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?

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Is religious freedom provision understood???

January 3, 2009

(Copyright 2009)

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think when someone laments that “they won’t let children pray in public schools,” or “they’ve taken God out of the schools”, that is a false notion.

It is my understanding that no one is prohibited from praying in school, but public school authorities are prohibited from leading that prayer. I think there also is a caveat to prevent prayer activity that might be disruptive. But certainly a personal silent prayer done at a time and place that does not interfere with anyone else would not likely fall into that category.

I think that some people just don’t want to accept that the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights provides for freedom of religion by denying the government the power to establish an official religion or the power to prevent the free exercise of religion, as well as providing for free speech (and some folks have problem with free speech, as well).

The First Amendment 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.”

As I understand it, for instance, a school child could pray by his or her self in a way that would not be disruptive to others, and there is no authority to stop that. On the other hand, if a teacher or other school official were to lead in prayer that would amount to the sanctioning of religion or a type of religion, as in establishing an official religion. And certainly anyone could see that with all the different religions (and even atheism) and the various denominations in those religions, it would not be wise for school authorities to put their mark of approval on any one single form of practice. You can hardly have freedom of religion if official authority is leading you in the practice of a religion.

And then there is the ongoing question of whether religious groups can meet at public schools. I don’t know the precise status on all the legal rulings on this and I don’t want to get into all the legal research.

But the idea of religious clubs forming at public schools is what brought this topic to my mind. I read in my morning newspaper some man (and woman)-on-the street responses to the question:

“A California court this year will decide whether students can form a Bible club at a public school. What do you think?”

I’ll give the responses and then my response to the responses:

A student: “I think they should have the option to form one if they want, but I don’t think it should be mandatory.” That’s probably closest to what I think, but not so much in a legal sense. Certainly they could not be mandatory, otherwise we’re back to state-sponsored religion, and as we know, some nations have that – Iran anyone? Iraq anyone? for that matter.

An equipment mechanic: “I think they should have one. I think it’s very important that they have that in schools.” So this man, as I would imagine a lot of folks are, is in favor of Bible clubs for students. He does not address the fact that what he thinks might not be what others think, and he does not address what the First Amendment says (but, then again, no one else did either).

A retired teacher’s aide: “I believe they should have the same access as any other group that wants to form a club. I don’t think they should be denied access.” I kind of feel that way too. And the U.S. Supreme Court majority did hold in 2001 (Good News Club vs Milford) that a school could have a religious club because to not allow such would be counter to the First Amendment’s free speech clause. And to me it seems it might be argued that it ran counter to the clause against the government “prohibiting the free exercise (of religion)…” But that’s just me.

An apartment manager: “I think it’s great. They should be able to form any club they want to. There should be teacher coordination with that too.” I’m not at all sure what he means by “teacher coordination”, but certainly that sounds wrong, because then we are mixing government and religion, contrary to the First Amendment.

A student: “I am not against it. I think students should form clubs as they see fit as long as they don’t break any school rules.” Well that seems reasonable.

A food service worker: “Yes, absolutely. I think you should be able to.” Thanks for your input.

So there you have it. No atheists, heretics, or antichrists in the bunch.

Irrespective of the constitutional aspects, I tend to agree with the prevailing mood here. Let them form Bible clubs.

But the one thing I always have to ask myself is why do religious folks want to meet at public schools? Why not at their own churches? I suppose convenience is one factor.

On the other hand, there is no doubt in my mind that there is a right-wing fundamentalist religious movement that wants to make inroads into all public activities, be it the public schools or politics, and who wants to force its doctrine on all.

I also think the assumption among many of these groups is that a Bible club would of course be a Christian group using the King James version of the Holy Bible. Would they be comfortable with a turban-wearing group carrying copies of the Koran? Would they want teachers leading everyone in a prayer to Allah?

No so much.

P.s. One thing that causes problems in all of this is that often First Amendment religious issues pit atheists on one side and unyielding and intolerant religious fundamentalists on the other, while most of the public falls in between. Nonetheless, we all live with the ultimate court decisions that are framed from arguments made by the polar extremes.