Despite the excitement and anticipation for the Christmas season that pervades the nation every year, the religious element of the holiday continues to be a point of contention for some and a source of great controversy. In Paragould, Arkansas, for example, the Greene County School Board forced the removal of a Nativity scene that was displayed at one of its elementary schools, adhering to local atheists who articulated the tired maxim of “separation of church and state.” After some persistent protest and displays of heroism by the elementary counselor, Kay Williams, however, the school board gave in and permitted the Nativity scene to be put up once again.
According to Arkansas Times, which took a very antagonistic perspective on the issue, Kay Williams posted a scene depicting the birth of Jesus on a school bulletin board, which apparently drew two complaints. As a result, the school board asked her to remove the scene, but Williams continued to put Nativity scene displays in her classroom. She told the Paragould Daily Press, “We do live in the Bible Belt. One thing that really disturbed most of [the supporters] was we hear about things like this all the time in other parts of the country. But this is kind of a first for the Bible Belt, here in Arkansas. I think the people realized [this issue] is here, and we better take a stand.”
Despite protests that the legislation will negate centuries old rights guaranteed by the Constitution, the Senate Thursday passed a bill authorizing the arrest and imprisonment without charge or trial of terrorism suspects, including American citizens, anywhere in the world. The bill, called the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) also authorizes $662 billion in military spending. It has been sent to the White House, where President Obama is expected to sign it, perhaps as early as today (Friday). Obama had threatened to veto earlier versions of bill, but on Wednesday the White House announced the President was satisfied by amendments made by a House-Senate conference committee granting the President greater discretion in determining what terror suspects to hold in military confinement.
"By withdrawing his threat to veto the NDAA, President Obama has abandoned yet another principled position with little or nothing to show for it," said Tom Parker, policy director for Amnesty International USA said. "Amnesty International is appalled -— but regrettably not surprised."
Ironically, the Senate passed the law on December 15, the date of the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791. Only 13 Senators voted against the bill, while 86 voted for it, including some who argued that the constitutional guarantees would not be vitiated.
The Cato Institute’s newspaper ad reminding citizens that December 15th was Bill of Rights Day summarized the desperate shape those first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States is in, thanks to an overweening government and an uninformed citizenry. Reviewing each of the amendments, Cato pointed to specific infringements of each of them, concluding that “It’s a disturbing picture, to be sure, but not one the Framers of the Constitution would have found altogether surprising. They would sometimes refer to written constitutions as mere “parchment barriers” [to totalitarian government].
Here's the latest "Freedom Index: A Congressional Scorecard Based on the Constitution."
Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) unveiled legislation Wednesday to enforce civil and criminal penalties for those who publish or in some way communicate false or misleading election material with the intent to dissuade or prevent certain people from voting. Entitled the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2011, the law would make it a federal crime to disclose misleading information regarding voting eligibility and information on the times and locations of elections — whether through print, electronic, or telephonic mediums — within 90 days before a federal election.
The move comes days after Paul Schurick, former Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich Jr.’s (R) 2010 campaign manager, was convicted by a Baltimore jury of four counts of election law violations stemming from a robocall used in the state’s 2010 gubernatorial race that prosecutors claim was staged to suppress the black vote. The automated call allegedly told voters in Baltimore and in Prince George’s County to "relax" because Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) had been successful in winning the election.
Cardin referred to the Schurick case because the Maryland State Prosecutor could only take action thanks to a 2006 state law, while he stressed that a similar law must be enacted on the national level to prevent similar instances from occurring in other states.
MSNBC tried connecting GOP contender Mitt Romney to the KKK early this week, but wound up with egg on its face and was forced to apologize. Such was the embarrassment that talker Chris Matthews, the host of Hardball, called the smear “appalling.” More interesting, however, is where the network dug up the egregious but unspoken calumny. It originated in the febrile work of a homosexual leftist. He had learned that the Ku Klux Klan once used a three-word slogan that Romney repeated last week. The offensive words? “Keep America American.”
The most listened-to talk radio show host in the country, Rush Limbaugh, is often (though not often enough) critical of what he refers to as the Republican Party establishment. His friends and colleagues, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, are no different in this respect: Each portrays himself as a voice for the rank and file of the Republican Party against the establishment with which it finds itself increasingly at odds.
Although the aforementioned figures rarely mention names, it would appear that if Limbaugh’s, Hannity’s, and Levin’s are the faces of “the conservative movement,” then those of the establishment belong to the likes of Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, and Karl Rove.
It is during presidential primary contests moreso than at any other time that this rivalry between “conservative” Republicans and establishment Republicans comes into focus, for it is always conflict over the selection of a candidate that seems to shove it most forcefully to the forefront. On the one hand, the voice of the establishment insists upon favoring only the most “moderate” (read: liberal) of candidates. On the other hand, the voice of “the base” — as channeled through such colorful radio and television personalities as the Limbaughs and Hannitys of our world — expresses resentment toward the establishment for its continual betrayal of “conservative principles”: The objective, according to “conservatives” and Tea Partiers the country over, is to always support the most conservative of candidates.
On December 15, just hours after the Senate had passed the compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced a bill, supported by several of her colleagues from across the aisle, to extract at least one of the sharpest teeth from the freedom-devouring monster created by the NDAA.
The measure, entitled the Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011, is an attempt by Feinstein and her co-sponsors to prevent American citizens detained under applicable provisions of the NDAA from being denied their constitutional right to the due process of law.
Between acts of the legislative branch and regulations of branches of the executive branch, due process is being run out of town on a rail. Congress completed action on The National Defense Authorization Act last week, and the Act now awaits President Obama's signature. This law will empower the President to send the military to capture and indefinitely imprison citizens suspected of committing a “belligerent act” without access to an attorney or a trial on the merits of the charges.
On Thursday, December 15, Texas Governor and GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry released information that he is simultaneously collecting the Governor’s salary and retirement benefits from the state of Texas. The information came from a personal financial disclosure form he was required to submit by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). His campaign had twice sought delays and been granted two 45-day extensions before complying.
According to HT Politics, the 20-page document filed with the FEC shows that in addition to his $133,000 annual salary as Governor, Perry is collecting a $7,700 monthly state pension. State code permitted the Governor to begin collecting this pension in January. State employees are allowed to collect benefits if their years of military and state service plus their ages add up to more than 80. Perry qualifies, having counted five years in the Air Force and 24 years in Texas public service. He served as a part-time legislator, as Agricultural Commissioner, and Lieutenant Governor before assuming the Governor’s seat when Governor George Bush became President.
However, rhetoric doesn’t always match the record.