Democracy’s need for a free press transcends what you might consider an accurate or fair one…

July 14, 2017

NOTE: I’m reposting part of my last post, what I thought was the most important part:

(Freedom of the press is included in the very first, or First, Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, known as our Bill of Rights.)

And let me just say something about  (President Donald) Trump’s continual attack on what we call “the press”. The press is not sacrosanct. Or maybe I should say it is not beyond reproach, but it is vital to our freedom. I hope that does not sound like a contradiction.

Those who would take away our freedom, dictators, fear the free flow of information and ideas. In authoritarian regimes they either have their own official press or they only allow a private press to operate if it carries the government line or at least does not stray too far from it.

Sometimes it is not the governments or just the governments, sometimes extra-governmental forces intimidate or physically attack those who don’t tow their line or who expose corruption. This is the case in Mexico. Journalists there are routinely murdered.

I take it that real Trump supporters — as opposed to those who just put up with him because they at least hope he will carry their agenda — don’t much care for a free press if that free press is critical of their man. And they go along with the line that the press lacks credibility and publishes fake news. Actually that is what the press does under authoritarian regimes — publishes fake news — we used to call that propaganda.

But here is how I look at it. To me, even though I prefer a responsible and credible press, I am more concerned that there be a free and uninhibited press. I am intelligent and well read enough to sort through the bullshit, but only because there are no restrictions on my sources.

My question is: would those who prefer a docile press rather just get their news from government handouts from the Trump administration or Fox News (same thing)?

If you buy a car, do you just take the salesman’s word for everything? People who have a vested interest in the outcome (making the sale on a car or public policy) have a habit of leaving problems out and using sales puffery (also known as lying).

Again, the press is not beyond exaggeration and inaccuracy and partisanship. One just has to hope that there are reliable sources out there and enough to where one can compare reports and judge credibility.

(And when I write about “the press” I am referring to authentic news organizations, as opposed to bogus ones. And “authentic” does not refer directly to quality. You can be not worth a crap and still be authentic.)



All the jailed Kentucky clerk has to do is resign her post and she is free…

September 6, 2015


UPDATE: (9/8/15 2:31 PDT)

So real quick I see that the defiant clerk has been let out of jail. But she still maintains she should be able to defy man-made law by what she interprets to be God’s law. I need to study all this, but what I can say is that if every government official, elected and otherwise, and using their own interpretation to boot, were allowed to decide which public laws to follow, what a mess things would be and that would be the end of our democracy.


Sorry, but I don’t get the story of the Kentucky clerk who opted to go to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to homosexuals.

I mean she had the option of fulfilling here duties in office and following the law or resigning.

She states that issuing licenses to homosexuals violates her religious beliefs.

It seems that some fundamentalists don’t understand that freedom of religion means that our government is secular. We cannot favor one religion over another or countermand laws passed by our legislatures or as interpreted from the Constitution by our judiciary based on the beliefs of one religion or sect thereof.

I ask: what would Christian religious fundamentalists think if a county clerk decided to act on laws out of the Koran or some other religious book because he or she followed that religion?

We have a secular government and that’s the way it is.

I do think sending the woman to jail is harsh and wished that could have been avoided. Actually, it seems to me she just should have been relieved of her post and that is that. It may be that under the legal system in effect that was not a possible route. And it is clear that she voluntarily chose jail to make a statement.

I just think that Christian fundamentalists only support freedom of religion when they feel it benefits them, but really feel that we are a theocracy. Or they believe that Christianity (and their form of it) is at least the de facto state religion.

The First Amendment  of our Bill of Rights reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


Now I’m not going to get into some kind of scholarly interpretation here, but I think the first sentence makes it clear or has been interpreted to mean that the government just stays out of religion — except to guarantee everyone has the freedom to believe as they choose. If you as a government official simply chose not to enforce laws that you feel are counter to your religion and your right to do so was upheld, the government would in effect be saying that such religion is the established religion. And put another way: we just can’t have individual office holders and bureaucrats deciding which laws to enforce and which not, based on religion or anything else.

But certainly I believe the Kentucky clerk in no way should be forced by the government to do something that violates her religious principles. But the remedy is clear: resign the post.


Even though I am not officially religious, I have to admit in my upbringing Christianity seemed to be synonymous with religion or going to church, even though I recognized that there were other religions. And furthermore I saw that public institutions sometimes bent the rules a little with Christian prayers used to begin meetings, traditional Christmas celebrated in the school, and we even said a little prayer in my public school kindergarten before we had our Graham crackers and milk. None of this hurt anything, except that was then and this is now. I have not read yet that people have actually been forbidden to follow their religion on their own time, as long as they were not somehow involving others or forcing others who were not so inclined to do so.

I’m all for tolerance, though. My dad once told me when they were doing an invocation: “just look at the floor”.



Why does the high court even get involved in prayer cases?

May 7, 2014

What do I think of the latest ruling from the majority on the right on the United States Supreme Court concerning prayer at public meetings?

I think that whenever possible the courts should stay out of the subject.

If someone is actually forced to follow a certain religion or prevented from following one, then there is a case of First Amendment violation. But prayers before local government meetings, which this case involved, are as common as the celebration of Christmas by non Christians.

If I read the ruling correctly in Towne of Greece v. Galloway even the majority on the right thinks that there would be a problem if citizens were coerced by government into prayer before pubic meetings, commonly called invocations, but as long as they are voluntary and somewhat generic, it’s okay and causes no harm.

Well as a matter of practicality I tend to agree with that.

My father was not a church goer and not a follower of the faith (although he admitted to me once that we really don’t know what happens after death and it’s only natural that we have concerns whether we are doing the right thing — and that was my interpretation of what he said). And People tying to push religion on him irritated him. On the other hand, he would have never, as far as I know, insulted someone over their religion or being religious. He was a newspaper man. And I recall attending a city council meeting with him. As the invocation began, he looked over at me and whispered: “just look at the floor”. When in Rome, do as the Romans.

It would seem to me that since the First Amendment prohibits government from establishing a religion, local governments (and any governmental body) would simply do well to just skip any religious practice. I mean if the members of the body feel a need for prayer, who’s stopping them from individually and privately doing it themselves? And why can’t they just go to church on Sunday or whenever their congregation meets?

But on the other hand, how does looking at the floor hurt anyone?



In reading the background I saw that those bringing the original suit against the town government claimed that almost all the prayers or invocations were done by Christian pastors (not all but almost all). What I did not see was any evidence that non-Christians were barred, although they were apparently not sought after our encouraged, at least for the most part.

I did not write an analysis of or brief the case as lawyers say. I did read through the majority opinion and it seemed kind of right-wing politically inspired (what else is new? I think the court has always been political, sometimes leaning right and sometimes left (the Warren Court). Yeah, I think they should have just let this one go. The high court does not hear all cases.

Oh, and the majority opinion remarked something about the reason that most of the prayers were Christian in nature in the town in question was because well it was a community composed mainly of Christians. Makes sense. But we all know the hue and cry that would take place if some Muslims were elected to the city council and put out their prayer rugs before each meeting. But I guess if that were to take place in a predominantly Muslim community that would be considered okay, even if Christians or Jews or other faiths or members without faiths had business before the body.









Conservatives turn liberal when it comes to money…

February 27, 2014

It’s interesting, amusing even, when usually conservative business interests suddenly become quite liberal when it comes to money issues.

I mean gay rights (I would prefer to say “homosexual rights” but gay seems to be the word in common usage) is usually a social issue connected with the liberal or progressive agenda. But the pressure from business interests on Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (of fame for signing into law the famous or infamous your-documents-please immigration law) was intense. She saw the light and vetoed the so-called anti-gay/pro religious rights bill. Business interests were terrified that such a law would have a negative effect on business. Companies said they would not locate their businesses in Arizona if it became the law and the Arizona tourism industry and the airlines were against it. I mean they want money from gays just as much as they want it from anyone else — it all spends the same. And in some lines of work gay workers are in demand (as my late mom used to say: “they’re always so talented”).

So much for morals.

No I don’t mean to say there was any real moral issue here. It’s just that the bill was being sold as a moral thing. The idea purportedly was that a business person would have a right not to serve a customer whose morals he or she disagreed with or I should say whose social arrangement was against their religious tenets.

Well there is freedom of religion guaranteed under our First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution but it does not trump individual rights. My religious beliefs (or lack of them) give me no right to somehow interfere with your personal rights.

If you are in business you are obligated to serve the public without discrimination. And if you do not care for that, then maybe you should not be in business. I think I heard there was an issue, somewhere along the line, of a wedding photographer refusing to take photos of a gay wedding. I have to say that is a tricky one. I mean on the one had it might seem that if the practice of homosexual marriage is repugnant to an individual he or she should not have to take any part in it. But maybe when you do business with the public that puts you in a different light. We could hardly have supermarkets, for example, refusing to sell groceries to gays on the grounds doing so would force them (the employees) to help promote the gay lifestyle.

But anyway, it seems economic activity is a good promoter of individual freedom and the tolerance of varied lifestyles.

Money does indeed talk.

High Court wrong on protecting Westboro’s vile actions…

March 2, 2011

While I would not want to see our free speech rights eroded and while I think that our First Amendment right to free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy I do not see why the U.S. Supreme Court felt it had to rule in favor of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, whose members picket at or near military funerals with signs that proclaim such vile messages as “thank God for dead soldiers” and “God hates the USA”.


An original story on the ruling:


I’m not at all sure what they really believe in, but apparently part of their twisted view of life is that God is punishing the U.S. for tolerating or accepting homosexuality. And as I understand it, they don’t just picket funerals of gay soldiers, although if they did that would not make it any better.

It has long been held that even free speech is not unlimited. One is not protected by the First Amendment for yelling fire in a crowded theatre (and I am not sure whether it makes a difference whether there really is a fire or not — but that’s not the point here).

I have not yet read what the justices actually wrote in their opinion, but I would think that someone who disturbs family members and others paying their last respects to a fallen soldier would be in violation of disturbing the peace at a bare minimum, along with violating the family’s right to privacy, as well as being liable for torts such as creating emotional distress.


ADD 1 (March 3, 2011): Okay I have now read, well at least scanned over, the court’s opinion and ruling. I have not changed my mind. I tend to agree with the lone dissenting justice, Samuel Alito, in this case (it was an 8-1 ruling).


And if the question is over the nation’s war policy (and I really don’t care what the Westboro Church thinks after their vile actions against dead soldiers and their families and friends), I don’t think anyone with any decency — no matter what their war views — would mock the dead or their families or root for the enemy.

Free speech rights present a tough issue for courts. You can’t just bar speech because you don’t agree with it or it makes you uncomfortable. But there is such a thing as human decency, and I think the Westboro Church has crossed the line and I think the high court was wrong on this one.


ADD 2:

Here is a link to the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts:

Despite Tucson tragedy, gun ownership defines our American culture and our unique freedom in the world

January 16, 2011

I finally got time to watch President Obama’s speech at the Tucson shooting memorial on my computer and now see why he got such rave reviews, even by many, not all, of his detractors.

He is an excellent speaker and he took the high ground, unlike the ultra defensive and shrill crowd on what is often referred to as the hard right (and they really give well meaning conservatives a bad name they don’t totally deserve, except for the fact that they have not stood up often enough to the rabble rousers).

Meanwhile, despite the shooting rampage a week ago Saturday that saw a U.S. congresswoman gravely wounded and a federal judge killed along with five others, to include a nine-year-old girl, who by all reports could have been a future leader, and still many more wounded, a gun show went on as scheduled this weekend in Tucson. And even though they were reportedly taking up collections for the victims there, there were also bumper stickers critical of Obama (the implied threat: guns/Obama) available there, as well.

So Okay. I really don’t see anything wrong with holding the gun show as planned way previous to the tragedy, not really. And I am a supporter of the Second Amendment (right to keep and bear arms), even if I don’t completely understand its meaning — and if you are really honest with yourself, without some large amount of research, you could not either — I mean it defies literal translation in modern terms — it‘s kind of like the Holy Bible.

But the right to keep and bear arms is ingrained in our American society and culture (even though some people do not necessarily support it). And perhaps it does define us. It sets us apart, I think, from the rest of the world, and I mean that in a positive way.

The people in the United States of America are not granted power from the government, they have granted some powers to the government.

And even though the government is supposed to simply be made up of people holding proxies for us, not a separate entity of its own really, there is always the danger of any government assuming more control than it is supposed to. As a partial remedy to that, the people are able to keep and bear arms in their own defense. This can be debated, but I think it is understood to be at least one element of the Second Amendment, some, in fact, would say the only element.

But here lies the paradox. Even though I support the Second Amendment and I generally go along with the idea that the populace could in an extreme circumstance rise up against authoritarianism, I think that is the only cause for rebellion, that is an extreme circumstance. We have never gotten there and have not even come close, as far as I can see, but of course there is always the danger (the American Civil War is another subject, let’s don’t go there now, and really fighting for the right to own other people, c’mon). And get this: the danger of authoritarianism is no less a threat from the left (or liberal) side of the political equation than the right (conservative) side.

Tell me, what is the difference between Stalin (on the left) and Hitler (supposedly on the right)?

In our own nation, liberals might support laws against hate speech, thus endangering our First Amendment free speech rights. In the past conservatives pushed through the Alien and Sedition acts (I believe on at least two occasions), which banned speech against the government (strangely, conservatives don’t mind speaking against the government when they are out of power), and that certainly violates free speech protections.

While I heard about it, I think I must have been too busy working at the time to blog much about it (or maybe I did), but I find it reprehensible and quite alarming that people were urged to and did bring guns several months ago to congressional town hall meetings when the bane of ultra conservatives, the new health care law, was being discussed.

The gun-toters would defend their actions by saying they were sending a message to the government that the people have a right to keep and bear arms and to overthrow authoritarian rule. But like I always say, I am no more fearful of the government than I am of some self-appointed militia.



I decided to end this post where I did because it seemed to have become an attempt to analyze the Second Amendment, and I am not prepared to do so any further than I already have at this time (and I also want to make myself breakfast). I will only add that my general understanding of this most ambiguous element of our constitution seems to grant gun ownership rights to the people (the Supreme Court seems to recognize this, with only a little qualification). But it also deals with the idea that the government’s military should not be wholly separate from the people, such as the King’s army of old. I’ll leave it there.

ADD 1:

The following is not meant to give ammunition, so to speak, to the gun-toting crowd, but quite by accident I ran across this after posting my latest blog and I think it sums up the sometimes seeming futility of legislating civility and responsible behavior: “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.” Plato (427-327 B.C.)

Is it in to be ignorant in the Tea Party???

October 20, 2010

I’ve read that the Tea Party is a kind of rebirth of the wacko movement of the mid to late 50s represented by the old John Birch Society — a kind of conspiracy-driven movement if you will.

But at least the Birchers pretended to be intelligent or were pseudo intelligent.

Some of the Tea Party crowd seem to exude ignorance and even seem to cherish it, although you have to have some smarts to even know you are ignorant.

This is not all to say that the whole movement is populated by the ignorant. I think the Tea Party (not really a single entity with a one registered name, so really I should not use upper case, but many are now) is a legitimate grass roots, populist movement made up of a cross section of the populace who are fed up with business as usual. Many of its followers, I suspect, have not paid a lot of close attention to politics — may not have voted — but have awoken to find things awry and are angered that the elite have let things get this way. They may think they all agree on what should be done, but in reality when it comes down to actually doing things they likely will have wide differences of opinion.

But back to this ignorance thing: First it was personified, in my opinion, by Sarah Palin. Now I don’t really mean that she is mentally challenged, what I mean is I do not think she has demonstrated that she has a working knowledge of civics or political or even general history or geography — reportedly believing that Africa was a nation instead of a continent, as an example, or her uttering of a word not in the dictionary, “refudiate”, with no indication she was trying to make a joke or pun. She certainly is smart enough to know opportunity when she sees it and cash in. And she may well run for president. And if the American voters were to put her into the president’s chair, well those who voted for her would deserve what they get (but what about the rest of us?).

Real ignorance and/or daffiness is personified by this Christine O’Donnel character running for the U.S. Senate in Delaware as a Tea Party Republican, who in a candidate forum seemed to indicate that she never heard of the separation of church and state and did not know that it comes out of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Her defense from her campaign staff is that she simply meant the exact wording of the First Amendment (part of the Bill of Rights) does not mention separation of church and state explicitly. I could believe that and even give her the point on that one, but I saw the tape on the internet and she seems to indicate real ignorance.

Even if she was trying to make an argument that the doctrine of separation of church and state is an overreaching by the high court in interpretation of the First Amendment, she still gives off the message that she is ignorant. You do not have to be a history professor to know that there was an ongoing debate in our early days as a nation as to whether we ought to have an official religion. Kindergartners wear pilgrim hats around Thanksgiving to celebrate those folks who came over here for religious freedom. And you can’t have religious freedom if the state (the government) supports an official religion. So the only way out of it is to say that the government should take a hands-off approach to religion. Furthermore, constitutions are frameworks and often lack specificity, leaving that to statutes enacted in accordance with them. It may well be that some who supported the final wording of the First Amendment might have hoped that there was enough wiggle room — although I don’t see it — to allow declaring Christianity the official or semi-official religion. But nonetheless it has been accepted by most educated people through the years that government and religion don’t mix in a free society. Even Jesus seemed to note that government was separate from religion: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).

I do think the courts and public officials get carried away, though, when they ban individual prayer by students in public schools or religious invocations at public meetings or football games. The First Amendment in my layman’s reading guarantees freedom of religion, but does not ban religious practice in any way. If the court can look the other way in allowing our money to have the phrase “In God We Trust” (that seems religious), then I think individual prayer (not led by a teacher or government official, but simply performed by the individual) is harmless to anyone — and maybe helpful to the individual.

Hopefully the Tea Party will weed out the ignorant over time from its candidate ranks. If not, then we may all be doomed, because as things stand now, I don’t think the movement is going away any time soon.


Actually if the Tea Party were to take over it might soon realize it had no more clue as to what to do than anyone else and a new movement might have to spring up — the return of the elites.

P.s. P.s.

While O’Donnel is reportedly behind in the polls in Delaware, Sharon Angle, another Tea Party pick (officially she is Republican), who seems to be a little off kilter in her public appearances, is locked in a dead heat with Democratic Senator Harry Reid in Nevada. It is said by Reid supporters that her candidacy is the gift that keeps on giving to them, because until she was chosen to run against him political observers saw him losing to any Republican.

P.s. P.s. P.s.

Some observers have noted that the Tea Party seems to be putting up ignorant women candidates. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has a take on this: