The Watering Hole; Thursday December 18 2014; HELP!!

OK. Here’s the thing. The electoral system in the US has been hijacked by the Supreme Court, by big money, by Congress, and by emergent power structures in the several states. How’d that happen? A quick look in the rear view mirror reminds us that:

1) In December of 2000 the Supreme Court jumped ahead of the pack and appointed George W. Bush POTUS simply because the popular vote in Florida was having some problem with ballot counting, and the distribution of Florida’s electoral votes would determine whether Al Gore or George Bush would become president. No matter that the national popular vote chose Al Gore, no matter the final Florida tally; only the electoral vote determines the presidency; everything else is academic.

2) In 2009, the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case essentially turned the nation’s electoral process into a ‘who can raise the most money’ contest, thereby green-lighting the purchase of the government by corporations, by Wall Street, and by billionaires. In short, money was now defined, in the political world, as the equivalent of speech. The fatter the wallet, the louder the “free” speech.

3) In 2012 the Supreme Court crippled a significant portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and essentially allowed the several states the privilege of enacting voter registration laws which could serve to reduce voter access amongst various ethnic and racial groups, thereby altering the final vote tally in ways that would ultimately act to favor one political party to the manipulated disadvantage of the other.

Whereto from here? Is it possible for the average Jane and John Doe to recapture their country, or is it too late? Have the oligarch and the right wing Fascist movement won? Has everything shifted in the worst possible way? Is there any possible solution?

Why not a Constitutional amendment, one that clarifies the right of the people to vote, and one that specifically corrects today’s major flaws in the voting/electoral system? Good idea, no? One could easily figure that at least 34 states might stand tall and ratify it by tomorrow, if only Congress would introduce it!

I haven’t heard that anyone in Congress is willing to take the bull by the blanks and get it done, though, so I figured why not help ’em out a little. How about this for starters?

ARTICLE XXVII ?

Section 1.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for Senator, for Representative, or for initiatives or amendments be they national or in any of the various States, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State for any reason or by any technique. Therefore:

Clause 1.

The Electoral College is hereby discarded; the Popular Vote only shall determine the election of President and Vice President.

Clause 2.

Individual and corporate financial contributions to all political processes at all National and State levels are hereinafter permitted in any quantity, although no financial contribution can be made to any given candidate, to any given political party, or in support of any particular initiative or amendment. All financial contributions will be addressed solely to a Central Electoral Fund which will then be distributed evenly to each and all candidates and for each and all ballot issues regardless of underlying politic.

Clause 3.

Each and every citizen of age eighteen and above is eligible to vote, in each and every election, for any candidate and on any ballot issue; such right shall not be denied or abridged in any way or by any means, by the United States or by any of the Several States.

Section 2.

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Now I admit that I ain’t a lawyer, am not possessed by the burden of a “legal” mind. Stated another way, I admit to zero talent in re finding all the “right” words that are invariably implicit in and a requirement of legal baloney. OTOH, I figure that since Rome wasn’t built in a day and since James Madison is no longer with us .  . . well, you know, gotta start someplace. Right? Right.

HELP!!

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 3rd, 2014: Strange Laws

I’m too nervous about the elections tomorrow, so I’m going to avoid politics.

I found the following odd state/town laws here at brainjet.com:

Alabama: Bear wrestling matches are outlawed.
Alaska: It’s legal to shoot bears in Alaska, but it’s not legal to wake a bear up for the purpose of taking its picture.
Arizona: Writing in toilet stalls is illegal ONLY FOR PEOPLE WHO WORK IN MINES.
Arkansas: In Arkansas, pinball games are prohibited by the law from giving more than 25 free games to a high scorer.
California has a law that forbids a frog that dies in a frog race from being eaten.
Colorado: In Aspen, CO, snowball fights are illegal.
Connecticut: In Connecticut, a bushel of potatoes must, by law, weigh 150 pounds.
Delaware: It’s illegal to sell the (literal) hair of a dog.
Florida: For female hot dog stand workers in Broward County, it’s illegal to wear a g-string.
Georgia: In Georgia, moving a trout from one lake to another is prohibited by law.
Hawaii: In Hawaii, using imitation milk in a milkshake without warning is illegal.
Idaho: Idaho prohibits sale of eggs from another state without warning, and anyone who uses flour that’s not enriched with vitamins can face 30 days in jail.
Illinois: “Happy Hours” are prohibited.
Indiana: It’s illegal to sell cold beer in Indiana in a grocery store. If you want to get a chilled brew, you’ll have to make a trip to the liquor store.
Iowa: It’s illegal to surf while drunk in Iowa. This is actually a good policy, but it’s ridiculous in the landlocked state of Iowa.
Kansas: Apparently it’s possible to modify the weather in Kansas, but it’s illegal to do so without the proper permit.
Kentucky: All Kentucky lawyers must swear an oath to refrain from dueling.
Louisiana: In Louisiana, it’s against the law to insult players at a sporting event.
Maine: It’s illegal to place green crabs next to soft-shell crabs.
Maryland: It’s a crime in Maryland to possess more than 3 turtles at one time.
Massachusetts: Gift certificates are required to be valid for at least 7 years.
Michigan: It’s illegal to use foul language in front of a woman.
Minnesota: It’s illegal to go hunting with a ferret.
Mississippi: It’s illegal to take an animal that’s been hit by a railroad car.
Missouri: It’s illegal to pretend to be blind to make money.
Montana: It’s against the law for a water sprinkler to get a passerby wet.
Nebraska: In the city of Ogallala, it’s illegal to disturb public dirt.
Nevada: Nevada has respect for the dead. In the state, it’s prohibited to use bad language in front of a dead person.
New Hampshire: Prohibits seaweed harvesting at night.
New Jersey: In Haddon Township, flirting with somebody against their will is punishable by law.
New Mexico: It’s illegal to get on a ski lift while drunk.
New York: It’s illegal to walk in public with an ice cream cone in your pocket on Sundays.
North Carolina: It’s illegal to serve food to pigs that hasn’t been thoroughly cooked.
North Dakota: Kangaroo boxing is a crime.
Ohio: It’s illegal to disrobe in front of a man’s portrait.
Oklahoma: It’s illegal to break INTO a prison.
Oregon: It’s against the law to own more than 2 undeployed airbags.
Pennsylvania: A Pennsylvania fortune-teller cannot charge money to try to shorten someone’s life.
Rhode Island: Wrapping fresh fish in a newspaper is against the law.
South Carolina: Fishing with dynamite is illegal.
South Dakota: Shooting an animal from an airplane is against the law.
Tennessee: Roller skaters must proceed in a single file line to be in accordance with the state law.
Texas: Taking more than 3 sips of beer at a time while standing is illegal.
Utah: The state has banned the “look, no hands” trick by law, stating that bicyclists must keep one hand on the handlebar at all times.
Vermont: In the city of Middlebury, having more than one person on a skateboard at a time is illegal.
Virginia: It’s illegal to release more than 50 balloons per hour.
Washington: In Bremerton, it’s illegal to throw garbage into anyone else’s trash can.
West Virginia: An unmarried couple living together in the state can be sent to jail.
Wisconsin: On highways in Wisconsin, livestock always has the right of way.
Wyoming: Opening a gate and not closing it is against the law.

This is our daily open thread – talk about whatever you want.

The Watering Hole: Tuesday September 23, 2014 Environmental News and Food Politics

So the climate march was big, almost 400,000 in New York. Will it change anything? Did 500,000 marchers stop the Iraq war from going forward? Well the UN Secretary marched in this one, but I’m afraid climate change will be addressed locally for the next who knows how many years. Nothing will change in Washington. We need  Democratic presidents to continue to be elected until the Supreme Court can be changed, so that gerrymandering can be legally ceased, and this the balance of power (one person = one vote) can be restored. Right now Republicans hold a hugely unfair advantage in many rust belt and mid Atlantic states because of the way districts are drawn at the state rep level and the congressional level. I weep when I think of how long it will take for our political apartheid (marginalizing Democratic majorities) to be rectified. This will be a 50-100 year war, I am afraid. The stakes are high. The powerful never relinquish willingly.

 

 

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 21st, 2014: SCALIA: JUSTice REVOLTing

Why does Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia keep giving us more reasons to question his fitness for his job?

It’s not like he hasn’t provided ample evidence of judicial bias over the years, the most fateful of which being his participation in the Selection of George W. Bush as President in Bush v Gore. Scalia’s later spinning of that decision, along with his callous exhortations to Gore voters to “get over it!”, calls into question both the decision and his more recent mental competence. One commenter on the linked article, which is from 2012, succinctly put it:

“Since Supreme Court decisions are intended to set legal precedent going forward (although in this bizarre instance the court stated this decision was meant to be sui generis, an abrogation of its function) then it is literally impossible to “get over” a Supreme Court decision. Maybe this swaggering jerk should step down if he doesn’t get that.”

justice scalia being rude
From a 2012 article in The Daily Beast, some info about the most infamous photo of Scalia:

“Vaffanculo”
Scalia didn’t appreciate a reporter from the Boston Herald asking him in 2006 how he responds to critics who say his religion impairs his fairness in rulings. “To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’” Scalia reportedly said, flicking his right hand from under his chin. In Italian, this not-so subtle phrase means “f–k off” and the accompanying hand flick is equally rude. “You’re not going to print that are you?” he apparently asked in an interaction that occurred, it’s worth noting, inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at Sunday mass.”

[emphasis mine]

Scalia has no love for LGBT Americans, as discussed in a 2013 Mother Jones article. One example:

“In his dissent in Lawrence [Lawrence v Texas], Scalia argued that moral objections to homosexuality were sufficient justification for criminalizing gay sex. “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home,” he wrote. “They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

And in this Mother Jones article from February of 2012, sarcastically entitled “Supreme Court Poised to Declare Racism Over”, the [dis]honarable Justice Scalia displays his views on racial discrimination during Shelby County, Alabama’s challenge to the Voting Rights Act. From the article:

That’s not to say all discrimination is a thing of the past. In the eyes of the high court’s conservatives, America has transcended its tragic history of disenfranchising minorities, but there’s still one kind of discrimination that matters: Discrimination against the states covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Justice Antonin Scalia said that it was “sort of extraordinary to say” that “Congress can just pick out…these eight states,” referring to the states covered by Section 5.

Later, Scalia telegraphed his reasoning for what will almost certainly be a vote to strike down part of the law. Explaining overwhelming support for the Voting Rights Act reauthorization in Congress in 2006, Scalia called Section 5 the “perpetuation of a racial entitlement” that legislators would never have the courage to overturn. “In the House there are practically black districts by law now,” Scalia complained.

[Makes ya wonder how Scalia’s Siamese twin, Clarence Thomas, REALLY feels about discrimination against other American citizens of color.]

When Supreme Court Justices are connected at the spine

When Supreme Court Justices are connected at the spine


Conan O'Brien hits the nail on the head

Conan O’Brien hits the nail on the head

And then there’s these:
scalia court not political

Delusions of grandeur?

Delusions of grandeur?

Last week, Justice Scalia came out with another disturbing notion. From yesterday’s Think Progress thread:

“During an event at the University of Tennessee’s law school on Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suggested to the capacity crowd that perhaps they should revolt against the U.S government if their taxes ever get too high.

During a question and answer part of the event, a student asked Scalia about the constitutionality of a federal income tax. Scalia assured the questioner that the tax was in fact permissible by the constitution, but added that if it ever became too high, “perhaps you should revolt.” … Supreme Court justices have largely refrained from such rhetoric. Still, in recent years, Scalia has shifted even further to the right than when he was first appointed.

Days later, at a joint appearance with fellow Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Scalia offered a bit of ironic commentary on inflammatory rhetoric. “It sometimes annoys me when somebody has made outrageous statements that are hateful,” he told the audience at the National Press Club. “Sometimes the press will say, ‘well, he was just exercising his first amendment rights’…You can be using your first amendment rights and it can be abominable that you are using your first amendment rights. I’ll defend your right to use it, but I will not defend the appropriateness of the manner in which you are using it.”

[Right back atcha, Antonin.]

And all of this from someone who was once a regular on the PBS series “Ethics In America”. The series was produced by the Columbia University Seminars on Media and Society and was hosted by Fred Friendly; individual episodes can be viewed here. I recommend checking out some of the episodes; the ones with Scalia show a younger, more reasonable and slightly more jovial Antonin Scalia.

These days, I don’t believe that Antonin Scalia knows the meaning of the word “ethics.”

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

Watering Hole April 15, 2014 Open thread- Wingnuts have standoff with BLM – Did you pay your taxes?

“Federal authorizes have said Bundy owes more than $1 million in grazing fees he has not paid for 20 years. Yet Bundy, 67, has reportedly said he does not recognize federal authority on land he insists belongs to Nevada. His Mormon family has operated a ranch since the 1870s near the tiny town of Bunkerville and the Utah and Arizona lines.”

So? There are folks whose relatives came over on the Mayflower and they pay taxes and rent to the government all the time, obey environmental laws, and respect the constitution. States Rights my ass.. Personally , I’m sorry they didn’t bring in the sharpshooters to back up the BLM staff, but that would have fcuked up November Elections.

Read the rest here: I despise wingnuts.

 

Open Thread      Discuss

de·spise
diˈspīz/
verb
verb: despise; 3rd person present: despises; past tense: despised; past participle: despised; gerund or present participle: despising
  1. 1.
    feel contempt or a deep repugnance for.

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 7th, 2013: All the Crazy That Fits

It’s been a while since I put on my hip waders and stepped into Newsmax, so here’s a few gems:

From “Rev. Billy Graham Prepares ‘Perhaps … My Last Message’” by David A. Patton:

“In an exclusive interview, the Rev. Billy Graham tells Newsmax that President Obama’s “hope and change” mantra is nothing more than a cliché and warns that the nation faces increasing threats to civil and religious liberties from its government.

Graham, who is preparing for possibly his last crusade, this time via video, said America is drenched in a “sea of immorality” and suggested that the second coming of Christ is “near.”

“Our early fathers led our nation according to biblical principles,” Graham wrote in response. “‘Hope and change’ has become a cliché in our nation, and it is daunting to think that any American could hope for change from what God has blessed,” he stated, an obvious reference to President Obama’s campaign motto.

“Our country is turning away from what has made it so great,” he continued, “but far greater than the government knowing our every move that could lead to losing our freedom to worship God publicly, is to know that God knows our every thought; he knows our hearts need transformation.” ~~~

Many believing Christians believe in a coming Armageddon, a final battle between good and evil prophesied in the book of Revelation.

Graham tells Newsmax it is not wise to “speculate” about the dates of such a battle, but he adds that the Bible says that there “will be signs pointing toward the return of the Lord.”

“I believe all of these signs are evident today,” Graham wrote, adding that “the return of Christ is near.

“Regardless of what society says, we cannot go on much longer in the sea of immorality without judgment coming,” he says.”

Next, from “Rove: Obama Wants to ‘Break the Republicans'” by Amy Woods:

“Republican strategist Karl Rove on Sunday described President Barack Obama’s behavior throughout the budget showdown as “stubborn obstructionism” whose goal is to “get more money and break the Republicans.”

“The stubborn obstructionism of the president … has a purpose, which is to try and get the Congress to agree to the Senate Democrats’ spending number, which is $91 billion bigger than the House, and bust the sequester, and end the 2011 spending agreements,” Rove said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He is attempting to put the responsibility for raising the debt ceiling and, in fact, naming the amount of the debt ceiling on the Congress and not on himself.”

Third, from “Rand Paul: Democrats’ Stubbornness Keeping Government Closed” by Sandy Fitzgerald:

“Paul denied that House Republicans led to the shutdown by refusing to fund the government.

“The House Republicans said they would fund all of government, and they did,” Paul said. “They funded all of government short of one program. So they really were never wanting to shut down government over this, they were wanting to fund government, and then have a debate.”

He further blamed Obama for his refusal to negotiate for the shutdown.

“When you say the president wants 100 percent of Obamacare or he will shut down the government, that’s exactly what happened,” said Paul. “If he [Obama] doesn’t get 100 percent of his way – his way or the highway – then they won’t do any spending bills that don’t include everything that he wants. That’s him unwilling to negotiate, that’s him being unwilling to compromise.”

Had enough? How about one more? From “Rep. Graves: Obama To Blame if Country Defaults” by Amy Woods:

“Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Graves said Sunday the party is “united” in its belief the government should re-open and negotiations with Democrats should continue to avoid a possible economic default over the debt ceiling.

“We have had a tremendous fight over keeping the government open and protecting Americans from Obamacare,” Graves said on “Fox News Sunday.” “There’s no reason to default. The president’s the only one demanding default right now.”

Sorry, but I have to throw this last link in, just for laughs: Another one by Bill Hoffman, “From Senate to Center Stage: Fred Thompson Makes Broadway Debut”. The author of the piece completely omits any mention of Thompson’s disastrous run for the Presidency, or the fact that Thompson’s most recent “acting” gig has been on ‘Reverse-Mortgage’ commercials.

This is our Open Thread. Have at it!

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 9: THE CEDING OF GOVERNMENT)

Below is the final essay in my compilation which I collectively entitled The Death of a Nation. It was written in March, 2005, shortly after George W. Bush’s second inauguration.  Sadly, not much has changed in the nearly eight ensuing years. Today, in fact, on the veritable eve of the election of 2012, we as a nation are STILL faced with the possibility of what would be, in effect, a return to the policies of the W. Bush era, policies which failed so miserably but which still evoke obvious favor (and fervor) from corporate and ‘power/wealth’ entities.

(Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7, Part 8)

Will the voting public vote to continue the insanity, or will it — FINALLY — vote to reverse those insipid ‘conservative’ trends by returning full control of both Congress and the White House to that cluster of clear-thinkers that stands for The People and not for special interests? Time will tell, but one fact remains certain: any return to the failed policies of the W. Bush era will guarantee one thing: the process which WILL be the prime mover in The Death of (this) Nation will be accelerated to breakneck speed.

**********

The Ceding of Government

“The market economy is not everything. It must find its place in a higher order of things which is not ruled by supply and demand, free prices and competition. It must be firmly contained within an all-embracing order of society in which the imperfections and harshness of economic freedom are corrected by law and in which man is not denied conditions of life appropriate to his nature.”
 (Wilhelm Roepke, “Austrian” Economist)

I cite the Roepke quote because I’m rather fond of paradoxes, and a close examination of Roepke’s words seems to point at one (though I’m sure he didn’t so intend).  Roepke begins by stating the obvious, i.e., “The market economy is not everything . . .”  True enough.  The market economy ideally serves the physical needs of a given culture by providing such things as food, housing, tools, technology, and leisure entertainment for the public to enjoy, as well as work which is exchanged for a common medium of exchange (e.g. dollars), which in turn can be used to purchase goods from the marketplace which the buyer needs or desires to own.  Beyond that niche, the market economy is not worth much at all, especially when it comes to spiritual matters, or matters of morality, law, etc.  For those, people must look elsewhere.

“It must find its place in a higher order of things which is not ruled by supply and demand, free prices and competition . . .”  Not so sure what he means here, at least in the so-called ‘Austrian’ context, but it does remain a fact that America’s market economy continues to evolve rapidly in ways which would, one might assume, change the fundamental and familiar supply-demand dynamics.  In the first place, America produces very little in the way of consumer goods anymore.  Anyone who doubts that should read the labels next time they visit the hardware store, department store, shoe store, etc. – “Made in USA” labels are rare as hen’s teeth these days.  That of course means that the manufacturing jobs are no longer in the US but rather have been ‘outsourced’ instead.  Levi Strauss, in fact, moved their entire operation out of the US, and now the bulk of their blue jeans are manufactured in Mexico.  They’re still sold in the US, of course, and look no different than they ever did; I assume the asking price is about the same as before which would allow a bit more profit for Strauss. Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Thursday, August 23rd, 2012: Roe v. Wade, “Personhood” Laws, and Colonial Times

What I started out researching for today’s thread, and what follows, bear little relation to each other. I had wanted to explore the history of Presidential nominees whose campaigns included promises to repeal Roe v. Wade, and any resulting attempts at legislation. That effort met with little success (though there was plenty of other fascinating information, too much for me to do more than a cursory scan), but luckily I got distracted by this bright shiny object: Footnote Number 6 on Wikipedia’s Roe vs Wade page:

Wilson, James, “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals” (1790–1792): “In the contemplation of law, life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb.” Also see Blackstone, William. Commentaries (1765): “Life … begins in contemplation of law as soon as an infant is able to stir in the mother’s womb.”

So, am I wrong in interpreting those quotes as: before the American Revolution, and continuing after the establishment of the United States of America, life in a woman’s womb did not legally begin until the fetus starts moving?

WebMD says, “You should feel your baby’s first movements, called “quickening,” between weeks 16 and 25 of your pregnancy. If this is your first pregnancy, you may not feel your baby move until closer to 25 weeks. By the second pregnancy, some women start to feel movements as early as 13 weeks.”

Even if one uses the figure of 13 weeks, or let’s say even 12 weeks, it appears that it was settled law, way back during the era of our Founding Fathers, that an embryo was not legally a living human being until three months into the pregnancy. Hmmm…if this was the generally accepted definition of ‘when “life” begins’ back in the 18th century, how can the Teapublicans in Congress reconcile this with their (false) claim that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, and should therefore be ruled by the Bible? How can they justify – or even implement – “Personhood” legislation? And just which exactly is the United States citizen, the woman or the not-legally-“life” zygote or embryo? Which comes first in the hearts of those Teapublicans, their Oath to their country, or their Old Testament god?

Footnote Number 6 led me to more fascinating reading in James Wilson’s “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals.” Here’s some excerpts:

“The opinion has been very general, that, in order to obtain the blessings of a good government, a sacrifice must be made of a part of our natural liberty. I am much inclined to believe, that, upon examination, this opinion will prove to be fallacious. It will, I think, be found, that wise and good government — I speak, at present, of no other — instead of contracting, enlarges as well as secures the exercise of the natural liberty of man: and what I say of his natural liberty, I mean to extend, and wish to be understood, through all this argument, as extended, to all his other natural rights.”

“…what [my description of] natural liberty is:
“Nature has implanted in man the desire of his own happiness; she has inspired him with many tender affections towards others, especially in the near relations of life; she has endowed him with intellectual and with active powers; she has furnished him with a natural impulse to exercise his powers for his own happiness, and the happiness of those for whom he entertains such tender affections. If all this be true, the undeniable consequence is, that he has a right to exert those powers for the accomplishment of those purposes, in such a manner, and upon such objects, as his inclination and judgment shall direct; provided he does no injury to others; and provided some publick interests do not demand his labours. This right is natural liberty.”

If this description of natural liberty is a just one, it will teach us, that selfishness and injury are as little countenanced by the law of nature as by the law of man. Positive penalties, indeed, may, by human laws, be annexed to both. But these penalties are a restraint only upon injustice and overweening self-love, not upon the exercise of natural liberty.

“Let the constitution of the United States…be examined from the beginning to the end. No right is conferred, no obligation is laid on any, which is not laid or conferred on every, citizen of the commonwealth or Union — I think I may defy the world to produce a single exception to the truth of this remark. Now…the original equality of mankind consists in an equality of their duties and rights.

Duties and rights” – note that he puts “Duties” first. An idea which the Teapublicans either have deliberately abandoned, or are too ignorant or oblivious to understand. Or perhaps both. (sigh)

This is our daily open thread — got something to say about something?

THE Watering Hole, Wednesday, 7/11/12: The New Republican Conspiracy

Tweeter scoops the Mainstream Media yet again.

REPUBLICANS PLAN TO PRIVATIZE THE COURTS

According to Tweeter, The Zoo’s investigative journalist par excellance, a vast Right-Wing Conspiracy is planning an unprecedented assault on the federal judiciary:privatization.

Under their plan all Federal Courts, except for the Supreme Court, will be held privately. There is, however, a raging debate as to whether they will be owned by one or more individuals or a Corporation. A few billionaires are insisting that private ownership is the only way to truly have an independent judiciary, while others extoll the advantages to a publically traded judicial corporation.

“Imagine the thrill of holding stock in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals” one anonymous insider told Tweeter. “Decisions that once were, well, not very interesting for the common folk, suddenly take on a whole new light when the value of your investment is at stake. With publically traded courts, everyone can invest in the judiciary. This takes jurisprudence out of the Court Room and puts it into the Board Room, where it belongs.”

Tweeter contacted a Constitutional Law Scholar for further background on this controversial plan to give ownership of the judicial branch to the public. The scholar, who chose to remain annonymous, said:

Article III of the Constitution states:

“The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.”

This means every court below the Supreme Court is a creation of Congress, by statute. So, if Congress wants to privatize the federal judiciary, that will likely pass a constitutional challenge. Let’s face it, if Congress wanted to do away with the federal court system in its entirety, it could do so, as long as it kept the Supreme Court. Come to think of it, if Congress wanted to get rid of the Supreme Court, it probably could – after all, if it got rid of the Supreme Court, there would be no court to say what it did was unconstitutional.

The fact that no one has heard of this conspiracy is proof of its existence, as well as proof of the effectiveness of the security measures it has taken, until now, to keep this plan secret. In fact, this is supposed to be so secret, it won’t even be mentioned at the Republican Party Convention. But according to Tweeter’s sources, this conspiracy gained immense traction these past few weeks, in reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare.

We here at The Zoo will keep you, are dear readers, informed of any new developments.

THIS IS OUR OPEN THREAD
ANYTHING YOU POST CAN, AND WILL, BE HELD AGAINST YOU

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, June 20, 2012: Does it really Matter?

Ok, so for the next few months, if you’re in a “swing” State, you’ll be inundated with SuperPAC commercials designed to get you to vote against your own best interests. We will also be systematically bombarded with messages from the Mainstream Media designed to influence our thinking.

IT’S ALL A SHOW. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER.

If the Powers That Be really want Obama out, all they have to do is raise gas prices to about $5.00/gallon. Instead, gas prices are going down, heading into the summer vacation season. That’s not to say they won’t go up between now and the election – but they are an accurate predictor of where our economy will head. So, pay attention to the pump, not the talking heads.

Ok, that’s my $0.0199 cents. And you?

OPEN THREAD
JUST REMEMBER
EVERYTHING I SAID
DOESN’T REALLY MATTER

 

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, 6/13/12

Tweeter calls in his latest scoop.

What’s black and white and red all over?

Obama, Romney and the 2012 electoral map.

Once again, Tweeter, the Zoo’s primo investigative journalist is first on the scene with the Gnus. Diebold has already called the 2012 election for President-elect Mitt Romney. Eeking out a narrow victory within the statistical margin of error in each of the swing states Romney walks away with 100% of the votes of the Electoral College, a fete not accomplished by any presidential candidate since George Washington.

Through countless hours of painstakingly pasting together documents in Diebold’s shredding machines, Tweeter discovered draft acceptance and concession speeches.

President Obama will be magnamous in defeat:

The people have spoken. I promised them change, but didn’t deliver. Too often, change was dictated by the minority of Republicans in the Senate. Where I failed, they succeeded. I wanted jobs for all, they wanted a continued economic decline. They won. I wanted health care for everyone. They wanted profits for the insurance industry. They won. Even when I wanted what they wanted, they opposed it, and won. And now, they won the presidency. For that, I congratulate them. I am going back to the place of my birth proud of what I, a black man from Kenya, was able to accomplish. One term. As President. Of the United States. Of. America.

President-Elect Romney will be gracious in winning:

Where’s my Etch-a-Sketch? Is this thing on? … My fellow Americans…tonight we celebrate a great victory for Americans where ever they are. You have given me a mandate as clear as black and white. I want what you want. You want fewer government services…so do I. You want fewer teachers, police, and firefighters, so do I. You want to get rid of unions. So do I. You want to get rid of ObamaCare. So do I. You want to eliminate the minimum wage. So do I. You want to keep gays from getting married. So do I. You want marriage to be between one man and one woman. So do I…but we can talk about numbers later. You want to prevent your wives, daughters and girlfriends from having the choice to have an abortion, so do I. You want to close our borders to illegal immigration. So do I. You want to rid the world of terrorists, liberals and socialists. So do I. And now I’ll have the drones to do just that!

THIS THREAD IS NOW OPEN
ANY COMMENTS YOU POST
MAY BE HELD AGAINST YOU
IN A COURT OF FLAW

Sunday Roast: Do we deserve to kill?


Earlier this week, The Rachel Maddow Show played a portion of the above TED Talk by Bryan Stevenson.  The Maddow Blog introduces Mr Stevenson:

Bryan Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and part of his Big Idea is about kids in prison, and the country that keeps them there until they die (that’s us).  America is the only country in the world with kids serving life in prison without parole (LWOP) sentences for crimes they committed as children.  And that, Stevenson says, changes our identity as a country.  It changes us.

Rachel’s interview so moved me, that I had to hear him speak more fully, hence the above TED Talk, which was provided on Rachel’s blog.  Please watch the whole video, you won’t be sorry.

Part of this country’s identity is that we have the fifth highest rate of incarceration in the world, behind such countries as China and Iran, and the incarceration rate is abnormally high in this country among people of color.  We lock up children as young as 13 years old for life, for things they did before their brains are finished developing.  And please, to anyone reading this who thinks that because my bleeding liberal heart doesn’t believe in locking children up for life, then that means I believe no punishment should be given at all — get a friggin’ grip on reality, okay?

In this country, we are “treated better if we’re rich and guilty, than if we’re poor and innocent.”  He who can hire the best lawyer (or team thereof) has the best chances of getting that “not guilty” verdict, or at least a lighter sentence.  Wealth shapes outcome, that’s true, but it could also be said that social class and the color of one’s skin shapes outcome as well.

But we don’t like to think about those kinds of things in this country.  Hey, if it’s not happening to me or my family, why should I care?  America, love it or leave it!  We’re number one!!  American exceptionalism rules!!

Except when it doesn’t.  As long as there is inequality, suffering, discrimination, poverty, and hate in this country, none of us are free — let alone exceptional.

We are, above all, human.  Our humanity is the only thing we bring into the world, and our humanity (or the shreds thereof) are all we take out of this world.  Our humanity is all we have and all we are, and if we want to find a solution to the terrible social ills afflicting this country and the world, we should start there.

This is our daily open thread — Discuss amongst yourselves.

The Watering Hole: March 10 – Jean Calas

Jean Calas was a French merchant living in Toulouse, France, famous for having been the victim of a biased trial due to his being a Protestant. In France, he is a symbol of Christian religious intolerance. His sole sin was trying to mask the suicide of his son, Marc-Antoine, as a murder. He was charged with the murder and died on March 10, 1762 on the wheel. Voltaire was successful in exonerating Jean Calas (posthumously ) of all charges. His family was paid 36,000 Francs by the king in compensation.

Jean Calas tortured for nothing more than his religious beliefs

Religion was specifically excluded from government in the Constitution. What disturbs me is that the Republican Party is trying to foist religious values into American law. This can not be condoned for any reason.

Could religious dogma endanger the rights of Americans? The “War on Women” offers one step towards this slippery slope! I often wonder if any Republican actually has a mother.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to offer a counter argument. You can also spill your guts.

The Watering Hole: September 22 – Witchcraft

Salem Witch Trials 1692

What happened to Troy Davis late last night brings to mind the extremes of Witchcraft trials of prior times. The trial consisted of attempted drowning or like form of near fatal attempts.

Any survivors were presumed guilty and punished by a burning of their mortal bodies which was presumed to cleanse their souls. The innocent were buried by more conventional means as their souls were free of sin. In the American colonies, the last people were hanged for witchcraft in the Northern colonies (It seemed that their souls were already cleansed in the dowsing.)

This process was no less barbaric then the death penalty is today!

This is our Open Thread. Weigh in with your own opinions.

Watering Hole: Monday, September 12, 2011 – It’s Not For Getting High

For 18 years, I worked in the pharmaceutical industry.  One major thing that I learned during that time is that the pharmaceutical industry is not focused on curing an illness. It is focused on making a drug that must be taken every day to mask the symptoms of an illness.  It is all about profits and not about cures.  When I left the industry, it was beginning to appear that drug discovery was getting close to reaching its apex.  The pharmaceutical industry is always looking for new drugs to patent.  During testing, many of these new drugs present serious safety issues and as a result, never make it to market.

The United States has the highest prices for drugs.  That is because the pharmaceutical industry claims to take a hit in profits when selling drugs cheaper in other countries, particularly in countries that have socialized medicine.  The industry needs to make up for this loss in profits by charging Americans more.

Here is a story about a compound that grows like a weed and has medicinal properties.   Like all medicinal compounds that can be grown in a back yard garden, this plant is difficult to patent.  What that means is the pharmaceutical industry can’t make exclusive profit from this plant.  So the US government has stepped in and made this plant illegal.

And by the way, is it possible that the oil from this plant can cure cancer?

This is our Open Thread.  Speak Up!

The Watering Hole: August 4 – Geese

Roast Goose

I tried to express the situation where Americans find themselves after the debt agreement on Sunday. At first I thought that I could say: “Our goose is cooked.” This statement does not really fit our situation because it implies that we have been caught in a lie or cheated on a partner and will have to pay in some matter such as being fired, ostracized or divorced depending on the nature of the ‘crime’.

I came to the realization that a better statement would be: “We are all goners” as that implies the visage of death or loss through something that was not really our fault. That expression derives itself from the old British term ‘gone Goose’.

We can also say that the debt agreement has “Killed the goose (the middle class) that lays the golden eggs.”

Geese play a central part in all these sayings because geese supplied eggs and meat to guilds-men and the middle class in pre-Victorian Britain. They were easy to care for and mowed the grass around town to boot. In some towns, they were allowed free range and harvested by their designated owner(s). Often the lord (small ‘l’) was the owner who extracted a fee (tax) on said harvest.

Right now the “silly geese” of Congress are giving me “goose bumps” from fear because I will gain nothing but a “goose egg” due to their policies. The basic reason for this situation is that Obama “can’t say boo to a goose.”

Flip the page for a table defining these and other terms. One American term is included. Continue reading

Watering Hole – Monday, August 1, 2011 – Philadelphia Freedom

Today is our 30 year wedding anniversary and we will be spending the day in Philadelphia doing the “freedom tour”.

For most of my life, I have lived in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania.  During all these years, I have never seen the Liberty Bell.  With the looming shutdown of our government due to its inability to pay the bills or the closing of government buildings due to the cuts, cuts and more cuts, now could be my last chance to get to Independence square and see some of the artifacts that are part of our nation’s beginning.  It’s anybody’s guess as to what will happen if the US defaults on its debt.  One thing for sure is that government employees would be laid off, seniors would not receive their Social Security checks, veterans would not receive their benefits, and nursing homes could close which would create more job losses.  Basically, more people will be out of work and there will be less money to spend and BUSINESSES WILL SUFFER.  Default is NOT an option.  Our bills must be paid.

This is our open thread.  I won’t be around today as I will be searching for freedom. You will need to Speak Up and do all the chatting.

Continue reading

Sunday Roast – Are All of the Faux-Christians at Church Right Now? July 24th, 2011

While doing some research on the wives of the Supreme Court Justices, I came across this website. Ginni Thomas, wife of Chief Justice Clarence Thomas, was the original founder and CEO of Liberty Central, Inc. The title of a post dated July 21st caught my eye: “The Threat of Foreign Law”. Here’s how the post starts:

Once again great controversy has arisen over the building of a Mosque; this one in Murfreesboro, TN. Once again no one is getting to the heart of the problem. The fear is not over Islam, but of Sharia Law and the solution lies in preventing foreign law not interfering with a religious practice. We have a nation built on fundamental principles of liberty and law, not fear. If we are ruled by fear, we will lose liberty.

You can read the rest here

The post warns of the supposedly serious threat of Sharia Law somehow becoming part of U.S. law. The post is a bit confusing, but I decided to respond to the basic idea with the following:

I believe that this article is based on the simplistic premise that Sharia Law should be defined as a “foreign law.” It is a particular religion’s law, and, while a few foreign countries are ruled by Islamic theocracies, Sharia law should not be considered to be equivalent to, say, British law or Spanish law or South African law.

I also believe that the entire article is based on the completely false idea that Sharia Law could possibly become anything more than simply one particular religion’s law in this country. The building of a Mosque somewhere in the United States cannot be construed as an ‘attack’ on our Constitutional laws, any more than the building of a Roman Catholic church or a Jewish synagogue should be an ‘attack’ on our Constitutional laws.

The First Amendment says “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.” According to Wikipedia, “The Establishment Clause [of the First Amendment] prohibits the federal, state or municipal establishment of an official religion or other preference for one religion over another, non-religion over religion, or religion over non-religion.”

Therefore, the writer’s premise that “The issue of building Mosques anywhere in the United States must be viewed within this Constitutional framework. We cannot allow the government to dictate the practice of religion, even if the majority of the people demand it…” is a moot point. This article, along with many other articles and speeches warning of the so-called threat of Sharia Law, is simply shameful fear-mongering over a completely non-existent ‘issue.’

If the writer would like to do a post on a true ‘religion vs Constitution’ issue, I would suggest that she investigate Christian anti-abortion laws dictating the laws of several of these United States.

This is our Sunday Roast. What’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole: July 16 – Jail

I admit now that I have a criminal record of sorts. I was on my way to Texas A&M from NJ when one of the local gendarmes in a small southern town noted my NJ plates and decided to stop me. He ignored my explanations and decided to jail me for the night until the police offices opened. It seems that he believed that I was one of those northern agitators planning to stir up the blacks in the area.

Back to my account. It was just as well that I was jailed as I was looking for a place to spend the night and I saved at least $10 for lodging and $1 for breakfast. I was given my own cell as I was the only white there at the time. I saw how others lived, three to a cell with a single cot and a place to swat on a concrete divider or pee into a slow moving “stream” intended to carry ones wastes away. I had similar facilities, but was in the first single cell on the line. The next cell up seemed to be intended for a regular or a local and had an actual commode, a comfortable cot and some books and magazines on an end table.

The people in the other cells were harassed all the time and were called degrading names. When breakfast was served in the morning, I got eggs, bacon and grits (a foul southern concoction). The other prisoners got only grits.

After breakfast, I was escorted to the Chief (this guy could have been type cast as a law enforcement officer in the ‘Dukes of Hazard’). He questioned me about why I was in town and once he learned that I was a Texas boy, only transferred to NJ because that was where my Dad found a job worthy of a PhD. I was out of there as soon as he checked with Texas A&M for my student status. I was allowed to use the police showers while he performed that check.

The lesson I learned that day, er night, was that criminals are not born, they are annealed by the system. That lesson was worth more than the $11.

This is our Open Thread. Please rant on any topic that irks you.

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, July 13, 2011: Hump Day: The Supreme Court

Guess what? There is no Supreme Court in the American Constitution. Newt Gingrich said it, so it must be so. Right?

Well, let’s take a look at Article III:

The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

Ok. The Constitution does establish a Supreme Court. But what about what else Gingrich said, “the fact is the Congress can pass a law and can limit the Court’s jurisdiction.” Is that true? Can Congress simply pass a law and limit what the Court can hear?

In a word, Yes.

In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

So, only in cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, does the Supreme Court have original jurisdiction. That means one can file a claim directly to the Supreme Court. IN ALL OTHER CASES, the Supreme Court acts as a Court of Appeals…the matter has to be heard by a lower court first.

Therein lies the rub. Congress has the power to “ordain and establish” lower courts. Without lower courts, there cannot be appeals to the Supreme Court. If Congress abolishes the lower courts, the only cases the Supreme Court can hear are those involving ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party.

By eliminating the lower federal courts, Congress can eliminate the ability of the people to obtain relief if their Constitutional Rights have been violated. This is what Gingrich is advocating: Go to jail, go directly to jail. Do not pass Go; do not collect $200. And forget about the Bill of Rights.

This is our daily open thread. Freedom of speech on this thread has been upheld by a 5-4 vote. That means one vote the other way, and we censor the hell out of you!

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, June 29, 2011: Hump Day

Hot coffee. The lawsuit that became the poster child of the “Tort Reform” movement. And by “Tort Reform” I mean “Protect the Culprit” movement.

For that is what “Tort Reform” is all about. It is about preventing a jury from awarding full damages to the victim of someone else’s wrong-doing. It is about limiting the damages insurance companies have to pay, with absolutly no requirement they pass any savings on to their policyholders.

We, the people, have voted in favor of “Tort Reform.” In California, the voters passed an initiative capping medical malpractice claims. In various states, voters have elected representatives committed to capping damages.

Capping damages. Limiting the amount the wrong-doer has to pay, regardless of the harm s/he causes. Their victims are left without sufficient means to pay for needed medical care and necessary services. Victims are forced to turn to Medicaid, placing the burden on taxpayers. On taxpayers – not on the person who caused the harm.

Why? Because corporations spend millions to convince us to vote the way they want us to. And they succeed.

Watch “Hot Coffee.” Be informed. Spread the word.

This is our Open Thread. Feel free to comment on this, or anything else that’s on your mind. And be advised, there may be brand new threads below this one during the day. You’ll miss them if you don’t go look.

Breaking News: New York State’s Marriage Equality Act – Almost There? PASSED!

Tonight, the New York State Senate passed the religious exemptions amendment to Governor Cuomo’s Marriage Equality Act, 36-26. This is an exciting and important step forward, bringing the MEA much closer to becoming a reality.

State Senator Steve Saland (R-Poughkeepsie) made the all-important move from undecided to ‘Yes’.

Watch the live feed from the New York State Senate here, as Senator Saland is going to speak shortly.

Also, Rachel Maddow is covering this live.

10:30pm UPDATE!!! By a vote of 33-29, the New York State Senate becomes the first Republican-controlled legislative body to pass a Marriage Equality Bill.

“Calloo, Callay, O Frabjous Day!

Marriage Equality for New Yorkers?

The New York State Senate could be voting on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Marriage Equality Act as early as today. The State Assembly, which is led by Democrats, has already passed the legislation – in fact, this is the fourth time that the Assembly has passed similar legislation, but it has never passed in the State Senate. It now goes to the State Senate, which is led by Republicans (32-30.) The proposed MEA, while it would legalize same-sex marriage, contains some exemptions which would protect any religious organizations or churches from lawsuits if they refuse to marry a same-sex couple (which, in my mind, somewhat negates the “equality” part of it.) Two of the Republican State Senators have said that they will vote for the legislation. One, Joel Miller, R-Poughkeepsie, is one of the few Republicans in the chamber to consistently vote in favor of same-sex marriage. I like what Senator Miller had to say in The Journal-News article.

“I have no problem with people who talk to God. I have problems with people who think God is talking to them,” Miller said, adding, “It is basic to America when we talk about land of the free and home of the brave. You can’t say land of the free and home of the brave except for one group I don’t particularly like.”

As of now it appears that one more ‘yes’ vote will be need to get it passed. Attention is now being focused on Republican State Senator Greg Ball, who represents District 40 (Putnam County, where Wayne and I both grew up and where we work.) Wayne spoke to Senator Ball regarding the same-sex marriage issue recently outside of our local supermarket in Patterson, Putnam County:

“I had a chance to talk to Greg Ball in person at one of his Senate on Your Corner events…I was trying to avoid speaking to him at all but I got funneled into a channel and he stepped up to shake my hand and introduce himself. I told him I knew who he was. So, not having anything prepared to say to him, I thought I would ask, “Where do you stand on gay marriage.” (A mistake, I know, and had I pre-planned the discussion, I would have used the words “marriage equality.)”

“He told me he was against it and I asked him why and he said that he thought it was “wrong.” He had concerns that churches might be forced to participate (or conduct) same-sex marriages against their will. I said that shouldn’t be a concern and that if they didn’t want to, they shouldn’t be forced to. (I honestly do not know the specifics of the Marriage Equality Bill, so I do not know how concerns like this are addressed.) I said gay people should be allowed to get married by a Justice of the Peace just like my wife and I were. (We were married in the restaurant where the reception was held.) He also said he thought most people were against it. Sensing, I guess, that he wasn’t going to convince me that he was right (based on the non-argument he gave), he blurted out that the Marriage Equality Bill “didn’t have the votes.” He said that somebody told him (I don’t know if it was the Governor or the Senate Majority Leader) that they didn’t have the votes to pass it. Keep in mind that this was about a week and a half ago and things have (apparently) changed since then. He then called over a friend of his (staffer? I don’t know) and asked him what he thought of it. The man said that he was Catholic and that he was against it. I said that if he was against it because of his own religious views that that was not a valid reason. Not everybody practices his religion and that no religious views should even be considered. That’s what separation of church and state was about.”

“He did tell me that he supported civil unions “fully” and that he favored letting voters decide on the marriage part itself. I reminded him “marriage” was not something owned strictly by religious people. I also said that the civil unions idea was relegating gay people to second class citizenship status that it was wrong. (I wish I thought to mention that you shouldn’t put Rights up to a popular vote, since the majority will all-too-frequently – and wrongly – deny a minority the same rights they have.) I said that civil unions weren’t the same thing at all. At the end of our discussion he remained unpersuaded, so I was surprised to hear people mention that he was “on the fence.” It did not appear that way to me.”

Ball is still holding out, arguing that the exemptions don’t go far enough to hold harmless the afore-mentioned religious organizations. Unfortunately for Ball, attention is also being focused on one of his staffers, who improperly used a constituent’s thank-you letter to Ball by altering it and sending it to media outlets, including the New York Daily News, via a false email address that the staffer created.

We will have to wait and see if New York, “The Empire State”, finally becomes the tenth ‘enlightened state.’ Expect an update on this story in the next day or two.

6/20, 9:55pm UPDATE: No vote yet. See articles from The Journal News here and here.

6/21, 9:55pm UPDATE: GOP-led NY State Senate still holding out, see today’s Journal News article here. See Greg Ball on CNN, via the Journal News’s “Politics on the Hudson” blog, here.