Friday, December 31, 2010

Law enforcement officers protect us, let's protect them

On this New Year’s Holiday, I would like to step back from the normal blog to tell a personal story that will never leave my memory.

On a pleasant summer afternoon when I was 12 years old, the family went for an outing. My father drove the car with my mother next to him in the front seat. My brother and I were in the back seat, he on the passenger’s side and I on the driver’s side. The windows were down because it was hot. We were all talking while I was fighting with my brother.

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, four guys on motorcycles quickly passed our car. The speed and noise gave everyone except my father a fright. He had seen the bikes coming from a long way off in the rearview mirror so he was prepared. The guys on the bikes thought they saw a familiar face and slowed down dramatically. My father had to slow the car down to avoid hitting them because they were taking up both sides of the road and he couldn’t pass them. As they recognized my dad, one stayed in front to keep our car in check while the others slowed to come up beside the driver’s side of the car.

Sitting just behind my father in the car with the window down, I had a front row seat to something this country boy hadn’t seen very often. They starting yelling obscenities at my father at the same time they were giving me the evil eye. After a few more obscene jesters, they drove on ahead and disappeared from sight.

Everyone in the car starting asking my father what that was all about. We were all scared and in shock. My father, the quite guy he was, didn’t say much other than he had put them in jail one time.

My father was a cop in the Shelby Police Department. It was something he had always wanted to be and was very proud of it. The Detroit Police had stricter guidelines so he wasn’t able to join the force there. He did finally get on the force at Shelby and retired from there after many years.

The bad guys are out there. They would love to know more about the police so they can carry out attacks of terror and seek revenge for whatever punishment they received for the crimes they had committed. The above story is just one of many my father and family experienced over the years. It is likely that thousands take place every day in America to other officers and families.

In Tacoma, Washington, a man convicted of stalking and assault has asked for the names, addresses and other personal information of police officers that work for the city. He has requested the information through the Freedom of Information act. The Tacoma Police Union Local No. 6 has filed a motion with the courts to prevent the individual from receiving the information on the officers. Unless the courts place an injunction on the request, the bad guys, like those mentioned above, will be able to get all the information they need to carry out attacks on the officers and the families in their homes.

It was announced in the past couple of days by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund that more law enforcement officers have lost their lives in the line of duty in 2010 than in 2009. The number of deaths in 2010 spiked to 160 from an almost 40 year low of 117 in 2009. As a law enforcement officer, the risk of losing your life is very real.

The right of people to know who is working for the government and what they are doing is not an absolute right. When there is a real risk that innocent people will be hurt by the right to know, then the community must prevent it from happening. In the Tacoma case, the courts need to block not only this individual from receiving the information, but all such requests need to be prevented.

It is important that the citizens of a community have oversight of their government. But, in the case of law enforcement officers, who place their lives on the line, there is plenty of oversight by the city government. There is no need to provide the personal information that would endanger so many lives.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

End of story, Joe

As a follow up to yesterday’s post, a federal judge has cleared the way for U. S. Senator Lisa Murkowski to take her seat in the new session of congress that begins January 3, 2011. Murkowski ran as a write-in candidate during the last general election after losing in the primary to fellow republican and Tea Party favorite, Joe Miller.

Miller contested the Alaskan election commissions’ decision to accept write-in votes that were clear as to their intent, if not the correct spelling of Murkowski’s name. After exhausting his challenges in state courts, including the Alaskan Supreme Court, Miller asked a federal court to rule on the election.

Federal District Judge Ralph Beistline released the injunction he had placed on the election. The judge ruled that, "Generally speaking, the Alaska Supreme Court is the final expositor of Alaska law. That must be the case here."

Federal courts have consistently ruled that unless civil rights are violated that evokes the Fourteenth Amendment, elections are a matter for each state to set and arbitrate. The Constitution clearly states that it is up to each state who they send to represent them in congress.

End of story, Joe.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In Alaska, they have the basis for a reality show

Lisa Murkowski, the Republican primary loser in the Alaskan Senate race, decided she wanted to run as a write-in candidate in the general election. Joe Miller, the Republican winner in the primary thought he would only be running against the Democrat. Murkowski won the election as an independent write-in against both the Republican and the Democrat.

Miller is a poor loser. Almost more than two months out, he is still contesting the election. After working his way through the state courts and the state supreme court, Miller is taking his case to federal court. His issue is that he wouldn’t have lost by as many voters in the general election if it weren’t for the state election commission’s decision to count a vote on the write-in portion of the ballet if the voters intention was clear. The state courts gave Murkowski a win with 10,328 votes including the contested ballets. But, Miller says Murkowski won by only 2,169 votes.

Are you confused? Murkowski still wins if Miller wins in Federal Court? There is an important issue here, but Miller isn’t telling the whole truth.

Without being in Miller’s head, it sounds like Miller wants to cut the lead so he can ask for another recount. With only 2,169 votes to overcome, it is possible that he could turn the election around and take the Senate seat away from Murkowski.

But, to the rest of us, there is an even bigger issue here. The Alaskan Election Commission decided before counting the contested ballets, that as long as long as it was clear who the voter intended to vote for, they would count the vote. After reviewing the circumstances, the state courts, including the state supreme court, ruled in favor of the Alaskan Election Commission. This sounds like the hanging “chad” problem from the Bush-Gore election. In that election, voters needed to punch out a hole to cast their vote for a candidate. Some of the “chads” from the punch out were left hanging, so those votes were in question. In this election, the commission decided that even if the name of Murkowski or any other write-in candidate was misspelled, if it looked like one of the names, they would count it.

Mercowski, Murcoowski, Mercowsomething, Mcowskyed and perhaps many other spellings would be accepted by the election commission in Alaska as being for Murkowski. Miller’s beef is that the commission made up a new law with the “as long as it was clear” rule. He says the commission not only over stepped its bounds as defined by law, but didn’t even open up for public comment on the ruling before starting the counting of the contested ballots. Of course, we would still be waiting for the public comment part of the process to be over with even now if the commission had.

More directly stated, the commission has made a ruling on the election that Miller says isn't clearly stated in the election law. There could be a section of the law that gave the power to the commission to make just a ruling, but isn’t clear here. What is important here is the separation of powers and the right of each state to set its own election rules.

As a principle of the Constitution, although never stated used, is the term “separation of powers.” The Alaskan legislature empowered the election commission to make decisions on the voting process. If a candidate has concerns with the results, they can take it to the state courts. It is a challenge of one branch’s authority by another. In this case, if the state legislature, through the election commission, over stepped its bounds, another branch of government can decide if it did, in this case, the state courts. The state courts have done just that. With a small detour here, the courts ruled that the outcome of the election would not have been different even if the commission had made a decision beyond the powers granted to them.

As for taking the case to the federal courts, the Constitution clearly states that elections are a state function. Unless Miller’s rights were violated in a way that would evoke the Fourteenth Amendment, the Federal Court should pass on any review.

Miller was a Tea Party candidate. The Tea Party has strong concerns about the Federal government getting involved in our lives. Yet, as soon as things don’t go Miller’s way, he looks to the Feds to give him help.

This election is over and the challenges need to stop.


Friday, December 24, 2010

The pedophile's book is free speech

Do not think there is any support in this blog post for the disgusting pedophile this post is about. But sometimes, our most important freedoms in a community are articulated in the defense of someone who has done something terribly wrong.

By now, many may be aware that Philip Greaves II has written a book called, “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover’s Code of Conduct.” The book has been called an instruction manual for abusing children. He claims it is a book meant to help men “avoid taking action that would cause them to be arrested.” In the book, he says, it discusses how men “can go about to improve their own lives.” But, apparently, it isn’t how to stop abusing minors, to seek help or to turn themselves in if they have had sex with a minor. It is how to keep their action legal. News articles state that he has sold 14 books.

Greaves, responding to a request from the sheriff department of Polk County in central Florida portraying themselves to be an interested person, sent a copy of his book from his Colorado home. Apparently in Colorado there aren’t any laws that would allow Greaves to be arrested. But, in Florida, the obscenity laws make it a crime to distribute material of an obscene nature depicting minors engaged in conduct that is harmful to them. In the book, Greaves writes about two encounters, real or not, about sex between a man and a 9 and 13 year old boy.

The author claims that it is a freedom of speech issue through his lawyer. Although, news articles about the arrest, Greaves himself has never taken that stand. Perhaps he will now. At Greaves’ arraignment, his lawyer claimed that the book is just words, not action. The prosecutor in the case, says that not only are the scenes in the book obscene, but that words can turn into action.

This case is certainly a speech issue. No right is absolute, so when action harms someone else, it needs to limited. In this case, the words in the book themselves do not harm anyone. The sheriff’s claims that the scenes depicted in the book are obscene is not enough to warrant arrest.

But, the sheriff’s claims that words can turn into action does have some merit. This is especially true because the words are about an illegal activity that is particularly repulsive to the culture. If someone using the book as a guide turn the words into action, it could do great harm to a minor, his family and the community.

It will be a tough case to find a path between protected speech and the sensibilities of the community. As an example, it is well understood that we do have freedom of speech unless we incite a riot. At that point, the speaker can be held accountable for the actions of the rioters.

But, what of a radio talk show hosts that may say someone needs to take action against a politician? Conservative talk radio hosts have been vilified by the liberals over the risk that their words will incite someone to attack a disliked politician. In their defense, conservatives have said that words are just words and the action of someone is their own responsibility. But, the sheriff of Polk County, a republican and a supporter of conservative causes, says that words have the chance to cause action and Greaves should be held responsible even before the action happens.

The subject of Greaves book is disgusting. It is not fiction which could be brushed aside. It is not a research paper that reports on how to treat pedophiles. It isn’t a legal advice book written by a lawyer to help people resolve their legal issues. It is a book, as even the title states, that guides pedophiles in their love relationships with minor children.

This book needs to be stopped. But, finding the very thin line between free speech and this view on the subject matter is difficult to impossible at best. Better to error on the side of free speech than censorship. At the very least, the community now has a better understanding of the issue because of this book. This knowledge can now be used to help prevent a very repugnant crime.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The wall of separation

Yes, correct, the phrase, “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution.

The phrase, “right to privacy” doesn’t exist in the Constitution either. “The right to a fair trial”, “separation of powers,” “state’s rights” and “federalism” aren’t in the document as well. Who would deny that we don’t have a right to privacy or a right to a fair trial. All of these expressions are metaphors used to explain constitutional principals.

Politicians often create glib expressions and statements to support their point of view. One of the newest is “since the phrase wall of separation between church and state isn’t in the Constitution, the authors didn’t intend to keep religion out of government.” If that is true, the authors could have written a more direct statement in the First Amendment in support of religion and its role in the newly formed government.

The phrase “separation of church and state” is thought to have been first written by Thomas Jefferson. It was in a letter written to the Danbury Baptists who agreed with the founders that the Constitution was a guide to the civil government of the country. Their leader, Roger Williams, used the phrase before Jefferson. Williams believed that there needs to be a “wall of separation” to describe the relationship between church and state. He and many living at the time know well the corruption that follows when the civil government of a community has too close of a relationship with any with religion. Thomas Jefferson echoed this belief in his letter.

Religion is only mentioned in the Constitution twice. Both times it is to limit the role of religion. Of course, there is the First amendment that expressly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It is to be read that government is not to make any law that establishes or prevents any religion. That means that government is to stay entirely out of religious activity.

The second time is in Article VI. The third paragraph states that:

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

An oath is to be taken supporting “this Constitution” not a deity and that no “religious test shall ever be required” to hold any office or public trust in the Federal government and all the states. Powerful words that can only be interpreted one way, that everyone who is involved in the government; elected or not, at the federal or state level; must be true to the Constitution and not a deity.

It is a dangerous game if we allow religion to have a say in government. Let’s stay true to the Constitution and keep religion as a matter of personal worship.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Road commissions are getting the heat

Road commissions everywhere are feeling the heat after the winter storm that hit Oakland County and other areas of the country.

In Oakland County, Michigan, the last snow fall wasn’t really that bad. Historically, it was just about average for a winter storm. It dumped about three inches on top of icy slush. The drive to work on Monday morning was slow going and dangerous. Some people took up to two or three hours to get to work because of accidents caused by road conditions.

The road commission is being blamed for the mess when we only have ourselves to blame.

Municipalities are under tremendous stress because of budget short falls in the last couple of years. The tax system that has been developed to provide funding for all the services we have come to expect from city and county governments is flawed. With housing values falling, foreclosures taking homes, income dropping from those that are still working and unemployment reaching record levels, the flow of cash has been reduced.

No one wants to pay more for anything, including taxes, for the goods and services that we need. On a personal basis, much of what we purchase are things that we really don’t need and can be placed on hold until we have better income. But, much of what we spend our money on is for the important things like fuel to get around, insurance and health care.

Cities and counties provide some of the most basic services. Police and fire protection, water, sewer services and road maintenance. When budgets are cut because of the loss of tax revenue, those services need to be curtailed or eliminated.

Politicians only have two choices when it comes to budgets. They can either cut expenses or raise taxes. Right now, they are cutting expenses on some of the most needed services. In some cases, they are eliminating the some services completely. Some municipalities are disbanding their police protection or are partnering with other communities to share their fire services.

Raising taxes seems to be out of the question for most politicians. The anti tax movement in the United States has taken hold of the voters. Residents won’t even examine the situation that their community is in to consider a short term tax increase. This would allow the services that are important to a community to be maintained while moving through the slow economy.

There is the argument that raising taxes would increase the cost and harm a recovery. But, better the cost you know than the one you don’t. If the situation of curtailing services continues such as road maintenance during a winter storm, social costs are going to rise. These costs we often don’t know the exact amount and once they are part of the cost structure, they are difficult to impossible to get out. Keep in mind, people that arrive to work late cost their employers money that goes into the cost of the product. Every accident that is a result of poorly cleared roads during a snow storm will increase insurance rates. Pot holes and broken pavement increases the cost of auto repairs. The increase in crime because of poor police protection will have an effect on the cost of everything. Fire protection that is subpar will allow fires to destroy more, increasing the cost of building materials and insurance. The cost of curtailing services will also mean people will lose their lives.

Communities need to do two things. First, they must decide what level of services is important to the safety of the community. This can be set by the residents but most also consider industry standards, social costs and the priorities of other communities. Then, they need to understand that in order to sustain the level of service that they expect, there needs to be a tax revenue stream that provides enough funding. That means that during a slow economy, as we are experiencing, there may need to be a short term tax increase to get the community through.

No one, as said before, wants to pay more than necessary for anything, including taxes. But, paying less than what is needed to maintain an adequate level of services only means that the social cost of everything else will increase.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Govenment should not be involved in morality

Government has no compelling reason to involved themselves in morality, only the law.

In Auburn Hills, Michigan, Planned Parenthood has purchased a building to convert into a clinic. 60 pro-life advocates attended the Auburn Hills City Council meeting a week ago to express their objections to the possibilty that the city will approve it.  Crossroads Pregnancy Center, Citizens for a Pro-Life Society and many other individuals would like Auburn Hills to prevent it.  Their concern is that Auburn Hills could become an “abortion capital” in the family oriented community.

The Auburn Hills city attorney, Derk Beckerlet, said that the city has no legal grounds to refuse Planned Parenthood’s clinic based solely on the groups abortion operations. He also said that abortion is a federal issue, not the city’s, and that the city council meeting was not the correct forum for debating the issue.

Beckerlet is absolutely correct. The city has no more right to refuse the clinic based on abortion then to disallow a church because of its religion. Or to make a law banning speech based on prior approval.

Government must not involve themselves in the prevailing morality. That isn't its proper role.  By giving government that power, when the prevailing morality shifts the other way, the new morality will impose their own rules.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

It must be Christmas

It must be Christmas in America. The annual rite of paying for and setting up a Nativity scene by the government of a small town somewhere is being challenged. And, rightly so because government should not be involved in sponsoring the celebration of any religious holiday.

But that isn’t what this post is about… that will come in a later post.

This post is about not standing up for what you believe in.

In Brookville, Indiana, a Nativity scene has been purchased by tax payer dollars and is being displayed on town property. A letter was sent by the Freedom from Religion Foundation to the small town’s leaders asking that the crèche be removed. The foundation is based in Madison, Wisconsin. The organization found out about the crèche because someone in Brookville snitched. That has town leaders and supporters of the crèche all upset.

Hazel Graves, a resident of Brookville, says she is a Christian and believes in Jesus. Graves thinks the person who informed the Freedom from Religion Foundation needs to come forward. "There's somebody here in town, and they should step forward if they're so brave, and want to take down our Nativity scene," says Graves.

Agreed. The person who sent the notification to Freedom from Religion Foundation should come forward. This country was not founded on mysterious people making statements and not standing up for them. Wasn’t it John Hancock who is to have said, “I will sign my name big enough so the King doesn’t need his glasses to read it.” Sure enough, right there in the middle of the Declaration of Independence is his name as big and bold as anything. He agreed with the words in the document and was willing to sign his name to it.

But, it appears that the person or persons who didn’t reveal themselves is concerned about the backlash from the small town. If they own a business, some neighbors may not shop there anymore. If an employee, he or she may have a hard time finding a job. Neighbors may even picket the snitch’s home to express their outrage.

But, an issue that conservatives support, those who provide money to political action committees and other organizations need not reveal themselves. Most conservatives support the issue because then individuals and corporations can financially support hotly contested issues and not be concerned about the backlash from individuals that disagree with them.

In Washington state, conservatives argued remaining anonymous on political issues was a right. A petition was circulated and submitted that asked the state to submit a question on the ballot to disallow gays and lesbians the right to marry. Opposing groups in the state asked for copies of the petition so all could see who had signed it. Those that signed the petition and the organization that circulated it argued that people may be subjected to harassment if the opposition know who they were. Ultimately, the Supreme Court did rule that there is no expectation of privacy on a petition.

Hazel Graves stance on the issue and likely many others in town, is a little hypocritical. First, Graves and her fellow town folk, were hoping that no one would tell the world about their crèche. They wanted to keep that little secrete for themselves. But, Ms. Graves, if you are asking the person that snitched to come forward, “if they’re so brave” why are you hoping to hide behind anonymity. You should be brave enough yourself to let everyone know about the Nativity and challenge anyone to come forward to contest it so that the issue can be debated in public.

But there is even a wider reason why that stance is hypocritical. This reasoning does assume that a conservatives in the town of Brookville is the same as a conservatives anywhere in America. The residents of Brookville want to know who the snitch is that informed Freedom from Religion. But, on the other hand, conservatives support the Supreme Court decision that ruled that individuals and corporations have the right to remain anonymous when taking political positions, because they are also concerned about anger being taken out on them by those opposing.

John Hancock must be confused by all of this. He, perhaps having more to fear in the days before the Revolutionary War with England, was more than willing to stand on his convictions. His signature is the largest on the Declaration of Independence. The person who snitched on the town of Brookville needs to come forward (and be applauded). But, all individuals and corporations that support political issues in the community need to also come clean.

Our republic was founded on the idea that openly debating issues was the best way to run a community. Let’s return to that concept.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Courts should not do what congress should

Whenever the courts are asked to do what the congress and president should, it is a sloppy and irrational business. Of course, that is to suggest that the way they make laws and set policy is any better.

President Obama a month ago asked the Supreme Court to place a stay on a lower court ruling that ordered the military to stop enforcing the “Don’t Tell, Don’t Ask” policy on gays and lesbians in the services. He wanted time for congress and his office to come to terms with the certainty that the court would rule in favor of gays and lesbians. The court agreed, at least for a while, but now there is a deadline for action. If Senator John McCain gets his way, it will be back into the courts when the deadline passes.

Working its way through the court system are a few other issues that would not be there if congress was working properly. One of the biggest issues, yes bigger than “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, is immigration. Decisions from various jurisdictions will leave a confusing and disruptive policy that will not work.

As an example, Arizona, wishing to solve a overstated problem there, is being challenge on a host of immigration laws in the courts. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about the Legal Arizona Workers Act of 2007. It states that businesses that knowing employee undocumented workers could have their license revoked by the state. It is being called the business death penalty by opponents. The United States Chamber of Commerce and the Obama administration are challenging the law. They say that immigration is a federal issue, so that states should not be able to take action.

Businesses that hire undocumented workers is at the core of the issue. That is why Arizona enacted and is enforcing a law like the Legal Arizona Workers Act. If there are no jobs available for undocumented workers, they wouldn’t be arriving. In a post to this blog in April, End Immigration in Five Steps, one of the steps suggested was to enforce laws at the federal level that require employers to make sure every employee was properly documented. Plus, employers must learn to fear I.C.E. (Immigration and Custom Enforcement) by unannounced audits of businesses on a national and local level.

But the creation and enforcement of immigration laws must made at the federal level. Each court, like with any issue, will make decisions based on individual cases and circumstances. Overlapping and overreaching decisions will create a loose policy that will confuse employees and employers. This will waste resources in an attempt to meet various standards from all across the country.

The reason we have government is to enforce a consistent set of rules that we can all agree on. Congress needs to act on immigration reform and many other issues. Then, allocate money to enforce the laws. If not, individuals and businesses will be caught not knowing what to do.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Senator McCain is wrong on gays and lesbians in the military

Senator John McCain is wrong to oppose the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the United States Military.

The policy is on the verge of being overturned by the courts. In a blog post previously, “The Military has done well with gays and lesbians”, the history of the issue was explored. It was a policy that came out of a legislative fight 17 years ago. The policy said that if the recruit doesn’t speak of his or her sexual orientation, the military won’t ask. But, someone who spoke up and was kicked out, took the issue to court. The courts agreed that the policy violated his rights and over turned it. The only reason it hasn’t been tossed aside right now is because the Supreme Court has allowed time for the legislative process to make a change.

The military doesn’t think that it is a problem they can’t handle. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered a report issued by the military on the repel of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. It reported that more than two thirds of the service members who answered surveys did not object to gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.

Senator McCain was not convinced. He said, “I remain concerned, as I have in the past, and as demonstrated in this study, that the closer we get to service members in combat, the more we encounter concerns about whether ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ should be repealed.” He has expressed in the past that he is concerned that the military forces will not be able to focus on the mission because the person next to them is gay.

Adm. Mullen said in response, “I’ve been serving with gays and lesbians my whole career,” he said. “I went to war with them aboard a destroyer off the coast of Vietnam. I knew they were there. They knew I knew it. We never missed a mission, never failed to deliver ordnance on target.”

The military over the last 17 years has done just fine. In all that time, and longer as evidence by Adm. Mullen’s remarks, the military has done what it has been asked to do and it can’t be document that there would be any harm from the repel of the policy.

Mr. McCain, you are outdated on this issue.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Another common criminal is labeled a terrorist

I don’t care why he did it. I don’t care about his religion. I don’t care that he was young, old, black or white. I don’t care about anything involved in his crime other than it didn’t work and that he wanted to do it.

Mohamed Mohamud, a Muslim, is charged with attempting to kill perhaps hundreds of people at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. It was prevented because a tip was given to the FBI many months ago about Mohamud’s statements he made about striking back at the great Satan. The FBI set up a sting operation, sold him fake bomb making material that Mohamud thought was the real stuff. When he dropped the car off, walked away and made the phone call that was to detonate the bomb, the FBI arrested him.

Done. A common criminal arrested before anyone could be hurt.

Another example, some may say, of why Islam is the religion of hate and violence. Another example of why we should not allow mosques to be built anywhere, especially near Ground Zero. This is proof that we are at “war” with Islam. Round them all up and be done with it.

If it is another example of Islam the crazy religion, why did the Imam from the community say that he did know the young man, but didn’t see any of the signs that you might expect from someone who is plotting such a thing? He said Mohamud attended the mosque rarely. If this is an example of a religion teaching hate, why did he acted alone on this action? If he worked with others they would have been picked up on the same day by the FBI. Officials, who worked with Mohamud for many months, said he had no connection with individuals or groups overseas.

He, like all the others, is not a terrorists. He is a common criminal who plotted murder. By calling him and charging him with terrorism, we feed his own justification for his actions and those of common criminals all over the world.

By labeling all the followers of a religion terrorists, we take our eyes off the real problem. Instead of watching for the real face of terror, the common criminal among us, we are diverted by the many good people that don’t want anything to do with all of this. Instead of looking for the face that will harm us, we are confused by the millions of innocent faces that would help us if we didn’t suspect them also.

Let’s not glorify Mohamud’s actions. He is just a common criminal.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

In The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, uses the phrase, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  According to Gary Wills, author of many books on America and some of its most famous people, Jefferson was not hiding anything nor meant to mislead anyone with the phrase. In all of Jefferson’s writings he chose his words very carefully to make sure he was saying just what he meant. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were the words he chose, and in that order, for what he wanted to express.

The order is important. It places life first, then liberty followed finally by the pursuit of happiness. It was clear that the most important goal of government, as he saw it, was to help protect life. Liberty and the pursuit of happiness are very important, but when it comes to the balance between all of them, he gave life the first position.

The Declaration of Independence declared the Colonies separation from the English government so that a new nation could formed. But, Jefferson and others, still felt a strong need for government. With a government they could enforce a common standard of behavior within and defend against invaders. This common goal was to be done in balance with between life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as evidenced by the phrase.

After the misstep of the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution was created. In that document, the liberties that we enjoy in America were recognized by the newly formed government. A government formed to provide a safe environment to enjoy our liberties and to pursue our happiness.

Those liberties clearly take a second position to a safe environment. Jefferson and others did not intent government to value rights over harm, that would be chaos. This is true both from the order of his famous phrase, but also because of the very reason government exist. If, events or circumstances can be demonstrated to cause or have the possibility of harm, then what ever liberties we may have need to be limited to maintain order and safety. To amplify, government can take action to limit liberties, if, and only if, it clearly demonstrates that harm would result if the limitation were not enforced.

We have the right to free speech, except in a crowded theater when we yell fire. We have the right to own property but will lose the right to that property if we don’t pay our taxes. We have the right to bear arms but can’t use them to hunt in the city. Even the Constitution guarantees our right to Habeas Corpus unless “the public safety may require it” to be suspended.

Our liberties are important, but have no value if they can’t be enjoyed in a safe environment. Staying alive; life; is more important than all the liberties we have.


Monday, November 29, 2010

No more sermons at the soup kitchen

No more sermons at the soup kitchen.

Government must stay neutral when it comes to religion. It cannot support one religion over another nor can it even have the appearance of supporting one over another.

Yet, under President Bush, faith based organizations could deliver federal aid while preaching their form of religion. Churches and other religious organizations, under President Bush’s executive order, could deliver federal aid, such as the operation of a soup kitchen, while they were delivering a sermon.

That is changing. President Obama has amended the executive order issued by President Bush mandating the separation of the normal functions of a church and the delivery of federal aid.

Faith based organizations, no matter what calling, should not be able to deliver federal aid of any kind. This is a much too close relationship between God and Country. Whenever this happens, it is much too easy for anyone, especially those that are receiving the aid, to draw the conclusion that there is something special with this religion. Especially if the members of the church are preaching while having dinner.

President Obama’s amended of the order mandates the separation of the two activities, which is a start at getting local religious organizations out of federal aid delivery. The president’s order also goes a step farther. The amendment requires the government to “monitor and enforce standards regarding the relationship between religion and government in ways that avoid excessive entanglement between religious bodies and government entities.”

Don’t forget, in England during the pre American colonial days, religion and government went hand in hand. You were required to be a particular religion, depending on who was in power at the time. If you were protestant and the state religion was catholic, as it was under Queen Mary of Scots, you needed to change. Even tax dollars collected from a protestant would in part be delivered to the catholic church for support, but none to the protestant church. [ The Church of England, a legitimate religion by any standard, was separated from the Catholic Church by Henry the Eighth in an effort to support his government and provide legitimacy for his personal activities. It was, by some conclusions, not only a state religion, but one created for the state.]

In the Constitution, in a plan to make sure that state supported religion doesn’t happen in the new country, the signers wrote in the opening lines of the first amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” They also made very clear in the document that no religious test would be provided to elected officials, providing even further evidence that they wanted to keep religion out of government functions.

By placing a seal of approval on certain religious organizations to dole out federal aid, it appears to support that religious organization. If that money was going to catholic organizations, Queen Mary would be very pleased. But, we in the United States should not be.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The military has done well with gays and lesbians in the ranks

It would appear that conservatives are walking two paths but only see one.

Many conservatives are asking that the military not allow gays in the services. They feel that having gays fight alongside straights would kill moral and cause all kinds of havoc. This has all come to the top of the issue list with the court ruling on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule that the military has lived with for 17 years.

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” deal was brokered by the Clinton administration with congress in 1993. It states that if the military doesn’t ask about the sexual preference of a recruit and if the recruit doesn’t tell his or her preference, everything will be just fine. As soon as someone let their preference be known, the military escorted them to the door and slammed it shut behind them.

But, someone the military had ushered out recently became defiant and took their case to court. They argued that the policy violated the First Amendment rights of gays and lesbians [because they could not speak their mind] and due process rights [because they were not charged with a crime].

The Obama administration, not wanting to cause a wake in the middle of elections asked the Supreme Court to keep a temporary injunction on the ruling. He wanted time for congress and the administration to develop a new policy that will be supported by the courts. The Supreme Court complied, for a while.

Now the issue is being addressed by congress.

But, here is the conservative’s double speak. First, for seventeen years since the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been in place, gays and straights have fought some of the toughest wars in memory side by side. The Gulf War, the Iraqi war and the Afghanistan war have all been well pursued. The moral of the troops and the support from the home front have been outstanding. No one can deny the military success of these wars.

Yet, conservatives, claim gays in the military would destroy moral. Well, where is the evidence?

The military response to the court rulings have been honorable. The latest statement from the military is that they can have a policy to allow gays and lesbians to serve their country by the end of the year.

Over the last 17 years the military has done an outstanding job. There is no reason anymore to deny anyone to serve their country.


Friday, November 19, 2010

This is not a demo-crazy... not yet at least

It isn’t crime that defeats a democracy, it is the lack of getting the facts right.

Today, the country is on the verge of becoming a demo-crazy instead of being a democracy. So many people on both sides are spreading rumors and crazy theories because it supports their position. These irresponsible acts are picked up on the web and before you can find the source to check the facts, the tall tales get moving as fast as electrons can move email.

The latest is a claim by Michelle Bachmann, a conservative and Tea Party favorite. Anderson Cooper, CNN reporter and news show host, asked Bachmann how she would cut the budget. Instead of answering the question directly, she said, “I think we know that just within a day or so the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He’s taking 2,000 people with him. He’ll be renting over 870 rooms in India, and these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending.”

That sounded just a little too good to Bachmann to check the facts. It helped her get attention off what she would cut and supported her position that the Democrats and the President are just tax and spend people.

Rush Limbaugh starting talking about the cost. He said on his show, “in two days from now, he’ll be in India at $200 million a day.” Glenn Beck, not to be out done by just repeating rumors needed to embellish. It turns out to be a “vacation” for Obama that included warships, aircraft carriers, 3,000 people and one tenth of the U.S. Navy. Note that Bachmann said it was with 2,000 people. Wonder were the other 1,000 people came from?

Cooper thought that he should check on this little piece of information. Any responsible reporter should check the facts, especially one as big as this one. It does have to be asked why a representative of the United States congress didn’t ask the same questions before talking about them?

What Cooper found out is a little different then the story making the rounds. The short of it is, the story comes from an unnamed alleged Indian official from Maharashtra (a state in India) talking about the cost of the entire Asian trip by the American President. Now that is a great source.

The Pentagon press secretary, Geoff Morrell is quoted as saying to Cooper, “I will take the liberty this time of dismissing as absolutely absurd, this notion that somehow we were deploying 10 percent of the Navy and some 34 ships and an aircraft carrier in support of the president’s trip to Asia. That’s just comical. Nothing close to that is being done.” He went on to say that the entire war in Afghanistan is costing $190 million dollars a day.

Robert Gibbs, the White House secretary said that for security reasons, they don’t make detailed comments about travel plans and arrangements for the President. But, he did say that, “I am not going to go into how much it costs to protect the president, [but this trip] is comparable to when President Clinton and when President Bush traveled abroad. This trip doesn’t cost $200 million a day.” Trips by Bush and Clinton of similar size to similar destinations cost only about $5.2 million per day, inflation adjusted.

Every day we all need to make decisions about our government and the people that we elect to help operate it. Our decisions are based on the information we are provided. If we have bad information, we will always make bad decisions.

If that bad information comes from people that we place trust in, if they only repeat rumors and stories that sound too good to check, there is no hope, we will be a demo-crazy


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Justice wins in New York terrorism trial

In the old western movies from the 40’s and 50’s, when they would try to hang the bad guy, someone would ask, “shouldn’t we give him a trial?” The answer that came back was often, “Good idea, then we’ll hang him.”

A jury in New York yesterday convicted Tanzanian Ahmed Ghailani of conspiracy and sentenced him to 20 years to life. He was a Guantanamo Bay detainee that is said to have helped plan the bombing of United States government buildings in 1998. He was moved to a civilian court in an attempted by the Obama administration to demonstrate that “terrorist” could be tried in civilian courts. They acquitted him of more than 280 other charges.

Representative Peter King, a New York Republican, said that a light sentence like that and acquittal on the other charges will not happen again because “the Republicans are now in charge” after the recent election. King is about ready to take over the chair of Homeland Security Committee.

It sounds like the old western again. “Oh, ya, will give him a trial then hang him.”

Keep in mind this wasn’t a jury selected from Chicago or Kansas City that haven’t felt the brunt of “terrorism” like New York City. [I will continue to use the word “terrorist” for a little longer, but these aren’t terrorist, they are common criminals that have been given a glorified name that makes them out to more than they are.] The jury was selected from the people of the city that has had the most trouble with terrorism. All New Yorkers that were alive when the towers were attack remembers the deep fear and anger that exploded inside of them on that day. But yet, they found him not guilty on a slew of charges. If anyone would want to simply give him a trial and then hang him, it would be them.

Could it be, it is daringly asked, Ghailani could be innocent on the other charges? Could it be that the government hadn’t made a strong enough case? Representative King said that the rest of the Gitmo detainees should be tried in a military court. Is that because he is just looking for a hanging and not justice?

The “terrorist”, to be called criminals from here on out in this post, win the most converts to their cause when the United States operates in secrecy. When the country does hold trial in private, all kinds of stories can be weaved about what is “really” happening. To hold trial in an open civilian court with all to observe, it is much more difficult to weave the tales.

But, even deeper as far as our culture and community are concerned, it is justice. In countries that do not hold true to the trilogy of justice; laws made by consensus, enforced by an independent executive and judged by an independent court system; open trial doesn’t and can’t happen. We only need to look at what happen in Iran in the past couple of months. Three people were held captive and not given the opportunity to challenge their case in open court. We all condemned the Iranian government for not properly holding hearings and presenting their case. How is it we can condemned them for actions that we might take on our own?

Just because Ghailani was acquitted on all but one of the charges, doesn’t mean the United State’s court system isn’t the right place for these common criminals. He is going to spend 20 years in prison. New York City wasn’t attacked as many said it would be. There wasn’t an attempt to break him out of prison.

In an honest and open system like ours, there is risk. Risk that someone may get off. But that is a far better risk then giving the enemy more ammunition by holding the trials in secret prisons far from any kind of justice.

The prison at Guantanamo Bay must close. Yes, that message is for all the Peter Kings of the country, but also for President Obama.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

End earmarks

The abolishing of earmarks is an issue that is supported by the Tea Party and President Obama. With the election of many candidates that were supported by the Tea Party, it is now becoming a hot issue.

Here is a definition of earmarks:

"Provisions associated with legislation (appropriations or general legislation) that specify certain congressional spending priorities or in revenue bills that apply to a very limited number of individuals or entities. Earmarks may appear in either the legislative text or report language (committee reports accompanying reported bills and joint explanatory statement accompanying a conference report)."[3]

That is the formal definition. But, the common definition is when a representative’s or senator’s vote is gained for a certain piece of legislation by directing some – if not all – the money allocated in the legislation to the home state or district.

Sounds to me like a kick back to certain projects that supported the legislator during the elections.

In balance, we all expect our representatives and senators to bring back the bacon. They are our representatives and not others. We all want them to vote for the things we want them to and support our community the best they can.

But, if all things were fair and we attempted to keep politics out of any spending process, a mix of market and need should determine where money is spent on any project or program. To “earmark” (to use the term in the definition) money directly in the legislation is to subvert the market and need distribution process.

That point was driven home by Senator Mitch McConnel. He said that he supported a proposed ban on the addicting habit of directing money to a specific district. President Obama has criticized the process as increasing the budget deficit. This places many in congress between the White house and the Capital. [ In this after election climate, between two very hard places.]

If we as a community believe something needs to be done then we should allocate money. Then a need assessment should be conducted to be determined where the money should be spent. Where the need is most, a competitive process based on the market should be implemented. By “earmarking” money in the legislation this fair and equitable process is damaged.

End earmarks.


Friday, November 12, 2010

A person's faith shouldn't be attacked

Soon after accepting victory as senator elect for Kentucky, Rand Paul, who was supported by the Tea Party, said, "I think that you shouldn't attack a person's faith.” This was in response to an attack ad aired during the campaign by his opponent, John Conway. In the ad, Conway asked if Paul was a true Christian based on Paul’s association with a group a number of years ago.

Oh, really? A person’s faith should not be an issue?

Paul said that while:

People are fighting the building of a Mosque in New York;

A church in Holly can’t hold service where it wants;

The President’s declaration of his faith is doubted;

A man running for office in Minnesota was attacked by the Tea Party for… well, his faith.

American has trouble with religion, either too much of it, the wrong faith or lack of it. We forget that this is a nation built on many freedoms including the freedom of religion. A person’s faith is as basic as the right to free speech and due process. All three, and more, are guaranteed in the Constitution. Yet, have the wrong religion, lack of or don’t act like you are expected and you get attacked.

You should not be judged because of your faith but by your action. It matters not what religion you are. No right is absolute, so even if your religion did require you to take anti-social action you still have a choice to act or not. If you do act in violation of the law, you should be held responsible as a common criminal, not as a zealot of your religion.

Let’s move away from this attitude that religion has anything to do with your action. No matter your religion, you are still obligated to act in balance with the best interest of the community.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The death penalty should be put to death

It can’t be said that we as humans are perfect. So why do we occasionally take action that is based on being perfect?
The death penalty assumes that we have the absolutely correct answer. That we are certain about the crime, the evidence and the person who committed it. Yet, as humans, we know we can be mistaken.

It has been demonstrated many times over that our justice system is not perfect. After the trial and the appeal process ends, many groups from around the country examine the evidence, the process, the lawyers, prosecutors and witnesses only to find different results. The convicted is freed from a crime that everyone was certain he committed.

Even after evidence is found and presented that may prove the innocence of the convicted person, prosecutors continue to fight the new evidence. Sometimes technology has advanced since the crime was tried. It can then be used to demonstrate the innocence of the convicted. Sometimes it is witnesses that changed their story. Other times, it is the lawyer that was at fault.  Even here in the state of Michigan, Kym Worthy, the prosecutor of Wayne County, is asking the state courts to stop appeals after one year.

Kym Worthy is asking the courts to stop considering appeals after one year at the same time that Dwayne Provience contested his own conviction and won his freedom. He was convicted in 2001 of killing Rene Hunter on a crowded intersection in northwest Detroit. There were plenty of witnesses at the time of the shooting. One of the witnesses was even an off duty police officer. None of the witnesses were called by Provience’s lawyer, who has since been disbarred. A memo in police files that pointed to a drug gang as the likely killers wasn’t discovered until 8 years later, then only by accident.

It is likely, that if we had the death penalty in this state, Provience would have been put to death. If the evidence had surfaced after his death, what chance would we have to make restitution to this man?

A community needs certainty in its justice system. The kind of certainty that comes not from the blind belief that we are correct, which, if we know anything, we can’t always be. We need the certainty that comes from doing the very best we can to balance the need to keep our community safe by removing those that intend to do harm and rectify it if we are wrong.

The death penalty should be, well, in a phrase, put to death.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Fear and hate in the campaign

This election season has been most fatiguing. Everyone is disgusted with the lack of decorum and reason in the process.

Both sides of the aisle are pursuing a no holds barred campaign that vilifies the opposing candidate. The attack ads illustrate the extreme case scenario of the position with the most horrific pictures of the candidates and the scenario they can find. Many, especially from the extreme right, have taken a very racist position to cast the left in this election as the devil himself.

Reason has been left in the gutter. Not because it has been pushed aside and fell there, but because both sides went to the gutter for their ideas. Arising from the sludge to deliver the messages they found, reason was left because they didn’t have enough arms to carry the crap and still carry reason – just in case they needed it.

People are being detained and hand cuffed. Others are being pulled down and their head stumped as police look on. Violence is beginning to seep into campaigns like sewer water that leaks through a crack in the pipe. If a Hans Brinker doesn’t find his way to the crack, more sewer will surely break through. Is it so hard to believe that with open carry laws that gun fire will find its way into the fight?

Money and hate are driving this. An unrestrained, if not hesitant this time through, flow of cash to those that hate have done all the research. The research was not on seeking the truth but on how to fire up the extremes with the sharpest rhetoric. Focus groups, surveys and observation has instructed the creators of the campaign slogans and hate ads of how to strike deep into the darkest fears of likely voters.

This is the reason this blog has not taken a position on candidates, because it isn’t the men and women that are running for office that is important. It is ideas and reason that we should examine. But, we can’t find it because slander and hate has blocked the view. Reason, at least this time around, has no place in the process. Bring up an idea that may work and ask for each side to discuss it and the extreme positions of both will come out immediately.

Those that develop and create the ads that spread hate and fear think it works. They have built an environment where the extreme has become so institutionalized that to propose ideas from a position of reason seems suicidal. If they carve out a reasoned and thoughtful position, it will be destroyed by fear and hate.

Beware, because the destruction of every culture has been driven not by reason but by fear and hate.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Muslims do condem calls for jihad

To those that claim that Muslims are not denouncing the actions of extreme Muslims in their calls for Jihad… bunk!

Recently in a video, Adam Gadahn, an al-Qaida spokesman, encouraged Muslim living in the “miserable suburbs” of Paris, London and Detroit to take action. In the 48 minute video, Gadahn asks Muslims to plan local acts of jihad (as is used in this context, nothing more than criminal activity) as a matter of duty to their faith.

The 32 year old Adam Gadahn, born Adam Pearlman in Oregon, converted to Islam and set off for Pakistan in 1998. He is wanted by the FBI and is the first American to be indicted for treason since 1952.

How are the Muslims in Detroit (Dearborn) reacting? The publisher of the local Arab American Newspaper, Osama Siblani, says that Gadahn, “ is already receiving much more attention than he deserves.”

“This is a nutcase,” Siblani says. "I think that everyone in our community listened to this and laughed. People here are concerned about their well-being, the economic situation, putting their kids in school and bread on the table. ...They don't have time for this sick mentality from someone who dreams up something overnight."

The executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, Dawud Walid, was also quick to denounce the video. He told the Associated Press that, "I see little to no chance of such sentiment taking root in metropolitan Detroit. ...We're not a group of people who feel powerless," Walid said. "If any Muslim community has grown in civic engagement and empowerment, it would be this community. He invoked the wrong population to try and stir up."

With every episode of terrorism, or calls for it as in this case, the Muslim community does react negatively to the call for action. But the press in American either doesn’t report it, or it is a secondary story buried on the website or in the paper. The people that are the most fervently about Muslims report that the Muslim community doesn’t respond, and everyone believes them.

Sablani stated the clear issue with all of this. He says that the Muslim community is no different than every other community in America. They are more concerned about everyday issues like feeding their families and keeping their kids in school. They don’t have time to get involved in the sick calls for violence against anyone.

That sounds like mainstream America to me.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Climate change final

Who could possibly believe that climate change is a result of human activity on earth? There are arguments presented on both sides of the issue. But, over the last three blog posts we have explored the effect humans have on the environment by using fossil fuel for our primary energy source. When the simple and practical evidence is examined, it is clear that humans are affecting the climate.

What action should a Responsible Community take?

As a culture we like to think of ourselves as self reliant. If that has any meaning, it is that we depend on ourselves to take care of our needs and don’t leave others to clean up the mess.

Many conservatives in this current political cycle are complaining about the high level of debt that the country is facing. It is said that the debt will have to be paid off by our children and grandchildren because we won’t be able to in our own time. To hand our children a large debt would be wrong for our community to do.

Another example of our belief in self reliance related to the national debt is that most of us live within our means. Each month we have a budget, reducing our spending when our income falls and increasing our savings when our income is good.

If we believe in self reliance like we say, then that should also apply to the environment. Our energy usage should not deplete the available resources and should be consumed in such a way that it doesn’t have a detrimental effect on the environment. To leave a future generation without resources and an environment that makes it harder to survive would clearly be wrong.

Sustainability is a concept born of self reliance. To use no more than can be replaced in our own generation is self reliance defined. By consuming a thousand year’s worth of energy in one year and releasing more carbon than the environment can absorb is not self reliance. It is leaving our children a mess that they will not be able to be clean up in their own generation. It is one that will take many more generations to clean up, if it can be at all.

Our values, our way of life and our laws must encourage, and force if necessary, our culture, the entire human race for that matter, to a sustainable life style.

This is the responsible thing to do.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Climate change can't possibly be happening, part three

Who could possibly believe that climate change is a result of human activity on earth? Many people are in denial or don’t want to address the issue, including all 20 republicans running for the senate.

With all the seemingly convincing arguments about climate change on both sides, it can become a confusing issue. Have you ever tried to read a scientific paper on climate change? It can be daunting for most of us.

So, in the last two blog post, the practical side of climate change and its causes have been explored. In the first blog post, “Climate change can’t possibly be happening”, the issue of using fossil fuels was explored. In conclusion, humans are using a thousand years’ worth of stored carbon each year for our energy use. That is much more carbon being released than the environment can absorb, even when you include the oceans.

In the next blog post, “Climate change can’t possibly be happening, part two”, the issue of rising carbon levels and what affect carbon has on the world’s weather. Carbon levels in the atmosphere have been rising for the last 60 years. The levels are the highest they have been in 17,000 years. With all that carbon in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, the clear molecule is allowing light from the sun to strike the earth but is keeping the heat generated by the sun light in.

In a practical approach to climate change it is fair to ask if the average temperature of earth’s atmosphere is rising with all the release of carbon? The answer is a resounding, yes!

According the NASA, the average temperature has been on an upward trend since the 1880’s.  When you look at a global picture of rising temperatures, you find that the only place that hasn’t experience a rise in temperature is a small part of the south arctic region.

This rise in temperature can also have a accelerating effect. With the average temperature of earth’s atmosphere on the rise, more snow melt will happen. Not only on the North and South Pole, but also glaciers around the world and less snow accumulation during the winter. Snow and ice reflect light back into space. This keeps the light from being absorbed by the earth. When there is less snow, more sunlight will heat the earth.

So how does this relate to the policies of a Responsible Community? In the next and final post of climate change, the response of the community will be explored.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Climate change can't possibly be happening , post 2

Who could possibly believe in climate change with all the arguments for and against? Opinion leaders and politicians are providing different points of view. The issue has become political. There needs to be a simple and practical approach to understanding the issue and what to do about it. It is the attempt of this series of post to examine the practical side.

The last post explored how more carbon is being released in the atmosphere. Carbon is trapped in plants and animals when they die and decay. That decay process, over hundreds and thousands of years produces fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. When humans first discovered they could burn fossil fuels, they only consumed less than a year’s supply. The environment could easily absorb the carbon released. Now, humans are consuming about a thousand year’s worth of fossil fuels each year. The environment can no longer absorb that much carbon. [The ocean can absorb a lot of carbon, which provides some hope for the future. But, its rate of absorption is so slow that it can’t keep up. If the ocean absorbed faster, the carbon levels would not have found the balance needed to maintain a healthy carbon level to grow plants.]

So are the levels rising? Yes. The growth in carbon levels have been rising since the turn of the last century. Even the doubters will accept that fact. Science has known this for nearly a 150 years. The levels today are as high as they have been in 17,000 years.

Here is meaning of this. Carbon in the form of carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. It acts like glass panels on a greenhouse. Carbon dioxide is colorless so it allows light from the sun to penetrate the atmosphere and reach the earth. Some light is reflected off because of the angle the light strikes the upper atmosphere. Some is reflected off by clouds. But, enough light gets through to warm the earth and grow plants. The heat generated by the light is radiated back into the atmosphere. The cold of space then cools the atmosphere keeping the heat levels in balance.

But, carbon dioxide also acts like a blanket on a cold night. It reflects heat back down to the earth. This doesn’t allow the natural cooling effect to keep a balance in the atmosphere.

The carbon dioxide affect is not a guess. It is an observable and measurable process. It is fact.

So, now we know, in practical and measurable terms, that humans are burning more than a thousand year’s worth of carbon based fuels each year. We also know that carbon levels are growing in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, the primary form of carbon, acts as the glass panels on a greenhouse, allowing light to reach the earth, but trapping the heat generated by the light. All observable and measurable.

In the next post, the effect of all of this will be explored.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Climate change can't possibly be happening

Who could possibly believe that climate change, if it is happening at all, is a result of humans? Many people are in denial including all 20 of the Republicans that are running for a senate seat this election. They are for various reason, saying that it is not a problem or it isn’t even happening. The candidates are tapping right in to the angry crowd that wants to do away with all government regulation without regard to the consequences.

Most of the scientific evidence is beyond most of us to grapple with. Then there are those that tear the evidence apart and deny it. Additionally, how about the hype that was created when all those emails from the science community about making adjustments in the numbers to fit the theory surfaced?

While all of the above can be addressed on an point by point basis, let’s take a look at a common sense approach to all of this with a practical explanation of climate change.

Now, keep in mind, this is a little geeky. It may take a few moments for it to make sense, but this is the best explanation about climate change available.

When humans evolved, the species became very adoptable to many different environments because of our intelligence and creativity. We were able to learn about things around us and apply them to our own needs. One of the things we learned was how to make fire. With all the old wood lying around on the forest floor, during the cold months, we could burn them to provide the energy we needed to keep warm.

At the beginning, there were very few humans and the only wood that was burned was already dead. Since our impact was low, the forest easily absorbed the carbon that was released. The earth was in balance because we were releasing less than a year’s worth of carbon. In a year of growth in the forest, all of it could be absorbed.

This went on for many thousands of years. But, leading up to the industrial revolution, we discovered coal, oil and other materials could be burnt to provide the energy we needed. This process that makes coal and oil traps many generations of carbon from the plants and animals that make up the material. When it is burned, the carbon is released into the atmosphere not just from one year, but many.

By the industrial revolution, we had found many more needs for energy than just keeping warm. Also, the numbers of humans had grown dramatically. Now, our energy needs exceeded what was laying on the forest floor. We were burning hundreds of years of material to supply the energy needs of a single year. All of this carbon release was now beyond what could be absorbed by the environment.

Today, it is estimated that humans consume a thousand years of energy in coal, oil and other materials each year. This of course, is well beyond the ability of the earth to absorb all the carbon released. Even when you consider not only the forest but also the other plant life in the oceans.

Since we have released such large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere it is holding much more carbon then it can absorb.

In the next post, the carbon in the air will be discussed.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Stolen Valor Act is Constitutional

As Mark Scott so often said, “A is A”. That is, if you don’t tell the truth, it is a lie. Pure and simple. So, tell me the community doesn’t have the right to expect that if you say you have won the The Congressional Medal of Honor that you really have.

The federal appeals court in California and a federal district court in Denver don’t think so. They have both ruled that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional. The act states that if you claim an honor from the military that you don’t have, you can be prosecuted. The courts ruled that it is a free speech issue and the individual can’t be convicted.

Without the law there are many ways to prosecute someone that tells such a lie. On written documents or in court it is perjury. If you say so on an employment application and get the job because of it, or if you are given money based on the lie, you have committed fraud. If in all of the above situations you stated a political opinion, something that is squarely protected, you would not be held accountable legal. So why can’t you be held accountable for making the claim when it is clearly a lie.

Many are suggesting that this case will make its way to the Supreme Court because of the importance of free speech.  But, no right is absolute. Saying you are a war hero is not an opinion or a complaint that demands redress from the government. It is an outright lie that can’t be defended.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Responsibilities of the individual and the community during umemployment

In the real world, every community has a problem with unemployment and job creation. But, the recent Nobel prize winners for economics may provide a view that helps us understand the scope of the problem. Some of what they say supports action that a Responsible Community should take with those that are unemployed.

Three men, Peter Diamond, Dale Mortenson and Chris Pissarides, were awarded the 2010 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science. Their work was on why buyers and sellers in various markets have trouble finding each other.

Full disclosure: I am not an economist and have not read the full breadth of their work. On the practical side, what has been read makes sense.

According to theory, unemployment should always be at zero. But, in reality, even in an economy that is humming, unemployment can be as higher as 5 % and be considered full employment. This reason for this is that a percent of people are always leaving one job to take another. This activity is the continuous adjustment in the market place of the mix of jobs, wages, training and the employment pool. (And, yes, there are those individuals that find difficulty in find a permanent job, often because of their own personal issues.)

But the real problem is when the unemployment levels are higher. That means, on the community level, individuals can’t find jobs that they are qualified for or business wont hire individuals at the pay scale that the individual needs or wants.

The trio suggest that unemployment insurance provided by the community makes it more difficult for the market to work. If workers are getting enough from unemployment insurance to maintain, they will be reluctant to take any job. On the other side, business will need to increase the pay scale or benefits to make the job more enticing to people that are on unemployment.

Keeping the paragraph above in mind, it is difficult for the community to encourage an electrician to take the first job offered, which may be at McDonalds cooking fast food. It would make it more difficult for him to get a job that he is trained for and not provide the income necessary to maintain a lifestyle built on higher wages. From the community’s point of view, it is a waste of resources for the training and experience invested in the electrician to cook fast food.

Part of the answer is the expectations the community has on the return on investment from the unemployment insurance provided. As stated in a blog earlier this year, “Require a return on investment from unemployment”, in the short run, a community should provide enough income to allow an individual to maintain a portion of the lifestyle they have. This allows time for him to find a job in the field that he is trained to do without taking the first job offered. For that investment, the community needs to make it clear there are expectations of return. If after a short period of time the individual is not employed, the system needs to hold them accountable. Make an evaluation of their life and skills. Find markets that can employ them. Train them for their new jobs. Help them move if necessary to those markets. In return for the community’s investment, the unemployed individual needs to do also help themselves by cooperating with the community on all of the above and more. If not, they should be dropped from the program.

We formed communities to help each other in times of crisis. The community needs to help individuals through times of unemployment. No one in the community benefits when individuals and families lose their savings and even their homes when unemployed. But, to continuously keep supporting individuals that are not fully engage in their future is against the rules of success of the individual, the community and as the winners of the Nobel prize point out, the markets.


Monday, October 11, 2010

The community can place reasonable limits on rights

In a September 17 post, it was stated that “If I was on a milk create at Fourth and Main in downtown Royal Oak and made a speech about the upcoming election, I would be arrested for disturbing the peace”. It is also stated that, “If a group of friends planned a gathering in a park nearby to protest the war in Afghanistan, we would be ticketed if we hadn’t received a permit from the city.” Mike Stollenwerk committed that the right to do both are “basic black letter law” rights protect by the First and Fourth amendments of the Constitution.

It is agreed that the right to free speech and assembly would be protected under the Constitution. The arrest or ticket would not be for making the speech or for assembling with my friends. (Of course, both would have to be for political purposes, commercial speech in not protect to the same degree as political.)

The reason that the statements above were made was to illustrate that no right is absolute, including strapping a gun to the waist and walking around in public. In the first case, the Royal Oak police state that if I was standing on the corner impeding pedestrian traffic flow, I would at first be asked “to move along.” That request would having nothing to do with the right of free speech or with the content of the speech. It would be that I was blocking pedestrians. If I refused to “move along” by using the shield of freedom of speech, in the end, I would be arrested.

The gathering in the park to protest the war in Afghanistan has some of the same issues and a few more. It I gathered with a group of friends without checking with the city, there are a number of issues that come up. First, if the little league team from the city was on the schedule to play a game in the park, they would have the first right. By claiming the right to assemble and refusing to move, the police would issue a ticket. Second, if I sat up a stage and used amplified sound to speak to the throng, I would have had to clear it with the city first. Another ticket if I didn’t request a permit from the city and used the right to assemble as a shield.

It was not the intent of the examples about speech and assemble to say we don’t have those rights. It was to illustrate that those rights can’t be used as a shield against all action by the community when its goal is safety and order. I could have used more extreme examples with long standing precedence. Such as yelling fire in a theater or hosting the assembly in the middle of the street. As long as it is not about the content of the speech and the community can demonstrate that people may be harmed or that order is compromised, the community can take action.

The original post was to support Royal Oak’s request to limit the right to open carry of guns. It is a simply request that people not carry their weapons at the Arts, Eats and Beats “assemble”. An assemble, that by many rulings in the courts, the applicant can request control of the people and their action that attend.

As stated at the end of the post, “The request that Royal Oak is making of the state is a reasonable limit on the right to bear arms.”


Friday, October 8, 2010

Phelps is disgusting, but should receive our support

Pastor Fred W. Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church has it all wrong.

Young men that are fighting in foreign wars are not dying because the country allowed “fags” into the military. They are dying because that is what happens in war. Catholics are not “satanic”, its past has a straight line connection to Jesus Christ. (I am Catholic and it is my chosen religion). Divorced parents do not teach their children by their action to “defy [their] creator.” There can be no love for Hitler or breast cancer even though Pastor Phelps and his followers have said so verbally and in writing.

But, Evelyn Beatrice Hall has it right (or Votaire, or Paine or who ever else you may attribute it to). To paraphrase her, I disagree to the point of disgust with what Phelps says, but he does have the right to say it.

Albert Snyder, on the other side of the argument, believes that Phelps should not be able to say what he does because it caused him emotional distress.

He is the father of Lance Cpl. Mathew A. Snyder, 20, who died in a Humvee accident in Iraq on March 3, 2006. A week later, a funeral mass was held for him at St. John’s Roman Catholic Church in Westminster, Maryland. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas protested the funeral with signs that said all the things listed above and more. It was a cruel and obscene way for the congregation to express its political and religious beliefs. Later, an essay was posted on line by Phelps’ daughter continuing the cruel expression of their beliefs, mostly against Lance Cpl. Snyder.

Albert Snyder admits that he didn’t see the protesters at the church or at the grave site where his son was buried. It wasn’t until much later that he was on line and discovered the essay about his son. He then sued the pastor and the church for the distress that they caused. A lower court ruled in Snyder’s favor, but an appeals court reversed. Snyder took the case to the Supreme Court. The court heard the oral arguments this week.

The protestors obeyed all the laws of Maryland. They kept their distance from the church and the grave site as outline by law. (They did this, because there are limits on free speech, as with any right. The grave site was a public sitting and could be argued that they had a right to be on site during the funeral, but stayed off the property. But, please do not take this as being understanding of the protesters.)

Snyder didn’t see the protesters at any time. There was no physical or financial harm done to Snyder. His oral argument in court was focused on the emotional harm that was done by reading the things the church sponsored. After reading much of the material, it is not difficult to understand Snyder’s pain.

As truly whacky and indefensible as Pastor Fred W. Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church are, they do have the right to express their political and religious beliefs. They didn’t cause any practical damage to Snyder and by obeying the laws of Maryland on protests they didn’t interfere with the safety and order of the community.

To return to Hall’s quote, it would be difficult for the Supreme Court to rule any other way other then expressing their disgust with the church even though they support their right to say it.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Let's seek justice in our need for closure

It is being proposed by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy that new evidence that may free a convicted criminal in Michigan be presented before the one year anniversary of the conviction. After that, a claim can not be filed if the exculpatory evidence would have been discovered if the convict’s lawyer had done a good job.

Ask Dwayne Provience what this would have meant to him. He was convicted in 2001 of killing Rene Hunter on a crowded intersection in northwest Detroit. There where plenty of witnesses at the time of the shooting. One of the witnesses was an off duty police officer. None of the witnesses were called by Provience’s lawyer, who has since been disbarred. A memo in police files that pointed to a drug gang as the likely killers wasn’t discovered until 8 years later, then only by accident.

It is an arguable point that even if the new rules were in place a court would still consider the new evidence. But, for some people who trust their lawyers but find they do a terrible job, the rule changes would cancel all hope.

Worthy’s argument is that our system of justice needs finality. When someone is convicted, the public needs to have closure on the issue. She also argues that by allowing appeals to extend into the future endlessly, it pulls resources away from current cases.

Worthy is right about the need for finality. If the appeals are based on procedure instead of evidence, a one year cut off could be appropriate. After examining the proceedings of any case for a year, we should be certain about the conviction. This would save valuable resources for current cases, especially when budgets are stressed because of an economic down turn.

New exculpatory evidence should be treated differently, even after many years. If the evidence is minor and doesn’t challenge any of the other evidence or circumstances, a quick examination would dispense with it. In the case of Provience, when the witnesses and evidence never came to light in court because of a bad lawyer, to continue to hold him without a close look would be a crime in itself.

Yes, the community needs finality about specific convictions. The closure that a conviction brings provides relief to the grieving and security to the rest of us. But, by allowing a case to be challenged with new evidence also gives us the certainty that if we as a community do happen to make a mistake we can correct it.

This is justice.


Monday, October 4, 2010

The community must accept people for what they are

Last week, New York policed pulled the body of Tyler Clementi out of the water. A few days before, he had committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. Clementi was a student at Rutgers University. His roommate secretly taped an intimate encounter Clementi had with another male. His roommate then posted the tape on YouTube for the world to see. Clementi had been outed without his consent.

Tyler Clementi was someone who had a lot to contribute to the community. He was accepted in one of the toughest academic schools in the country. He was an accomplished violin player that held a lot of promise for the future.

The discussion on line and in the media has been about the violation of Clementi’s privacy. He had asked his roommate, Dharun Ravi, if he could be alone in the dorm room one evening until midnight. Ravi agreed, but didn’t tell Clementi that he had left his camera on in the room to tape the activity that took place. Ravi went to his friend’s room, Molly Wei, and started taping. After, the pair tweeted about the video and posted it on line. This is clearly a violation of Clementi’s privacy because he had requested the time alone and Ravi agreed.

But, that there something more fundamental about this story that is being over looked.

In the United States we vilify gays politically, socially and culturally. We leave little room for those that are gay to find any peace with their nature. Even the strongest and most confident gay individual who is out can find difficulty in many situations.

Straight individuals rarely find their sexual preference an issue. When they do, sexual harassment laws protect them in their job, housing and in other situations they may find themselves in. Gay’s do not receive the same universal protection.

Culturally and socially, where attitudes are out of the reach of laws, gays find themselves as close to evil as can be. They are harassed and bullied into submission, to the point that they stay closeted. Many stay in the closet for years if not a life time for fear of being shunned by the world around them.

It is no wonder that Clementi found himself in a trap that he could find no way out. Not knowing enough about him and the environment he lived in it is difficult to place blame. He was, though, an individual that only needed a little push to fall off the edge. Perhaps, family, friends, roommates and others in the world around him failed him in varying degrees.

But, culturally, we must also accept some of the blame. We must treat all people with respect and accept them based on their contribution to the community. If not, there will be more Clementi’s.


Friday, October 1, 2010

A Big Good can turn a life around

One to overcome anger and a bad circumstance is to do a “big good” in the community.

A former Black Panther leader in Kansas City, Pete O’Neal, is living in exile in Tanzania. He was arrested 38 years ago in the United States for carrying a gun across state borders. Using a fake passport, O’Neal and his wife jumped bail and went to Sweden, eventually settling in a small town in Tanzania. He was allowed to stay if he kept out of trouble.

Over the years O’Neal not only stayed out of trouble, he did some good. He built a community in his exiled land and became a local “elder” or Mzee, a position of honor. Arriving with nothing, O’Neal has built a community center, teaches children, assists disadvantaged children and has adopted children that would have no place else to go.

All of this has made him a peaceful man. He has shed his belligerent fervor in exchange for a devotion to the community.

There is little doubt that if O’Neal hadn’t turned his life around, life would have been much different. The members of the Black Panther Party considered themselves at war with the United States. Many of the activities they sponsored were criminal. Although O’Neal’s crime of carry guns across state lines would be legal if the Republican’s and the NRA had their way in congress (and supported by the Responsible Community), there is a good chance that violence would eventually have put him in jail for a long time, or O’Neal would have been killed at a young age.

Mzee Pete O’Neal though, has found a secret to the improvement of life in the community without looking for it. It is, if you see wrong, fix it without hurting anyone. In a reverse turn of a phrase that is thought of as a popular African saying, “To support a community it takes an individual.”

Communities depend on the support of individuals. It is responsible people doing what is best for themselves, their families and their communities. O’Neal, now a responsible individual, has healed his belligerent soul by doing a big good in his new found community.

Everyone benefits from such action.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Religious freedom and Holly's zoning laws

If a zoning law will not allow a church to be established because of most any other reason other than it is a church, than it should receive the support of the community. But in Holly Township, a local zoning law states that a church specifically can not be established in a commercial district. Now a church that is in a commercial district is appealing the law, as they should.

Pastor James Disbrow and his Carpenter’s House Church have less than a year before he and his congregation is to be evicted from their current location. It is housed in a building in an area that Holly Township has designated to be used for commercial purposes only. If you go to Fish Lake and Grange Hall Road where the church is located, it would be difficult for you to tell what the location is zoned. It is mostly open land and very few buildings. There is no apparent reason why this church or any church would be risking the order and safety of the community.

But, no matter what the area is zoned, a house of worship of any kind has the right to be located most anywhere.

The Federal Council of Churches in Christ and the Foreign Missions Conference of North American adopted a position on the placement of churches throughout the world. The Foreign Missions Conference assists churches and missionaries in other parts of the world. Some of those places may not be as tolerate of religion as we are in the United States. In part, they state, that churches should be able to “acquire and hold property, for [religious purposes].” There doesn’t seem to be a good reason why a “church” specifically should be excluded from an area zoned commercial.

The only exception would be for the order and safety of the community because no right is absolute. Then, the community needs to have a clear reason to exclude a group like a church. Perhaps it would be because of traffic or large numbers of people attending an event at all the same time. To state that a church can not be placed in a specific area is like saying you can only have freedom of speech in some areas or you can’t own a gun in the city limits. (The Supreme Court recently struck down laws that ban gun ownership in cities across the country.)

Holly needs to review its current zoning laws to insure that religion is not impeded specifically because of religion. By banning churches from commercial areas the township is violating a basic right of an individual and a group, the freedom of religion.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Government agencies do work for all of us

At the beginning of this country until even just 50 years ago, people knew where everything came from that they ate. The corn on the table in mid summer was from the farmer next door. The turkey at Thanksgiving was from the common woods on the outskirts of town where everyone hunted. The bread, if not made by the family, came from the local baker. He got the flour from the mill. The mill owner purchased (or traded) the wheat from the farmer across the street. Everything we ate came from just a few miles away. The food was fresh and not highly processed.

Everyone knew the wheat farmer, they knew the mill owner and they know the baker. All of them went to the same pub, square danced on Saturday nights and went to church on Sunday… sometimes twice. If anything went wrong with the food supply, everyone knew it. If the farmer found his wheat to be bad, he told people so they wouldn’t get sick. If he didn’t he would be seen in the pub, at the square dance and church on Sunday (maybe twice).

Thomas Jefferson, a farmer himself, wrote about the benefits of an agricultural society. When he and others like him came together for the second time to create a government, they didn’t see the need for a Food and Drug Administration. After all, why do we need a government agency to watch the food supply and for the most part, what are drugs?

Let’s jump forward 250 years to the present. Now, it is claimed by some, that government is taking control of our lives with agencies that tell us what to do and taking away our freedoms. One such agency is the Food and Drug Administration. It is partially tasked with watching our food supply to insure its safety both from natural born pathogens and poisons placed on or in them by processing. The agency occasionally gets something wrong, but for the most part, it works for the community’s benefit.

Ask why we need the agency and the answer is in the front page of the newspapers occasionally. Most recently is the Iowa egg producer, Wright County Egg and another company called Hillandale Farms. The owner, Austin J. DeCoster, said he would apologize to congress this week for the illnesses caused by the decades of bad eggs he released on to the market. The decisions that the owner and management of the company made were not made in the best interests of the community, only profit as he himself admitted.

He would have been tarred and feathered 250 years ago as described above. Everyone would have known where the eggs came from, if they had been sold at all. Placing responsibility and taking action would have been quick and clear.

The Food and Drug administration can not place all responsibility off on the farmer and the market. The administration's short comings will come to light and corrective action will be taken. But, the administration does make two very good points that need to be addressed.

First, the agency needs enough money to operate. It is becoming very common that government agencies that work for the benefit of the community are being under funded because of the anti-government fears that are being pushed by the small government commandos. They wax nostalgic when talking about the original intent of the county and how “massive” and “over bearing” government has become. By using Ronald Reagan’s tactics of underfunding government agencies if he couldn’t get rid of them, the agencies stay out of the way of businesses because they are not able to fully execute their function. This leads to less inspection and less long term legal work that is needed to end those companies that are consistently not in compliance.

Second, they need to provide the tools and weapons that are needed. In this case, the eggs were re-pact many times by suppliers. Nothing wrong with that, those companies that sell the eggs to the end user would like their names on the package, not Wright County Egg. (Seems that is a good decision in light of the bad pr that Wright is currently receiving) But, the eggs aren’t required to be sourced labeled. That means when people began to get sick from the bad eggs, health detectives had a more difficult time tracing the source back to Wright County Eggs. This not only delayed the reaction time to find the other bad eggs, it stalled all egg supplies from those producers that did a good job. More people became sick and more sales were lost. The effort to pass legislation to require source labeling has stalled many times in congress because of the industry lobbyists.

250 years ago, Thomas Jefferson and the other founders could not have conceived such a complex and wide spread market place that we have now. Since we are not able to personally know the people that produce our food today and see them on Sunday at church, we need a way to help keep the food supply safe. Since we didn’t form communities to still do everything for ourselves, agencies that work on our behalf is the best way to approach this problem.

Don’t fight government just for the sake of fighting government. There are some ways that we can reduce the size of government but don’t let it get in the way of safety.