Jolly ICE CREAM Monday!!!

jollyGood morning, friends, and welcome!  It’s Jolly Monday time … the best way to start the new week!  Guess what!  Yesterday was National Ice Cream Day, but since you weren’t here yesterday, but you’re here today, we will have a slightly belated celebration!  I’ll have a bit of trivia for you in a minute, but first, the treats today are all different sorts of ice cream treats that Jolly and I spent half the night putting together!  Except, of course, for Benjamin’s sprinkled donut and juice box.  And David’s rhubarb crumble.  And Larry’s bacon.  So, grab whatever appeals to you and let’s learn a little bit about … ice cream!

 

 

 

bacon

Larry’s bacon


The origins of ice cream … here and there

cone-1Thousands of years ago, people in the Persian Empire put snow in a bowl, poured concentrated grape-juice over it, and ate it as a treat. Even when the weather was hot, they would savor this sweet treat. Their trick? They placed snow in underground chambers known as yakchal where the temperatures kept the snow from melting. The Persians also hiked to the mountain tops by their summer capital to gather snowfall.

The Chinese, under the Tang Dynasty around 697 AD, took to freezing dairy with salt and ice. However, the results aren’t exactly the ice cream we enjoy today. Frozen treats and beverages later, culinary folks point to Naples, Italy as the birthplace of the first ice cream. They give credit to Antonio Latini. He was born in 1642 and created a milk-based sorbet.

In the United States, the Quaker colonists earn the nod for bringing their ice recipes over with them. They opened the first ice cream shops, including shops in New York and other cities during the colonial era.  It was in 1984 that President Ronald Reagan proclaimed July as National Ice Cream Month and established National Ice Cream Day as the third Sunday in July.

cone-2And now that you know how it all came about, here’s a bit of trivia for you …

  • Ben Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson enjoyed ice cream.
  • 1813 -First Lady Dolley Madison served ice cream at the Inaugural Ball.
  • 1832 – African American confectioner, Augustus Jackson, created multiple ice cream recipes as well as a superior technique to manufacture ice cream.
  • 1843 – Philadelphian, Nancy Johnson, received the first U.S. patent for a small-scale hand-cranked ice cream freezer.
  • 1920 – Harry Burt puts the first ice cream trucks on the streets.

Thomas Jefferson’s recipe for Old Fashioned Vanilla Ice Cream is believed to be the oldest recipe for ice cream in the USA. The recipe below is provided by the Library of Congress.

Thomas-Jefferson-ice-cream-recipe


I figure since we’ve come this far, we might as well make the theme of this week’s Jolly Monday be ice cream … that okay with you guys?

Moving on then, here’s a funny story I found about ice cream …

A complaint was received by the Pontiac Division of General Motors.

“This is the second time I have written to you, and I don’t blame you for not answering me, because I sounded crazy, but it is a fact that we have a tradition in our family of having ice-cream for dessert after dinner each night, but the kind of ice cream varies. Every night, after we’ve eaten, the whole family votes on which kind of ice cream we should have, and I drive down to the store to get it. It’s also a fact that I recently purchased a new Pontiac and since then my trips to the store have created a problem…..

You see, every time I buy a vanilla ice-cream, when I start back from the store my car won’t start. If I get any other kind of ice-cream, the car starts just fine. I want you to know I’m serious about this question, no matter how silly it sounds. What is there about a Pontiac
that makes it not start when I get vanilla ice-cream and easy to start whenever I get any other kind?”

The Pontiac President was understandably skeptical about the letter, but sent an Engineer to check it out anyway.

The latter was surprised to be greeted by a successful, obviously well-educated man in a fine neighborhood. He had arranged to meet the man just after dinner time, so the two hopped into the car and drove to the ice-cream store. It was vanilla ice-cream that night and, sure enough,
after they came back to the car, it wouldn’t start.  The Engineer returned for three more nights. The first night, they got chocolate. The car started. The second night, he got strawberry. The car started. The third night he ordered vanilla. The car failed to start.

Now the Engineer, being a logical man, refused to believe that this man’s car was allergic to vanilla ice-cream. He arranged, therefore, to continue his visits for as long as it took to solve the problem. And toward this end he began to take notes: He jotted down all sorts of
data:  Time of day, type of gas used, time to drive back and forth etc.

In a short time, he had a clue: The man took less time to buy vanilla than any other flavor. Why? The answer was in the layout of the store. Vanilla, being the most popular flavor, was in a separate case at the front of the store for quick pickup. All the other flavors were kept in
the back of the store at a different counter where it took considerably longer to check out the flavor.

Now, the question for the Engineer was why the car wouldn’t start when it took less time. Eureka – Time was now the problem – not the vanilla ice-cream!!!!

The engineer quickly came up with the answer: “Vapor Lock”.

It was happening every night; but the extra time taken to get the other flavors allowed the engine to cool down sufficiently to start. When the man got vanilla, the engine was still too hot for the Vapor Lock to dissipate.


Humans are not the only ones who like ice cream, y’know …

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I cannot finish up Jolly Monday without a funny animal video, and I just happened to find one that ties in with the theme of the day!


I think I might like to try this flavour …ice-cream-7.jpg

Even Maxine loves ice cream!

Maxine-ice-cream


jollyAnd now, folks, it is time for you to go start your week off.  First, I might suggest that you walk or jog to work, to work off all those calories from the ice cream!  Remember to share a few of those smiles … um … wipe the ice cream from your mouth first, though!  Have a wonderful week, my friends!  Love ‘n hugs from Filosofa and Jolly!

Hate Talk

“These are the times that try men’s [and women’s] souls”, said Thomas Paine on 23 December 1776. What makes the times today so trying to our souls is, of course, the government that no longer represents the people, but even more disturbing is the way the head of said government is pitting us against each other. Our friend Hugh has written a piece that is well worth reading and thinking about. Are we falling for the rhetoric coming out of Washington to the extent that we are sacrificing our future? Thank you, Hugh, for your thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

hughcurtler

It has always been so: using emotive language to describe those people we detest reduces them to things. Such is the case with people we don’t happen to like — or want to kill in violent confrontations called “war.” Not long ago the Japanese were called “Japs,” and the Germans were called “Krauts.” We devise hateful names to describe those we hate and want to kill in the name of God and all that is good. It seems to work: it reduces human beings, as noted, to things to be dispensed with.

We now find ourselves living in a society in which our feckless leader has labelled his enemies in order to generate hatred of those things or people he has determined are his enemies — and therefore the enemies of us all. Thus are the Democrats now called “the party of crime. . .  too extreme and dangerous to…

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The Senate Stands Up To The Bully …

“We swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, including the First Amendment. Today, every senator upheld that oath by sending a message that we support the First Amendment, and we support the freedom of the press in the face of these attacks.” – Senator Brian Schatz, 16 August 2018

We should not need a Senate resolution to declare that the free press is not “the enemy of the people”.  It is rather akin to needing a Senate resolution to declare that parents should not beat their children to death, or men should not sexually abuse women.  It is already the damn law!  The U.S. Constitution protects the free press, so why do we need a Senate resolution to acknowledge the law?  Why?  Because we have a buffoon instead of a president who has, for 71 years, gotten what he wants by bullying, and he thinks he can still do that in the White House.

press-enemy-NixonSo, while we should not need the Senate to confirm that the press is not the enemy of the people, it is comforting to know that the Senate unanimously voted to confirm, for the sake of the madman in the Oval Office and his blind-faith followers who hang on his every word.

“Resolved, that the Senate affirms that the press is not the enemy of the people; reaffirms the vital and indispensable role that the free press serves to inform the electorate, uncover the truth, act as a check on the inherent power of the government, further national discourse and debate, and otherwise advance the most basic and cherished democratic norms and freedoms of the United States; and condemns the attacks on the institution of the free press and views efforts to systematically undermine the credibility of the press as an attack on the democratic institutions of the United States; and it is the sense of the Senate that it is the sworn responsibility of all who serve the United States by taking the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States to uphold, cherish, and protect the entire Constitution, including the freedom of the press.”

The resolution mentions a number of former leaders who have spoken on behalf of freedom of the press:

  • Benjamin Franklin in 1722 wrote, ‘‘Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing the Freeness of Speech.’’;

  • Thomas Jefferson in 1786 wrote, ‘‘Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.’’;


  • James Madison in 1789 introduced the freedom of the press in the Bill of Rights to the Constitution of the United States;


  • James Madison based the freedom of the press on the Declaration of Rights of the Commonwealth of Virginia, which in 1776 declared, ‘‘The freedom of the Press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic Governments.’’;


  • President Ronald Reagan proclaimed August 4, 1985, as Freedom of the Press Day, stating that ‘‘Freedom of the press is one of our most important freedoms and also one of our oldest.’’;


  • President Reagan also said, ‘‘Today, our tradition of a free press as a vital part of our democracy is as important as ever. The news media are now using modern techniques to bring our citizens information not only on a daily basis but instantaneously as important events occur. This flow of information helps make possible an informed electorate and so contributes to our national system of self-government.’’;


  • Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in International Soc. for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. v. Lee, 505 U.S. 672 (1992), ‘‘The First Amendment is often inconvenient. But that is beside the point. Inconvenience does not absolve the government of its obligation to tolerate speech.’’;


  • The United States Supreme Court also affirmed the history and intent of the freedom of the press in New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971), stating, ‘‘In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.’’;


  • Tyrannical and authoritarian governments and leaders throughout history have sought to undermine, censor, suppress, and control the press to advance their undemocratic goals and actions; and


  • The United States, including the long-held commitment to and constitutional protection of the free press in the United States, has stood as a shining example of democracy, self-government, and freedom for the world to emulate.

That this resolution was passed unanimously without a single dissenting vote even among the boot-lickers on the right side of the aisle, speaks volumes.  It tells us that even Mitch McConnell and all the rest are disturbed by Trump’s denigration of the press, and that they understand that the press is the only thing standing between a ‘president’ and a dictator.  However, it should be noted that this is only a non-binding resolution, meaning it does basically nothing more than send a message to Trump & Co saying that the Senate supports the free press and does not agree with Trump calling them the enemy of the people.  The law already exists in the form of the Constitution … we just need Congress to enforce that law upon the president.

How Far Is Too Far?

No president in modern times has escaped the criticism of the press.  It is a fact of life that if the press are doing their jobs, they will inevitably frustrate and even anger the president from time to time.  Most presidents, however, respect the Fourth Estate, realize that what they are doing is precisely what they are supposed to do, and try to work with them. Such is not the case with Donald Trump.

He has denigrated the legitimate press since long before he won the election, and has taken his press-bashing to new highs since taking office nearly a year ago.  But last week, he crossed yet another line of propriety.  His plan is to have a “Fake News Awards” presentation.

 “I will be announcing THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR on Monday at 5:00 o’clock. Subjects will cover Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories from the Fake News Media. Stay tuned!” – 8:05 PM – Jan 2, 2018

Apparently something came up that delayed his plans, possibly his feud on Sunday with the Wall Street Journal …

“The Fake News Awards, those going to the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media, will be presented to the losers on Wednesday, January 17th, rather than this coming Monday. The interest in, and importance of, these awards is far greater than anyone could have anticipated!” – 3:35 PM – 7 Jan 2018

fake news awards.jpgCan you imagine President Obama, or even President Bush speaking in this manner? Now, obviously this is not only poor form and poor taste, but is so beneath the dignity of the Oval Office, the office of the president, that we must ask ourselves if his advisors were even consulted. Surely John Kelly could not have condoned this idiocy?

Even as far back as Thomas Jefferson, presidents have had complaints about the press. In fact, according to a February 17, 2017 Washington Post article …

Jefferson-free-press“Thomas Jefferson was as irritated with newspaper coverage as any public figure of his era. For all the talk of media bias today, it can’t compare to the overt partisanship and personal attacks appearing in papers in our nation’s early years. But Jefferson also knew that our democracy could only flourish with a free press that would keep an eye on people in power and help protect our freedoms. He understood that press coverage comes and goes, but freedom of the press must endure.” – Ken Paulson, president of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center

Trump, on the other hand, has criticized the legitimate media since the day he threw his hat in the ring in June 2015, and I don’t think a single day has passed that we have not had to hear his cries of “fake news”, “lying press”, and worse.  He even went so far as to label the press “the enemy of the American people”. He has threatened on more than one occasion to ‘strengthen’ libel laws to keep the press from insulting him.  And this would all be a big joke, except …

Some people actually believe him.  He cavorts freely with Fox News and Breitbart, both homes of the conspiracy theorists, while shouting loudly about the ‘failing’ New York Times, and the ‘Amazon/Washington Post’.  In October, he called for the revocation of NBC’s broadcast license.  He has trod that fine line of trampling the constitutional right to a free press.  His minions have, more than once, criticized the press, not for getting facts wrong, for that is extremely rare, but for failing to agree with their boss.

The purpose of the press is to keep the public informed and hold those who serve in public office accountable for their actions, accountable to We The People.  Their job is not to be ‘yes-men’, always agreeing with the president.  In my opinion, they have treated him more kindly than I would have, or than I have, for that matter.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), is a non-profit organization that promotes press freedom and defends the rights of journalists around the globe.  They have responded to Trump’s ‘Fake News Awards’ with their own special awards …

From a January 8th Press Release:

CPJ recognizes global Press Oppressors amid Trump’s fake news awards

Acknowledging world leaders who attack and restrict press

New York, January 8, 2018–As U.S. President Donald Trump announces his “Fake Media” awards, the Committee to Protect Journalists names its global Press Oppressors–world leaders who use rhetoric, legal action, and censorship to try to silence their critics. The list features leaders from China, Egypt, Myanmar, Poland, Russia, Turkey, and the United States who have gone out of their way to attack the press and undermine the norms that support freedom of the media at a time when a record number of journalists are being jailed for their work.

“It’s staggering to see the extent to which some world leaders are so fearful of their critics and the truth,” said CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch, from Washington, D.C. “At a time when the number of journalists in prison globally is at a record high the failure of President Donald Trump and other leaders to stand up for press freedom risks weakening democracy and human rights.”

The Global Press Oppressors list includes four categories as well as an award for the Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom:

Most Thin-skinned

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey

Runner-Up: President Donald Trump, United States

Most Outrageous Use of Terror Laws Against the Press

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey

Runner-Up: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt

Tightest Grip on Media*

President Xi Jinping, China

Runner-Up: President Vladimir Putin, Russia

*This category excludes countries with no independent media, such as North Korea and Eritrea.

Biggest Backslider in Press Freedom

State Counselor and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar

Runner-Up: President Andrzej Duda, Poland

Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom

President Donald Trump, United States

Note to Editors: Copies of the Global Press Oppressors can be viewed at https://cpj.org/blog/2018/01/press-oppressor-awards-trump-fake-news-fakies.php

Are Trump’s “Fake News Awards” legal?  For him, sure, because he has immunity from executive branch ethical standards.  His staff, however, are a different matter.  According to a number of experts, including former Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub, and Norm Eisen, former special counsel for ethics for President Barack Obama, if White House staff members were involved, they would be in violation of the executive branch’s Standards of Ethical Conduct.

I do not imagine that there will be any charges levelled at staff members, and I expect Trump’s little ceremony will be a fiasco that will be applauded by his 37% followers.  What I would liketo see happen, what I think absolutely should happen, but won’t, is for the press to boycott Trump’s little ceremony.  Let Fox and Breitbard cover it, and the legitimate media put up a wall of silence.  That would deprive Trump and his little game of any sense of legitimacy, and perhaps he would get the message that We The People are sick and damned tired of him playing elementary school-type games and would like to have an adult in the White House.

I know it won’t happen, for all the news outlets depend on revenue, and “if it bleeds, it leads”, so we will no doubt see this silliness ad nauseam on Wednesday and for the rest of the week.  And yes, I will likely succumb and write another post about it also.  But beware, my friends, for this is just one more step in Trump’s attempt to oppress our free press by convincing his followers that the mainstream media are ‘dishonest’ and ‘lying’, as he has been telling them all along.  Remember … Democracy Dies in Darkness.

Love of Country

The survival of our freedoms in this nation relies on good governance. Good governance relies on informed voters. We can only have informed voters if we have educated voters. Friend and fellow-blogger Hugh Curtler has summed it all up nicely for us and I urge you to read this most thought-provoking post. Our current system is in peril from those who believe there is little value in educating all people to think for themselves rather than blindly follow, as lemmings off a cliff. Thank you, Hugh, for this post and for allowing me to share your thoughts.

hughcurtler

Back in July of 2012 I wrote this post about the relationship between education and democracy, a relationship I, like many others, consider essential. A part of that discussion is about patriotism, and given today’s sudden interest in the notion, featuring many who have no idea whatever what the word means, I thought it timely to trot out the post and ask readers to consider it once again. I have modified the post a bit to bring it up to date.

Years ago John Dewey wrote a book titled Democracy and Education in which he argued convincingly that a democratic system required an educated citizenry. In fact, Dewey went so far as to insist that the purpose of education is to turn out citizens who are enlightened enough to select their leaders and understand what they are up to. It’s not about jobs or self-esteem; it’s about gaining control…

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Kentucky Governor Strikes Again …

“The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian Religion.” 1797, The Treaty of Tripoli, initiated by President Washington, signed by President John Adams, and approved by the Senate of the United States

Recently I wrote a post about Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin because of his ridiculous notion that the solution to gun violence was to have roving ‘prayer groups’ throughout the city of Louisville.  Today, I find I must re-visit Governor Bevin, for he has crossed a line that I find intolerable.

church-state“Separation of church and state” is paraphrased from Thomas Jefferson and used by others expressing an understanding of the intent and function of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Governor Bevin is a former businessman, and apparently has very little knowledge of the Constitution, and the same must surely be true for the members of the state legislature.  For last week, Governor Bevin signed into law HB-128:

“AN ACT relating to Bible literacy courses in the public schools.

Create a new section of KRS Chapter 156 to require the Kentucky Board of Education to promulgate administrative regulations to establish an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible; require that the course provide to students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy; permit students to use various translations of the Bible for the course; amend KRS 158.197 to permit a school council to offer an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible.”

The Kentucky House of Representatives is currently comprised of 100 members, 64 of whom are republicans.  The Kentucky Senate is currently comprised of 38 members, 27 (71%) of whom are republicans.  There seems to be a disconnect between the state of Kentucky and the rest of the nation, for most of us understand that religion is not to be taught in public, taxpayer-funded schools.  It crosses a line. Yet, this law allows Kentucky schools to teach from and about the Bible, a document that is unique to one religion, the Christian religion.

Within the United States, there are nine major religions outside of Christianity.  There are also a number of Native American religions, as well as those who identify as agnostics, atheists, secularists, or simply ‘unaffiliated’.  In fact, the percentage of Christians in the U.S. has dropped from 93% of the population in 1962 to just 70.6% in 2014, according to Pew Research Center.

According to Bevin, “The idea that we would not want this to be an option for people in school, that would be crazy. I don’t know why every state would not embrace this, why we as a nation would not embrace this.”

church-state-2According to the bill, the courses must discuss all aspects of the Bible — such as characters, poetry, and narratives — because they are “prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture.”  Excuse me, but only the culture and society of Christianity … what about the rest of us?

The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2) establishes that the Constitution, federal laws made pursuant to it, and treaties made under its authority, constitute the supreme law of the land. It provides that state courts are bound by the supreme law; in case of conflict between federal and state law, the federal law must be applied.

Why does it matter?  Apart from the illegality, it matters for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that non-Christian parents will almost certainly have strenuous objections to their children being taught another religion that may be contrary to their own.  Think about it this way … how would Christian parents react if they found their child was being taught the Qur’an in their public school?

It matters because religion is a very private, personal choice, and even among Christians, there are numerous sects who practice their religion in a variety of ways.  It matters because, while the intention of the Kentucky law is said to be simply to use the Bible as a teaching tool for literature, art, culture, history, etc., there is a fine line between that and pushing beliefs. It is, after all, Kentucky, one of the most homophobic states in the nation.

If there were to be any fairness in this law, then they would also teach from the Qur’an, the Talmud, the Tripitaka, the I Ching, and … well, you get the picture.  At this point, the schools would no longer be teaching Math, History, Literature, Science, or anything but religion.  We send our children to school to learn to think for themselves, not to be told how to think.

Then, of course, there is the taxpayer’s viewpoint.  I willingly pay taxes and am happy to support public schools, however I draw the line at paying for children to learn a religion.  Teaching religion is the responsibility of parents and churches, if the parents so choose.  It is not John Q. Taxpayers responsibility.

Mind you that I have nothing against Christianity, though it is not my own.  I also have nothing against Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Jain, or a hundred other religions. I believe everyone should have the freedom of religion, but also the freedom from religion.  When it becomes a part of public school education, or workplace mores, then it is taking rights away from some and it is tearing down the fundamental premise of separation of church and state.

The most likely outcome is that the law will be challenged in the courts and ultimately struck down as being unconstitutional.  That is the right and proper outcome.  However, it will take time and money – taxpayers’ money.

Just Another Day … 04 July 2017

On Tuesday, 4 July, the nation will celebrate the anniversary of publication of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776.

A bit of history: The first description of how Independence Day would be celebrated was in a letter from John Adams to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776. He described “pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations” throughout the United States. However, the term “Independence Day” was not used until 1791.

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Jefferson & Adams

A bit of trivia: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both signers of the Declaration of Independence and presidents of the United States, died on July 4, 1826 – exactly 50 years after the adoption of the declaration.

Today, most families celebrate the holiday pretty much as described by John Adams, with parades, picnics, and at the end of the day, fireworks.

To be sure, there are still plenty of good things about this nation.  There are a multitude of “good people doing good things”, as I point out every Wednesday.  And there are many, many people who are fighting every day for truth, justice, and equal rights for all.  We have beautiful lakes, mountains and forests. And as of this writing, we are relatively free from oppression, we have a relatively free press and freedom to speak our minds, else I would not be writing this blog.  However …

This year, I must admit that I have no joy over the holiday.  Always in the past, I have felt proud of what had been accomplished in our nation in just two centuries, was proud to be a citizen of the United States.  No country is perfect, and I understood the flaws of our government and our citizenry, but still … it was a pretty damn good country.  Today, however, I am not all that proud of this nation.  I am ashamed and disgusted.  I have even wondered if perhaps we would have been better off to have remained a colony of the crown.

Much of my shame, of course, comes from what has become of the office of the president.  Even though we have had some less-than-noble men sitting in the Oval Office before, it has never been as thoroughly defiled as it has been over the past five months.  The policies and ideologies of the current administration are in direct contrast to those put forth by the framers of the Constitution, who began that document with the words:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

To celebrate 241 years, even as our citizens are being deprived of adequate, affordable health care, are being deprived of clean air and water, deprived of a solid education for their children, seems wrong.  Our African-American citizens are often being abused, targeted by the very officers of the law who should be protecting them, and are not given justice for any of it.  Our tax dollars go to buy guns, tanks and bombs, not to provide basic necessities for our poor and elderly.  So no, I find no pride in my heart for the government of this nation. At its head is a ‘man’ who is vulgar, crass, and respects no one. It is comprised of rich, corrupt men who care not a whit for the citizens … not a whit.

But my shame and disappointment goes much deeper than just the people in the White House and Congress, for they shall pass through quickly enough (we hope) and be replaced with other, hopefully more conscionable politicians.  The deepest part of my shame is with my fellow citizens.

I am ashamed that a large portion of this country believe that they are superior to others because of the colour of their skin.  I am ashamed that many have chosen to hate and even murder others because they do not share the same religion.  I am ashamed of those who cannot accept that a person may fall in love with another of the same gender.  I am ashamed that people are more willing to fight to carry lethal weapons than they are to fight for their children.  I am ashamed that people have reverted to the racism of the past without learning from the lessons of history.  I am ashamed of the people who would turn away refugees from the Middle East and send them to an almost certain death.  I am ashamed when I hear people promoting violence against their fellow humans at rallies and protests, that some still have not learned the art of ‘peaceful’ protest.  I am ashamed that so many are willing to sacrifice our very planet out of ignorance.  I am ashamed that so many refuse to learn facts, but rather accept as fact whatever they are told. I am ashamed of those who use their religion as a shield, but judge people by the colour of their skin and refuse to offer assistance to those in need.

Most of all, I am saddened by the vileness and hate I read about every day.  Certainly it is natural that we are not all going to agree on everything, that there will be debates and disputes, but today in this nation, there is pure, ugly hate.  The person who is supposed to be a leader incites violence, tells people to punch others and he will cover their legal fees.  A man recently elected to Congress beat up a reporter who was just doing his job the night before he was elected.

For me, all of this makes it very difficult to celebrate a day that should be about being proud of our nation, for I am not at all proud right now.  In my household, Tuesday will be just another day.  There will be no grill-out, no parades, no fireworks.  I shall write, my daughter will study, and Miss Goose will no doubt draw.  And we will be content in our own skins, but I think none of us will be particularly proud of what our nation has become.  I find no reason for a celebration this July fourth.  For me, it is just another day.

lady liberty cries

GOP Candidate Violated Separation of Church and State

I am going to just tippy-toe into this one and try to come out relatively unscathed.  Shhhhh …. no loud noises that might give me away, please.  I just want to come out with my hide intact and at least a few friends left.  The topic, as you may have guessed, involves religion, though it is not a post about religion per se, but rather a post about the role of religion in U.S. government, more specifically in the election campaigns currently assailing us.

Let us first get a few facts straight.  Though the actual term ‘separation of church and state’ is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, the following clauses make it quite clear that the framers of that document intended to keep religion out of government, as well as government out of religion:

  • “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” – Article VI, U.S. Constitution
  • “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” – 1st Amendment, U.S. Constitution
thomas

Thomas Jefferson

The term “separation of church and state” is attributed to Thomas Jefferson in 1802, when he wrote: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1879, in the case of Reynolds v The United States  that Jefferson’s comments “may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [First] Amendment.”  Then again in   Everson v Board of Education (1947) , Justice Hugo Black wrote: “In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state.”  So just to be clear, there is, or should be, no doubt that the separation of church and state is woven into the very foundation of the structure of our government and has been upheld by the United States Supreme Court, thus making it the law of the land.

Now, given that there is no dispute that religion has no role in governmental affairs, why did the Republican presumptive nominee make this statement:  “we don’t know anything about Hillary in terms of religion.”  I understand some deny that he said it, since the venue was closed to all press, but there is a video taken by one of the religious leaders in attendance, so I think it is indisputable that he said it.  What is not clear is why he said it.  Hillary Clinton’s religion, or Donald Trump’s for that matter, has absolutely no relevance to the political campaign nor does it speak to their qualifications for the office of president.  I do not know, nor do I need to know, nor do I wish to know what religion, if any, either of them ascribe to.  It makes just as much difference as what their favourite ice cream flavour is!  It is irrelevant to their candidacy.  Period.

The other, equally if not more disturbing news in this arena is that Trump has announced his appointment of an “evangelical executive advisory board” to lead a larger “Faith and Cultural Advisory Committee” that will be announced later in June.  Now, if the candidate simply wants a group of people that he can call on for his own personal religious needs, that is none of my business and I do not care.  However, I am appalled by this statement: “I have such tremendous respect and admiration for this group and I look forward to continuing to talk about the issues important to Evangelicals, and all Americans, and the common sense solutions I will implement when I am President.”  Excuse me, but is he saying that he plans to learn what issues are important to ‘all Americans’ from this particular group of evangelicals?  Because evangelicals do not represent the whole of the American people, they do not represent me, and from what I know about these particular people (more on that in a minute) I do not share their values on any topic!

church-stateIn order to prepare for any potential role in government, especially the highest office in the land, Donald Trump needs political advisors.  He needs foreign policy advisors, economic advisors, national security advisors, but he does not need religious advisors.  In fact, it is highly inappropriate for him to form his potential governmental policies based on the advice of a small handful of people from a single religion!  It is unconstitutional!

Let us look at the list, as it stands at this time:

  • Michele Bachmann – Former Congresswoman (also America’s #2 Bimbo – why is she even here???)
  • A.R. Bernard – Senior Pastor and CEO, Christian Cultural Center
  • Mark Burns – Pastor, Harvest Praise and Worship Center
  • Tim Clinton –President, American Association of Christian Counselors
  • Kenneth and Gloria Copeland – Founders, Kenneth Copeland Ministries
  • James Dobson – Author, Psychologist and Host, My Family Talk
  • Jerry Falwell, Jr. – President, Liberty University
  • Ronnie Floyd – Senior Pastor, Cross Church
  • Jentezen Franklin – Senior Pastor, Free Chapel
  • Jack Graham – Senior Pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church
  • Harry Jackson – Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church
  • Robert Jeffress – Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Dallas
  • David Jeremiah – Senior Pastor, Shadow Mountain Community Church
  • Richard Land – President, Southern Evangelical Seminary
  • James MacDonald – Founder and Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel
  • Johnnie Moore – Author, President of The KAIROS Company
  • Robert Morris – Senior Pastor, Gateway Church
  • Tom Mullins – Senior Pastor, Christ Fellowship­
  • Ralph Reed –Founder,Faith and Freedom Coalition
  • James Robison– Founder, Life OUTREACH International
  • Tony Suarez – Executive VicePresident, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
  • Jay Strack – President, Student Leadership University
  • Paula White – Senior Pastor, New Destiny Christian Center
  • Tom Winters – Attorney, Winters and King, Inc.
  • Sealy Yates – Attorney, Yates and Yates

 

These are not merely religious leaders, they are, with the exception of Bachman (and who knows how she fell into this group), radical right-wing religious haters.  They do not promote peace and love, they promote racism, bigotry and hate.  Every single one have spoken against the LGBT community.  Every single one are against a woman’s right to abortion.  They are against same-sex marriage.  The ‘advice’ of these people would completely unravel the social progress that has been made, ever so slowly, over the past decade! At least one made racist remarks regarding the Trayvon Martin case.  They are pro-gun rights.  They in no way represent anybody of moderate or liberal values.  It would be most inappropriate, and I should think a dis-qualifying factor, for Mr. Trump to seek policy advice from this group of religious radicals.

Look at the list, pick a few of the names and search them on Google.  Read about their beliefs, their past activities, their political stands.  Then ask yourself the following questions:  Do I really want these people to make the decisions that will affect not only me, but the entire nation in which I live?  And do I really want a president who thinks the opinions of these people are more important than those of experts in the fields of foreign policy, economics, health care, environment, and national security?

There are many, many different religions in the world, most of which can be found within the borders of the United States, since the nation was, in part, founded on the concept of religious freedom. There are also those who are secularists, atheists, agnostics, or just undecided as yet.  To base policy on a single religion is to exclude all the rest of the nation, to exclude, in fact, the majority of our citizens. Think about it.

church-state2

Campaigns 2016 … Where is the Dignity?

It is quickly becoming apparent to me that this election war is not going to be fought on the battlefields of policy, the trenches of qualifications, nor the foxholes of experience, but in the murky fields of sleaze and scandal.  I and a handful of others stand at Gettysburg, Shiloh, and Fort Sumter, muskets loaded, awaiting the arrival of our counterparts, but they are off wallowing in the pig sties of filth, slop, and lies.  What gives?

I admit that I am quick to bash Trump on a variety of issues, such as his lies, his lack of government experience, and his racist ideology, if one can call it an ideology. However, I have mostly left alone his personal past, believing instead that our choice of a leader should be predicated on knowledge and understanding of the job at hand, the qualifications of the candidate, and on the direction the nation is going and needs to go.  But I am beginning to feel very much alone on this train.  The rest of the nation, it seems, would rather focus on Trump’s relationship with women and Clinton’s husband’s affairs.  I would rather know what the candidates see as our role in the Middle East than what they see as their role in the bedroom. I would prefer to know their level of commitment toward environmental issues than the size of their … hands.

mud2Perhaps, looking back, this circus that we are calling an election season has been coming to town for a long time now.  In 1796, Alexander Hamilton, writing under the pen name “Phocion,” attacked Thomas Jefferson on the pages in Gazette of the United States, a federalist paper in Philadelphia, claiming that Jefferson was having an affair with one of his slaves (which, of course, turned out to be true). In the same election, Adams supporters also claimed that Jefferson’s election would result in a civil war, that he would free the slaves, and that he was an atheist. GASP!!! In response, Jefferson referred to Adams as “old, querulous, bald, blind, crippled, toothless Adams.” Tsk, tsk … such maturity.

mud4In the 1828 election between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, the mudslinging went to extremes.  One of Adams’s supporters, a Philadelphia printer named John Binns, produced a variety of handbills, known as the Coffin Handbills. One of the handbills accused Jackson of being a cannibal, saying that after massacring over 500 Indians one evening, “the bloodthirsty Jackson began again to show his cannibal propensities, by ordering his Bowman to dress a dozen of these Indian bodies for his breakfast, which he devoured without leaving even a fragment.” Another of Adams’ supporters, Charles Hammond, claimed that “General Jackson’s mother was a common prostitute brought to this country by British soldiers. She afterwards married a mulatto man, with whom she had several children, of which General Jackson is one!!!” Jackson’s followers, meanwhile, accused Adams of providing an American girl for the “services” of the Russian czar when Adams was ambassador to Russia. They branded Adams “Pimp to the Coalition”.

1844 Democrats backing James K. Polk claim that Henry Clay had sex with whores and, furthermore, broke all 10 of the commandments; in lieu of evidence, they declared simply that the details are “too disgusting to appear in public print.”  Today, I am certain, the details would appear in at least some publications.  In the 1912 contest between Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft, Roosevelt referred to Taft as a “fathead” and “puzzlewit”. Puzzlewit … I rather like that one!  And then, who can forget the Obama campaign accusing Mitt Romney of tying the family dog to the roof of a car?  And then there was the ‘birther’ issue that was trumped up by … well, you know.

mud3Okay, so all the wallowing amongst the pigs is nothing new to election campaigns, but is it productive?  If there is any benefit to this style of campaigning, I certainly cannot see what it is.  In 2012, CNN referred to the mudslinging campaigns of both Romney and Obama as similar to the familiar acronym ‘MAD’ … mutually assured destruction.  I think that pretty much sums it up.  There is more harm than good to come from these types of campaigns.  Who is to blame?  Certainly the candidates themselves, as they must approve all advertisements for their campaign, and more to the point, they are the very ones slinging the slop.  But there is plenty of blame to go around, and the media is deserving of their fair share.  I include both mainstream media, particularly Fox News and CNN, but also social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  I am very close to abandoning my Facebook account for this very reason.  And lastly, We The People must bear our share, the lion’s portion, I believe, of the blame.  The public is all too quick to jump on the bandwagon at the slightest hint of a scandal while at the same time appearing bored by talk of foreign policy, economics, environment, and other serious issues that we need to be discussing. There is a saying in the media, “If it bleeds, it leads”.  It is our fascination with scandal and sensationalism that leads the media to focus on the irrelevant.  And it is the media’s focus that drives the candidates in their quest for more airtime, more free advertising.

The U.S. election process seems to be becoming more of a spectator sport or a reality program than a serious venue for the exchange of ideas to help us choose the most qualified of two candidates.  My take?  If you want drama and excitement, or you want to see people having sex or comparing body parts, yelling, ranting and raving, watch television.  My advice?  To the candidates, I say speak softly, intelligently, and refuse to lower yourselves to the level of a pig.  To the voters, I implore you to demand serious answers to serious questions and refuse to be swayed by the pure crap that has become ‘Election 2016.’