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. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/18/101018fa_fact_wilentz

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. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment01/

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.

P.s.

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: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/20/opinion/20dowd.html?_r=1&hp

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Free speech rights should not protect funeral protestors…

August 17, 2010

No one is a more strident supporter of free speech than me (okay, I) but sometimes law enforcement or the courts, I would think, need to use their legal discretion.

A bereaved family is holding a funeral for their fallen son (or daughter) who was a member of the military and has died in a combat zone.

Protestors from something called the Westboro Baptist Church picket the funeral and yell insults and carry signs that say things such as: “thank God for dead soldiers”.

That is appalling of course. But the courts hold that it is free speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, thus such behavior cannot be barred.

Nonsense! I say.

Or to paraphrase Charles Dickens: If that be the law, then I say the law is an ass.

Courts and police have some discretion when interpreting and enforcing laws.

It seems to me anyone doing something so reprehensible and inhumane and insulting to human dignity and feeling is guilty of something — at the minimum, disturbing the peace, perhaps assault (even if not physical), invasion of privacy, trespass, disorderly conduct, and so on.

A judge in Missourri held that a law banning such protests would also hinder counter protestors (presumably, members of the bereaved family). Talk about tortured logic and lack of common sense and just maybe analyzing something too deeply.

I see no defense, to include free speech protections, for such abhorrent behavior as to picket and menace a funeral by taunting and insulting the bereaved family members and the memory of the deceased.

To paraphrase again: If the law says otherwise, the law is an ass and should in this instance be disregarded.

P.s.

I do agree that no one should under the law and constitution be arrested for actual speech — it’s the behavior to which I refer.

P.s. P.s.

The idiot hate group Westboro Baptist Church (not affiliated with other Baptist churches) also harasses gays and adherents to other religions — they are in a sense home-grown terrorists.

 


First Amendment protects mosque building plan, but we need to keep an eye on it…

August 7, 2010

When I saw a photo on the Time Magazine online site of the rear ends of Muslims praying in Washington, D.C. in connection with a story about the controversy over the planned building of an Islamic mosque near the 9/11 ground zero site in New York, I recalled that I used to tell my now late wife that the best way to strike back at that part of the Muslim world that is out to get us was to wait till they get down on their knees to pray to Mecca and take that opportunity to kick ’em in the behind.

My own silliness aside, I don’t see how the building of the proposed mosque, which got New York Landmark Commission approval this past week and which has the blessings, so to speak, of the current mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, but not of the former mayor and former Republican primary presidential candidate and all-around stick in the mud Rudy Giuliani, can be denied when we have the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

As we all know, the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom and prohibits our government from favoring one belief over another.

Opponents say it would be disrespectful to the surviving family members of 9/11 victims (probably conveniently setting aside the fact many were Muslim) and the victims themselves, and furthermore, they are suspicious of what might be the real intention of those building it — might they use it as a meeting place to work out further plots against our nation?

Now that last point is of some valid concern. And I would think that the authorities need to be aware of that possibility. But the constitution says explicitly that the government is not supposed to mess with the practice of religion or favor one over the other — even though many Christians would say, yes, yes, of course we have religious freedom, but ours (Christianity) is the historical main religion in the U.S. and needs special consideration.

But you know, I’m all for the proper undercover authorities keeping their eye out for conspirators against the nation, but I don’t think conspirators are limited to hatching their plots in churches or mosques.

I am unclear as to who all might be behind this mosque project. I know that the main person is supposed to be a supposedly moderate Muslim imam known as Faisal Abdul Rauf. Some, however, charge that he only pretends to be moderate for western ears (don’t know). At any rate, as long as there is no evidence that the project is anything more than a benign religious one, I don’t see any legal basis for denial.

P.s.

It does seem troubling that the silence from the part of the Muslim community who are peaceful and not out to get us that we are told exists seems deafening at times.

P.s. P.s.

It would also be troubling if the new mosque, which I understand is also to be an interfaith center, were to be used as a forum for spreading views subversive to our nation. But that can happen even in supposedly Christian churches — Jeremiah Wright?

And some of the white or predominantly white Christian fundamentalist churches seem to put out a message of extreme intolerance and even defiance of our democratic (note the small d) government.

So, having noted that, I have reminded myself of why subversives might prefer to meet in a church or mosque or temple, or whatever — to hide under the umbrella of the First Amendment.

Yes. Freedom of speech and religion and movement our society offers does pose a threat to security, but we have managed to come this far. I think we can continue without going to the police state — we don‘t want to become Iran.


In regards to the Supreme Court corporation and politics ruling: the problem may really be in sorting out information vs. propaganda, but would we really want government to control political speech?

January 26, 2010

Tried to do some more research on that latest and most controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturns old law and gives corporations (and unions) nearly unlimited power to make big money donations to meddle in the political process. One problem in my research is a lack of time and a current bout of exhaustion. However, thanks to Wikipedia, I did get a chance to give the 5-4 Citizens United v Federal Election Commission decision a quick read.

I had mentioned in my earlier post that corporations (artificial people under the law) had already been given the rights of real people in previous legal rulings, using the 14th Amendment in part, an amendment most people would have thought was aimed at giving the same protection under the law to former slaves after the Civil War as other citizens enjoyed. In my ever-so-quick read of the opinion and even dissenting opinion I did not catch language about the 14th Amendment directly but they did mention that the courts have ruled that corporations have First Amendment free speech rights and other rights  just as real people do. There is reference to earlier court cases on point and I suppose some or all of them may address the 14th Amendment issue, and by the way, that issue is addressed by Wikipedia if you look up “corporations and the 14th Amendment”.

Even though most legal and political observers consider this a landmark decision, I blogged earlier that I did not think it really changed the playing field since big money always finds its way into campaigns and that you can’t separate money from politics. I still feel that way.

As I also alluded to in my earlier post, I think the problem is the intelligence and critical thinking power of the electorate. Presuming as an individual you have a mind of your own and are capable of keeping up on the issues separate from propaganda, you still have no control over the other guy who may be ignorant or lazy or both but who is still able to vote, and worse yet does.

And in my mind, here is the biggest problem of all:

It is becoming more difficult to sort out fact and opinion and commentary in the news, particularly on television (and the internet) where everything is mixed together. And it is even more difficult when you have a corporation that runs a far right-wing cheering section masquerading as a news network, such as FOX.

But FOX has been so financially successful that I think even CNN has caught the bug. Now I know that CNN tends to see the liberal side in a somewhat more favorable light than FOX, but the other morning the host was touting the far left line, quoting his own father as saying there are only two types of people in this world:  “the rich and the rest of us”.  And I think he was referring to the afore mentioned court decision. His presentation was a mixture of news and commentary with no clear differentiation.

So, if this is how it is to be, it becomes difficult for anyone to make a critical analysis of the issues, if opinion, in which the deck is stacked on one side of an issue, is presented as a news report.

And if a whole news network can be hijacked by one part of the political spectrum, democracy, which depends upon the free flow of accurate information, is in danger.

Nonetheless we can hardly have government dictating the manner in which information is disseminated or presented.

And while this may or may not be the reasoning the conservative majority ruled the way they did, I find myself almost concurring with them.

The whole thing started when opponents of Hillary Clinton wanted to widely distribute an ugly hit piece, thinly disguised as a legitimate documentary, just before election time.

Opponents of corporate meddling in elections charge that the large corporations have the financial ability to unduly influence elections.

While I agree, I am not sure what can be done since big money will always find its way in. And there is merit to the argument of the majority that we don’t want the government to inhibit political speech.

The only weapon we have to combat the corruption of our politics is the free flow of unbiased information. If as consumers we responded better towards balanced reporting, the marketplace might well respond. But for some reason much of the public seems to respond better to what it wants to hear.

Many ordinary citizens probably don’t realize the value of good information.

But people who need good information to make business decisions or decisions in their professional lives/and or work do. That is why they tend to subscribe to or otherwise obtain quality publications where the aim is to impart valuable information, not just point of view.

P.s.

I’m still going to try to research this case further.


Back on the blog and Merry Christmas!!!

December 25, 2009

I’ve been off this blog for several weeks, well, actually months, because I got the proverbial day job, no actually day and night job, and on top of that, my computer crashed. Just got a new one — a wonderful and generous Christmas gift. It has taken me a couple of hours to figure out how to access my old blog site, but hopefully, as I key this in, I have figured out how to get back into this thing. This computer is different to the touch, and I am having problems typing (yes I began writing back when we still plugged away at typewriters, and right now this seems as difficult). I’ll get used to this new machine (yes you can tell I am of the pre-computer age by my use of the word “machine”.  I remember old folks, back before I was one of them, old folks, that is, referring to a car as “the machine”).

I’ll make this post short and sweet as I write this tonight, Christmas Eve, because I am tired beyond belief and excited at the same time that I am able to be back  in the blogosphere.

The devout Christians see Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Children everywhere, and adults just as much, see it as a chance to get some cool gifts or not so cool gifts, whatever.

Saw a letter to the editor in my local newspaper complaining that a public school had ruled out any reference to Jesus or traditional Christian religious songs in its Christmas program. This seems absurd to me. But then again, I have to wonder what folks would think, if say, the school allowed or put on a program with a Muslim or even Jewish theme.

I have never thought that the First Amendment prohibited children from praying or singing the praises of Jesus. The First Amendment is supposed to guarantee the right to practice religion — among other things. But of course, the government, or the public school, cannot support any one religion, so the only way the authorities can see to handle this is to prohibit any religious reference in programs altogether.

On a related matter, I am not aware of any school actually prohibiting individual children from quietly praying on their own, although, this may have happened somewhere. School personnel cannot be seen as sanctioning or promoting any one religion or interfering with one’s right not to be religious.

This post is kind of a ramble because I am tired and I am having a hard time navigating this keyboard.

But on this Christmas Eve 2009 I can only hope that we get something out of the teachings of Jesus and learn to enjoy the good earth and the blessings we have been given.

I do not know why we must fight wars, except in true self defense. But I do know from reading the Bible, which good Christians tout  everywhere, that war and terrible violence men inflict upon one another, not to mention the wrath of God, has been a fact of life since the dawn of man.

But Christmas is a time of hope. And I hope that we humans can change and learn to live in peace.

But life is a struggle over limited resources.

Nonetheless, Merry Christmas and a hope of peace for all mankind!


Palin lacks faith in democracy and quits when going gets tough…

July 6, 2009

Sarah Palin claims she is quitting her governorship of Alaska in part because she wants to effect change by working outside of government. I’m not exactly sure what that is supposed to mean. In this nation public policy is supposed to be made by the democratically (small d) elected government.

There is such a thing as lobbying – private interests who work to influence government. So maybe that is what she means.

Apparently she would rather help pressure government to do things from the outside, hoping to avoid public scrutiny – raise money, work behind the scenes, whip up the base with demogoguery by spouting off narrow-minded hot button issues that appeal more to emotion than rational public policy or accuse anyone who does not agree with her message of lacking patriotism. She could drum up money with her fanatical appeal to further her policy aims — whatever they might be — or to buy fancy clothes for herself and her family as she did with Republican Party funds when she ran with John McCain. Last I heard SarahPac or whatever it is called was still accepting donations.

Maybe she just means she is going to work on behalf of other candidates, but those candidates would be working directly in government.

And maybe she thinks there ought to be some power out there beyond government because she does not agree with the majority of voters at this time.

She claims to have been mistreated by the press. Well join the ranks of all those in public life. That is the ugly price that is paid for freedom of speech. We can’t just arrest people who may say things we don’t like, such as might be done in Iran. And it is true that freedom of the press, guaranteed in the First (the very first mind you) Amendment to the Constitution carries with it the annoying aspect of sometimes protecting those who distort the truth or tell outright lies (including Sarah Palin). Unfortunately, it’s the only way to guarantee an actual free press (and press these days means all types of public dissemination of thoughts and information – there are fewer and fewer newspapers).

Palin through a lawyer has reportedly threatened a blogger with a lawsuit over defamation of character. I think even Palin is aware of the First Amendment but thinks anything unfavorable to her is not covered.

Thanks to a Supreme Court decision called New York Times vs. Sullivan (1964), public figures have a higher standard to meet when trying to prove defamation and libel. It could be done if it is shown a person acted with reckless disregard for the truth and actual malice. But in the blogger’s case, as I understand it, it involved repeating a rumor or rumors that have been circulating about Palin for years, something about awarding construction contracts and personally benefitting when she was Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. True? Have no idea. Rumors can be a troubling thing and are often unfair. But if in public life rumors were illegal we’d never find out anything and real corruption would never be investigated. Word from rumors is often how investigations get started and/or how those in power are forced to look into things.

What Palin must be trying to do is intimidate opponents or anyone who might hold her up to public scrutiny. As evidenced by her VP campaign, her mode is to be able to say a lot of things but be questioned very little (and no wonder, have you ever heard her respond to questions?).

Palin also made a weird comment about quitting the governorship (half way through her term) because she did not want to waste the taxpayers’ money by being a lame duck. If she ran again, she would not be a lame duck. And does she mean that anyone who is voted into office should simply quit at the point he or she may not get his or her way? And does she not have an obligation to those who voted for her? I’m not understanding all of this.

(Add 1: An Anchorage Daily News editorial lauded Palin’s accomplishments as governor but said her explanation about not wanting to be a lame duck was “more lame than duck”.)

And I personally detest the political strategy that allows candidates (or potential candidates) to make a lot of noise, make accusations, distort the truth, but then allows them to hide from questions under the guise that questioners are only trying to discredit them – that is sometimes true, but what other way is there? Have FOX news lob leading softball questions to you? Or for that matter have CNN ask leading softball questions? No if you run for political office you should be able to stand up to penetrating questions from all and let the public at large judge. The public is smarter than you think Sarah. Is that what you are afraid of?


A serious question over religion vs. medicine…

May 22, 2009

Sleepy Eye, Minnesota I think was mentioned in Little House on The Prairie as being a trading post some distance from Walnut Grove, but whatever, this is not about a family that had a problem, consulted a higher authority, and they all lived happily ever after, and there’s no Laura Ingalls, as in the book or TV story.

The mother of a 13-year-old boy, one Daniel Hauser, has fled with her son from their hometown in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota to avoid a court order that he be given chemotherapy treatments. He has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer.

The boy’s parents supposedly belong to a faith called Nemanhah (never heard of it) and do not believe in conventional medical practices. Their faith, reportedly based on American Indian beliefs, calls for using natural herbal remedies, as I understand it. Freedom of Religion is guaranteed by our First Amendment.

Reportedly, they may be on their way to Mexico, of all places, to get some type of alternative treatment. That seems like a strange place to go to me if the mother is truly concerned for her son. I mean Mexico right now is not a safe place to go in my estimation. Not only is there a swine flu epidemic still going on there (it has of course spread from there worldwide), but more importantly there is major drug cartel violence there that has threatened the safety of that whole nation.

But I do sympathize and empathize with anyone who fears chemo, whether it be for themselves or for their loved ones. A couple of years ago I was in an oncologist’s office and was told I needed to begin chemo immediately, preferably that day, as soon as I left the examining room. I did. I did not know what else to do. In my case it most probably was the right decision. But to be honest I was ignorant of what chemo was all about. Even though I was probably warned, only later did it really sink in that I had let them inject extremely toxic poisons into my system. Those poisons went after my cancer, but, as is unavoidable in virtually all cases, they also did damage to my body, specifically in my case to my immune system. At one point I was led to believe they may have done irreversible damage. I’m not so sure about that now, but the point is, chemo is a bit terrifying and it is a bit of a risk, to say the least.

But as I understand it, in general, current law (as settled by various cases over the years) holds that the religious beliefs of parents cannot stand in the way of giving medical treatment to their minor children in situations deemed life and death and where the treatment is deemed a medically-accepted procedure, not just some experiment. I know that is not an uptown interpretation of the law, but I think it’s close (and I would suppose there may be exceptions in various jurisdictions, and as is always the case, laws are subject to change with new court decisions).

There is a serious conflict here. On the one hand we go to great lengths in the USA to protect the right of individuals to hold and practice their religious beliefs. And I hate to bring abortion into this discussion, but the Roe vs. Wade decision, which makes abortion legal in this country, I also think says a lot about the law’s attitude that where possible people ought to have control over their own bodies.

In this case there is an argument over whether Daniel, who reportedly does not want chemo himself, is capable of making that decision. Strictly under the law, apparently he is not.

The father has reportedly had second thoughts about the whole thing (actually I don’t know for sure what his original thoughts were) and is begging his wife and son to come back from wherever they are and saying it can all be rethought and worked out. At last word, the Sheriff of Minnesota’s Brown County, the jurisdiction of this incident, has said that if Mrs. Hauser brings her son back now and cooperates he will not seek charges, which include child endangerment.

It’s quite a compelling story. The photos I have seen depict a family living on what appears to be a dairy farm in rural Minnesota. They appear simple folks with their faith. They have a German surname, but they are not Pennsylvania Dutch or Amish or Mennonites, or even Christian Scientists, as far as I know.

But folks should be able to live and believe as they please. And Chemo is a risky thing. But so is alternative medicine. And probably society should have a duty to look out for minors, especially on life and death matters where there is no guarantee that their guardians are following a societal-accepted practice for their care and safety. It is not a matter to be taken lightly, no matter whether you say it is society’s call or a family’s or a mother’s.