Many Thanks Senator Kennedy

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Aug 262009

I’m old enough, barely, to remember the John Kennedy Presidency, and all the hope and enthusiasm of that time. Then the renewed spirit of Bobby Kennedy’s run for the White House.

The Kennedy family is huge, and to this day members of the family enter public service, but the death last night of Ted Kennedy at age 77 marks the end of that original family dynasty. This is a family that has known way more than their share of tragedy, and perhaps the final tragedy is that Ted Kennedy’s life’s work of healthcare for all was not realized before his death.

“This is the cause of my life. It is a key reason that I defied my illness last summer to speak at the Democratic convention in Denver—to support Barack Obama, but also to make sure, as I said, “that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American…will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege.” For four decades I have carried this cause—from the floor of the United States Senate to every part of this country. It has never been merely a question of policy; it goes to the heart of my belief in a just society. Now the issue has more meaning for me—and more urgency—than ever before. But it’s always been deeply personal, because the importance of health care has been a recurrent lesson throughout most of my 77 years.”— Ted Kennedy

He stood up as one of only fourteen Senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. During the 2004 debate on a proposed federal constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, Kennedy said:

“We all know what this issue is about. It’s not about how to protect the sanctity of marriage, or how to deal with activist judges. It’s about politics and an attempt to drive a wedge between one group of citizens and the rest of the country, solely for partisan advantage … The Constitution has never been used as a tool to entrench currently popular views at the expense of an unpopular minority – and it should not be used that way now.”

In 2007, Sen. Kennedy questionedPresident George Bush’s anti-gay nominee for Surgeon General, Dr. James Holsinger about a 1991 paper Holsinger wrote about the “Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality.” During the confirmation hearing, Kennedy called out the nominee for the paper’s “unscientific, biased, and incredibly poor scholarship.” Holsinger was never confirmed for the position.

Recently Kennedy was the chief sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and the fully-inclusive Employment Non-Descrimination Act.

The thing that most impressed me about this family was that these sons of privilege were instilled with the concept of nobilis oblige, and lived out that responsibility well. The United States Senate and our country lost a piece of our heart today with the death of Senator Kennedy, and we will be less for his passing.

John, Robert and Ted Kennedy

John, Robert and Ted Kennedy

From the opening of Faure’s Requiem: “Requiem eternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. (Rest eternal grant them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine on them.)”

May 092007

By Michael Hampton at Homeland Stupidity

Boston became the laughingstock of the country earlier this year after two incidents in which it responded to harmless devices as if they were real terrorist threats. Now Sen. Ed Kennedy (D-Mass.) wants to make absurd overreaction into national policy.

On January 31, Boston terrorized its own citizens, closing down traffic in parts of the city for several hours and sending out bomb squads to remove what turned out to be light boards, part of a marketing campaign by Turner Broadcasting for its Aqua Teen Hunger Force cartoon. That’s bad enough, but to make matters worse, officials continued to publicly call the light boards threats, even after they had been informed as to what they were.

Some people thought it was a fluke. But on February 28, they did it again. This time, they blew up a state-owned traffic counting device.

While Mayor Thomas Menino was able to extort $2 million from Turner Broadcasting to reimburse the city for his officials’ mistakes in the Mooninite incident, he completely failed to get any money out of the Commonwealth for blowing up its traffic counter. He did, however, prove that absurd overreaction to completely harmless, ordinary things is city policy.

And this isn’t even new for Boston; it turns out they have a long history of misinterpreting and overreacting to common, ordinary things. In 2004, officials there charged Joe Previtera with two felonies, “false report of location of explosives” and a “hoax device” for his protest in which he dressed like a tortured prisoner from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Officials complained about the stereo wires tied to his fingers. (The charges were later dropped.)

Sen. Kennedy’s bill, S. 735, the so-called Terrorist Hoax Improvements Act of 2007. The act would, among other things, attach civil liability to anyone whose actions were misinterpreted by authorities as being a hoax and who didn’t immediately notify those authorities about the actual nature of the incident.

This would make it much easier for officials to get large sums of money out of hapless people and companies who weren’t making any hoaxes at all, nor intending to do so. In other words, if the cops go nuts and overreact to something you did, even if it was perfectly reasonable and normal, you could be required to pay for the emergency response, no matter how absurd their actions were.

And the worst part of this bill?

“There’s nothing in the bill allowing individuals or corporations to sue government officials when hare-brained overreactions interfere with their lives and business or destroy their property,” says Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute.

I disagree.

The worst part of this bill is that it discourages anything “out of the ordinary.” Ultimately, this bill and bills like it which will certainly follow will enforce a national policy of uniformity in every aspect of our lives. Wearing the wrong color hat could someday be a crime. Oh, wait, in some places it already is.

We are all unique people. Allowing this stupidity to go forward is just one of many steps towards suppressing that uniqueness and moving us all toward the democratic ideal of mindless automatons who always follow the rules, never question our masters, and never, never express our individuality.

Please write your Senate and House representatives and ask them to vote against Senate Bill 735. Be an American.