The Watering Hole – Saturday, November 24, 2012: To Petition the Government

If you asked the average American to name the rights granted by the First Amendment, I’m sure most would easily name Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion first and second (though they are, technically, the second and the first), and they could probably even name Freedom of the Press as one of them. I’m sure some people would think they end there, but I’m sure most people could be coaxed to name one more, that one most likely being Freedom to Peaceably Assemble. But the one I’m sure most people would forget about, entirely if not simply as being part of another amendment, is the right to Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances. One could, if one wanted to engage in an argument about semantics, claim that this is not so much a separate right as it is a part of the right to peaceably assemble. Note the exact wording of the amendment, which “textualists” like Justice Antonin Scalia(*) would do:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Notice that it begins by stating that “Congress shall make no law…” about religion OR abridging speech OR the press OR peaceably assembling AND petitioning the government for a redress of grievances. So, if you want to be technical, it doesn’t say that you have the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances if you are not doing so as part of a peaceable assembly. It says that you have the right to peaceably assemble AND, while you’re gathering with your friends (new and old), to petition the government for that redress of grievances. Does this mean you can stand on a street corner by yourself with a protest sign? I can imagine Justice Scalia saying “No, and only an idiot like you would think so.” What if the assembly is a virtual one, not conducted in any real space, but consisting of several people “assembled” on a website? Would that be supported by the First Amendment? Well, whether or not Justice Scalia thinks it would be (after all, how could the framers have envisioned computers and the internet?), the White House believes so, and they have a website where you can create your own petition. And many people are exercising that right, though it appears that many of them are confused about a number of things.

At present, there are 235 active petitions on the website. There is a time limit to gathering signatures or else the site would never load. “If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.” The answers you get may not be entirely satisfying. For example, in response to two petitions (“Save the Postal Service” and “Preserve Six Day Mail Delivery”), the government offered this generic, uninspired response. The USPS is indeed suffering some tough financial times these days, but the primary reason for that is one never mentioned in the government response: The USPS is being forced (by the GOP) to set aside money to pay for retirement packages going 75 years into the future. That means that they must literally fund retirements for people who haven’t even been born yet! I know they think the unborn have rights, but this is ridiculous. In a petition to “Re-establish and maintain the separation between investment banks and commercial banks,” the government gave this response. Many people blame the repeal of Glass-Steagall for the financial meltdown, but it was the other parts of the bill that President Clinton signed into law that did the real damage, and that was the ban on regulating derivatives trading. The White House reply seemed to acknowledge and address this. There are several petitions about Israel, including some saying we should unconditionally support them and some saying we should completely cut off their foreign aid.

But the truly astonishing thing is the number and variety of petitions for states to secede from the union (or for certain parts of states to secede from their states.) I’m not sure if these people understand that the White House does not have the authority to grant these states secession (nor would it, nor did it), nor or they the ones you should be petitioning. These are the kinds of things about which one should be addressing the Congress, as they would have to ultimately approve any state leaving the union. (There’s even a petition to strip the citizenship of all persons who signed petitions to secede.) Some of these petitions are rather light on reasons why secession should be granted. Many of them were, apparently, created on the same day, and probably by the same people. They have the same odd wording in their title (“Peacefully grant the state of ________ to withdraw from the United States and create its own NEW government”) and they start with a quote from the Declaration of Independence.

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

Hardly any of them go on to declare the causes which compel them to the separation. There’s even a petition from someone in North Carolina declaring that his state will NOT secede from the Union.

Amazingly enough a petition calling for the impeachment of Barack Obama got over 37,000 signatures. Here is the text of that petition:

We request that Obama be impeached for the following reasons.

We request that Barack Obama be impeached for the following reasons.

1. He proclaimed war in libya without getting congress approval first. Article I, Section 8- Only congress can approve to start war.

2. Obamacare is unconstitutional. Forcing US citizens to get health insurance whether they want it or not.

3. Obama disrespects our Constitution calling it flawed and trying to change it even after taking this oath:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States,

and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

4. Appointing agency “czars” without Senate approval.

I think I can answer a few of these charges. First of all, President Obama didn’t declare war in Libya, and not one single American troop was lost in the successful overthrow of that country’s government. In fact, that’s what the right wing was complaining about with Obama’s “leading from behind” strategy. Second, Obamacare is constitutional and had been declared so long before this petition was created on November 11. Third, it is not disrespectful to point out that our Constitution does have flaws, and as long as the President is using the Constitutionally-approved means of changing it, he’s not violating his oath of office. And fourth, he has not appointed anyone without Senate approval to a position that the Congress said requires Senate approval. The Constitution grants the Congress the power to decide which offices require their advice and consent and which don’t. This petition was clearly started by sore losers who failed to understand the lesson of Election Night. I’ll make it simple for them: 332-206 – you lost!

It’s fascinating to go through the petitions and see which ones contradict some other ones and which ones are almost identical to others. It’s also revealing to see how illiterate some of our fellow citizens are. But it’s frightening to see just how ignorant many of them are, too.

[(*)On a funny side note, the spell checker in my Google browser did not recognize the name “Scalia” as a properly-spelled word. I think that’s good, especially considering that he was a Justice before there was an internet. But what’s even funnier is the one suggestion they had for what they thought it should have been: Scaliness.]

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss this subject or any other, including the scaliness of our Supreme Court.


132 thoughts on “The Watering Hole – Saturday, November 24, 2012: To Petition the Government

    • Now there’s a company that I would love to see go bankrupt. As a matter of fact, the CEO’s and other upper management of Monsanto should probably be in jail.

    • If you’re not proud enough of what you’re doing to put it on the label, you’re probably doing something wrong.

  1. Chris has the bookstore owner lady talking rapid-fire too. He’s got to slow down because he infects his guests with it too.

  2. A fantastic example of fundy “logic” and a demonstration of how even a child can destroy said “logic”. Alas, it’s also a great example of the impossibility of changing the mind of someone who is immune to real logic.

    I haven’t watched the whole debate so I haven’t figured out where all the sympathies lie but the guy in the middle, who I assume is the moderator, sure does look like he wants to move on from this kid making young Hovind look like an idiot but said Hovind just keeps digging his hole.

    • Such idiocy.

      Blue shirt keeps repeating “If you don’t know everything, then you can’t know anything”
      “…unless someone who does know everything tells you something, then you can believe it.”


    • What a stupid rationale “If you don’t know everything, you don’t know anything. And you don’t know anything unless someone who knows everything (God) tells you something.” By that reasoning, how does anybody know anything if everyone has to get their information from God?

      How do we know THAT is true?

      Does he know his wife’s first name? Does his wife know everything? If his wife doesn’t know everything, then how can he know for sure what her first name is?

        • Harkens back to Philosophy 101, Chapter 1, Does God Exist? Best arguments were:

          1. God Exists by Definition. God is, by definition, perfect. It would be imperfect to not exist, ergo, God exists.

          2. First Cause. Everything in the observable universe has a cause and effect realtionship. Tracing backwards from effect to the cause that created the effect leads to some unknown First Cause that got the whole universe going. That First Cause is God.

          Of course, now, science has given us the answer: In Higgs Boson We Trust.

          But the kid is right. There is no direct, quantifiable, observable proof that God exists. There’s also no proof God does not exist, George Allen and Morgan Freeman notwithstanding.

          • Those two “best arguments” are easy for me.

            1. Circular reasoning which proves nothing. Besides, it doesn’t prove that anything perfect can exist in the first place. That’s merely an assumption.

            2. The Universe is infinite. It has always existed. The matter within it has changed form many times over its history, but the Universe has always been there. Therefore, tracing backwards would never reach a “First Cause” because there never was one.

            • I agree with your assessment on #1. Proof by definition is no proof. But #2 is more problematical. You appear to be making a basic assumption, “the Universe is infinite” and basing your argument on your assumption. Science postulates a beginning to our Universe, the so-called “Big Bang” theory.

              In fact, the lastest article I saw indicates the Universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, which runs counter to the supposition that it will eventually collapse in on itself and start all over.

              But I am no closer to explaining the existence of God then I am explaining how two objects can repel each other without touching each other (magnets, not ex boyfriends/girlfriends nor Democrats/Republicans nor Conservatives/Liberals).

            • When I talk about the “Universe”, I’m talking about the basic Space-Time framework within which everything happens, not the particular set of galaxies in our immediate corner of it. Scientists have observed things out there that are older than the estimated age of our part of the universe, which would only be possible if the Big Bang which created our galaxy happened inside an already existing Universe.

              If you assume there had to be a beginning, then you can conclude that there had to be a First Cause. But I do not assume that there had to be a beginning, I postulate that there was none. Things actually make a lot more sense that way.

    • I think part of the problem with this whole “God” thing is our admittedly layperson’s understanding. I mean, God is this loving, all-knowing, omnipotent being who created us with free will so we can do whatever we damn-well please, who will toss us into a lake of molten sulfer for all eternity if we don’t do what “He” wants us to do. What’s up with that?

  3. There’s a shopping event in my area that happens on Black Friday which features ONLY crafts. It is extremely popular with the locals. This craft event is juried so only skilled artists can sell their goods. Zooey would certainly qualify to enter her homemade goods as they are of professional quality.

    If an advertising page shows with this link, click continue to get to the article.

      • Have never yet skinned and de-boned a Republican, much less cut him into bite-sized pieces and made a pot of soup of him.

        Actually, I don’t think I will, either. Doesn’t sound very edible. Makes me think of Crocodile Dundee: “You can live on it, but it tastes like shit.” Or, “Not bad eatin’, but it always gives me gas.” I think I understand what he meant! 😉

      • Annnndd another opportunity for Mark Webber to fuck up a good starting position. The RB boss just told Niki Lauda they were prepared if it rains. We’ll see. Hopefully not like 2003.

        • So, you get Lauda as an announcer? I pulled for him when he beat Prost by half a point in ’84. I had a cat named after him too.
          I get David Hobbs, Bob Jenkins and Steve Matchett on Speed TV, and Eddie Jordan – David Coulthard when I can get BBC One online.

  4. Interesting observation, Wayne, on the construction of the First Amendment:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Let’s break the sentence down to just the last clause:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting … the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Does this mean the right to peacefully assemble is guaranteed only when the purpose of the assembly is to petition the government? I believe Justice Scalia would answer, “No. The two rights are separate.” Note the effect of removing the comma after the word “assemble”:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting … the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Without the comma, this is one sentence and the two enumerated rights are construed as one. But by inserting the comma, the sentence, when strictly construed, is actually two sentences:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting … the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”


    “Congress shall make no law respecting … the right of the people peaceably to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”


    wait a minute….this is Saturday….on a 4-day weekend….what am I doing analying legal stuff? aarrrggghhhh!!!!


    • I was being tongue-in-cheek, but I seriously believe that if Scalia had to interpret it, he would so so in a way that was harmful to the liberal side and helpful to the conservative one. If a liberal said it was two rights, he would say it was one, and if a liberal said it was all one right, he would say it was two. And he would call the liberal an idiot for disagreeing.

      • Respectfully, I disagree with your assessment of Justice Scalia. I have found I tend to agree with his analysis when the issues are not sexual orientation or religion.

      • I got a chuckle out of the letter that started “Dear Mr. Homo B. Dicktickle…” Of course, his understanding of the meaning of words was called into question when he said that if you want to [perform some sex act in public] on another man, “you have that right”, but then he says that “real Americans” have the right to throw you in jail for it. Well, which is it? If one has the right to do that, doesn’t that mean precisely that they can’t throw you in jail for doing it?

      • Ah the vulgarity of some who proclaim to be Christians. I always remind myself that Christians are all part of the body of Christ, and some are Christ’s sphincter.

  5. @beardedstoner: Didn’t shop, but slapped a phone out of my kid’s hand and trampled my niece just to get into the Black Friday spirit.

    • Poetic Justice would be if he got a paper cut opening his federal income tax refund and died of blood poisoning.

  6. A bit about the earlier posting and the discussion between Wayne and BnF. Many years ago I had discussions about the Universe and God and such with a very good friend who also had some solid Christian roots.- Not obnoxiously so but it led to the demise of many a case of beer. He had the stance that it was named the Universe because it was the only ‘verse’ in existence. I maintained that it was so named because man didn’t want to acknowledge the possibilities that there just might be something that man’s limited perceptions could perceive.

    His best counter was if people weren’t around to see it, it didn’t exist.

      • It wasn’t that bad. I should have said perceived. Even weirder is he was a rabid science buff, particularly about space. He could accept the universe we can study but was totally convinced it was the only one and somehow the entire thing exists for man. Sort of like a giant Xmas gift.

    • “His best counter was if people weren’t around to see it, it didn’t exist.” Ergo nothing exists for those born without sight.

    • This is what I mean by child-like thinking. As in: If Mommy leaves the room, she ceases to exist.

      But children eventually figure it out.

      • For the record, y’all are not making more refined arguments, simply arguments determined to ignore the total context of the argument you would dismiss. Read, for example, a bit of Berkeley — but actually read the entire argument. I’m not saying I agree with the above persons or with the good Bishop, but I do have limited patience for people congratulating themselves for making dogmatic claims that any first year philosophy student could destroy.

  7. HELP! Does anyone remember the made in usa article a few days ago? Got the URL:? I’m shopping for a made in america chess set and can’t find the URLs that critters posted!! HELP!

    Never mind!@ Found the pewter chess set I was looking for. G’day all!

  8. Gravity is proof that God exists. The denser something is, the more gravity it has. That is why, for example, Republicans believe that everything revolves around them.

    • Then you have specific gravity. That is gravity that is specific to certain things. God has the highest specific gravity because it only seems to effect the stupid and weak minded. 🙂

      • Oh, come on….everyone knows that Spacific Gravity is what keeps the Spacific Ocean from flying off into outer space!


  9. Some years ago I attended a fascinating lecture by a Chinese astrophysicist about a hypothetical “multiverse” that elegantly explained, well, everything. I’m just an interested layman so I must confess I zoned out when he wasn’t using an analogy. Said analogy was basically:

    There are possibly infinite universes bound to each other by gravity. Some are expanding and some are contracting at any given time. Adjacent contracting universes around ours would pull matter from the boarders of our universe towards the center of said external universes. When a universe reaches a critical mass and density it forms a singularity that then expands, rapidly at first in a big bang, and starts the whole process over again by encroaching on our universe and flipping it from expanding to contracting. Of course, not being able to find a boarder to our universe, we have no idea if the theory is correct but it’s one of those solutions that feels right.

    A companion theory is that the same processes work in a single universe. Hypermassive black holes at the outside edges would pull matter out while smaller black holes, like the ones at the center of galaxies, eat away at the inside and get bigger. When enough matter is concentrated in these black holes then they would act only on each other and begin a new era of contraction leading to a singularity and so on.

    • For me, black holes are the biggest indicators that our universe is not the only reality. At least until the astro types come up with a really good explanation for where all the stuff they suck up goes. In a finite, single universe it would have to come popping out someplace else but I have not heard of such a phenomenon.

    • The multiverse tripe is one of the prime examples of how contemporary physics has abandoned even the pretense of actual science. This is a fundamentally untestable hypothesis fabricated to no other purpose than to make theories “work” because the evidence does not actually support them. This is model-driven theory making where the only purpose of facts is to introduce new parameters into the model to avoid any real confrontation with observation.

      The multiverse fairy-tale is especially obnoxious since its only justification is that philosophical habits (which physicists refuse to admit they are operating on) are incapable of treating relations as anything but parasitic abstractions from relata. Treat the relations as real in the first place and the whole multiverse nonsense collapses in a pile of otiose tripe.

        • Hooda, if you check back to this thread, please bring this up with me again because it’s one of my favorite subjects. I’ll give you the short answer for now:

          The matter in a black hole doesn’t go anywhere. It merely generates a gravity well of such magnitude that it forms a bubble in time/space, within the event horizon, where many of the normal “laws of physics” no longer apply. A black hole is still part of our universe. Think of the distorted space/time surrounding a black hole like an aquarium. It’s one environment inside another where the rules are different.

      • The multiverse tripe is one of the prime examples of how contemporary physics has abandoned even the pretense of actual science. This is a fundamentally untestable hypothesis fabricated to no other purpose than to make theories “work” because the evidence does not actually support them.

        Substitute the word “God” or “Creator” for ‘multiverse’ and change ‘physics’ to “religion” and your ‘tripe’ argument improves dramatically.

      • Gary, you are one of the most erudite people I have encountered but your explanation sounds remarkably like my old friends. Unless we have quantifiable evidence, theories are invalid. Yet it wasn’t that long ago we had no such evidence of atomic theory. Hell, we didn’t even recognize bacteria all that long ago. In fact it wasn’t all that long ago that the earth was the center of the universe and stars were angels.

        I’ll stick with the concept that reality doesn’t exist because man can explain it. Reality is and it always pisses man off because he can’t.

        • Theories are, by definition, falsifiable. Still, as I like to tell my Christian friends in example, there is both the FACT of evolution and the THEORY of evolution. The fact is clear — it happened; the method/means of ‘how’ it all happened is the purpose of the theory. If an existing theory is falsified, or shown to be incorrect, the theory is rewritten to accommodate the new info. And so it goes, on and on and on, but always with the sole intent of refining knowledge.

          See also the theory of relativity and its companion quantum theory. Unless there is new data that I’m not aware of, they still don’t stand as pure fact in either case, but the research continues. One day it will all come together.

          And “God” had nothing to do with any of it; existence is required for that to be the case.

    • I believe that there are many universes and dimensions. And I believe that life is a form of energy and energy can neither be created or destroyed and that is why I believe that there is something after this physical body is burned out. The energy goes somewhere.

    • I am far too full of good food and good cheer to argue the niceties of astrophysics, cosmology, scientific method, science in general, and the vagaries of human language.

      I must apologize.

      In telling my story I used the vernacular “theory” in a haphazard manner that I have criticized others for using. My bad. I should have said “hypothesis”. My only excuse for such careless language is that I was just unwinding between getting everything prepped, for my “anti-Thanksgiving”, and cooking in earnest. I will bring the subject up again when I’m more able to reason.

      And the duck was, for lack of a better word, “divine”!

      • The meld of sherry and sage would make it divine.
        Great to read all went well with you anti-Thanksgiving!

  10. The 2012 Iron Bowl so far:
    Bama wins coin toss, wants the ball first
    Auburn kicks off
    1st Quarter
    Bama 7 – Auburn 0 75 yard drive 1st possession 11:07
    Auburn 3 and out 1st possession 9:32
    Bama 14 – Auburn 0 61 yard drive 2nd possession 5:01
    Auburn 6 and out 2nd possession 0:45

    2nd Quarter
    Bama 21 – Auburn 0 88 yard drive 3rd possession 12:38
    Auburn 3 plays – intercepted back to 29
    Bama 28 – Auburn 0 29 yard drive 4th possession 8:39
    Auburn 3 and out 4th possession 7:12
    Bama 35 – Auburn 0 64 yard drive 5th possession 4:43
    Auburn 4 plays fumble lost, returned to Auburn 35 5th poss.
    Bama 42 – Auburn 0 35 yard drive 6th possession 0:31
    Auburn 2 plays Half Ends Auburn receives to start 2nd Half

      • 7 possessions for Alabama, 7 TDs
        7 possessions for Auburn 0 points 2 turnovers

        Keihl Frazier replaces Freshman starter Johnathan Wallace at QB for Auburn.
        Down goes Frazier! (KO would like that)

        • And that was how it ended. Alabama 49 – Auburn 0. Nick Saban took out the starters after the first drive of the second half.

          Now let’s watch USC vs Notre Dame! 😀

      • The funny part is the stars aren’t falling in Auburn or the visitors’ section at Bryant-Denny Stadium! 😀

  11. Franklin Graham freaks out yet one more time:

    “In the last four years, we have begun to turn our backs on God,” he said. “We have taken God out of our education system. We have taken him out of government. You have lawyers that sue you every time you mention the name of Jesus Christ in any kind of a public forum.

    “Maybe God will have to bring our nation down to our knees—to where you just have a complete economic collapse. And maybe at that point, maybe people will again begin to call upon the name of almighty God.”

    The pity is that no one, Graham included, has ever come up with a single shred of verifiable evidence that God exists at all, much less that It gives a shit about what happens in or to the USA.

    • Looks like someone needs to sue Franklin Graham — he said “Jesus Christ” in a public forum.

      Will they never learn…?

    • “In the last four years, we have begun to turn our backs on God,”

      Yeah, let’s go back to a time when everyone believed in your God. That was when? Let me look that up on Wiki, nope, just Google, nope. There was never a time where that was true.

      Education! Seems to me that Texas is managing to put more God INTO education you freak!

      Government! God has only gotten into US government with a vengeance in the last 50 years.

      Franklin the Freak Graham can go rot in the ground with his huckster father.

    • The key phrase is “in the last four years”. What incident, unique to the history of America, occurred four years ago to trigger this cataclysmic collapse?

      • It couldn’t be that a black guy was elected president, and then all the religious nuts started praying for this nation to fail, could it?

      • The key phrase is “in the last four years”.

        That pops right out! [Black man in the WhiteHouse]
        Why would this ringding think god is so egotistical as to visit plague, economic disaster, etc. on the U.S. because his name isn’t invoked every 2 seconds?

        It is so disconcerting to realize people such as Franklin are actually held in high esteem with certain portions of the population.

      • “In the last four years…”

        It was 40 years ago that I turned my back on the particular hairy white male god Fundy Franky refers to.

        Turned my back on darkness to face the Light.

  12. It’s been so long since I’ve had a beer I couldn’t find my favorite church-key.
    Nevertheless, being very resourceful I figured it out.

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