Saturday, April 10, 2004

Antonin Scalia Has Journalists Recording Erased

It is often hard for me to hide my deep distain for one Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Antonin Scalia, probably because the man is an arrogant, self-absorbed, hypocrite who lauds the traditional underpinning of the federal constitution while he is busy undermining them. Case in point: while giving a speech recently at the Presbyterian Christian High School in Hattiesburg Mississippi, the good justice was lauding the beauty of the first Amendment while the U.S. Marshals who protect him were busily and forcefully violating federal law by erasing two reporters’ electronic recordings of his speech on his standing orders.

Joel Campbell, the Freedom of Information Committee co-chair of The Society of Professional Journalists, issued a statement today calling on Scalia,
"to respect the First Amendment rights of journalists to gather news when he speaks at public events…[i]n what can be only described as an ultimate constitutional irony, Scalia was praising the Constitution and its First Amendment while a federal marshal harassed reporters and curtailed their right to gather news at a public appearance…"

I must say I agree, and loudly! I am so tired of conservatives holding up our Constitution in one hand and the Holy Bible in the other, praising their foundational principles, while like an octopus other hands are busy signing the orders that would deny you and I the right to live by them. V. Edward Martin to Justice Scalia: either you believe in the first amendment or you don’t, or perhaps you believe that you and yours should be the only ones to enjoy the umbrella of its protection. It is not lost on us (the average American), that your deeds sour your lofty words. And speaking of words, if you fear yours enough to disallow their reproduction in print, then perhaps you have no business pontificating in public forums where not only you enjoy the rights and protections of our Constitution.
How dare you sir, how dare you!

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The Case For Gay Marriages

This posting is a direct rebuttal the my fellow WatchBLOG editor’s article on the right, entitled The Case Against Gay Marriage. Rather then respond with a rather lengthy comment I decided to post my response here.

First, a few points:

  1. The Institution of Marriage as regulated by the many States is a Civil undertaking not religious. While a couple can decide to get married by a church, they are in no way under any obligation to do so. The state issues the marriage license not the church. True a member of the clergy is sanctioned by the state to sign a marriage certificate, but so is a Justice of The Peace. Bottom line: a marriage is not legal unless and until a State sanctioned marriage license is obtained.

  2. The religious issue is separate from the Civil issue. Churches are free to decide on religious grounds whether they will sanction Gay marriage or not, the State as a public entity cannot. For the state it is a matter of equal protection and due process before the law, religion plays no part; separation of church and state doctrine.

  3. Families formed by marriage are the backbone of any society. It is in the family unit that children are supposed to be protected, nurtured, educated, and made ready to enter society. Families provide stability form neighborhoods and communities in which schools and other civic activities are set. Families are more than tax breaks and contracts, they are the basic underpinnings of human existence, and have been since the beginning of recorded human history; the same history that shows that the breakdown of the family unit is a major contributing factor in societal disintegration.

  4. The Constitution of the United States is a blueprint for government, the main body (first seven articles) of which, does not address the rights of the people. The Bill of Rights was an afterthought. And I chafe to call it a contract. Contracts can be broken, contracts end; the Bll of Rights spells out our rights under law, rights that cannot be put away by law. But I agree that the constitution is no place to address the issue of Gay Marriage.

  5. There is no such thing as “Activist Judges,” only judges that are doing their jobs in our Republican form of government while following the doctrine of checks and balances. The religious right (Conservatives) brands anyone who does not agree with them anti-something; the truth is the judges are doing what they are supposed to do: interpret the law as written by legislators, and or as written in the state constitutions. The Massachusetts Court of Supreme Justice did what it was supposed to do: interpret Massachusetts law governing the Institution of marriage, held against the light of the Massachusetts constitution, which guarantees equal protection & due process before the law. If not judges to interpret law, then who?

  6. Both the state and federal governments have a stake in marriage; the state because it regulates the institution, and the federal government because certain entitlements—Social Security, Taxes, Medicare, and military survivors benefits—are based on marriage. So Civil Unions for Gays and lesbians will not fit the bill unless and until they are recognized by the federal government. Even then, we are back to the “Separate But Equal” doctrine the Supreme Court overturn in Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education.

Conservatives assert that allowing Gay Marriage will hurt the Institution of Marriage; I ask how? and they have no answers. So I ask again, how will allowing Gay marriage hurt the Institution of Marriage? How are children harmed?

I think, no, I am certain, that families formed as a result of Gay marriage will only strengthen, not denigrate the Institution. How can children suffer under the mantle of love and caring intact gay headed households can provide?

Gay marriage as regulated and sanctioned by the many States is a Civil Institution not religious, period and should be approached as such. It is an Equal Protection and Due Process under Law issue. For the many States there is not other consideration.

Monday, April 05, 2004

While Nero Fiddles Health Care in America Burns

Health Care in America continues it long painful decline while the Republican led Congress and the Bush Administration do nothing but pay lips service to the problem, which does nothing to stem the decline. A story in today’s Chicago Sun-Times highlights the growing problems doctors face while trying to provide quality care to their patients. And the soaring, un-checked cost of malpractice insurance is surely at the top of the list.

While the President, Republican leaders and the insurance industry point to the rising cost of malpractice litigation—and resulting payouts—as the reason for the dizzying pace of malpractice insurance premium increases, recent reports indicate it has do more to the insurance carriers trying to shore up lost profits from investments in the stock market—their primary source of income. The cost of settling claims, which actually dropped last year, has little to do with the crisis reports say.

Yet another bait and switch by the Republicans at the expense of us all; how much tomfoolery, half-truths, and neglect is enough, before the American public cry foul?

As the article in the Sun-Times points out, doctors in certain fields are now being priced out of business by absurd malpractice premiums that are in some cases approaching $140,000 a year! How long before the sky falls and the average American can no longer receive decent health care, or find a qualified doctor to administer it, without traveling tens of miles from home?

I say that time is now, given that my spouse cannot find an OB/GYN or Neurologist within 50 miles of our home in the second largest city in the state of Illinois. And we jointly cannot find a non-resident Primary Care Physician for continuity of care; both of our doctors left the state citing the ballooning cost of malpractice insurance as a one of the primary reasons for their exodus.

I quite frankly am fed up with government (state & federal) no longer working for me, but against me at almost every turn. How about you?

Sunday, April 04, 2004

The Facts About the Electoral College

A lot of confusion, misunderstanding, and down right falsehoods exist about the functionality of the Electoral College. Many seek to replace it with direct elections, even the Founding Fathers were of two minds concerning its creation and usage; Alexandra Hamilton supported it (see Federalist Paper No. 68), while Thomas Jefferson opposed it, stating:
I have ever considered the constitutional mode of election ultimately by the Legislature voting by States as the most dangerous blot in our Constitution, and one which some unlucky chance will some day hit and give us a pope and antipope. - Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to George Hay, 1823.

Herein is an overview on how the Electoral College works straight from those guardians of the American electoral process, the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).

The current workings of the Electoral College are the result of both design and experience. As it now operates:

  • Each State is allocated a number of Electors equal to the number of its U.S. Senators (always 2) plus the number of its U.S. Representatives (which may change each decade according to the size of each State's population as determined in the Census).
  • The political parties (or independent candidates) in each State submit to the State's chief election official a list of individuals pledged to their candidate for president and equal in number to the State's electoral vote. Usually, the major political parties select these individuals either in their State party conventions or through appointment by their State party leaders while third parties and independent candidates merely designate theirs.
  • Members of Congress and employees of the federal government are prohibited from serving as an Elector in order to maintain the balance between the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.
  • After their caucuses and primaries, the major parties nominate their candidates for president and vice president in their national conventions traditionally held in the summer preceding the election. (Third parties and independent candidates follow different procedures according to the individual State laws). The names of the duly nominated candidates are then officially submitted to each State's chief election official so that they might appear on the general election ballot.
  • On the Tuesday following the first Monday of November in years divisible by four, the people in each State cast their ballots for the party slate of Electors representing their choice for president and vice president (although as a matter of practice, general election ballots normally say "Electors for" each set of candidates rather than list the individual Electors on each slate).
  • Whichever party slate wins the most popular votes in the State becomes that State's Electors-so that, in effect, whichever presidential ticket gets the most popular votes in a State wins all the Electors of that State. [The two exceptions to this are Maine and Nebraska where two Electors are chosen by statewide popular vote and the remainder by the popular vote within each Congressional district].
  • On the Monday following the second Wednesday of December (as established in federal law) each State's Electors meet in their respective State capitals and cast their electoral votes-one for president and one for vice president.
  • In order to prevent Electors from voting only for "favorite sons" of their home State, at least one of their votes must be for a person from outside their State (though this is seldom a problem since the parties have consistently nominated presidential and vice presidential candidates from different States).
  • The electoral votes are then sealed and transmitted from each State to the President of the Senate who, on the following January 6, opens and reads them before both houses of the Congress.
  • The candidate for president with the most electoral votes, provided that it is an absolute majority (one over half of the total), is declared president. Similarly, the vice presidential candidate with the absolute majority of electoral votes is declared vice president.
  • In the event no one obtains an absolute majority of electoral votes for president, the U.S. House of Representatives (as the chamber closest to the people) selects the president from among the top three contenders with each State casting only one vote and an absolute majority of the States being required to elect. Similarly, if no one obtains an absolute majority for vice president, then the U.S. Senate makes the selection from among the top two contenders for that office.
  • At noon on January 20, the duly elected president and vice president are sworn into office.