Jul 042008
 

Today is a day or ironies. George Bush is visiting Thomas Jefferson’s beloved Monticello on this the 232nd anniversary of our declaration of independence from a king named George. As Jefferson warned that Americans would have to be ever on their guard against those who might turn the presidency into the tool of their “elected despotism,” I doubt he would be greeting Bush.

We live in a time where the very freedoms bought at so great a price by the founding fathers are being left in shreds. Dick Cheney has successfully convinced Americans they are safer with a “unitary executive.” How have American’s bought into this lie? This is the thing the founders were most interested in guarding against.

We have become a country comfortable with torture, willing to accept indefinite detention of both Citizens and non-citizens without benefit of habeas corpus, and we have come to believe we can trade our freedoms for security. We now have neither.

In another ironic twist, Jesse Helms, 86 year old retired Senator from North Carolina died today. All the pundits will take to the airwaves to talk of how Jesse Helms was a great American…a real patriot. Jesse Helms was neither, and will be someday acknowledged as the father of divisive politics in America. It is from Helms that political operatives learned how to use scapegoats and fear mongering to turn Americans against some enemy (even themselves) in order to further their own political aims.

Karl Rove perfected the technique, but Jesse Helms is the man who developed it. When the Soviet Union fell and Helms lost his primary enemy, he learned he could create an inside threat. First, it was gay people in general, then, as manna from God came AIDS, and Jesse could attack Gays as public health enemies who deserved what they got. Despite what you will read and hear, on this 4th of July, America lost not a patriot, but one of it’s greatest enemies.

Some find hope in the Obama candidacy. I hope it sparks a renewal of the American Spirit, but great damage has been done, and it will take much to reverse the decline of the great American Experiment. I hope he can inspire an American renewal, but my enthusiasm is tempered.

On this day when we pause to consider Patriotism, I find it being attacked on all sides. The first great precept of Patriotism is the right and obligation to question the leaders of government. The current government insists that to question them is to be unpatriotic. We squabble over what a person wears on his lapel, but I tell you that those who demand these superfluous shows are usually the least patriotic, but we take up their cause with enthusiasm.

Patriotism, true patriotism, is not found in a lapel pin, but in the soul. I find patriotism in the trembling hands of an American Veteran wearing his American Legion hat and proudly raising his hand in salute during the Presentation of The Colors. I know patriotism when I feel that chill run up my spine as I look at the flag flying in the mountain breeze against a brilliantly blue North Carolina sky while the ASU Marching Band plays the National Anthem. I see patriotism in the people who write their representatives and demand better from them.

On this day when we celebrate patriotism, I try to maintain hope, knowing it’s easier for me than for those founders 230 years ago as they took those tentative steps towards a brave new form of self-government. But we have traveled a long way from those innovative thoughts. Perhaps this generation doesn’t have the courage or strength for self-government, but I will continue to hope, I will continue to do what little I can, and I invite you to demand a return to the found ideals of America. The served us well for the first 200 years.

Restoration of Constitutional Rights

 Congress, Constitution, General, Politics, The Courts  Comments Off on Restoration of Constitutional Rights
Jul 172007
 

The following has been faxed to my Senators.

Dear Senators Mel Martinez and Bill Nelson:

The history of the present King … [George] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

Do you recognize these words Senator? These words were penned by Thomas Jefferson around this time of year some two-hundred and thirty years ago. Unfortunately, they ring true today.

You have personally participated in usurpations of the Constitution of the United States and founding principles of this country. You have frequently voted to suspend and/or eliminate the rights for which those brave Patriots gave their lives and fortunes. Your recent votes and the actions of the entire U.S. Government have desecrated the principles for which those people fought and died.

You now have an opportunity to right a wrong. I expect you to vote in favor of S 2022 (prev, S 185). Unlike you, I have faith that our two-hundred year old judicial system is capable of handling difficult and sensitive cases. They certainly have in the past.

Apr 082007
 

Blog Against Theocracy LogoA blogswarm has been organized to use the 2007 Easter season to write articles about the separation of church and state. Regular readers of this site know that I stand firmly on the principles of that separation, and believe it is an important tenant of our democracy (such as it is). Therefore, I’m participating by offering this article.

The cry from today’s Krazy Kristian Kooks is all about how this country was founded by Christians and based on Christian beliefs. One of the kraziest of the kooks is Roy Moore of Alabama with his Ten Commandments granite slabs, and the ensuing cause celeb. It is patently untrue that U.S. Laws are based on the Ten Commandments. First, let’s ignore the fact that there are numerous “editions” — including discrepancies between those in Exodus and Deuteronomy, plus distinct Hebrew, Catholic, and Protestant versions. The Decalogue, as it is more accurately named, intersects with U.S. Law on only three issues: murder, theft, and perjury. Furthermore, all these crimes had already been forbidden in civilizations far more ancient that any Judeo-Christian cultures.

No less than Thomas Jefferson himself writes to Dr. Thomas Cooper in 1814, “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of common law.”

It also important to point out the language of “The Treaty of Tripoli, initiated by George Washington during his Presidency and later signed into law by John Adams in May of 1797. This is”a treaty of perpetual peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary.” It was approved by the Senate of United States, and stands in effect to this day. The Treaty reads (complete with eighteenth-century spellings of the words Muslims and Mohammedan):

Article 11.

As the government of the United States of American is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, as it has in itself not character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Messelmen, and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

The founding fathers were hardly uniform in their Christianity. They were freethinkers, agnostics, atheists, Christians, Freemasons and Deists. Washington and Franklin were Deists. Washington rarely attended church, and when he did, he stood during prayers rather than kneel. Washington wrote in a letter, “Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiment in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated.”

Thomas Jefferson worked vigorously to oppose efforts by Patrick Henry to establish a theocratic government in Virginia. In “Notes on The State of Virginia,” Jefferson writes: “It does me no injury for my neighbors to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Jefferson often issued stern warnings about the intertwining of government and religion. He writes in 1813, “History I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.” How familiar does this ring in today’s political environment?

James Madison, “The father of the Constitution,” opposed all use of “religion as an engine of civil policy.” He even opposed the appointment of Chaplains for the Congress. In 1789, as Chairman of the House Conference Committee on the Bill of Rights, he offered his own wording for the First Amendment:

“The civil right of none shall be infringed on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal right of conscience be in any manner , or on any pretext, infringed.”

The Constitution contains not a single reference to a deity or to any supernatural powers. The word “religious” arises only once, and that is in terms of a prohibition against any religious test for elected officials.

Article Vi: 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.

The original “Pledge of Allegiance” was penned in 1892 by Francis Bellamy (a Baptist minister no less), and?did not contain the phrase, “under God.” This was not added until 1954 after lengthy lobbying by the Knights of Columbus and the American Legion reflecting the McCarthyite bombast against “godless communism.” It was on Flag Day way back in 1943 that Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote for the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.

The founders of this country knew from first hand experience the dangers of a theocratic form of government. They not only carefully left out references to religion as part of the founding doctrines of this country, but went so far as to expressly prohibit the intertwining of government and religion. Not only was it a core belief of the majority of our founding fathers, it was written into the founding documents. It is the krazy kristian kooks of today that attempt to re-write history to be something other than what it is. Be not fooled, for it is a dangerous game we play by lowering the wall of separation.

I can go on and on about the dangers of mixing government and religion, but as is often the case, Jefferson himself sums it up best when he writes, In 1814 to Horatio Spafford, “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection of his own.”

Letter to Sen. Bill Nelson Re: His Vote on The Detainee Bill

 Congress, Election, Politics  Comments Off on Letter to Sen. Bill Nelson Re: His Vote on The Detainee Bill
Oct 122006
 

The following letter was faxed yesterday to the campaign headquarters of Senator Bill Nelson. Today, I received an email from the office manager there saying she intended to put the letter in his nightly reading box. Let me know what you think.

October 12, 2006

Hon. Bill Nelson
United States Senate
1011 E. Colonial Dr, STE 201
Orlando, FL 32803

Dear Senator Nelson:

I’ve been a proud Democrat since before I was old enough to vote. I’ve worked on several State Senate campaigns, and my father was a local elected official in my home state of North Carolina. I believe in most of the principles of the Democratic Party, and my pride in the accomplishments of the Party has not previously faltered.

Of grave concern to me is the recent power grab by the current Administration. The Bush-Cheney Administration has shown a total disregard for the constraints placed on government by the Constitution with everything from the “signing statements;” to the super-Constitutional PATRIOT Act; to the illegal wiretaps; to rendition; to this most recent Detainee Treatment bill.

The previous commander of the Gitmo Prison Camp was Col. Michael Bumgarner. He and I were close high school friends, and I was a member of his wedding party. Yet I’m ashamed to learn of the abuses of prisoners at Gitmo and at other secret camps around the world. It is difficult to remain proud to be an American. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart.”

Business travel will have me out of town on Election Day, and while Diebold will probably not count my ballot, I sit here at my desk with my absentee ballot open conflicted about voting for you for U.S. Senate. Katherine Harris is an idiot, but you have cast several votes over the past years that have provided aid and comfort to the Bush-Cheney Administration in their power-grab, the most recent being your vote in favor of this Detainee Treatment Bill.

Along with Republicans, you have had your hands on the scissors cutting a hole in our Constitution. Perhaps the original should be moved from Washington and placed in safe keeping somewhere for the time being. (Maybe Canada would hang on to it for us until some responsible adults assume the reins of government in Washington.)  Continue reading »

Where's Jefferson When You Need Him?

 Congress, Constitution, Politics  Comments Off on Where's Jefferson When You Need Him?
Jul 052006
 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

[…]

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

[…]

The history of the present King … [George] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

[…]

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice

[…]

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

[…]

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

[…]

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts… and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

[…]

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

You can read the whole thing here>>