Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Answer to Thursday's Trivia Question

Thursday’s Trivia questions was, what U.S. House Representative from Michigan has never taken the government offered health insurance plan and has opted to pay for his own?

The answer: Bart Stupak

In fact, the congressmen, who first ran for the seat 18 years ago, has supported a health insurance plan for all Americans from his first day in office. But, over the years he has paid his share of the insurance offered by the Michigan State Police, where he retired from before taking office.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Church Cannot Hide Behind a Right

Wading through all the information about pedophiles masquerading as priest in the Catholic Church is troublesome. While each side disputes who knew what and when, no one, at least from what information is available, denies that molestation and raping of children took place. This blog post is not meant to be an assault on the Catholic Church or the great majority of good people that labor for it. The church is a valuable asset to any community. It is directed at the people committing these crimes who are suppose to protect the most vulnerable in the community.

The church is defending itself on the confidential relationship between a member of the clergy and someone confessing their sins. This has been a long standing right in common law. The thinking is that religion holds a very special place in any community, perhaps above the law of man, therefore the clergy and the confessor are granted special rights. But the people who are confessing these most horrendous of crimes are Priests. They are leaders that not only set the moral code for the community, but by the special status granted them are to be above reproach. Victim’s have said that just saying a priest has done something immoral feels like inviting the wrath of God.

The right of confidentiality should be respected, but no right is absolute. There are other rights that must be kept in balance. There is the right of the victims to have the crimes visited on them validated and there is the responsibility of the community to protect them and punish those that committed the crimes.

No argument can be made that any right shields someone from responsibility to directly harm someone else. It also does not shield someone who knows about the act but does not report the crime. This is especially true when the victims are just children, who have a limited capacity to understand what has happen to them.

As a community we must ask that the people that have committed these crimes come forward to take responsibility. Those people that know what has happen and have kept their secrets, must also come forward.

With every right comes the responsibility to use it in good faith. When that good faith is violated, a community cannot allow a dark evil to hide behind it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Government Insurance Plan

What U.S. House Representative from Michigan has never taken the government offered health insurance plan and has opted to pay for his own? Come back Saturday for the answer.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Living Up to Our Responsiblities

Gwendolyn Burton is a responsible member of the community. She has worked hard, apparently paid her bills, and expects other people to do the same. But the community is not living up to its responsibility according to an Oakland Press article on line, April 10, 2010.

In February of 2007, Burton’s home was damaged by an electrical fire. When she received her insurance claim she contracted with Rick Ballard to repair the damage. Apparently, Ballard claimed he was a licensed contractor, but wasn’t. Burton paid for some of the work in advance. Ballard after a period of time stopped work on the home and would not return Burton’s phone calls. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Bruce U. Morrow sided with Burton. In August of 2009, 9 months ago, he ordered Ballard to pay $61,000 in restitution and serve some jail time.

Burton has not been paid a dime nor has Ballard spent any time in jail. A warrant has been issued for Ballard’s arrest but no action has been taken. None, nada, zilch.

In a Responsible Community individuals are to live in a responsible manner, one that Burton seems to have done for her entire life. A successful, retired school teacher that now expects others in the community to live up to their end of the deal. But, the court system and its enforcement arm, has not taken any action other than the court order. In this recession, tax revenues are down so agencies have to make cuts. These cuts affect the efficient operation of government. This leaves Burton to protest in front of the contractor’s house, with a home not finished and $61,000 short.

When we formed communities, on the top of the responsibilities for the government was to enforce the law. After all, the deal was that we would not take law into our own hands, leaving that task to the government. But before we all just blame the government, the sheriff department of Wayne County and the courts, let’s take a closer look.

Without enough people to enforce the law, the government has to make priorities. The priority being, hopefully, to enforce orders for the most dangerous and the largest amounts of money. Burton even suggested this when she said she realizes this is not a lot of money in the big scheme of things, but it is big money to her. But, if the courts were properly funded, they wouldn’t have to make a list of priorities. Ballard would be in jail and Burton would have her money.

It is tough in a recession to dig a little deeper to find enough money for taxes. Foreclosures, unemployment, and decreased income have taken a toll on people and families. But the “cut taxes and force government to do more for less” concept isn’t working for all the Burtons out there. As a community we must set our priorities then make the proper investment in those priorities to make it work. And that is just the opposite of what we are doing.

Here is a suggestion. The next time we vote for someone to represent us, ask him or her to make a list of the most important things that the community needs to do. Since Burton and the rest of us agreed to not take things into our own hands, enforcing the law should be right on top. Now, here is the hard part, if you agree with the priorities, be willing to pay for them. If that means increasing the tax rate during a recession to make up for the lost revenue, then agree to it.

If you don’t then you aren’t living up to your side of the deal. Crime will increase, there will be more Burton’s out there and someday, it will be you.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Senate Filibuster

The US Senate recently broke a filibuster to bring a vote to the floor on unemployment benefits. This was a big issue during the Health Care Reform bill. Should the Senate change the filibuster rule?

Monday, April 12, 2010

If One, Then All

That is one of the fundamental points of all rights guaranteed in the Constitution and of a Responsible Community. If you allow an individual to use public property to express a political view point, then you must allow others that meet the same standards. But, those standards can’t be based on content.

Independence Township is learning that lesson. Depending on their decision, the township may find themselves programming a wide range of political opinions if they allow a group to use the township’s public access channel to broadcast a video asking for the recall of the supervisor. The township attorney has opined that they should allow the group on the channel for fear that there might be a court fight that would cost too much money. The attorney did frame the issue in freedom of speech terms.

We have a guarantee of the freedom of speech. The government can’t control the content of the speech if it is political in nature, short of being libelous. Tied closely to that freedom is the right of assembly, both being part of the first amendment. Assembly must be allowed on public property and any limitations must meet strict standards.

In this digital age, political assembly can be defined as gathering in public cyberspace. An access channel that the government operates would be open to anyone to use because it is public space. Any rules for usage of the channel for political speech has to be applied to any individual or group without regard to the content of the speech.

If Independence Township, for fear of fighting a costly court battle, chooses to allow the recall group on the access channel, it will open itself to even more costly fights. Every group with any political agenda will line up to use the channel and the township will not be able to stop them.

But, if Independence Township chooses to not allow any political speech, they will perhaps fight one court battle but will win in the long run. They will be able to program the channel in a manner that is best for the township.

This would not be necessarily be a violation of freedom of speech and assembly. There are plenty of video outlets on the web that would provide them, essentially, with the same access to the residents of Independence. This is especially true because a resident must have cable to have access to the township channel in the first place.

This is not like using the local park or township property for speech and assembly. The township can’t just stop all political activity at the local park because there would be no alternative. A group’s assembly at the park, say in Clarkston, will not have the same impact as a park in the township because township residents may not have the same access to that park. But, other alternatives on the web would give the residents the same access as the township channel.

Be careful Independence Township that you don’t open up the channel to an endless stream of political speech that may have nothing to do with the original intent of the channel, to keep the public informed about community events.