Archive for ‘Religion Culture’

06/26/2020

IN DEFENSE OF JEFFERSON MEMORIALS

While people busily remove statues to treasonous Confederate generals, let’s review 10 reasons why monuments to Thomas Jefferson should not only be preserved and protected, but celebrated.

1) 1776: Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence with the famous phrase: “All men are created equal.”

2) 1776 Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration (before others edited it), accused the king of waging a cruel war against human nature by carrying a distant people into slavery in another hemisphere.

3) 1777 Jefferson supported a bill in Virginia to outlaw the importation of slaves. It didn’t pass, but he tried.

4) 1783 Jefferson drafted an amendment to the Virginia Constitution to end slavery. Once again other lawmakers wouldn’t agree.

5) 1784 Jefferson in the Continental Congress proposed the “Ordinance of 1784,” which would have barred all slavery west of the Appalachians, but it was defeated by just one vote. Virginia slave-owner James Monroe assisted Jefferson in that effort.

6) 1785 Jefferson wrote a book entitled: “Notes on the State of Virginia” in which he denounced slavery as “doomed to extinction.”

7) 1787 Jefferson recommended slavery be outlawed in the territories covered by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Again with the help of James Monroe, his idea was adopted and slavery became illegal in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.

8) 1787 Jefferson urged Madison to include in Art I Sec 9 of the U.S. Constitution language stating the importation of slaves “shall not be prohibited by Congress prior to” 1808. By saying it couldn’t be banned “prior to,” they cleverly implied when it could be outlawed. Without those words, the slave trade may have continued well beyond 1808.

9) 1791 Jefferson urged Madison to amend the Constitution with a Bill of Rights to protect the freedoms of speech, assembly, and the rights of the accused.

10 1807 Jefferson as President signed a federal law banning the importation of slaves.

Americans should recall that in Virginia in the 1700s, all governors were plantation owners with slaves. Back then, abolitionists weren’t on their ballots. Men like Jefferson, Washington and Monroe were the best of the bunch, for they were trying to end slavery.

Jefferson inherited 30 slaves at age 14 in 1757. He was born into a slave culture, where he was indoctrinated into thinking there was nothing wrong with it. But he also became one of our most well-read Presidents. His childhood thoughts on slavery evolved and he became a voice of abolition. We should applaud his progress despite his slave ownership.

No historical evidence suggests that he ever personally whipped a slave. He was actually known for respecting their wishes. His policy was not to sell them against their will. History shows he helped some reunite with their families.

But the Jefferson slave story would not be complete without addressing the topic of his slave girl Sally Hamings. When some hear that he had a sexual relationship with his slave, they quickly write him off, but the story is much more interesting and complicated.

After Jefferson married Martha Wayles (1749-82), her father John Wayles (1715-73) had an affair with a mixed-blood slave, who gave birth to Sally Hemings (1773-1835). Martha and Sally thus shared the same father and were half-sisters. When John died in 1773, Sally was inherited by Martha and Tom. Since Sally looked like a Wayles and not like a black African, she became a privileged house slave.

Nine years later, as Martha was bleeding to death from a tragic delivery, she told Tom that she didn’t want their two daughters raised by a stepmother. She asked Tom to vow that he would never remarry. Deeply in love with his wife, he agreed to her terms on her deathbed. He was only 39.

Years later, when he was Minister to France, Jefferson commenced a sexual relationship with Sally, his deceased wife’s half-sister. Historians say Martha had auburn hair and hazel eyes and that Sally had similar features. Since interracial marriages were illegal in Virginia, Jefferson very discreetly kept his common law bond secret.

Tom and Sally began raising a family when she was 22 in 1795. They had Harriet-1 (1795-97); Beverly (1798-1873), Unnamed Girl (died 1799); Harriet-2 (1801-63), Madison (1805-77) and Eston (1808-56). Jefferson’s affair was finally exposed in the media while he was President in 1802. Modern DNA later confirmed his paternity.

So was Jefferson naughty for falling in love with a black woman, who happened to look like his deceased wife? When he looked into Sally’s eyes, was he seeing Martha? As a slave owner, Jefferson could have had sex with every female on his plantation, but it appears he instead chose a long-term relationship with Sally, extending at least 31 years from 1795 until his death in 1826. Instead of taking on a new playmate of the month, he impregnated the same woman over two decades.

It appears Jefferson’s relationship with Sally was honorable. While she technically was a slave who had to satisfy Tom sexually, her station probably wasn’t that much different from a white married woman, who also had to obey. As to sex, one might say, being a “slave wife” or a “white wife” was a distinction without a difference.

One could argue Jefferson was really about 175 years ahead of his time, as the Supreme Court did not declare the ban against interracial marriages unconstitutional until 1967. Tom followed his heart and engaged in civil disobedience as he disobeyed the “black code.” He and Sally should be celebrated for their love affair. Since three of Sally’s children, Harriet (1801), Madison (1805) and Eston (1808), were born while Tom was in the White House, perhaps it’s time we erected a monument to Sally Hemings (Jefferson), as the first black First Lady.

06/24/2020

LET WASHINGTON MONUMENTS STAND

When George Washington inherited 10 slaves at age 11 in 1743, did he have a choice? As a child, how insightful was he supposed to have been? When he received another slave and a horse for his 15th birthday, should have given them back? Would any teenager have done that in colonial Virginia? When Washington married Martha Custis in 1759, should he have instructed her not to bring the 255 slaves owned by the Custis estate, 170 of whom were legally the property of her two children?

Raised in a slave culture, the real question is why did Washington order his overseer not to lash slaves without his express written consent? Why did he refuse to break up slave families? Why did he stop buying slaves in 1772? Why did he begin auctioning them off in 1774? Why did he stop selling them altogether in 1778? Was it that he realized they could end up worse off? Can we agree not all slave plantation owners were the same?

Why did Washington propose to the Continental Congress in 1773 a suspension of the importation of slaves, saying he wanted to see: “An entire stop forever put to such a wicked, cruel and unnatural trade”? Wasn’t his evolution in the right direction?

Isn’t Washington deserving of a monument for leading us to independence from Britain? Shouldn’t we honor his willingness to serve as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in 1775? Few would have had the courage to take on the most powerful military in the world. Shouldn’t we recall that that at that time all Americans, white and black, were slaves to a tyrannical master in England?

After some initial Revolutionary War loses reduced the American army to just 3,800 men in 1776, why didn’t Washington just give up and go home? What propelled him to cross the Delaware for our great victory at Trenton? After additional disappointments in Penn, how did he keep his troops together during the harsh winter at Valley Forge?

When slave owning legislatures in South Carolina and Georgia both refused to send 3,000 black troops as requested in 1778, why did Washington proceed to arm black regiments from MA, CT and RI? As the Americans defeated the British at Yorktown, why were some of the heroes from the 1st Rhode Island Black Regiment? Who was the white commander who let them bear arms?

After the war, why didn’t Washington make a serious effort to recover all of the 15 slaves the British freed from his plantation? Why did he write the following to John Mercer on Sep. 9, 1786: “I never mean to possess another slave by purchase, it being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted by which slavery in this country may be abolished…”

Yet Washington still brought some of his black “servants” to the White House in 1789. Although he lacked the authority to free slaves owned by his wife’s family, as President he signed a “Slave Trade Act” (1794), which outlawed the construction of ships fitted for slave trafficking. He could have vetoed that bill, but he didn’t.

Upon leaving the Presidency in 1796, a statue sculpted by Jean Houdon of France was erected to him in Richmond. As a private citizen, Washington then asked the Virginia lawmakers to abolish slavery in 1797: “I wish from my soul that the legislature of this state could see the policy of a gradual abolition of slavery. It would prevent much future mischief.”

On Aug. 17, 1799, four months before he died, he pondered the fate of his slaves as well as the “dower slaves” owned by the Custis estate. He wrote to Robert Lewis: “To sell them…I cannot, because I am principled against this kind of traffic in the human species. To hire them out is almost as bad, because to disperse the families I have an aversion. What then is to be done? Something must or I shall be ruined.”

In his last will and testament, Washington decided: “Upon the decease of my wife, it is my will that all the slaves that I hold in my own right shall receive their freedom.” George died four months later on Dec. 14, 1799. Within a year of his death, Martha ordered all the slaves free.

We must remember that George did not create the institution of slavery. His immigrant great-grandfather John purchased them as he became a Virginia planter in 1656. His grandfather Lawrence inherited them in 1677. His father Augustine likewise inherited them at age four in 1698. Slavery was simply an integral part of the Virginia economy.

It’s unfair to George to argue that he needed to be the lone voice against slavery when he inherited slaves as a child. What is noteworthy is that he evolved. It took a lifetime, but he said the right things and did the right thing in the end. We should not judge Washington on the sole issue of slavery, as that was not the key issue in his day.

We memorialize Washington for liberating America from the tyrannical rule of an un-elected king. Without that first step, Lincoln could not have made the second. While history often does not move fast enough, it moves. While statues to Confederate traitors should be removed, because they sought to preserve slavery, all of us should honor Washington for defeating the King of England. We should preserve and protect his monuments. Washington’s face should forever remain in granite at Mt. Rushmore.

12/26/2016

WHAT WILL TRUMP DO AT HOME?

Abortion: Trump will soon have the power to nominate Supreme Court Justices. One constitutional issue remains a woman’s lawful right to an abortion. At one point in the campaign, Trump was of the opinion that women who have abortions should be jailed. While that will not happen, the Court is now likely to further restrict 5th and 14th Amendment liberty rights as to abortion. On top of that, the Republican Congress will cut funds for Planned Parenthood, even though 90% of their activities have nothing to do with abortion.

Campaign Finance: With a Republican Congress, there is no hope any useful legislation restricting big money in politics will be enacted. Nothing will change. Lobbyists will continue to inhabit the swamp. Big money will not be drained out of it, as Trump promised.

Cities: Nothing much will change in black inner cities. The Republican Congress doesn’t care much about them and Trump himself knows little about how poor people actually live. Trump said blacks would have to be crazy not to try something new with him, but they knew better, and most voted for Clinton. While Ben Carson and other token blacks will be paraded around by Trump, nothing much will improve in minority communities.

Citizenship: Trump said he wanted to end constitutionally protected “citizenship by birth.” With regards to persons born in the U.S., the 14th Amendment makes it crystal clear that they are both citizens of the U.S. and the state where they reside. Trump apparently doesn’t understand how difficult it is to amend the Constitution. Outlawing citizenship by birth will never happen.

Economy: Trump talks about creating a 6% to 7% growth rate. I don’t think he knows what he’s doing. He’s not going to be able to stimulate such high growth. The greater fear is that his lack of understanding of international trade may trigger another recession or depression.

Environment: There is no doubt the oil and coal industries will benefit under Trump. With an Exxon chief running the State Dept., they will get what they want in global trade. Environment treaties that are in the way will be abrogated. The Keystone Pipeline will be completed. Any Native American who gets in the way will be dealt with the same way the U.S. has always dealt with Indians.

Government: Like most Republicans, Trump said he would eliminate some government agencies and departments. Sadly, the Republican Congress will only propose eliminating the most effective and useful regulatory bodies, and they’ll expect Trump to sign such bills. Since I doubt Trump will actually read any law presented to him, he’ll probably just go along with whatever they give him.

Guns: There is no hope during the next four years that anything useful will be done regarding the proliferation of guns, or the massacres they routinely generate. The Supreme Court will uphold the right wing’s twisted view of what the Founders intended by the Second Amendment.

Health Care: Trump repeatedly said he would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The question is with what? He said he opposes the more efficient single-payer model. So, if we continue using private insurance, how are we going to keep working people insured without subsidies? The only alternative is to regulate prices in the health care industry. Since “regulation” is a dirty word to most Republicans, no useful law will come out of this Congress. Health savings accounts are not going to cover galloping inflation rates in the health care industry. There is also little chance a Republican Congress will break up the virtual monopolies that exist in the health care delivery system, or in the pharmaceutical sector. Without subsidized insurance, people will either just die, or they’ll return to the more expensive government-subsidized emergency room.

Presidency: Since Trump has not previously been elected to anything, not even dog catcher, he will be on a tremendous learning curve. He will soon learn that the 435 House members and 100 Senators collectively have much more power than he does. While he can use the “bully” pulpit (a description that certainly fits), Congress controls the purse strings, and nothing happens without money. To be sure, Trump will continue to blame everyone but himself, but in the end, he may be forced to deal.

Religion: The U.S. Constitution endorses no religion. It doesn’t even mention the word “god” or “Christianity.” It speaks of religion in only two places. First, it bars all religious tests, and second, it prohibits an establishment of religion, such as Christianity. A Muslim U.S. Citizen, who happens to be a follower of Islam, is fully protected under our Constitution. Trump cannot do anything to them based on faith alone. He is not going to round up Muslims, or make them register, or do any such things to American citizens.

Retirement: During the campaign, Trump said he would not touch the retirement age. The problem is the Republican Congress doesn’t appreciate how much ordinary elderly people need their Social Security checks, and they will propose to raise the age. If this happens, I would hold Trump to his word and ask for a veto.

Supreme Court: While campaigning, the Republicans made Trump sign a paper promising to nominate one of 11 pre-approved right-wingers to the Supreme Court. Any one of them will be readily accepted by the Republican Senate. As a result, for perhaps another generation, the Court will remain conservative, particularly if Kennedy, the remaining Republican swing vote, or one of the four Democrats retires or dies.

Taxes: Like a typical Republican, Trump promised to lower everyone’s taxes. I’m sure the Republican Congress will gladly give him several tax reduction bills, and he will sign them. As a real estate tycoon, Trump will first and foremost help the real estate industry (as if they need additional tax breaks). He will also cut taxes for big business. The problem with taxes is the Republicans love to spend on costly military adventures, but they fail to raise taxes to pay for them. One thing is almost certain, Trump will not even begin to move us towards a balanced budget, or a lower national debt. The debt will almost certainly get much worse under Trump. I’m still hoping that some whistle-blower at the IRS discloses Trump’s tax records, so we can finally see who he’s been dealing with, and what if any taxes he’s paid.

Transportation: Although the Republican Congress has no use for public works projects that might put regular people to work (as evidenced by their failure to support Obama’s Great Recession proposals), they will throw Trump a bone, and they’ll give him something to sign creating some jobs, fixing roads and bridges in rural areas. This will be so he can say he did something.

Wages: While Trump acknowledged that working people have not had any real wage increases in a long time, there are only a few ways to increase incomes. One is to raise the minimum wage, which is something the Republican Congress will never do. Another is to strengthen unions, which again the Republicans will not do. So, it is unlikely wages will improve under Trump. The only possibility is that they go up due to supply-and-demand employee shortages. If this occurs, it won’t have anything to do with Republican policies or Trump.

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12/22/2012

NRA: Gun Caused Newton Shooting

It’s only been a little more than a week since the horrible grade school massacre in Newton, Connecticut, where twenty 6-year-olds and six teachers were murdered, but the National Rifle Association (NRA) is already confusing people as to its cause.

Yesterday, in a speech by Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA, the true cause of the shooting was not mentioned. Instead, he suggested increasing our tax burden by spending countless sums to place armed guards in every school in the U.S. He failed to mention mass killings have occurred in theatres, shopping centers, and even army bases, already protected by armed guards.

The NRA cannot see the forest for the trees. The simple cause of the shooting in Connecticut was a gun, period. Yes, the shooter had a mental issue. People have had mental problems in the past, and no matter what we do as a culture, there will be sick people in the future. All we can do is treat illnesses once diagnosed.

The critical mistake in Connecticut occurred when the mother of the mentally ill kid purchased not one, but three firearms, and then kept them in her home, where her son could access them. Although people have been warned over the years the presence of firearms increases risks of injury or death to the owner, more than anyone else, the mother ignored this, and tragically she died first.

The mentally ill kid then took his mother’s semi-automatic weapon on a shooting spree at a grade school. If the mother had not given him access to the gun, or if we would have barred her from purchasing it, the shooting probably wouldn’t have occurred.

We first have to acknowledge that twenty innocent 6-year-olds were murdered by a gun. Sadly, the NRA just can’t accept this.

Other countries, including Canada where hunting is popular, have far less violence from guns, because their regulations are more effective. The 2nd Amendment is not absolute. It specifically refers to a “well-regulated militia.” As the Founders wrote it, they envisioned regulations. It’s time we implemented gun regulations by banning powerful semi-automatic guns now and forever.

11/04/2012

Undecided Voters: Social Issues

The better choice on each issue is in the left column, indicated by a (D) for Democrat, (R) for Republican, or (N) for neither.

(D) VOTING RIGHTS AND ELECTIONS: Which party is more likely to promote a constitution amendment to remove money from campaigns, or appoint Supreme Court justices willing to interpret large contributions as bribery? Romney goes in the wrong direction as he suggests getting rid of campaign finance laws. (1-16-12). Who is more likely to promote and protect the right to vote by removing unnecessary obstacles, and yet preserve the integrity of the system? Democrats clearly win this one.

(D) MEDICARE: Although the nation must get Medicare spending under control, Romney has no solution, for he would block grant it to the states, which would effectively kill it. (10-18-11) (11-12-11) (2-22-12). Not changing things for current retirees is just a way of screwing those who’ll retire later (1-8-12) Romney wants a premium voucher program, which inevitably will not cover increases in insurance company premiums (1-16-12).

(D) MEDICAID: Romney would also effectively end Medicaid by sending it to the states. (1-16-12). As he put it, he would get the government out of Medicaid. (1-19-12). The problem is a large segment of the population will prematurely die off.

(D) HEALTH CARE COSTS: Health care needs tough federal regulation to control doctor and hospital costs, as well as drug prices, but neither party openly proposes a solution. Since regulation is the only answer, and the modern Republican Party never advocates price controls, Romney cannot be the solution.

(D) OBAMACARE: Romney was wrong when he thought Obamacare would be declared unconstitutional. (12-10-11). He repeatedly promised to repeal it. (10-11-11) (10-18-11) (1-7-12) (1-16-12) (1-19-12) (2-22-12). He posed a good question when he asked what we would be replaced with. (10-11-11). He alleged Obamacare raises taxes 500 billion, cuts Medicare 500 billion, and is a government takeover. (10-11-11). He thinks eliminating it would save 95 billion annually (11-12-11) (1-7-12). Romney would give states health care waivers (9-22-11), which effectively would repeal it. Since the current health care system is dysfunctional, the greatest problem with the Republican position is their failure to suggest a rational intelligent alternative.

(D) INDIVIDUAL MANDATE: Romney argued people need to purchase health insurance to show their personal responsibility. (8-11-11) (11-9-11). He said uninsured persons are going to emergency rooms and taxpayers end up picking up the tab. (9-7-11). Romney insulted those who cannot afford health insurance by calling them “free riders.” (1-26-12). He later contradicted himself saying he opposed the individual mandate (1-23-12). The problem is even with a government voucher program, health care providers and health insurance companies will continue raising costs and premiums, and most will be priced out of coverage. Deductibles and co-pays will continue to rise. Prices need to be controlled and regulated. Since Republicans will never regulate, the vote has got to go to the Democrats.

(D) PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: Romney said he would not repeal the unfunded Prescription Drug Program started by Little Bush (9-12-11). The problem is we need drug price regulation, but the Republicans will never do it. Our only hope is with Democrats.

(D) SOCIAL SECURITY RETIREMENT: Social Security retirement should never be confused with Medicare, or other social welfare programs. The retirement plan, created in 1935, is the most successful and efficient program ever created by the federal government. It needs nothing, except to be left alone. While Romney called it an “essential program” (9-12-11), Republicans from Reagan to Little Bush have advocated phasing it out. So, even though Romney said we should save the retirement plan (9-7-11), he would be pressured by House Republicans to push a right-wing agenda, which is to privatize it. Although Romney said it would not change for current retirees (1-8-12), he would add a year or two to the retirement age (1-16-12).

(D) WELFARE: Romney would turn poverty programs back to the states (1-8-12), which would kill them. He thinks Obama is creating a welfare state (1-19-12), and the U.S. has become an entitlement society. (1-16-12). Romney would block grant Food Stamps (2-22-12), which would cripple the needs of the hungry.

(D) EDUCATION: Romney apparently thinks there is something wrong with teacher unions, as he said he would stand up them. (9-22-11) While he would test children in math and English (2-22-12), which is fine, too many Republicans push the idea of privatizing schools, a long range threat to our culture.

(D) EDUCATIONAL TV/PUBLIC BROADCASTING (PBS): In an shocking campaign promise, Romney said he would eliminate Public Broadcasting (11-12-11). At a time when more, not less, non-fictional programming on science is needed, why cut PBS? Personally, it’s the only benefit I ever received from the federal government. I can’t believe any candidate would eliminate it.

(D) ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: In Presidential elections, we don’t just elect a man; we choose a party to manage the agencies of government. If Romney wins, House Republicans will name the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Extremists like Republican Michelle Bachmann, who advocated abolishing it, will have influence. If Romney wins, we will have a weak EPA. We should prefer over-regulation, than the other way around. Although Romney said we can’t let pollution flow from one state to another (1-8-12), which implies a need for federal law, modern Republicans cannot be trusted to regulate.

(D) FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY (FEMA) The storm that just hit the East Coast is a good reminder of how bad it would be if FEMA had been abolished, or privatized. We need to remember we all sink or swim together.

(D) SUPREME COURT: It is likely the next President will appoint one or more Justices. A Romney win would tip the court to the hard right. The Court currently has four right-wing Justices: Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts (on most issues). Reagan’s appointee Kennedy completes the usual conservative majority, which has existed since 1972.

(D) ABORTION: The secular right to “liberty” found in the 5th and 14th Amendments allows women to have an abortion in the earlier stages of pregnancy, when the fetus is incapable of living outside the womb. As a practical matter, attempts to outlaw abortion have been a waste of time. Even if the anti-abortion crowd had another Justice, who would ignore precedent, and reverse Roe v Wade, subsequent attempts to convict women and doctors would fail. Prosecutors will never get 12 jurors to convict women or doctors, and there would be hung jury after hung jury. We live in a free country which has no official religious creed. People disagree as to whether life begins at birth, or some other point before the fetus can live outside the womb. Romney, a missionary for the very conservative Mormon Church, will almost certainly appoint right-wing Justices. He changed his position on abortion. Most recently, he said he is pro-life (12-15-11) (1-19-12). He said Roe v Wade was wrong, it should be overturned, and the issue should be left to the states. (1-7-12). His stand would only give religious fanatics the power to impose their religious views on a secular society, filled with many who want to be free.

(D) CONTRACEPTIVES: Romney did not think any state wanted to ban contraceptives (1-7-12), but he is part of a right-wing Republican Party willing to turn back the hands of time.

(D) GAYS: Romney, whose Mormon grandfather fled the U.S. and moved to Mexico, because he believed strongly in the right to have more than one wife, ironically wants to amend the Constitution to limit marriages to one man and one women. Why the Republicans want to control the life of gays, who are genetically predisposed, is a mystery. We live in free country. It’s time to leave gays alone. Although Romney opposes same-sex marriage (12-15-11) (1-8-12) (1-16-12), and would amend the constitution to stop gay marriage (1-7-12) (1-8-12), the Democrats have the better position, as they believe in personal freedom.

(D) GUNS: Neither party is doing much to control hand guns in cities. Romney signed an assault weapons ban when he was Gov. in Massachusetts, but now he says he is pro-gun (12-15-11). The Republicans offer little hope to control firearm violence.

(D) RELIGION: Romney served overseas in France as a missionary for the Mormon Church. (12-10-11). He said he would seek guidance and providence in making critical decisions (1-26-12). He thinks Obama is somehow attacking religious freedom. (2-22-12). I have no idea what Romney is talking about.

03/28/2012

Still No Arrest in Florida Murder

Since first writing about Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old unarmed black kid who was gunned down by a 28-year-old blended Hispanic-white guy named George Zimmerman, additional facts have surfaced, but they still don’t alleviate the need to arrest Zimmerman and charge him with murder. An arrest is reasonable if there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, and that the defendant committed it.

On the night in question, Martin was walking down a street near where his father was staying in Sanford, Florida, when Zimmerman called the police, and speculated, after noting Martin was black: “This guy is up to no good.” In fact, the boy was simply returning from a convenience store, where he picked up a bag of skittles and a can of iced tea. Zimmerman then engaged in nothing but pure conjecture as he said: “He is on drugs or something.”

When he informed police he was going to pursue the black boy, dispatch directed him not to do so, advising him: “We don’t need you to do that,” but Zimmerman, who had been charged with Resisting Arrest and Battery Upon a Police Officer in 2005, and was also subjected to a Domestic Violence Restraining Order in 2005, ignored the dispatcher, took his gun, and went off after the black kid. Since Zimmerman was not a law enforcement officer, he had no authority to pursue, stop, detain, or do anything else he did.

With regards to what ultimately happened, Zimmerman should not be able to use the “Stand Your Ground” law, which Florida applies to public places, since he was not defending a home, and as he took off after the boy, he became the aggressor, and when they met in a neutral place, it was Martin who had the right to “Stand Your Ground,” which means the black kid had the right to use force, not Zimmerman.

This is why what Zimmerman says happened next is problematic. If you believe him, he said after he went out to get Martin, he lost him, gave up, and was returning to his vehicle, when the black kid inexplicably caught up to him from behind, and for no reason started an encounter. Let’s remember Martin weighed only 140 pounds, and the 28-year-old Zimmerman tipped in at 250, some 110 pounds more. It’s hard to believe an unarmed 17-year-old light-weight would start a fight with a 28-year-old man, who was a heavy-weight.

In any event, when the police arrived they noted Zimmerman had blood on his nose, and in the back of his head, and that his back was wet, and had grass on it, which inferred some sort of struggle.

The problem is Zimmerman is the only one who can testify as to what Martin allegedly said or did. No one will ever know for sure if his version is true, since the boy is dead, and unavailable to rebut him. Unlike civil cases, where interested parties can be barred by the Dead Man Statute from testifying as to what a deceased said, in a murder case, the Constitution requires the court to allow a defendant to give his version of the events.

Acknowledging that a prosecution may be challenging, an arrest should nevertheless proceed, since there is evidence contradicting Zimmerman’s story. As Zimmerman went after Martin, the black kid called his girlfriend stating a concern about a strange man who was following him. The girlfriend heard Martin say: “What are you following me for?” and a response: “What are you doing here?” She then heard a pushing sound, as the phone went dead. This implies an immediate encounter and disproves Zimmerman’s account.

Mary Cutcher and her roommate heard the incident as it was going on in her backyard. They heard a young whining voice, until the sound of a gun abruptly ended it. Although Zimmerman claimed those sounds were from him, this would mean he was crying while holding a gun in his hand. Zimmerman’s account does not line up with the audio evidence of the gunshot suddenly silencing the voice. When the two homeowners went outside, they observed Zimmerman on his knees, pinning Martin to the ground, which also contradicts Zimmerman.

Although Martin was found by the police face down, they reported he was shot in the chest. It is unclear if any autopsy was done, and what was found in terms of entry and exit wounds.

The lead homicide investigating officer filed an affidavit recommending the filing of manslaughter charges, but the State’s Attorney took no action, as he was concerned about a lack of evidence. Hopefully, the new prosecutor will proceed with this challenging case, so the evidence that still remains can be heard, and justice may be done.

03/21/2012

Black Kid in Florida was Murdered

Since a black youth was fatally shot in Florida a few weeks ago by a white neighborhood watch volunteer, law enforcement officers have failed to arrest the suspect, or turn the case over to the local District Attorney for prosecution, despite evidence the black kid was unarmed, and just walking down a public street, as the white man pursued him on foot, pulled out a gun when he caught up to him, intentionally squeezed the trigger, and killed him.

Attention has focused on a relatively recent Florida statute known as “hold your ground,” but no matter what it provides, Florida never repealed the law against murder. Since all the elements of the crime exist, there is no reason not to arrest the suspect, and no explanation except racism, for not seeking prosecution. Local Florida authorities seem to be viewing the law upside down.

“NO RETREAT” APPLIES AT HOME: Everyone would agree if one is attacked in their own home, they need not engage in any sort of retreat. This has always been true, but the Florida incident, did not occur in a home. It happened outside on a public roadway.

WHITE GUY HAD NO RIGHT TO PURSUE OR USE FORCE: One who initiates contact (the white guy here) is considered the aggressor, and as such, he had no right to use any force. More importantly, deadly force may only be used, if imminent death, or great bodily harm, is threatened.

BELIEF OF LAWFULNESS: It is no defense for the white guy to now say: “I believed my acts were legal.” If that were permitted, every defendant would make that argument.

BLACK KID HAD RIGHT OF SELF-DEFENSE: Generally, an individual, without fault, may use such force as is reasonably necessary to protect against imminent unlawful force by another. Since the white guy came at the black kid with a gun, for no reason, if anyone had a right to self-defense, it was the deceased. He had a right to “hold his ground,” not the other way around.

The execution of the black kid in this case cannot be justified. The only way to look at it, based on the undisputed facts that have been made public, is to call it what it is—a racially-motivated murder.

02/25/2012

Founders’ Colleges Were Not Sectarian

Right-wingers like to promote the mythology that everything our Founders did was extremely religious, but the truth is, the colleges they founded, in the 26 states east of the Mississippi, from the birth of Harvard in 1636, through the next 200 years, were largely secular, or public universities, and not faith-based colleges.

Many States had only Secular Schools:

MASSACHUSETTS: Harvard (1636), our oldest university, was founded without religious affiliation. Over the following 200 years, Massachusetts witnessed the opening of four more private colleges: Williams (1793), Amherst (1821), Wheaton (1834), and Mt. Holyoke (1836). The first religious-based school in the Bay State did not appear until 1843, when Holy Cross accepted students.

CONNECTICUT: Yale (1701), a secular Ivy League school, was Connecticut’s only university for 122 years. Trinity (1823) and Wesleyan (1831), both private, were the next to break ground, followed by Central Connecticut (1849), a state school.

NEW YORK: Early New Yorkers introduced Columbia University (1754) to the Ivy League, without religious ties. It was followed by private colleges at Hamilton (1793) and Union (1795). After the U.S. created a public Military Academy (1802) at West Point, four more secular schools appeared: Colgate (1819), Rensselaer Tech (1824), Rochester Tech (1829), and NYU (1831). Not until 79 years after Columbia was first opened, did St. Joseph’s (1833), a religious school, begin taking students.

RHODE ISLAND: Brown (1764), an Ivy League university, was not connected to any church. 90 years after their chartering, the state added a public school named Rhode Island College (1854).

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Dartmouth (1769), another Ivy League college, was not faith-based. It was the state’s only university, until Colby-Sawyer (1833), a private school, appeared 61 years later.

MAINE in the early years had two private schools, Bowdoin (1794) and Colby (1813), and they gained no other, until Bates (1855), a secular university, was added just before the Civil War.

Public Universities founded before Independence:

DELAWARE: Our Delaware forefathers chartered the University of Delaware (1743), as a public institution. It remained the state’s only school of higher education for 98 years, through 1841.

NEW JERSEY: After Princeton (1746) opened, as a private Ivy League institution, the New Jersey Founders started Rutgers (1766), as a state-run college. It would be 90 years before students would be accepted at Seton Hall (1856), a Catholic school.

GEORGIA: Shortly after the Revolution, the Georgian Founders broke ground at the University of Georgia (1785), a public college. 46 years later, Methodists launched a school named La Grange (1831), followed by Baptists at Mercer (1833), private interests at Oglethorpe (1835), and Methodists again at Emory (1836).

Public universities under President Washington:

NORTH CAROLINA: Although the first in North Carolina was a small Moravian women’s school named Salem (1772), during President Washington’s first term, the state created the University of North Carolina (1789), as a public school. Baptists followed with Wake Forest (1834), as the Society of Friends founded Guilford (1834), and the Presbyterians opened Davidson (1836).

VERMONT: As Washington was in his third year, the Founders of Vermont molded the University of Vermont (1791) into a public school. Following appearances by secular Middlebury (1800) and Norwich (1819), Johnson State (1828) was added.

TENNESSEE: During Washington’s second term, the Tennessee legislature appropriated funds for the University of Tennessee (1794), as a public institution. Tuculum (1794), a private school, also took students that year. Sectarian interests finally broke ground at religious-based schools, when the Presbyterians opened Maryville (1819), and the Baptists founded Union (1825).

Public universities under Adams and Jefferson:

KENTUCKY: After private parties opened Transylvania (1780), and Baptists created Georgetown, KY (1787), the Founders of Kentucky voted, during John Adams’ presidency, to start the University of Louisville (1798), as a public institution. Early Kentucky was rounded out with a Catholic school named Nazareth (1814), and a private one called Centre College (1819).

SOUTH CAROLINA started with the private Charleston College (1770) and funded the University of South Carolina (1801), early in Jefferson’s presidency. Baptists added Furman (1826).

OHIO started with a private college named Marietta (1797). It was soon joined in Jefferson’s time, by the Ohio University (1804), a public school. When James Madison was inaugurated, Miami of Ohio (1809), another public college, was chartered. As James Monroe became President, the University of Cincinnati (1819) started as a municipal institution. Kenyon (1824) and Western Reserve (1826), both private, completed early Ohio.

MARYLAND: Two private schools, St. John’s (1696) and Washington (1706), were the first to open. 83 years later, the Catholics introduced Georgetown (1789) in Washington, DC, and St. Mary’s (1791) in Maryland. While Jefferson was still President, the state’s Founders launched the University of Maryland (1807), as a public school. Catholics soon followed with Mt. St. Mary’s (1808), and St. Joseph’s (1809), as other private interests broke ground at the George Washington University (1821), in the District of Columbia.

Public Universities under Madison and Monroe:

MICHIGAN: While James Madison was ending his second term, the University of Michigan (1817) appeared, as a public school. 16 years later, the Baptists first accepted students at Kalamazoo (1833), followed by the Methodists at Albion (1835).

VIRGINIA: A royal charter established William & Mary (1693), as a secular college. Washington & Lee (1749) followed, as a private institution. 83 years after William & Mary was first opened, the Presbyterians organized a religious-based school at Hampden-Sydney (1776). During James Monroe’s first term, Virginia appropriated funds for a ground-breaking at the University of Virginia (1819), a public school. Methodists next opened Randolph-Macon (1830), as Baptists gave birth to Richmond (1830).

ALABAMA: While James Monroe was still President, the Alabama legislature funded the University of Alabama (1820), as a public school. Northern Alabama (1830) followed, as Methodists launched colleges at Athens (1822) and Livingston (1835), and Catholics created one named Spring Hill (1830).

INDIANA: The Founders of Indiana organized the University of Indiana (1820) while James Monroe was still President. After Presbyterians introduced Hanover (1827), private interests started Wabash (1832), and Baptists accepted students at Franklin (1834).

Public universities under Van Buren, Tyler, Polk, and Fillmore:

WEST VIRGINIA remained a part of Virginia, until the Civil War. They had just two colleges before the split, namely Marshall (1837), and West Liberty (1837), both public institutions, which were chartered, while President Van Buren was in office.

MISSISSIPPI, a conservative place, started with Mississippi College (1826), a Baptist institution, before the state agreed in John Tyler’s time, to fund the University of Mississippi (1944).

WISCONSIN: Upon joining the union during the Presidency of James Polk, the Wisconsin Founders broke ground on a publicly-funded school named the University of Wisconsin (1848). Carroll College (1846), a Presbyterian school, also organized then, along with two private universities, Beloit (1846) and Lawrence (1847).

FLORIDA: The first universities in Florida, launched during the Presidency of Millard Fillmore, were Florida State (1851), and the University of Florida (1853), both public institutions.

Some had private and sectarian schools:

PENNSYLVANIA: The secular University of Pennsylvania (1740) appeared as a member of the Ivy League. Although a religious order founded Moravian (1742), the next four to break ground were private: Dickinson (1773), Washington & Jefferson (1782), Franklin & Marshall (1787), and the University of Pittsburgh (1787). Lyconing (1812), a Methodist college, was followed by three secular schools: Allegheny (1815), Pennsylvania Military (1821), and the Philadelphia Pharmacy College (1821). While the Presbyterians added Lafayette (1826), Lutherans opened Gettysburg (1832). Haverford (1833) became a private school. Public colleges were not chartered, until Cheney State (1837) and Bloomsburg State (1839) appeared.

ILLINOIS commenced with McKendree (1828), a Methodist school. They next added Illinois College (1829) and Knox (1837), both private. Four more secular colleges and six sectarian would follow, before Illinois St. (1857) would first break ground.

As the evidence clearly shows, the Founders supported secular colleges, and actually appropriated funds to create public non-sectarian universities. While some may have had religious beliefs, they were careful to separate church and state.

02/21/2012

Catholics: What Do They Believe?

The issue of Catholicism has again surfaced in American politics, thanks to former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, whose religious convictions have caused him to staunchly oppose abortion, birth control, and other social practices, to the point where he is now isolated, with just a handful of old bishops, who have alienated themselves from millions of practicing Catholics, and many more, who left the Church during the revolution of the 1960s.

Those who were never part of the Church, are sometimes confused as to what Catholics believe, because they listen to modern practitioners, but then see old stereotypes of the Church, in movies, and in broadcast news reports, which show the insides of medieval cathedrals, clips of outdated rituals, and interviews with cardinals, who are almost exclusively right-wingers.

To understand the Church, the best source is a former Catholic. Although I joined at a very young age (that would be the day I was born), I converted to Agnosticism, as soon as I was able to liberate myself on my 18th birthday, more than four decades ago.

To those who are “not now, nor have they ever been a Catholic,” let me explain the Church. Catholics are split into two major branches, the spiritual, and the practical. The spiritual spend their time praying for a better life, they hope to enjoy after death. The practical are not willing to wait to realize a good life. They want justice now, as their view of the purpose of the Church is to nurse the sick, school the illiterate, and aid the poor.

The politics of President John Kennedy and Sen. Rick Santorum personify the two schools. The Kennedy School downplays thoughts of the supernatural, and champions political programs for health, education, and welfare. The goal of the Santorum School is to convert religious beliefs into legislation, by opposing abortion, birth control, and other social practices, and by repealing all health, education, and welfare programs.

If you are now even more confused as to what Catholics believe, then we are making progress. The major split in the Catholic Church occurred during the American Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. As liberals prevailed in Rome at the 2nd Vatican Council, between 1962 and 1965, they implemented changes, which the conservative branch of the Church still bitterly refuses to accept.

The Mass was now conducted in English, instead of Latin. Nuns no longer dressed as they did in Mideast deserts, 2,000 years ago. Priests, who had turned their backs on parishioners during Mass, now faced the people. Catholics could now eat meat on Fridays. The Bible was no longer read literally, but only figuratively, as a tool for explaining morals. Catholics no longer confessed sins to priests in private confessionals, but were absolved as a whole, in the open. Jews were no longer to be blamed for crucifying Christ, as anti-Semitism officially ended. Interfaith marriages were permitted. The list went on.

In those days, nuns wore long black robes called habits, which covered most of their faces. I remember when ours walked into class dressed in a new outfit that allowed us to see her forehead and some hair on her head. Wow, I thought, there was actually a human being in there! The day before, as an Alter Boy, a priest chewed me out for not perfectly memorizing my Latin. Just like that, it was out the window. Cool! Why weren’t we using English all along? Although I liked fish, the “right to choose” a burger on a Friday night was a good change. (Did McDonalds lobby the Pope?)

Seriously, it was a revolution that opened the minds of millions to change. What was absolute infallible truth, just yesterday, was totally abandoned today. It led us to think: Was there anything beyond question? Was premarital sex wrong? Would drugs alter minds? Were Johnson and Nixon lying about Vietnam? Was there really a god? The Church let a Jeannie out of the bottle, and they totally lost control, as millions went out to seek their own truths.

While liberals now acknowledge the earth has existed for millions of years, not just 6,000, and accept the science of evolution, conservatives, like Santorum, still resist. As liberals question the story that the Virgin Mary had an Immaculate Conception, and believe Jesus merely slipped into a coma from a blood loss, before regaining consciousness, the right-wing clings to mythology. While liberals believe priests and nuns should marry, women should become priests, and old bishops should not dictate as to pre-marital sex, birth control, abortion, and divorce, Republicans, like Rick, want to impose their old dogmas through legislation.

While Santorum pushes for war in the Persian Gulf, Jesus said in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of god.” While the Senator opposes aid for the less fortunate, Jesus said at the Sermon on the Mount: “Do unto others, as you would have them to unto you.” Rick should just heed the word of the Apostle Paul: “It is better to give than to receive.”

Fortunately the U.S. Constitution states: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the U.S.” Hopefully the voters, including millions of liberal Catholics, will turn Santorum away, if he is on the ballot this year.

02/14/2012

Valentine’s Day: Who Started This?

Ok, it Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, but where did it come from? Who’s responsible for this day, which is not a holiday, but celebrated like one?

Some say Feb. 14 became a romantic celebration, because it’s when the birds selected their mates.

Some say it all started during an ancient festival that honored Juno, the Roman goddess of women. This theory makes sense, since it’s not too much of a stretch to believe some Italian guy created a day for goddess worship.

Some say St. Valentine’s was named after a Roman priest who was beheaded in 270 A.D. The question is what the hell did that guy do? I mean–to get beheaded. Did he not grow any flowers for his princess, or forget to stop at the Roman candy shop?

Did you know Pope Gelasius changed Valentine’s Day from Feb. 15 to Feb. 14? But why did he do it? I mean what was wrong with the 15th anyway? Apparently, this particular Pope had a little thing going on, over on the side, if you know what I mean, and just couldn’t wait another frickin day, so he simply moved it up, since after all, he was the Pope. Must have been nice to be Pope.

In Sicily, unmarried women get up before dawn, stand by their windows until sunrise, and watch for the first man to go by, because he, or someone who looks exactly like him, will within the year become their groom. I suppose this is also where fast closing vertical blinds were invented.

In Derbyshire, England, young women circle a church 12 times at midnight, repeating the words: “I sow hempseed, hempseed I sow, he that loves me best, come after me now.” No one would doubt those birds just had to be growing weed.

I’ve got to go buy some chocolates