Monday, December 26, 2011

How far will we go?

The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey was sued by 12 nurses who claimed they were forced to assist on abortion procedures. They said that it was against their religion to help doctors and other hospital staff. The university did settle with the nurses before it went to court. But, the precedent is set.

When the nurses originally complained, they were re-assigned so they would not be present at the actual procedure. But, the nurses were required to help out in the pre and post procedure. Other nurses had to be hired to cover for the complaining nurses’ re-assignment.

How far will our community allow people to object to an activity because it is against their religion or personal beliefs? Most of the time, this issue comes up with abortion. There are pharmacists who refuse to provide birth control pills or the morning after drug. There are religious schools that object to having to cover abortions in their health insurance plans.

But, there are other issues as well. There are religious landlords that don’t want to rent to unmarried or same sex couples. A few days ago a post was made to this blog about a women in a department store that would not allow a transgender to use the women’s dressing room in the store because of her personal religious beliefs, this despite store policy that allowed it.

If these types of complaints and actions are given approval by our communities and court systems, there will be many more that will arise. There will be the Muslim food handler that will not serve up the blue plate special at the local dinner because it is a pulled pork sandwich. There may be Christian therapist that will refuse to counsel parents that are seeking a divorce because married couples shouldn’t get divorced.

Individuals do have the right and the responsibility to act in their own conscience. The nurses that were discussed at the opening were trained in the professional long after Roe v Wade. They knew that at some point in time they may be involved in an abortion procedure. The nurses perhaps need to find a situation where they will not be involved. When other people open up a business, like the landlord mentioned above, and seek the protection from the community, they can’t at the same time refuse services to others in the community. People get to their position in life partly out of the help of others in the community. To refuse service to those that had a hand in helping them is just wrong.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that people need to help those that are involved in an illegal act. It is the individual’s responsibility to report such activity or risk being part of the crime. But, all of the mentioned situations here are legal.

It would be easy if we lived in a completely homogeneous society and culture. Everyone would believe in the same thing and there wouldn’t be any disagreement. But, ultimately, that leads to a form of dictatorship known as Racist Nationalism. This is just what happen to Germany under the Nazis. It is also what our culture complains the most about in other countries that have a strong religious leadership and makes all the finally judgments in the community. This is just what the court system is like in Iran; the top religious leader can strike down any law passed by the parliament.

Communities were created not so that they could separate into little enclaves, but so that they may live together in mutual support. By opening the way for individuals and groups to refuse to help others because of some difference between each other, we lay the ground work to break up into sectarian and partisan communities that will become dysfunctional at best. At worst, people from one enclave will refuse to defend another creating a cycle of revenge actions that will not stop.

To live in a community means that you agree to support each other. You still have individual choice, but having choice doesn’t mean you have to refuse to help others with their choices.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gingrich's plan for the courts is dangerous

Attorneys Generals for the Bush administration calls presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s position on the courts dangerous.

Michael Mukasey and Alberto Gonzales in a recent television interview on Fox News criticized Gingrich’s idea of just making a law that prevents federal courts from ruling on things Gingrich doesn’t want them to. These are not liberals who might make automatic disparaging remarks about anything the republicans might say. These are two attorneys generals that have hard conservative credentials that were interview on a “news” network that takes hard conservative positions.

At the core of Gingrich’s position on the courts, is the idea that congress can make a law that doesn’t allow federal appellate courts or the Supreme Court to take cases on any issue that he, in agreement with congress, doesn’t want them to rule on. This would be limiting the jurisdiction of the courts that congress establishes.

One of the primary issues is abortion. Gingrich believes that this will stop the federal courts from striking down anti-abortion laws that states enact. It is Gingrich’s plan to return to the states the function of determining abortion rights without fear from the federal government. But, the rights we all enjoy, including abortion, are established in the Constitution by the Bill of Rights. The 14th amendment establishes that those rights fall under the protection of the federal government.

Congress under Article III section 2 does have the power to establish and expand a federal court system. But, Congress has limited power over the jurisdiction of the courts it establishes. Since the Constitution in the first ten amendments states that “Congress shall make no law” that takes away the rights of individuals, congress can’t take away the right of any federal court to make a judgment about federal law that may be in violation of the Bill of Rights.

If congress is given this power, there would be no check to the balance of power that congress or the president may exercise. That isn’t what the framers intended.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Social engineering?

The Virginia Board of Social Services has voted to allow adoption and foster care agencies working on behalf of the state to discriminate against prospective parents and foster parents based on religious, political, sexual orientation and other personal beliefs and biological profiles.

What are we doing, raising the next generation of Conservative, Republican voters? Isn’t this what Germany did leading up to World War II?

81 private agencies in Virginia, like in many other states, provide social services to children and families. They are licensed and receive funds from the state to carry out their tasks. One of the tasks is to find adoptive parents and foster homes for children. 42 of the agencies are faith based.

In the past, the agencies could not discriminate based on a list of things including religion, sexual orientation, gender, family status and political beliefs. The attorneys general for Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican, advised the board that the state lacked the authority to bar private agencies from discriminating based on the issues.

The board approves each agency to operate. An agency, by definition, acts for their client, in this case the state of Virginia. The board also provides public funding for the faith based agencies to carry out their commission. If the state approves the agencies and they operate on its behalf, the agencies must follow the same rules as any other government function.

The governor of Virginia, Robert F. McDonnell, and the attorneys general are both Republican. Republican’s often argue that it is wrong to attempt any form of social engineering. That to allow discrimination in an attempt to change the cultural and social fabric of a community is wrong. Yet, this Republican administration is making an attempt to do just that. The faith based organizations will be allowed to select the family profile that fits their ideology. Assuring that the children they find homes for will be exposed to the “correct” religious, political and family make up that fits their needs.

Issues like religion, politics, sexual orientation or family status doesn’t make a good or bad parent. To allow organizations that are agents for the state to discriminate for issues that don’t make anyone a bad parent is, well, discrimination.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

To live peacefully together, we some times have to step back

Despite what you believe is right or wrong on a personal level, in a civil society you sometimes need to step back. Two different stories from the news make the case, even if they aren’t alike. One is institutional, the Supreme Court Justice’s responsibility to the community. It is a case involving a defendant’s right to face his accuser. The other is about an individual’s community responsibility. It involves a woman working in a department store that gets fired for her actions.

On the institutional level, Sandy Williams was convicted of rape in Chicago (Williams v Illinois). He was arrested on a separate charge and police had taken a DNA sample from him. Evidence on the rape case was gathered from the victim and was sent to a lab in Maryland. The lab created a profile from the evidence that included DNA. The DNA from Williams and the rape case matched. Based on this evidence, Williams was then picked out of a line by the victim. At the trial, no one from the lab was called to testify about the examination of the evidence, because the prosecutors thought it too expensive to bring someone from the lab. Williams was convicted and given a life sentence.

Williams’ defense lawyers appealed and took the case to the Supreme Court. Their argument is, that since the prosecution didn’t have the person who did the test at the Maryland lab testify, Williams wasn’t given his right to face his accusers. The court sat for oral arguments and the case will be decided in the spring.

It appears that Williams is guilty. The evidence points to him and the woman identified him. The justices on the court are aware of the facts. Yet, they can’t just say, “he is guilty and don’t let this misstep of justice happen again.” They need to step back from the situation and determine if he did receive a fair trial. Not just for him, but as guidance in the future for all the similar cases. (A ruling for the defendant in this case may mean that not only does he go free, but many others like him will also.)

The other situation is about the clash between an individual’s personal beliefs and the society around them.

At a major department store, a transgender woman finds an outfit she would like to try on in the fitting room. When she asked the clerk, Natalie Johnson, to use the fitting rooms, the woman was told that she couldn’t use the women’s fitting room. Johnson said that even though the woman had make-up on and wore women’s clothes, she was not a woman because of her appearance, say she had a beard. Johnson was fired the next day after a long meeting with her superiors.

Johnson is a Christian and followers her faith very closely. She felt that by letting the woman use the women’s fitting rooms she would be violating her faith.

“I had to either comply with Macy’s or comply with God,” Johnson said. She is a 27 year old student at San Antonio College. Johnson is also a member of Tabernacle of Prayer, a nondenominational church.

When Johnson was asked to help the woman use the fitting rooms, she should have stepped back for a moment. It may indeed violate her faith and the evidence that she observed may have been correct. Johnson should have found someone else to help the woman or directed her to another department.

People in civil societies and cultures don’t peacefully co-exist based on narrowly defined social norms. They live peacefully by stepping back and allowing others to make their own choices – as long as those choices, of course, don’t purposely injure someone else. Individuals do this not only so others may live the lives they choose, but also that the individual can live their life. This is true for the institutions that we create to help facilitate the goals of the community but also for each of the individuals that live in the community.

It can sometimes be inconvenient at best and ugly at worst. But, this is at the core of a responsible community. It is the individual and the community sharing the responsibility to help insure that everyone can fulfill their personal and community lives.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Right is right until it interferes with business in Alabama

The legislature in Alabama, prodded by the attorneys general of the state, is looking at making some changes to the strict immigration law that was passed earlier in the year. In the court of world public opinion, all negative, it catapulted Alabama ahead of other states in the country with immigration laws that run counter to the role of state government.

Why is this happening?

Part of it was a backlash from big business – mind you, not everyday citizens, but big business – after two executives from Honda and Mercedes were stopped for not carry proof of their immigration status. The governor of the state responded very quickly with an apology to the individuals and the companies. This didn’t look good in a state that is seeking foreign investment. The executives were released without charges even though they broke the law. How about all the other everyday citizens that have been stopped, detained and charged with not carry proof of their immigration status?

But, at the core of the issue is a position a pro-business organization has taken. The Birmingham Business Alliance expressed that the law was damaging Alabama’s image around the world. Plus, (I love this one) “it is a burden for business and local government.”

Immigration and citizenship is a responsibility of the federal government. It says so right in the Constitution. If every state, county and city in the country were to enact their own immigration laws, it would be confusing to even to the local hardware store that hires kids in the neighborhood. We could never be really sure who has the right to be here.

But, Alabama seeking to change the law in response to big business complaints is especially disturbing. Their response makes it very clear that from the start this was just political. If it wasn’t, why was it right to place all these restrictions in the law in the first place then back out of parts of the law because big business complained? The legislature was told about the law being in violation of the Constitution. Many parts of the law have been placed on hold by the courts. Individuals lobbing to stop the law told them that citizens and immigrants in good standing would be negatively profiled. But, they didn’t listen because they wanted to make a political statement that they were hard on illegals.

Business, and the bigger the more responsible they are, is the biggest trouble maker with illegal immigrants. They hire those that come to this country seeking jobs with little or no identification checking. A blind eye is turned as long as they get docile workers that don’t complain and just do their job, no matter how little they are paid. By stopping illegals from getting jobs, those crossing the border without permission would slow dramatically.

As a country, we do need to work on immigration. But, that is the job of congress and the president not individual states. The Constitution makes it their responsibility. It also means that there will be one set of rules for everyone instead of 50, or more if counties and cities get in to the act like many already have.

Congress needs to act.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

No religion in public schools

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal to overturn a ruling by an appeals court to allow religious services in New York City school buildings after hours. The appeal was made by the Bronx Household of Faith, an evangelical Christian church. The religious group wanted to use a local middle school for its Sunday morning services that included singing of hymns, prayer and preaching from the Bible.

The appeal was made on the grounds that the denial by the New York City Board of Education was “viewpoint discrimination” and the appeals court authorized “censorship of private religious speakers.” The Supreme Court rejected the appeal without comment. This usually means that a majority of the justices found no merit in the request.

In a community, places represent things. The police station, the fire station and schools are places in the community that have very clear meanings. When you go to any of those places, like the place station, you are expecting to see police conducting their official business. We expect the same experience when we visit the fire station and schools.

Private buildings have the same expectations but are also distinctly different then public buildings. The local hardware store, the auto repair facility and churches are different places than public. The owners and managers of private places have control over the image that they project and can refuse to allow entry to people as long as it isn’t based on certain issues.

Allowing religious activities in a public school building would confuse its purpose of learning. It sends a message that this is the religion you should learn about. If you attended a religious school building you would expect to hear about one particular religion. But, public schools need to be a place where learning can be conducted without the influence of any religion.

The New York City School Board made the right decision to keep religion out of their buildings. This maintains a clear division between public and private purpose. It was good to see that the appeals court and the Supreme Court agreed with their decision.


Monday, December 5, 2011

We don’t need a victim in the highest office in our community

It looks like Herman Cain is out of the race for the presidency. He put his campaign on hold because of all the allegations about sexual harassment and a possible affair that lasted much longer than a one nighter.

While none of these accusations have been proven in a court of law, one thing seems clear… no other candidate has so many women coming forward saying similar things. You have to wonder, if these tales were just women telling “lies” for their own enrichment, why haven’t other women come forward about other candidates?

There were other things as well. He didn’t know about China’s nuclear program. He wasn’t sure about Libya – or where it was. He couldn’t articulate his positions clearly on abortion. He was unaware of the affect his 9-9-9 tax plan would have. These are all things that should be feathered out early in the planning stages of any campaign. If you are running for the highest office in the world, you need to get a quick education on the world and developed a position statement on all you positions.

But, at the foundation of all of these problems, Cain played the blame game. None of this was his fault, it was the liberal press. The press didn’t like his position on the issues, so they decided to go after him. Can anyone tell me where the liberal press met to talk about this and make their plans? None of the women that I know of have any ties to the press of any kind.

Another reason was Cain’s fatigue. When Cain didn’t know the answer to how he would handle Libya, the campaign staff later said he was just tired. Hmm, how many phone calls come in the middle of the night as president and tired or not, you need to make quick decisions?

The blame game is not a good play in everyday life; it certainly isn’t when you are in a position of responsibility. To paraphrase a bit attributed to Lincoln, you can fool some of the people for a while, but after a while you need to step forward. Because Cain didn’t step forward and take some responsibility for his actions and mistakes, he is now stepping back.

Glad it was not instead of when he was in office.


Friday, December 2, 2011

The NRA's grand conspiracy

Wayne LaPierre, the Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association told a CPAC gathering in Florida, “It’s all part of a massive conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intention to destroy the Second Amendment.”

LaPierre was talking about the Obama’s administration to take no steps to take guns away from the citizens of the United States. LaPierre thinks that Obama’s lack of action is part of a conspiracy. That his appearance of inaction is so he can say he is for gun rights, and convince voters that he is on their side.

During the last election it was feared that if elected, Obama would move to take guns from the “cold, dead hands” of true Americans, as the gun lobby followers like to say. When he took office, gun sales skyrocketed. People wanted to stock up so they would be weaponized when the black booted goons made guns illegal.

But, since the election, absolutely nothing has happen. Obama has not requested any legislation about outlawing guns. He has not given any policy speeches on how guns have made this society the most violent in history. After the slaughter in Tucson by Jared Lee Loughner, that killed 6 people and wounded another 14 including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a perfect time to call for more gun control, nothing happen.

And, yet, LaPierre seems to think this is Obama’s grand conspiracy to remove guns from the homes of good, upstanding citizens.

LaPierre and the likes of him need a boogieman to stay alive. He needs to stir up some hate for the liberal press, the far left commie in the White House or whoever else LaPierre can point a finger at. Even if the people LaPierre points fingers at are people in position of power that have done nothing to endanger his beloved right to own guns.

We do have a right, of some kind, to bear arms. I do believe that those that signed the Constitution wanted to make sure that we could keep guns in our homes for our safety, for hunting and so that we may respond to a call to arms by our states in times of need. But, it can’t be argued that by guaranteeing the right to bear arms in the Constitution, the signers ever intended to stop congress from enacting any reasonable law about gun safety.

LaPierre would have you believing otherwise. He believes that any law that curtails the ownership or use of guns is unconstitutional. But, who would argue that crazy people, like Loughner, should be able to walk around with a gun strapped to their waist. Obama, instead of moving to place more control on people like him, has done nothing.

LaPierre, where is the grand conspiracy?


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One way to solve the illegal immigration problem

Grigg Box Company in Detroit was raided by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations a few days ago. After a long investigation by HSI, it was determined that the company had a possible 30 or more undocumented workers employed. The owner of the company will soon be charged in court with the crime.

Brian M. Moskowitz, HIS special agent in charge, said when questioned about the raid, "Employers who evade the law not only fuel the demand that is responsible for much of the country's illegal immigration, but their actions also hurt lawful workers who are seeking jobs in this challenging economy.” Moskowitz continues, "Criminal prosecutions are just one of many tools HSI is using to reduce the demand for illegal employment and protect job opportunities for the nation's lawful workforce."

In the Responsible Community’s blog post, “End illegal immigration in five steps” the second point of five to end illegal immigration was:

2) Enforce the law about employing the undocumented worker. This must be done on the national level, not the local or state level. Unless every employer understands very clearly what they need to do to make sure their work force is legal, they will make mistakes at the very least and ignore on the most flagrant level.

Employers, small and large, must also believe that I.C.E. (Immigration and Custom Enforcement) could arrive at any moment for an employee audit. Employers must be obligated to document that each employee is legally employable in this country. If they can’t, they must pay a fine that is far greater than the risk of being caught.

We can’t fence off the world. No fence can be built high enough to stop those that are driven to find a way over, around or under. What we need to do is stop the incentive illegal immigrants have for finding their way here. If they knew they would not find work, it would stop one of the biggest reasons they come. (Another is freedom, and who could blame them for that.)

While we talk about ending illegal immigration, we always point fingers at other countries and the individuals that find their way here. But, rarely have we looked at ourselves. If we continue to blame others for our problems, we will never solve the problem.

Continue with these raids at an accelerated rate.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

End banks that are too big to fail

Jon Huntsman, one of the many Republican presidential candidates, wants to put an end to banks that are too big to fail. His plan would not allow banks to grow beyond a predetermined percent of the economy. The real solution would be to keep banks in the community and service their own mortgages, loans and investments.

Communities operate best when the stakeholders have reasonable control over the events and issues that affect their personal and community lives. The institutions in the community that assists its citizens need to be small and local so that they can be responsive to the needs of the community. When they become too large, the interest of the institution is not tied to the community.

National and international banks are the biggest offenders. Their interests are not aligned with the interest of individual communities and the needs of its citizens. Decisions by the owners of the large banks are not made on a community by community basis. They are made in support of the corporation. Rather than provide the services that individual communities need, they force communities to confirm to their standards.

One of the issues this affects is mortgages. The amount of mortgages a bank can provide is limited. In order to be covered by the FDIC, a bank must maintain a set amount of its demand deposits on hand. If a bank wants to provide more mortgages than is allowed under law, some of its mortgages must be sold off, usually to Wall Street. This allows the banks to go well beyond their limits on lending money. They can make more profit, which is good for the bank, but not always what is best for the community.

When mortgages are serviced by the bank in the community, it is much easier for someone to approach the bank to discuss issues. Those that own and manage the bank are in their offices every day and are approachable. They care because the failure of a single mortgage means a loss to the bank and its standing in the community will be affected. If the mortgage has been sold off to Wall Street, the local bank has no say in the management of the mortgage. Also, the profit the bank makes from the loan has already been realized.

As a secondary benefit, less risky mortgages will not be made. If the bank knows that they will be servicing the mortgage, it will not want to have the expense of collecting the money. If risky mortgages are quickly packaged and sold off, the bank will be more willing to make those risky loans, knowing they won’t have to service it.

Both issues mentioned in the preceding two paragraphs caused a lot of problems over the last few years. One of the problems that mortgage owners have experienced is that the bank that services the loan would not work with them on finding solutions to avoid default. Personnel at the banks could not be contacted, would not return inquiries and generally were unresponsive to the needs of the homeowners. Also, without question, some of the mortgages should not have been made. Those risky loans were one of the reasons for the near collapse of the mortgage business.

Banks need to be community oriented and service the mortgages they provide. This insures that they will be more responsive to the community. When there is continuing personal contact between all the parties in any business relationship, the outcome is much more likely to be positive.

Note: Thank you to my daughter Lauren Hagerman for her insightful and supportive assistance for this blog post.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

No religious test for illegal immigrants

In Tuesday night’s debate of the Republican Presidential candidates, Newt Gingrich said he would give amnesty to immigrants that are currently living in the United States with some conditions. In part, he said:

"If you've been here 25 years and you've got three kids and two grandkids, you've been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don't think we're going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out," he said.

The part of the answer that says, “…you belong to a local church…” is the most troubling. The United States has offered amnesty to illegal immigrants since the early 1800s. The latest offer from Gingrich to provide amnesty to those living here in good standing is nothing new. I also, don’t believe, like Gingrich, that we should tear apart families and the lives of others by booting them out of the country.

But, by adding the local church part, Gingrich is appling a religious test that clearly shouldn't be a part of the conditions. In the Constitution it states in very clear words that there should be no religious test given to anyone that will hold office or a position of public trust. Why, then, should a religious test to be applied to illegal immigrants that would be allowed to stay in the country for all other reasons? Church of course, means a Christian religion. Why shouldn’t it apply to Jews that join a synagogue, Muslims that join a mosque or, how about atheists that join a humanist temple? The religious affiliation, or lack of, should not be part of the selection criteria for people that would be allowed to stay.

Gingrich is wrong to think that a religious test of any kind should be given. That applies illegal immigrants that will be granted amnesty or anyone else that will arrive at our shores.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Failure of debt committee could start a real conversation about government

It could be that Newt Gingrich and I are in agreement with the failure of the deficit committee, if not for the same reasons.

This could be good for America.

The debt cutting committee that was put in place by congress a few months ago, with an equal amount of Republicans and Democrats, wasn’t able to come up with a plan to cut the deficient. It appears that the right used its powerful force to keep the Republicans from approving any increase in taxes despite the Democrats agreeing to make deep cuts in social spending.

Now for the part that is good for America. Congress will have to deal directly with this issue without hiding from it behind the committee. If a deal had been made, every member of congress and the president himself, could have hidden behind the outcome and not take any responsibility. Now, members of congress will have to go on the record with why they are cutting social spending and why they are raising taxes.

This will help start a sincere and honest dialogue in this country. Not about the debt as much as what we expect out of government. That government was formed not to stand on the side lines and watch people suffer, but to help all people in the community live the best lives they can.

If we could come to terms – read compromise – on the issue of government we would understand why some programs need to be temporally cut and taxes need to be raised temporality. It would keep the debt from getting too high and still help people in this country that need help.

So, let congress begin its debate. Let’s wait for them to get their party positions out of the away. Then, let’s ask them to get down to the real business of government. To come to a compromise that provides a safe and secure environment for everyone in the community.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Protect IP act is no protection

If the Protect IP Act becomes law, it will empower the Attorney General of the United States to blacklist websites without court review. This is like the chief of police of a local community deciding that a group of protesters should not be allowed to assemble in a local park because the local gas station asked the chief.

Many countries around the world allow their citizens to steal copyrighted material and sell it for a profit. China is the biggest abuser. Big corporations through their associations like the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Motion Picture Association of America, the American Federation of Musicians and others have petitioned congress for stricter laws preventing piracy. The act that is working it was through congress is called the Protect IP Act.

One of the provisions of the act would allow the United States Attorney General to blacklist sites that are suspected of piracy. With the big names mentioned above behind the law, the pressure on the Attorney General to block sites would be tremendous. But, he could do it without any judicial review. It would be his or her digression to block a site.

There is the possibility that sites could be blocked that may have an issue with one of the big corporations. Instead of spending their billions challenging the site in court, they could just pick up the phone and ask the Attorney General to take action. There is also a chance that sites could be blocked that are not politically aligned with the administration at the time. With no judicial review, the citizens of the community would have no way of making an informed judgment about the case.

This is clearly a freedom of speech issue.  If the site is on the wrong side of the law, then a simple court review would illustrate it.  Our judicial system is a way of checking the power of the congress and the president. This is a bad law for our community. The prevision about block sites should have judicial review.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Supreme Court Justices should keep an open mind

I guess it gets down to just not caring about appearances.  Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court justices, dined with some very powerful people just the other night.  That, in itself is not worth a blog post. It just happens that these people will be the lead lawyers in the challenge to the Affordable Health Care Act before the Supreme Court in March.  That matters.

Judges at all levels should at the very least look like they have not formed an opinion before a case is argued in their court. Judges at the federal level are nominated by the President and approved by the Senate to keep them out of politics and party positions. If they did belong to a party, it might affect their judgment on cases that come before their court. When nominated, the prospective judge comes before the Senate Judiciary committee to seek approval. At that hearing, it is expected to hear them say that they can’t comment on issues that might come before the court. That might indicate that they are not approaching each case with an open mind. There are many other situations that they should avoid that might prejudice their opinion about issues.

So why is it okay for Scalia and Thomas to have dinner with the lead challengers to the Affordable Health Care Act? This wasn’t just a dinner with some friends. It was a banquet for the Federalist Society. It is an organization that advocates for conservative ideas in government. The dinner was sponsor by two law firms, Bancroft PLLC and Jones Day. Both will be representing conservative interests in their challenge before the Supreme Court. Scalia and Thomas are the featured quests.

Scalia and Thomas have long histories of supporting conservative ideas. This is, of course, their right as citizens of the United States. But, when they are the featured quests at a dinner that wants to get rid of the Affordable Health Care Act, it is no longer just a personal opinion. It is an appearance of already forming an opinion.

This is not in the best interest of our community.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Keep an age limit on hunters in Michigan

Car sales in Michigan and across the country are down. I have a great way to pick up the sales. Let’s remove the age requirement for a driver’s license. That way, even 9 year olds like the one that drove her drunken father around about a month ago will need a car.

Think about it, there must be at least a couple hundred thousand kids between the ages of two and 15 years of age just in Michigan alone. All of them will need a car. Most will get used cars because they will be cheaper. That means the used car market will dry up and make new cars more appealing. Within just a year or two, the auto factories will be booming again.

Problem solved.

What about drivers training and the additional risk on the roads? Oh, but we will sell more cars so it doesn’t matter. Besides, will let parents decide if their child is capable of making good decisions and are able to see over the steering wheel. All parents are good parents. They won’t let their child drive if they are not able to – would they.

Well, if you think this is a good idea, then you will like the idea of handing a 9 year old a high powered rifle and send them out in the woods to hunt deer. The Department of Natural Resources of the state of Michigan has removed any age limit to hunting deer in Michigan starting next year. The reason they did this? The number of hunters is down. So, if they increased the pool of those that are able to hunt – but not necessarily capable of hunting safely – there will be more hunters.

What is even more interesting is that the hunter safety course that is required by the state for new hunters is waived for two years, as a test drive the department says to see if the young hunters will like hunting. That would be like giving license to drive to kids that are as young as 9 for two years to see if they like driving before taking a driver’s education course.

Our drive for money and gun freedoms is over the edge. We are losing sight of the reason there are communities, to build a safe and secure environment for all of us to live. By giving guns to younger and younger children, we are not becoming more secure.

This is a bad idea for Michigan.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Herman Cain is out of touch and doesn't deserve to be President

Herman Cain’s suggestion that the occupy Wall Street protests that have now spread across the country are just playing the “victim card” is dead wrong. It is no truer than the Tea Party playing the victim card because they didn’t get their way about health care.

Mr. Cain, in every crime there are victims and unpleasant consequences. The rip off by the Wall Street bankers and brokers and the resulting down turn in the economy is a crime and those that have lost their jobs and are losing their homes are victims. To suggest in one sweeping statement that all of them are playing off on what has happen to them is to be insensitive to the real issues. If you can’t understand the real issues, you can’t present solutions that are based in reality. Mr. Cain, you are not fit to be president.

Just as in a robbery, a traffic accident or the result of Wall Street Bankers playing with real people’s lives like it was monopoly money; there are those that must suffer the consequences. Unfortunately, because Bush helped those that were taking the risks and because Obama just passed through the same policy, the bankers got off. They made millions, if not billions, off of their risk taking. This despite the bailouts they received from the taxes the people who are occupying Wall Street right now. Do you think the Wall Street bankers and others didn’t play the “victims card” in their board room meetings with the Federal Reserve Chair and the Secretary of the Treasury? The only difference is they still had one more hand to play… the economy would have collapsed if the Federal Government hadn’t helped out.

So now, the Wall Street protesters are asking the system to help them out. They don’t want a bailout like the bankers received, they want jobs. They don’t want their fate left up to boardroom meetings of large multi-national corporations whose only purpose is to make a profit, and whose loyalties are not to any community. They want decisions that affect their lives and jobs made in public so they can have a say in those decisions. They are asking that the community to help them just like the community helped the big Wall Street guys.

We the people didn’t create a community so that when times are tough the community can ignore our pleas and say we are just playing the victim card. If the community doesn’t support us, why do we need one? Why did we create them? We created communities and continue to support them because a shared responsibility between ourselves and the community will get us a lot farther.

It is time the community supports Main Street now.

Editor's note:  Recent health worries and problems prevented me from making posts over the last 6 weeks.  It appears that these problems are now in the past.  I hope to increase my pace back to where it was before the issue arose.  Thank you for your patience. 


Friday, September 23, 2011

A candidate for all the people

If the Republican presidential candidates continue to hold such a hard line on many of the issues facing the United States, it is a reasonable question to ask if they are a candidate for all the people.

Bachmann, being the staunchest, said that she has a titanium spine when it comes to the issues that the Republican Tea Party feel the strongest about. Bachmann says that she, more than Romney or Perry, would hold the line in support of the Tea Party issues.

Bachmann is saying, without reservation at this point in the election cycle, that she is the candidate for Tea Party people and not all Americans. But, not all people align themselves with the Tea Party, nor the Republicans or even the Democrats. But taking a stand that is so harsh, Bachmann is saying she would not consider the needs and concerns for people outside of the demographic profile that is her base.

As a presidential candidate, it is important to make very clear what your opinions are on the issues. In most situations we all know that the candidate, if elected, would work with the congress to come to a compromise on the issues, find a workable solution and get something done. This is the way that all citizens of the country can feel like their interests are being taken into consideration. But, for a candidate to take the stance from the beginning that there will be no compromise is to say that the rest of the country doesn’t count.

The country needs a President that everyone can feel right about. Not someone that discounts the concerns of a large part of the population from the beginning.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Regulations protect people and environments

The regulations that business operates under is going to be an issue in the upcoming presidential election. Those candidates that are running on the right are saying that we have too many regulations on business and that the result is a loss of jobs.

If jobs are lost who could be against dumping the regulations?

Yes, perhaps, there are too many regulations. But, most regulations are in place for a reason. They protect people and the environment. Without these regulations, we would have to rely on corporations, whose sole legal goal is to create profit, to do the right thing. Many corporations say that their best practices meet or exceed the regulations.

As an example of corporations following their own best practices, there is Shell Oil that has operations in the Niger Delta, Africa. The corporation has established best practices between itself and NNPC, the national oil company of Nigeria. Those practices are to protect the environment, workers and the people living in the delta.

But, there is a serious problem in Africa, where Shell said they followed their best practices and said that the area was “clean”. As reported in The Economist, August 13th-19th, 2011, a United Nations report states that there is a “thick, black carpet of crude” in the Ogoniland. This spill has been estimated to be larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska and covers about 10 square miles. This is the result of an oil spill that Shell first claimed was caused by theft and sabotage, but now has admitted was caused by equipment failure. It appears that their best practices didn’t anticipate the equipment failure and that Shell could blame it on other causes.

Residents of the area are drinking water with 900 times as much benzene, a carcinogen, then is deemed safe by the World Health Organization. The report goes on to say that it could take 30 years and a billion dollars for Shell to clean up an area. This report is published 20 years after Shell left Ogoniland.

Every time a corporation or an industry is threatened with regulations they claim that their best practices will be better and that there will be loss of jobs. But, in thousands of case in our own country and around the world, it isn’t the case.

So, should we skip the regulations so that Shell can hire a few more people? It is the lack of regulations and reliance on corporation’s best practices that have polluted the Ogoniland, a faraway place that is rarely seen by the eyes of American voters.

Let’s keep the regulations that protect people and environments.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Medical marijuana law in Michigan is confusing at best

There is few things clear in politics. But, in the case of the use of marijuana for medical purposes in Michigan, the intent of the voters was very clear. In a decisive vote, the people of Michigan said they wanted people to have access to marijuana if a doctor prescribed it as medication.

So why has it been such trouble to get them the medicine?

Politicians, police agencies and other authoritarian types don’t want them to. They believe that the drug is a great evil. They would ignore the intent of the voters and keep it from those that need it for fear that the state will become the, “drug capital of the world,” as one politician put it.

Two years ago, a citizens initiative passed in Michigan. The initiative said that marijuana should be made available to those that could benefit from the drug. As called for in the initiative, the state legislature acted. But, they created a confusing and vague law. The result has been nothing but confusion about a very clear decision by the voters.

Now a court has ruled, that marijuana dispensaries are illegal according to their interpretation of the confusing law passed by the state. This has forced perhaps hundreds of clinics around the state out of business, leaving those that are in need of the drug searching for another source for their medicine.

Where are these people to go? Shall we send them out on the street to drug dealers?

Most drugs do need to be controlled. The ill effects that the drugs bring on user, their families and communities would be destructive. But, that doesn’t mean that drugs that clearly are needed to ease the pain of an illness, and in some cases, improve the health of people should just be banned and only provided by the local illegal street vendor.

The legislature of the state should act quickly to write a clear law about something the voters clearly want.


Friday, August 19, 2011

No tax increase doesn't make sense

There is a hidden agenda in the no tax pledge that the anti-tax crowd is talking about. It isn’t to keep from raising taxes because it hurts the economy. It is the killing of all government in the end.

Many conservative politicians that are running in the next election have signed a no tax increase pledge from groups like Americans for Tax Reform. The pledges states that they will not vote for a tax increase of any kind, even if it is just a move to increase revenue. Americans for Tax Reform don’t care if it is legislations that increases taxes or removes a deduction that will increase revenue. Americans for Tax reform will provide significant support for those politicians that keep their pledge. If someone slips up and votes for an increase in revenue, the organization will find another politician to support in the next election.

Sometimes revenues need to be increased. Even the most conservatively run business find that they need to increase prices occasionally. Costs just have a way of always going up. Those that operate a business can search for new suppliers, can cut cost and do many other things that will enable them to keep costs in line. But, at some point, the price of their goods or services are going to increase. If they don’t, they will lose money and go out of business.

Government, just like business, should run as lean as possible. All the things that businesses do to keep costs in line, government should also do. But, sometimes costs are going to increase. In order to keep a balance budget, taxes will need to increase at some point in order to cover the deficient or the government will be running in the red.

Of all the things that we ask government to do, police, fire and other essential services like that should be maintained and control by the community. When inflation pushes up the costs of maintaining the essential services, if the elected officials have signed a no tax increase pledge they plan on keeping, it means that officers or fire personal will need to be laid off. Reducing the amount of people that protect the community, one of the primary things a government should be doing.

There are ways that we can cut the cost of government. We should be working on them all the time. But, pledging to not raise taxes, no matter what the reason, will place the basic services that we all need in jeopardy.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

BART shuts down cell phone use in subway stations

Cell phone use in San Francisco subway stations was halted Thursday. BART, the authority that operates the subways, “learned” that protests were planned in some of the stations. People wanted to express their anger over the shooting death of a man by BART police. So, electricity was cut off to cell phone towers in the stations from 4 to 7 pm on Thursday in response.

Communities are given the responsibility to protect its citizens. Collective self defense was one of the first reasons people gathered in communities. But, the defense of the community must be kept in balance with the rights of individuals.

According to news reports, it is illegal for people to assemble in subway stations in San Francisco to protest. The law to prevent these assemblies is a reasonable act. The dangers that would exist if many angry people were protesting on subway platforms would go beyond a mere inconvenience of commuters. It is reasonable to think that people would be injured or killed. Also, the law most likely doesn’t choose sides, it just simple states no protests of any kind. There are plenty of other places in the city for people to assemble to express their grievances without endangering the lives of people.

When BART authorities “learned” that something was planned, it sounds like they did develop a plan to protect commuters and prevent a violation of the law. But, sense the plan they developed involved the violation of everyone’s rights, not just those involved in the protests, they should have sought judicial review. This review would have allowed a public examination of the evidence and a evaluation of the dangers that would be presented if the protest were not preempted. (Courts would have responded quickly to a request from BART due to the nature of the issues.)

I used the word preempted about the plan to negate the protests. The plan that was developed by the BART authorities was based on what might happen, as opposed to what is happening. It is dangerous to image a community that would preempt political activity without judicial review. If political activity was allowed to be preempted communities would walk right in to the issues that were explored in “Minority Report”. It was a movie from a few years ago that arrested people based on what they might do, with convictions and confinement based on action they hadn’t taken.

This action by BART authorities is similar to laws that are being considered on a national level, the so called “internet kill switch.” This law would allow the president or some other authority to kill the internet in part or whole to prevent illegal or dangerous action by individuals or groups. In that law, I supported the law as long as there was a review of the intelligence that suggested great harm was going to happen if the internet was not shut down. Even then, the action should only take place temporarily.

If intelligence provides evidence that an illegal activity was going to happen, present the evidence to a court. If approved by the court, then stand ready to take action when the activity happens, as opposed to cutting everyone’s rights short.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Rick Perry and his call to prayer

Rick Perry may be the most politically dangerous man in America right now.

The Texas Governor’s call to prayer at Reliant stadium over this past weekend in Houston isn’t the reason. On his free time he can practice his religion with abandon. His deep faith in his religion isn’t the reason either. There have many religious people that have been public officials, including Presidents, in the past and present.

Rick Perry is a politically dangerous man because of many other reasons.

One is my concern that Perry’s beliefs will direct his decision making process. He would like government to a religious and spiritual guide. He, like strong and vocal groups of Americans, believe that this is a Christian nation. This, despite the fact that John Adams, one of three people that are credited with being the primary authors of the Constitution, and many others that helped create the Constitution, have said it is not. They have said this in writing many times. This government’s primary purpose, and what should be the primary purpose of any government, is to protect the rights of people regardless of their belief. The only time government should take action is when harm will or can happen to an individual. Perry, it seems from all of his campaigning up to this point, thinks that laws should be in place that protects morality. A morality in this case that is based on Perry’s own religious beliefs.

Another is my concern that Perry will attempt to excluded people that do not share his religious beliefs from the public forum. It’s hard to image that the governor will allow freedom of religion in American that isn’t Christian. This will mean more intense pressure will be applied to groups like the Muslims that are already having a difficult time building their own religious houses.

Another is that Rick Perry, if he becomes President, will be a divider. Those that don’t believe that Christian morality should be the guide for government’s action will be side lined. This will cause incredible strife between other religious groups and those that have no faith in a spiritual being. They will be forced to live under the religious mandates of a religion they don’t believe in. This is the very thing our nation finds so abhorrent in religious countries around the world. We call them terrorists when they take over a country and enforce a strict adherence to a religious doctrine.

Rick Perry is dangerous because those that support his campaign with money and infrastructure will demand and expect that their beliefs will become policy. Just one of the groups, The American Family Association, with over 200 radio stations under their control, provided a million dollars to the Houston rally. Another group, the Cornerstone Church lead by John Hagee, sent 700 members to help in the organizing for the Houston Rally. (Another blog will be posted on the Cornerstone Church’s leader John Hagee in the near future as soon as the research is completed.) With that kind of investment and the infrastructure of 200 radio stations and staff, they will expect a return. If you think that they won’t have a say in policy decisions, think again please.

Finally, because Rick Perry believes that the Christian God will deliver us from all the social ills that may befall us. Problems that we face as a nation will not be solved by deep faith but by critical action. To fall to our knees and pray may help us understand our inner selves better but will not provide the solutions. Hard work and cooperation between all individuals will solve our problems.

This blog post may sound anti-religious. It is not. Spiritually is a strong influence in the personal lives of every human. To allow our own spiritually to guide us as individuals is important for personal peace. But, to allow a single spiritually to be forced on all American citizens through government action will only cause dissension and conflict.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

FAA employees are laid off while Congress is on vacation - tell me this is right!

Congress is on vacation. Senators and representatives went home to be with their families, enjoy the summer and raise some money for their campaigns. They continue to collect their pay checks, their travel expenses are paid, their health insurance is covered and their office expense fund continues to pay for who knows what more.

The members of congress went on vacation while 4,000 FAA workers and thousands more that work on construction projections around the country are laid off or are forced on furlough. The FAA also could lose more than a billion dollars in taxes – just so you can have a good idea of the amount of a billion dollars, here is the number: $1,000,000,000. The amount of loss in tax revenue doesn’t include the unemployment payments that the FAA and construction workers will be collecting.

I hope the 535 members of congress are enjoying their time off. I doubt that the 4,000 FAA workers are enjoying their vacation because they don’t have a pay check. No health insurance if anything happens to them or their kids. There might be a few mortgage payments missed. This time of year, kids that are going to college need to purchase books. Sorry kids, congress went on vacation and didn’t pay their bills.

The fight that went on with the debt limit is similar to the fight that is happening with the FAA financing. Some members of congress would like to stop federal payments to rural airports. The payments help keep the cost of commuter flights to major hubs down to something that is affordable. Those members think that it would save about a billion dollars – remember that number from above? That is the amount that the United States has lost in tax revenue because 535 people thought it was more important to go on vacation then to keep 4,000 people employed. It is fair to debate the continuation of subsidizing rural airports for the commuter flights. So, can’t that portion of the funding bill for the FAA be separated from the overall bill?

There is a group in congress that will not compromise on anything to get their way. Kids play like that when they are raised as spoiled little brats. The members of this group are mostly backed by the Tea Party. Instead of a compromise to keep people working and keep collecting taxes, the no-compromise group would not even consider short term legislation to keep people on the job for another month while they sorted it all out.

I hope that the members of congress who allowed this to happen are enjoying their iced tea on the porch during the hot summer. If it is too warm for them outside, they can step inside of their homes and country clubs with the air conditioning on high. That should relieve them of any memory of 4,000 people that are out of work.

If you want to make change, work for it. But, to force change while honest, hard working people are suffering is wrong.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Israeli Chamber Orchestra played Wagner Tuesday evening

Richard Wagner’s music was played in Germany on Tuesday evening Israeli Chamber Orchestra.  Wagner was an 18th century composer that had a dramatic influence on opera and music overall.  But, during his lifetime he wrote anti-Semitic essays that said Jews had no place in German society.  Hitler hijacked Wagner’s music to advance Hitler’s vile cause.

Many refuse to support any public playing of Wagner’s music, especially after World War II.  They would like to banish his music to the trash bin of history in hope that Wagner’s music, along with his views, would be forgotten.  But, his influence on music is so dramatic that Wagner’s concepts are used by many composers since he published and preformed.

Wagner’s music can’t be disassociated from one of history’s most inhumane periods.  His music was played in nearly every corner of Germany society all while millions of people were killed in the most horrific way.  Most of those that died were Jews, but so did millions of other people.  The desire to banish his music because of the ugly memories is understandable.  Who would want to be reminded of that period in our history?

If we refuse to play Wagner because of his vile cultural views and its association with the Nazis, we then elevate Wagner and his music to cult status in the underground world of racial hated.  The only people that will play his music will be those that use it to gain support for their cause.  The truth is, if we look deep into the views of every artist, we are sure to find something that we disagree with.  Should we stop playing them also? 

Openly presenting Wagner’s beautiful music can be a source of enjoyment for many people.  But, it should be done with a clear understanding of the composer’s personal views.  With open discussion about Wagner’s music, his life and his philosophy, we can use art to instruct not to destroy.  It will balance those that would like to glorify Wagner’s and Hitler’s depraved views. 

Many people have worked hard to help all of us remember the terror that existed during World War II.  Their purpose is to hang in the open the events leading up to Hitler’s reign and its result on the world.  By understanding the past in this way we can be on guard to prevent the past from becoming the future.

Playing Wagner’s music coupled with open discussion of his view points is just one way of keeping the evils of history fresh in the public memory. 


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Herman Cain supports banning mosques

Herman Cain, Republican candidate for president, says that communities don’t have to accept mosques if its citizens don’t want them.  The Washington Post called it “buffoonery.” The definition of buffoonery is behavior that is ridiculous but amusing.  Cain’s statement is certainly ridiculous but it is not amusing.  It feeds the irrational fear of public opinion about Islam. 

During an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News, Herman Cain said that Islam is not a religion like other religions and Americans have the right to keep it out of their communities if they wish.  Cain said, “Islam is both a religion and a set of laws – Sharia laws.  That’s the difference between any one of our traditional religions where it’s just about religious purposes.”  So, according to Cain, because the Muslim religion has an established set of laws, communities can ban mosque if they so choose.

Cain continues with, “That’s not discriminating based upon their particular religion.”

Cain’s words are clearly political double speak.  First, he says that it is a religion.  But, because there is a code of conduct for its believers it should not be treated like a religion.   But, Mr. Cain, isn’t that what religion is… a belief that we need to follow some rules?   

So, using Cain’s logic, any religion that has a code of conduct for its faithful should be banned.  Communities should be able to ban Jewish temples.  Rabbinical law would be considered a set of “laws,” therefore communities could ban temples.  Then, there are the Catholics with their cannon law.  In fact, they have a country that enforces cannon law, the Vatican.  It is presumed that if given the opportunity, the Catholics would love to have the United States run by cannon law, therefore, since the Catholics have a set of laws, communities should be able to ban Catholic churches. 

Cain is baiting all those that believe that Islam attacked us on 9-11 and continues to threaten our national security.  Just because the individuals that attacked us on that fateful day claimed to be good Muslims, doesn’t mean that everyone that follows Islam is the same.  No matter the religion, it is individuals that should be held accountable for their actions.    

It is presumed that Cain is a conservative because he is running as a Republican.  Conservatives strongly believe, as they should, that individuals need to be held accountable for their actions, not groups.  Yet, he states on national television that a group of people should be separated from everyone else because of their religious beliefs.

All of this, of course, is not addressing the fundamental issue in Cain’s statement.  No community has the right to ban a religion nor its place of worship.  In the United States, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion.  To suggest that Islam can be narrowly redefined to separate it from other religions is to use a blunt object to disconnect it from protection under the amendment.  If communities can successfully do that, then they can find ways to redefine any religion that the majority disagrees with and ban them as well. 
Will your religion be next?