good, they also have to be able to accommodate reality, actual events and times and circumstances. The Founders knew nothing of evolution or the atom and precious little of electricity. When Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark off on their three year excursion he had no vision that the same mileage could be covered in mere hours in the future.

Likewise mighty manufacturing, commercial and financial conglomerates were nowhere on the radar in the Eighteenth century. Indeed neither was radar itself.

With advances in business and transporation what was interstate commerce in 1787 seemed laughably ancient by the onset of the Civil War only seventy-three years later, the equivalent of the span between the near end of the Great Depression and the present’s communication in an instant capablities.

To protect its citizens, to deal with the arrival of new phenomena, to adapt to changing times, those running our government in both the legislative and executive branches introduced new laws, new programs, to meet the perceived needs of the moment.

Much of this “progress” met with stiff resistance, usually by the moneyed interests. Court challenges ensued and those cases reaching the highest level were frequently decided in favor of the status quo.

Gradually the status became less quo and The Supreme Court awoke to recognize that what may have been far removed from the purview of the federal government in 1787 was no longer so.

Now were all these legislative innovations established with the wisdom of the ages? Some maybe, most no. Did they come to be accepted as necessary and proper reagrdless of wisdom? For the most part, with the holdouts generally continuing to assert their own narrow interests.

Now as we proceed through the second decade of the twenty-first century we are faced with a large group of fantacists who wish to turn back the clock to a time that never was, while ignoring that their avowed principles and the stated conclusions of the effects of applying those principles no longer are true in practice, if indeed they ever were.

The Constitution should no more be garbed today with the bygone fashions of nineteenth century thought than I should be garbed today with the same outfit adorning me when I entered first grade.

This desire to return to yesterday, far from honoring the Constitution, repudiates its existence as a living, breathing institution itself. It treats that document as a mere piece of paper with words and sentences and phrases that can only be read by rote and carry no meaning beyond its four corners.

As our knowledge grows so must our acknowledgment grow that whatever our wishes to return to another time when government didn’t do nearly so much, is the same as wishing to return to the moment just before we left the barn door open and the horse got away.

The horse of political progress has already left the barn.

COMMANDER IN CHIEF—OR KILLER IN CHIEF

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States…

Thus begins Article II Section 2 of the United States Constitution. The most important principle gleaned from this language is that of civilian control over our nation’s military power. Remarkably this principle has received universal acceptance among the populace.

Respect for the military itself has wavered to some extent through the years, likely reaching a nadir during the Vietnam War. Though our government set the policy, there was no doubt the influence of military leaders was important in developing and implementing the policy of engagement in Southeast Asia that was folly unfolding before our very eyes.

Though advisors had first been sent to Vietnam by Eisenhower and JFK had expanded their roll, LBJ became the President of record for that war and his legacy is largely based on it. That, in spite of huge accomplishments in civil rights, the beginnings of Medicare, and other successful domestic initiatives that are as praiseworthy as his military adventures are damnable.

Is LBJ the only President to be judged on exercising his authority as Commander in Chief? Certainly not, or I would not have a topic for this blog entry.

FDR is fondly remembered for ushering the country through the Great Depression. But that challenge almost pales in comparison to what he faced in bringing the United States into World War II, culminating in the near victory achieved at the time of his death on April 12, 1945. Failure in that endeavor would have not only detracted from his legacy, but probably would have eradicated the memory of his restoration of the economy.

So today on a lesser scale we have a President with a recent successful military excursion now added to his resume. The editorialists, bloggers and media talking heads are now debating whether the tracking and killing of Osama Bin Laden will elevate the stature of President Barack Obama sufficiently not just for his legacy but, more importantly in the short term, assure his re-election in 2012.

Why is that. Why should his popularity, his survival in the Office, depend on much on this relatively minor exercise of his Commander in Chief powers, no matter how favorable the outcome?

An odd sidelight to this discussion is that, having only a few days prior to the raid on OBL’s hideout fended off a good deal of the birther issue, new polls apparently justify the conclusion that, miraculously, that issue is a now a mere speck on Obama rather than an albatross around his neck.

But the events of last Sunday also resurrected the tale of President Jimmy Carter’s failed rescue mission of the Iranian hostages in 1980, which certainly would have resulted in the deaths of many Iranians. That failure sealed Carter’s fate in his bid for re-election.

At one time we had a President, Woodrow Wilson, who enhanced his bona fides as CIC by “keeping us out of war” and won re-election in 1916. Post WW II, however, especially post Vietnam War, the image of the President suffers unless and until he has some meaure of success militarily, i.e. kills some bad guys.

That factor is even more evident as we elect Presidents with no combat military experience themselves. Ronald Reagan served in WW II but he made propoganda films and never came face to face with either German or Japanese combatants. He loved rattling sabers against the Soviet Union but had to invade tiny Granada lest his desire and capability to go to war be questioned.

George H.W. Bush served more than honorably in that war, but when he declined to drive all the way to Baghdad to oust Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War he was derided as a wimp.

Bill Clinton was excoriated as a “draft dodger” and unworthy to be CIC but deflected some of that criticism by sending troops to Kosovo and Somalia. Because neither of those moves resulted in, or ever COULD have resulted in clear military victories, his CIC legacy is not strong.

George W. Bush is the epitome of a President who took his CIC powers to heart. After starting two wars of dubious merit he then reveled in being a “war President”, though he chose to be so , often proclaiming how much these responsibilities weighed on him, but to this day offering no regrets for the cost of lives in those conflicts.

Most pointedly he did something his dad did not—hunt down and kill Saddam Hussein. Even if the actual execution was due to Iraqi justice, Bush got de facto credit for the death. For better or for worse his legacy will be judged on those wars and the demise of Hussein

So we arrive back at our current CIC who has shown little hesitation employing our forces, from maintaining a presence in Iraq to expanding one in Afghanistan, to firing assorted missles and dropping bombs in Libya Obama already dispelled any notions he was shy about using army, navy and air force to further his policies.

But, like many of his predecessors, Obama has found that his popularity, legacy and foreign policy support gain more traction from killing than from legitimate efforts to maintain peace or from the success of any domestic policy whatsoever.

The President of the United States is Commander in Chief of our armed forces and militias every day of his term(s) in office. But it seems that this power is underappreciated and even criticized and thought unworthy of him until he puts those forces in harms way to kill the bad guys of the moment.

My desire is for my Commander in Chief, no matter who, to demonstrate his, or her, strength as such by being able to maneuver the Ship of State through troubled waters without resort to the extreme use of that power.

I shouldn’t hold my breath, should I?