1916 or 2016?

we the peopleThe Fifteenth Amendment (Amendment XV) to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” It was ratified on February 3, 1870, as the third and last of the Reconstruction Amendments.  Still, many African-Americans were disenfranchised, denied the right to vote.  Especially in the south, new state constitutions began to crop up with laws providing such obstacles as poll taxes and literacy tests (see sample below of Louisiana’s literacy test), both of which white citizens were exempted from under a “grandfather clause”.  In case the person happened to be able to both pay the poll tax and pass the literacy test (very few could do either), there was always good old violent intimidation.

lit test 1

lit test 2

lit test 3

Slowly, the wheels of justice began to turn, and in 1915 the grandfather clause was struck down. In 1964 the poll tax was struck down by the ratification of the 24th amendment.  Then came the big advance, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on 06 August 1965.  The Voting Rights Act prohibited any and all racial discrimination in voting.  It provided federal oversight of elections in discriminatory jurisdictions, banned literacy tests and similar discriminatory devices, and created legal remedies for people affected by voting discrimination.  It was truly a landmark piece of legislation, and arguably one of the most important victories of the civil rights era.

In 2013, the Supreme Court overturned Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.  Section 4 is the provision of the law that designates which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court. Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas (himself an African-American), and Samuel Alito ruled that Section 4 was no longer necessary because “things have changed dramatically” in the South in the nearly 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965.  I did not agree with that assessment in 2013, and I certainly do not agree with it today.

In 2014, after numerous complaints about voter discrimination, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the House of Representatives to strengthen the Voting Rights Act. The bill would, among other changes:

Require jurisdictions with a recent record of repeated Voting Rights Act violations to pre-clear election law changes.

Expand the current “bail-in” procedures, which allow courts to subject jurisdictions to preclearance. 

Create a uniform requirement to inform voters of certain pending voting changes.

Enhance the ability of lawyers to halt discriminatory election measures before they can harm citizens.

Allow federal observers to monitor elections to ensure compliance with laws protecting the rights of Americans who speak limited English.

The House of Representatives refused to hold a hearing.  The bill was re-introduced in 2015, but has not yet been acted upon, nor is it likely to be acted upon, given the “do nothing” attitude of the republican held Congress.  In 2014, Americans experienced their first election without key Voting Rights Act protections in place — which led to voting discrimination across the country.  The same is likely to occur in November when voters head to the polls to elect the next president.

In 2016, 17 states will have new voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election. The new laws range from strict photo ID requirements to early voting cutbacks to registration restrictions. Those 17 states are: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Around the nation it is becoming more difficult for people to vote.  In Arizona, voters waited up to five hours in line in order to cast ballots in the primary election. In South Carolina, people were given misleading information about the state’s voter ID law. And in Wisconsin, students were disenfranchised because polling places refused to accept their out-of-state IDs.

Just as racism is on the rise nationwide, but particularly in the southern states, voter discrimination follows suit.  Many states now require a photo ID.  I hear people saying “okay, what’s the big deal?  Everybody has a driver’s license, right?”  No, not everybody has a driver’s license.  Many people are too poor to own a car, they ride the bus or walk to work, and have never needed to obtain a driver’s license.  Every state does offer a non-driver photo ID, and the requirements for this vary from state to state, but there is a fee, and every state requires a visit to a government office, usually the same agency that issues driver’s licenses.  Additionally, there are documentation requirements that may include:  a valid driver’s license, a valid passport, a certified birth certificate, etc.  In some states, the fee is as low as $5, but a quick check of Mississippi shows that the fee there is $17.  Now, the same people who think everyone has a photo ID, probably think $17 is no big deal either.  For a family struggling to buy food, trust me, $17 is a real big deal.

In addition to the photo ID requirement, some states are redrawing districts to dilute minority votes, and reducing early-voting hours which makes it harder for hourly workers who may not be able to take time off from work.  The overall goal is to keep as many poor, Hispanic and African-Americans as possible away from the polls.  Why?  Because those are the people who are far more likely to vote for a democrat than a republican.  Republicans typically support policies that are not advantageous to those groups, whereas democrats typically support programs to help the poor and support racial equality.  Don’t believe me?  Listen to Trump, then listen to Sanders.

We claim to have a democracy, a government where every adult has the right to cast his or her vote for the candidate he/she feels is best qualified to lead our nation, for members of Congress who will make the laws that we must all live under and abide by.  On 07 January 1789, the first presidential election was held in the newly created United States.  Up to that time, only white, male, adult property owners were eligible to vote in most states.  Since then, a series of amendments to the constitution have been enacted to enable women, minorities, and any over the age of 18 to vote.  But in the last few years, obstacles that were once removed are now being replaced.  We cannot allow that to happen, and it is my belief that the good people of this nation will not allow that to happen, for if it does, then what is next?  Will African-Americans accused of a crime necessarily face an all-white jury?  Will restrooms, water fountains and public establishments once again display a sign that says “Whites Only”?  Think about it.

A Later Post Part II – A Follow-Up to Glocks vs Docs

This is Part II – a continuation of an earlier post:

  • This one wasn’t really a question, but a statement, and one which really made me think and wonder what I would do: “As a father, and a good parent, I’d shoot any intruder dead before the cops came.” (From Opinionated Man)
    • Would I, if I owned a gun, “shoot any intruder … “? After some considerable thought, I concluded that no, I would not, for two reasons:
      • First, if I owned a gun, it would be unloaded and locked in a box in the bottom of my bedroom closet on the second floor of my house. Thus, the only way I would be able to shoot an intruder would be if he were willing to cooperate when I asked him to “stay right there for just a few minutes” while I go upstairs, find and unlock the box, load the gun, then return downstairs. Somehow I don’t think that would work.
      • Second, and this is purely speculative, as I do not believe any of us can know precisely what we would do in a traumatic situation until it arises, but I do not believe I would be capable of willfully and knowingly taking another life. That does not mean that I wouldn’t maim him … I wield a mean butcher knife which I keep quite sharp … I can envision me biting, kicking, punching, but not shooting.  I am basically a wordsmith, so I would probably, given half a chance, try to negotiate (step up on my soapbox and talk him to death!).  If he wanted money, I would give him the entire $40 I might have in my home.  Television, computers?  Sure … take them.  But no, I would not shoot somebody just to keep my electronics.  At least, I don’t think I would.

 

  • And again, more a statement, but with a question at the core: “Personally I am more concerned about the desensitization (defined as the diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative or aversive stimulus after repeated exposure to it) of our youth and other impressionable people toward the value of human life. Perhaps the doctors should be asking if we own certain video games or view particular types of motion pictures or TV programs. I recently had a friend tell me that he plays Grand Theft Auto regularly with his preteen son and hasn’t seen any negative effect on the boy’s behavior. A future conversation might well be, “he was always such a good, quiet kid. I don’t know why he snapped like that, stole my gun and took out those two guys who had been bullying him.” (From Rixlibris)
    • The original post was in reference to young children, of an age to be under the care of a pediatrician, so I am thinking under age 14, and I was not considering teens at that point. But Rixlibris brings up a valid point.  Today it seems that kids are much more interested in playing video games and watching television than climbing trees and catching frogs (I am showing my age here, I suppose).  And yes, while there are a lot of fun, challenging and relatively non-violent games and programs, there are also many that glorify fighting and even killing. thus desensitizing our youth.  (It has been argued that so did Road Runner/Wiley Coyote cartoons). At any rate, I agree with rixlibris to the extent that un-or-under-supervised teens potentially leads to cases such as Columbine (April 20, 1999).  I do not think the doctor can realistically, in the time span of an office visit, ask about every potential hazard. And nobody can possibly foresee every possible hazard … if we could, none of us would own scissors, steak knives, or belts, and we would not store bleach or other chemicals in the home.  Almost anything can become a weapon.  But I do think that certain games and programs simply do not need to exist, for example the game mentioned by rixlibris, Grand Theft Auto.  While I have never seen this game being played, I have read a number of articles about it (I do have grandchildren, so I do my homework about these things) and am given to understand that it is extremely violent and teaches disrespect of law enforcement.  However, to ban such games or violent programs, would violate our 1st amendment, the right to free speech (or at least the current interpretations of it), thus we have come full circle and it is back in the parents’ court to monitor, supervise, advise, and ultimately guide their children. I realize this does not answer the question, but if there is an answer, it is beyond the scope of both my mind and this post.  All I am able to do is offer my thoughts, my opinion.

 

I understand that the 2nd amendment is here to stay.  I also understand that the current interpretation of the 2nd amendment is broader in scope than was initially intended, but that will not change either.  I accept this, though I do not accept the freedom of individuals to own guns entirely without regulation.  I hear that “guns in the hands of ‘law-abiding’ citizens make us safer”.  I do not agree with that, and as I have said before, every person is a law-abiding citizen until they break the law, so that is a moving target. It is a tired but true statement that we must pass both a written and a practical skills test in order to be licensed to drive a car, while we only have to be somewhat free of a criminal past in order to be licensed to shoot a weapon that has the potential to be more lethal to a larger number of people.  I have and will continue to advocate for stricter gun regulations.

I do not own a gun because I know myself.  I know that, while generally a calm person, I do have a temper and when it flares, look out.  A few weeks ago, a driver almost hit me in a crowded parking lot because she was too busy talking on her cell phone, cutting across aisles, to notice me.  If a loaded gun had been in reach, might I have used it?  I cannot say for certain, but I acknowledge the possibility.  Last summer, the lady across the street accidentally set off her car alarm and could not figure out how to turn it off for several minutes.  I did threaten to turn it off with a sledge hammer … if I had access to a loaded gun, might I have used it at that moment?  Again, who knows, but the fact that I have to answer “maybe” is enough to convince me that I do not need to own a gun.

I have, admittedly, never found myself in a situation that I could not handle with the tools available to me at the time (usually words – talk ‘em to death!).  If I ever do, perhaps I will view the whole gun-ownership issue differently.  I simply do not know.  I have many friends who own guns, I believe they are responsible gun owners, and I respect their rights just as they respect my right to ask them to leave their guns at home when they visit me.  If I felt I needed protection at home, I would go to a local shelter and get a dog!

A Later Post Part I – A Follow-Up to Glocks vs Docs

I recently wrote a post concerning 2nd amendment rights and whether pediatricians should be able to ask parents of young children whether there are guns in the home.  I won’t go into detail, but if you missed it, you can read it here.  In a comment, a couple of fellow bloggers asked questions that I needed some time to think about before responding, so I promised to address those questions in a later post.  Also, there were a few comments that, after I had time to mull it over, I wanted to respond more in depth. So this is that “later post”.   (Note:  by the time I finished writing this, it was well over 2,000 words.  Since I generally try to keep my posts between 800-1,200 words for readability, I am splitting this into two posts.)

While I may not have realized the full extent to which any discussion of gun rights or gun regulation are a highly controversial topic, I do realize it now, and as such I will try to choose my words more carefully than in my original Glocks vs Docs post.  That does not mean I have changed my stance, but I will try to express myself honestly, yet more carefully.

  • “I have to ask is there anything that “counters” that tragedy in your mind (a child being killed by a careless gun owner)? Such as the story a month ago about a teenager using her father’s handgun to kill an intruder? Is that not a balance to you or is that still tragic?” (From Opinionated Man )
    • My late-night, off-the-cuff remark to OM on this one was “Briefly, no, I don’t think one cancels out the other. The child is still dead, and now another person is also.” I think that even with a few days to think, to consider, I stand by my original answer.  Nothing will bring that child back to life, and the teenager who killed the intruder with her father’s gun?  That is yet another tragedy. Her life is forever changed.  Can you imagine the effect that would have on a mind and emotions that are not yet fully developed, not fully prepared for that weight on her shoulders?  It would not surprise me for that teenager to commit suicide within a matter of years, or at the very least need long-term psychiatric care. And … what if the intruder was not, in fact, an intruder?  I imagine that in this case it was, but “what if”?  What if it was a sibling, parent, or other family member arriving home unexpectedly?  What if it was an inebriated neighbor or otherwise confused person who mistakenly got the wrong house?  (I have actually had this happen more than once!).  No, there are just too many variables, and as I said in the beginning, how can one cancel the other out, when the child is still dead and now another human being is also?  Yes, I have been called a “bleeding hearts liberal” more times than I can count on all fingers and toes, but it is who I am, and I am okay with that.

 

  • “I would be willing to bet that drugs and alcohol play a bigger role in harming children and teens than accidental shootings. So perhaps it would be more relevant to ask if you have “drugs and/or alcohol” in the house? Would you be okay if your pediatrician asked you that question? Would you be okay if your pediatrician “had issues” or “vilified” you as a parent if you chose to indulge in either?” (From Just Plain Ol’ Vic)
    • This one is more troublesome, more difficult to answer than the others. Yes, I absolutely agree that drugs and alcohol play the biggest role in teen deaths, damage to teen’s emotional balance, destruction of families, etc.  And while I hope that drugs are not a common item in most households (perhaps I am naïve?), alcohol is certainly present in a large number of households, including my own.  To the question of whether I would “be okay” if a pediatrician asked if I had drugs or alcohol in my home, I am sure I would be a bit taken aback, yes.  And yes, I think I would be offended.  Perhaps that makes me a hypocrite, since I think it is okay for that same pediatrician to ask about guns in the home.  Which could lead to a fairly in-depth discussion that neither time nor space allow for here or today.
    • As to whether I would be okay if the afore-mentioned pediatrician “vilified” or “had issues” with me keeping a bottle of wine in the cabinet, I can definitely answer that no, I would not! But … that pediatrician who was asking about guns in the home was not, presumably, either vilifying or condemning, but simply asking and offering safety tips.  So, if said pediatrician then asks me how much wine I drink, I would remind him that I am not, in fact, his patient and his question is out of bounds.  However, if he reminded me to keep alcohol out of the reach of my toddler, I would not be offended.

(Part II to follow soon … )

Glocks vs. Docs …

Just when I thought the whole 2nd Amendment issue could not possibly get any crazier, I came across this in the Washington Post:

Do you own a gun? Why your kid’s doctor needs to know.

 

It turns out that several years ago, pediatricians began asking parents if there are guns in the home as a part of their routine exam.  My first thought?  How very sad that we have come to this point.  But just as I was about to close the article and move on, I read that in 2010, one Florida mother, Amber Ullman, rudely informed her child’s pediatrician that it was “none of [his] business”, then complained bitterly in the local newspaper that “whether I have a gun has nothing to do with the health of my child.”  Really???  Is she that bloomin’ stupid?  If a child is exposed to chicken pox, a parent is running to the doc, fearing for the life of her child, but if that same child is exposed to a lethal weapon every day of his life, it is not a threat to his health?  The pediatrician, Dr. Chris Okonkwo, by the way, told her she had 30 days to find a new pediatrician and that she wasn’t welcome at Children’s Health of Ocala anymore.  Good for him and shame on Ms. Ullman!

 

Well, as you might imagine, Ms. Ullman’s article attracted the attention of the ever-powerful National Rifle Association (NRA), who lobbied for a law prohibiting physicians from asking about guns in the home.  It is called the “Firearm Owners Privacy Act” and it was enacted nearly five years ago, in July 2011. It states, in part, that doctors or their facilities “may not record firearm ownership information in patient’s medical record; provides exception; provides that unless information is relevant to patient’s medical care or safety or safety of others, inquiries regarding firearm ownership or possession should not be made.”  I ask you, is not a gun a potential threat to the safety of the patient, as well as the safety of others?  The law is commonly known as the “Glocks vs Docs” law.  Have I mentioned before that the scope of the NRA is well beyond what is reasonable?

 

A federal judge, Judge Marcia Cooke, blocked the law as unconstitutional, saying it restricted physicians right to free speech and physicians question regarding guns in the home does not, in any way, interfere with the patients right to keep and bear arms.  Then in July of last year, an appeals court overturned the ruling, citing the patient’s right to own guns and to privacy.  The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit is now preparing to hear the case.  Sadly, legislators in at least 12 other states have expressed interest in similar bills.  Sigh.

 

One mother took her 7-year-old son for a routine check-up with his pediatrician.  Here is how that conversation went:

 

Doctor: Do you have guns in the home?

Parent: Of course not — we don’t believe in that!

Child (looking up from iPad with a grin): But Bobby’s dad has a really cool gun! Bobby showed it to me last week!

 

The leading cause of death in children between the ages of 1-14 is unintentional injury, a category that includes car accidents, suffocation, burns, drowning and gunshot wounds.  Pediatricians also ask whether a family has a swimming pool on their property, yet nobody has felt compelled to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars bringing a lawsuit about that!  Pediatricians counsel parents about all of these issues. They may explain how to properly install car seats, caution against children playing with plastic bags, teach about safe water temperature, discuss safety around pools, and discuss proper and safe firearm storage.  In 2015, children accidentally shot themselves or someone else at least 278 times, averaging more than five times a week. Yet according to the NRA and apparently most gun owners, that is acceptable?

 

Let us hope that someone, somewhere along the line, preferably the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, has some “common” sense.  The bottom line is that a patient or parent can always refuse to answer the question, or simply disregard the advice of the physician.  But just in case a few parents might actually listen to the advice, just in case the life of a few children might be saved, let us not bind the hands of the very person who is actually trying to keep our children safe! Parents need to give the health and safety of their children a higher priority than their own right to privacy, or even their second amendment rights to own guns.  If they do not, then perhaps they do not deserve to be parents.

This One’s For You, Herr Cruz

I have left Senator Ted Cruz, the other republican candidate for president of the U.S., pretty much alone in recent months, as the trumpeter has been occupying much of my writing time and space.  However, in light of Mr. Cruz’ recent responses to the terrorist attacks in Brussels on Tuesday, it is high time for me to speak up and point out that Cruz, like Trump, is a radical with fascist leanings and is not the solution to the problems facing our nation. For a time, he seemed to be the “lesser of two evils”, but what I have seen this week convinced me that he does, in fact, present a clearly substantial threat to our way of life.

One statement in particular curdled my blood:

“We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaida or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”

So many points to make about this … where to even start?

First, would somebody please define for me a “Muslim neighborhood”?  I live in a small suburban community with four Muslim families on my short street alone, and several on adjoining streets.  Does this qualify as a “Muslim neighborhood”?  Quite honestly, in the 18 years I have lived here, the only people who have ever threatened me were Caucasian.

Second, what exactly does “patrol and secure” mean?  The chilling image this evokes for me is that of gestapo patrolling neighborhoods in places like Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, France, and others. Or the men in white sheets in the south not so very long ago, “keeping the good white folks safe” by dragging black people from their homes in the middle of the night and hanging them from a tree.  I am safer amidst my Muslim neighbors, none of whom are terrorists or pose any threat to my safety, than I would be with police on my street, empowered to knock on doors and arrest people (or worse) for no other reason than that they may or may not be of a certain faith.

Third, why stop at Muslims?  If Cruz becomes president, what keeps him from deciding to “patrol and secure” Catholic neighborhoods?  Jewish neighborhoods?  Or African-American neighborhoods?  One of the arguments made by Apple in the recent disagreement about whether the FBI had the right to force Apple to unlock a cell phone used by a terrorist in San Bernardino, was that if we sacrifice a civil liberty, a right to privacy, in one case, what is to stop it from happening in others.  This is the essence of the slippery slope argument that President Obama refers to.

President Obama, who had just returned from his visit to Cuba, had this to say about Cruz’ remarks:

“As far as the notion of having surveillance of neighborhoods where Muslims are present, I just left a country that engages in that kind of neighborhood surveillance,” Obama said. “Which by the way, the father of Senator Cruz escaped, for America, the land of the free. The notion that we would start down that slippery slope makes absolutely no sense. It’s contrary to who we are, and it’s not going to help us defeat ISIL.”   Spot on, Mr. President!

As early as 2002, in response to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, New York City’s police department engaged in the religious profiling and surveillance of Muslims in New York City.  They singled out Muslim religious and community leaders, mosques, student associations, organizations, businesses, and individuals for pervasive surveillance that was discriminatory.  They used a number of techniques, including mapping of Muslim communities, photo and video surveillance, police informants, eavesdropping, and cataloguing mosques.  They created databases with information on where Muslims lived, worked, shopped and prayed.  The program did nothing but cost the taxpayers money.  Assistant police chief, Thomas Galati, admits that the program never provided a single credible lead.  The program led to a lawsuit brought against the city by Muslims earlier this year and resulted in, among other things, approximately $2 million in attorney fees for the taxpayers of NYC.

Some thoughts from experts and scholars on Cruz’ proposal:

  • Michael Chertoff, former secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush: “I think his [Cruz] ideas are preposterous. The idea that you can identify people who are a risk based upon their religion or the way they look is completely fallacious. It’s like going after cancer with a meat ax instead of a scalpel.”
  • Trevor Thrall, a Cato Institute scholar who is also a professor of policy, government, and international affairs at George Mason University: “Cruz’s suggestion that American law enforcement specifically “patrol and secure” Muslim communities is both immoral and counterproductive. If you’re looking for a way to radicalize someone, patrolling their neighborhoods and keeping a close watch on what they’re doing is a good way to do it”
  • Ibrahim Hooper, the national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations: “Police ‘securing’ — what does that mean? Does that mean checkpoints on every corner? Does that mean papers on every street? To me, this sounds like an armed occupation of Muslim neighborhoods.”
  • Marci Hamilton, a constitutional law expert at the Cardozo School of Law: “Cruz’s proposal is also plainly unconstitutional — a clear violation of both the First and 14th Amendments. The First Amendment’s “establishment clause” forbids the government from taking actions that “unduly favor” one religion over another. The 14th Amendment ensures “due process of law” to all US citizens.”

This is, or was, last time I checked, the United States of America, a nation defined by the very freedoms that both Mr. Cruz and Mr. Trump are so determined to strip us of.  It was suggested to me recently that if I do not wish to live in the culture of hate and violence that is being suggested by these two candidates, I should “just move”.  You know what?  I am not going to do that.  I am going to stay right where I am, I am going to keep on fighting for the same freedoms our founders fought for more than two centuries ago, and I am going to keep being a thorn in the side of those who would rob us of our democracy.  Until my last breath.  That is a promise.

The 28th Amendment? Not Likely.

One thing you have to say about Donald Trump:  he sure does keep those of us who write about politics busy.  If I were paid a nickel for every word I have written about the man, I could buy a new car now!  This is a sad statement, as he really doesn’t deserve all the attention, and there is a strong suspicion in the back of my mind that many of his outrageous comments and antics are intended as nothing more than media bait.  His name and face are all over every news website, all over social media, he even appears on average of 35 times a day in my email inbox!  I try not to write about him, I really do.  And I was successful for 2 days this past weekend, mostly because I threatened to hit myself in the head with a hammer if I wrote a single word about him for 48 hours.  But alas, he has once again breached what is even remotely acceptable and I cannot be quiet.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States 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.

It is 45 words, none of which are particularly challenging, all of which are common, well-understood words.  And yet … presidential wannabe Donald Trump appears not to understand the meaning of that simple sentence. He has decided that he will single-handedly change those words.  He has sworn that, in the unlikely event he is elected president, he will “open up our libel laws so when [newspapers] write purposely negative stories … we can sue them and make lots of money”.  Did you all hear that?  Do you understand what he is saying?  Donald Trump has pledged to change the libel laws in a way that could undermine the first amendment and the freedom of the press.  Two things are particularly disturbing, nay, horrifying, about this statement:

  • Freedom of the press is arguably one of the most important rights granted under the Constitution. If it becomes illegal to criticize government, to criticize the president, what keeps us from being a nation of “sheep being led to the slaughter”.  I often dislike the media as much as the next person, they are sensationalistic, they are bent more on producing stories that will sell rather than those that have depth, but nonetheless, I will defend their right to speak freely until I turn blue and die.
  • If Trump has no more respect for the “freedom of the press” clause than to casually announce he is going to change it, what other parts of the Constitution might he be willing to change or merely disregard? Perhaps the Third Amendment?  We have heard straight from the horse’s mouth how Trump “loves eminent domain”, so why not quarter troops in your home without your permission?  Or how about the Sixth Amendment, the right to a “speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury”.  Willing to give that one up?  As you can see, the possibilities are limitless.

The other thing that bothers me about his statement, though minor in comparison to the two more serious ones, is that he “can sue them and make lots of money”.  I have said all along that the almighty dollar is Trump’s God and the only thing he worships.  He opens every rally he holds with a recital of how high he is in the polls and the fact that he is rich.  It is the only thing that matters to him.

A government-controlled press cannot properly serve its citizens, but will tell them only what the government wants them to hear.  Think Pravda in the Soviet Union.  The only challenges to the freedom of the press, as I see it, are those involving national security, and even those have historically been difficult to enforce.  I am 100% certain that Donald Trump’s wealth and happiness are not a matter of national security. Many of you reading this post are fellow bloggers.  Do you realize that putting limits on what the press can say about the government would also apply to us?  It means this post I am writing at this very moment could be censored and I could be punished.

Fortunately, changing the Constitution is a lot harder than Mr. Trump apparently believes.  Perhaps a crash course in Constitutional Law would help him to better understand some of the limits on the power of each branch of government.  The framers of the original constitution knew exactly what they were doing when they distributed power among the three branches of government, the executive, the legislative and the judicial.  The Constitution can only be changed by amendment, and to pass an amendment requires either: a) a two-thirds majority vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, or b) a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures.  A very difficult process that historically has often taken years and has more often than not, failed.

This is yet another example of Mr. Trump’s hyperbole.  As such, one might be inclined to brush it off as insignificant.  However, the significance lies not in the deed itself, but in the intent.  Think about it.

Spammers and Hackers and Crooks … OH NO!

To every spammer/hacker who continues filling my email box with obnoxious, annoying and offensive email, one word:  STOP!  CEASE!!  DESIST!!!  Oops … that’s three words, isn’t it?  Well, pick one and heed it.

So far, in just the past two days, I have been contacted 13 times by the FBI (bet you didn’t know about my past … shall we say, indiscretions, did you?).  I have also received multiple offers from well-meaning individuals who want to “enhance” body parts that I do not have, have never had, and am not likely to ever possess in this lifetime.  PayPal has “suspended” my account 7 times, but the good news is that I only need to provide them with my password in order to rectify this problem.  Chase Bank has “detected a problem” with my account, an account that I didn’t even know I had!  It has been determined that I am the sole beneficiary of some dude I never heard of and there is a check for $7,000,000 (that’s right, 7 million dollars) just waiting to be deposited in my bank account as soon as I send them the account number and password!  Oh, and let us not forget the Nigerian prince who wants me to help him transfer his fabulous wealth safely to the United States!  And it goes on and on and on.  I laugh, but the sad part of this is that an estimated 12% of people still fall for these things.  As opposed to the old days of “junk mail” where the crook had to actually pay for paper, envelope and postage, spam costs almost nothing to send.  If only 1% fall for it, the spammer is still making a substantial profit.  I don’t have data to back it up, but it is my belief that the majority of the victims of this crime are the elderly or the poor and under-educated.

My spam filter is excellent at capturing these emails, but sadly it also, on occasion, captures a valid message that isn’t trash, so daily I have to take a quick glance through my spam folder.  I am not really easily offended.  Just in the last week, in response to a New York Times Op-Ed, I was called a “dumbass” and also told by another that he hoped I soon met my death via an episode of gun violence.  Neither of those comments offended me, but merely earned a chuckle and re-enforced my thoughts that many people are not too bright.  Point here being that I am not easily offended.  I am, however, offended by the extremely vulgar and graphic words in the subject line, words that I have never uttered in sixty-five years on this planet.  I’m no saint, and I say “damn” and even use the “f-word” when I think the occasion calls for it, but the spammers apparently think it is cute to go way beyond that, and yes, I am offended.  I have no minor child in the house, but many people do, and I would bet the bank that many of those children occasionally “accidentally” tap into mom’s or dad’s email account.  And yet, the right to send this vulgar trash is protected under the First Amendment?  I don’t think so.  I think that George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and the rest would be appalled at this abuse and misuse of the First Amendment.

That said, what I find myself most offended by is the sheer waste.  Obviously some people have the intelligence to figure out how to hack into people’s email accounts, how to send out mass mailings, and how to extract hard-earned monies from trusting, unsuspecting innocent citizens.  What offends me, you ask?  What offends me is that with all the troubles in the world today, why should everybody have to be on their toes every minute of every day, never able to trust or believe that an email is actually what it purports to be, never able to simply respond.  What offends me is that I have to change my password every month and have 15,000 security questions to get on every website I regularly visit.  What offends me is that these presumably intelligent people could be contributing to making the world a better place, but instead they have chosen to use their techo-savvy to make it an uglier, darker place.  Instead of helping develop a cure for cancer, they prefer to find ways to convince people to give them their social security number.  Instead of defending wrongfully convicted citizens and helping serve the cause of justice, they prefer to bilk elderly people of their life savings.  And the list goes on.

Sadly, there is no way to halt the spamming and hacking and it is destined to become more prevalent as the 21st century progresses.  Any attempt to respond to a spam-mail will only result in an exponential increase of more of the same.  As a long-time student of Constitutional Law, I fully support the Constitution, but I am not a textualist and I firmly believe that this is not at all what the Founding Fathers intended when they drafted the Bill of Rights.  We need to curtail people’s “rights” to tread on our own rights.  Now, to end where I began:  Spammers, GET OUT OF MY LIFE AND STOP, CEASE AND DESIST SENDING ME MESSAGES!!!

On Voting: A Short Primer

In a mere twenty (20) months we will be electing a new president to head up the executive branch of the government of the U.S. You scoff? Twenty months? That’s nearly TWO YEARS!!! Why worry about it just yet? And I would agree with you. Fully. Completely. Totally. Except, the potential candidates and the national parties are already circling the wagons, seeking weak spots in both the opposition and their constituency. Thus, it behooves us to start building our fortress and filling our moats! Man the battlements! Okay, okay … overkill, I suppose, though it is sometimes how I feel. Already, with nearly two years remaining in President Obama’s term of office, we are being bombarded on a daily basis by propaganda from BOTH parties and I can only imagine that by the time election day 2016 rolls around, we will all be nauseous, disenchanted, relieved, or perhaps suicidal. That said, to parody a popular, yet totally meaningless saying, “it is what it is”, and we might as well make the most of it. So, if the national parties and the candidates have twenty months to bombard and annoy us, that also means that we have twenty months to actually enlighten, educate and prepare ourselves for the final decision in November 2016.

Now, I lean toward a specific ideology, which is embraced by a certain political party, however my purpose here is not to sway anybody toward either side, but merely to assist in the decision-making process. Though I may favor one party in particular, I am more nearly a moderate and have voted, from one time to the next, for candidates representing both parties. As a popular old saying goes, I vote for the candidate, not the party. I’ve never been a “straight-ticket” voter, and I don’t recommend it for anybody, as there are good, not-so-good, and downright bad people on both sides of the aisle. It is good to keep in mind that you are voting for the person who you think is best qualified for the office and will do what is best for the nation as a whole. I have a few guidelines to share today, when thinking about the “upcoming” elections.

1. Make a list: List ten issues that matter to you. The first five should be things that matter to you personally, that will have direct impact on your life. The other five should be more global issues that you consider to be of significant importance in a more global sense, things you care about and that will have long-term impact or consequences for the nation and the world.

2. Research: Starting with the first item on your list and working your way through the list, find every scrap of reliable information available about that issue, what each potential candidate has said about the issue in the past, say, five years, ten years. Remember that what the candidate says today may vary significantly from what he or she has said in the past, and may vary from his/her voting record in the past. Be sure to study both sides of the issue, not just the one that you favor, because

a. You should be aware of the reasons each side feels as they do
b. You need to be able to clarify, in your own mind, why you feel as you do

It is likely that your research will lead to additional questions and thoughts on the topic … follow up on these with your research as well.
3. Organize: Start a spreadsheet or other type of visual tool to organize the results of your research, listing the issues and cross-referencing with each potential candidate. Make footnotes if you have found a source particularly helpful.

4. Ignore: Virtually ALL propaganda!!! I cannot stress this enough. You are about to be bombarded by trash. You will be told stories of each candidate’s indiscretions, both political and personal. Some may have an element of truth, most will be 90%-95% lies. For the most part, I recommend completely ignoring and disregarding anything you see on either Facebook, Fox News, or any of the other radical or questionable new sources. Even most mainstream news, think ABC, NBC, CBS, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, are inept at telling a completely unbiased story. So … how, you ask, does one find the truth? Well, one looks to a broad variety of sources. I do use mainstream media, primarily print sources such as the Washington Post and New York Times, but I also rely on updates from Foreign Policy (both print and on-line editions) and Jerusalem Post for issues concerning the Middle East, Trove Today and Huffington Post for both national and international issues, and a wide variety of other sources as well. Where there are wide discrepancies, you will have to find other sources or use your instincts. The important thing is to use a broad variety, and never ever believe everything you see or hear, particularly on social media sites!!!

5. Understand: That no candidate will be perfect, no candidate will be 100% in line with your goals, beliefs and agenda, so it truly boils down to, as my father used to say, “the lesser of two evils”, or the candidate who shares the majority of your goals for the nation.
Voting is both a privilege and a responsibility that should never be taken lightly. The Preamble of the Constitution of the United States starts with a phrase, We The People. We the people are a very diverse group of human beings and each of us expect our elected officials to meet certain criteria which may vary wildly from one person to the next. We are truly blessed to live in a nation that not only tolerates, but encourages open and frank discussion among citizens. Use this wisely. Don’t let yourself be drawn into arguments that have no logical basis and exist solely for the sake of an argument. Remember that some people speak merely for the sake of hearing themselves talk. Listen … other opinions need not sway you, but sometimes you may learn from the wisdom of others. I steer clear of radicals on either side, recognizable by those who scream the loudest and are the most rigid in their thinking, convinced that their opinion is the only possible right answer. To sum up, start now doing your homework, and by the time election day rolls around in a short 20 months, you will be confident and secure that your decision is the right one for you. I am certain I shall be posting more over the course of the next twenty months, and I hope you will feel free to comment, whether you agree with me or not.