As Americans become more frightened by the disastrous direction our government is taking, and more frustrated that elected representatives are not listening to them, the demand is growing for drastic action. In recent months the action most heard in state houses across the nation is a rising call for a new Constitutional Convention (Con Con).
Supporters somehow think a Con Con is the solution to saving our Republic. They want to amend the Constitution to force a balance budget. They want to shore up ambiguous language to make the meaning clear. They want to assure there is no doubt what America is and should be. For most pushing such an agenda, their intentions are honest.
During recent political rallies, President Obama ambitiously claimed that he has delivered 60 percent of his 2008 campaign promises, but the watchdog organization Politfact.com reveals that the President’s assertion is far from accurate. Speaking at two fundraisers earlier this week, Obama recounted a list of "accomplishments" which he has resolved during his first term in the White House, as he rattled off a catalog of completed initiatives, including financial regulation, healthcare reform, and pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq.
Those achievements comprise 60 percent of what he strove to achieve, Obama averred, adding, "I’m pretty confident we can get the next 40 percent done in the next five years." Obama acknowledged that "the economy is still hurting," while he emphasized how crucial it is that Republicans support his $447-billion jobs plan, which currently lingers in congressional limbo.
During the first of two fundraisers on Tuesday, the President conceded that the 2012 election will be more challenging than in 2008, as he offered this thought to a group of donors: "This election will not be as sexy as the first one." He added, "Back then, I was — it was still fresh and new, and I didn’t have any gray hair and everybody loved the ‘Hope’ posters and all that. But this time it’s — We’ve got to grind it out a little bit. We’ve got to grind it out."
An after-school Christian kids' club is suing the school district of Owassa, Oklahoma, a suburb of Tulsa, for preventing the club’s organizers from promoting events at one of the district’s schools. According to the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), the conservative legal advocacy group that is representing the club, the district took away the Kids for Christ club’s right to distribute fliers, make announcements, put up posters, and other activities at Northeast Elementary School, arguing that the club, which meets outside of class time, is religious. Meanwhile, the district continues to allow such groups as the Boy Scouts and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), along with businesses such as a local burrito restaurant, to promote their activities.
“A Christian organization should not be targeted for discrimination when it is simply seeking to publicize its voluntary meetings just like other community groups do,” said ADF attorney Matt Sharp. “The district would have people believe that the Constitution requires a religious organization to be singled out in this manner when, in reality, the Constitution strictly prohibits this type of discrimination. The courts have repeatedly upheld this.”
The federal lawsuit is challenging the district’s policy on approved campus communications, which states: “No literature will be distributed that contains primarily religious, objectionable, or political overtones which may be beneficial to any particular group or business at the expense of others.”
Some readers of this column may very well remember the late ‘70s-early '80s sitcom, Mork and Mindy. Mork, played by Robin Williams, was an alien from the planet “Ork” who had been deployed to Earth in order to discover more about the ways of its inhabitants. At the end of each week’s episode, audiences would watch as Mork relayed his findings to “Orson,” his superior. Now, imagine if a Mork-like being were to visit our planet for the sake of acquiring knowledge regarding America’s politics. What would he discover?
Well, within minutes of his spacecraft landing he would determine that those beings who call themselves “Americans” have something bordering on an obsession with what they call “liberty.” At virtually every turn, it is impossible to go for long without hearing the language of “liberty” and “freedom” spring from their lips.
Being the inquisitive sort that he is, it is only natural that this alien should want to probe more deeply into the character of this “liberty.” So he does. Our sociologist from another planet, so as to keep himself from becoming conspicuous, would first try to discern its meaning by listening carefully to the inflection and intonations of the voices of those speaking of liberty. In doing so, he would become hopeful that he would before long get to the bottom of it all, for what he would detect is that talk of liberty is almost invariably accompanied by excitement and enthusiasm — as sure a sign as any that this “liberty” is something to which these Americans attach no small measure of importance. Liberty, that is, isn’t just a good, as far as the Americans are concerned; it is quite possibly the greatest of all goods.
If Robert Taft had been a baseball player instead of a United States Senator, he might have led the league in left-handed compliments. As it was, he was often “damned with faint praise” by people who, while paying tribute to the power of his intellect, quite often suggested both the man and the mind had come of age in the wrong century. The Ohio lawmaker would hear himself praised as one possessing “the best eighteenth-century mind in America” by people who obviously considered an 18th-century mind ill-suited to mid-20th-century politics. Others, frustrated by the Senator’s stubborn insistence on examining the facts of any controversy before deciding whether to go with or against the prevailing political winds, were fond of saying, “Taft has the best mind in the Senate — until he makes it up.”
Taft was no Lone Ranger. He believed very much in political parties and could be as highly partisan as a Republican as Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman were as Democrats. Yet he was not afraid to deviate from party orthodoxy or fly in the face of popular sentiment. He drew the wrath of the press and public for arguing against the post-World War II war crimes trials at Nuremberg. “Today, the government has become a busybody,” Taft said in a campaign speech in 1944, “determined to meddle with everybody else’s business, to regulate every detail of private enterprise and even in many cases to set in motion direct government competition with private enterprise.” But while Taft was declaring there was “hardly a field of activity into which the government has not intruded itself,” he was also advancing legislation to create a federal housing program and provide federal aid to education.
“Anytime a parent has to bury a child is, in my opinion, the most stressful and excruciating experience a family can go through,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told the Arizona Republic. Few would disagree. Many, however, would take issue with Tester’s proposed solution to the problem of giving parents “time to grieve and sort out what has happened without having to worry about losing their jobs.”
Tester’s motto apparently being “There oughta be a law against that,” his solution is to force employers to give parents time off after the death of a child. Thus, he has introduced the Parental Bereavement Act of 2011, which would amend the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 to mandate up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave — or, as Tester put it in a press release, “job-protected time-off” — for an employee who has just suffered the death of his child.
In 21st-century America, when one wants something, one does not try to persuade others to adopt his position. Instead, he turns to the government to impose his will on others. Therefore, when some of Tester’s constituents experienced the deaths of their children and thought they deserved more time off, they wrote to their Senator, prompting Tester to introduce his legislation. Similarly, thousands of people have signed an online petition urging Congress to pass Tester’s bill.
The nature of the relationship between “universals” — Humanity, Justice, Goodness, etc. — and “particulars” — this human being, this instance of justice, and that instance of goodness — is a matter that philosophers have been busy at work trying to iron out for millennia. On a reasonably broad spectrum, there are two rival poles: the one is represented by Plato, the other by John Locke. Plato insisted that not only are universals real, they are ultimately more real than particulars. Universals are eternal, immutable, and incorruptible while particulars, in contrast, are temporal, mutable, and corruptible. For example, individual human beings come and go, but the universal of Humanity is always and forever the same. It is the universal that invests the particular with identity and, thus, renders us capable of recognizing it as the particular that it is. From this perspective, particulars stand in relation to universals as shadows stand in relation to the objects that cast them: particulars depend upon universals for their being.
Our system of local police, responsible to the local citizens, is unique in the world.
The New York Times and CBS has come out with a new poll that shows Americans have a strong mistrust of government. Almost 90% of Americans do not trust government to do the right thing and almost three quarters say that they believe the nation is on the wrong track. As the poll probes deeper into what Americans believe the government ought to do, partisan differences appear. Nearly 9 out of 10 Democrats believe that the distribution of wealth in the country should be fairer, while 2 out of three independents agree with that, though only 1 out of 3 Republicans believe that to be true. This poll also showed that a significant percentage of Americans support the “Occupy Wall Street” movement while a much smaller percentage support the Tea Party Movement.
Gallup has come out with a poll this September that may narrow down discontent with government more. The overwhelming majority of Americans, 2 out of 3, have a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of confidence in local government — a percentage that has remained very stable over the last fifteen years. A clear majority of Americans, 57%, feel the same way about state government, although that confidence did nosedive in 2009. Faith in the federal government, by contrast, is very low.
Another September Gallup Poll sheds light on part of the reason for the low confidence in the federal government. Since 1979 Gallup has asked respondents “Of every tax dollar that goes to the federal government in Washington, D.C., how many cents of each dollar would you say were wasted?”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is asking the U.S. District Court in San Diego to grant constitutional rights to killer whales who perform at marine parks. Targeting SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, the lawsuit of the animal rights group charges that harboring whales for public entertainment purposes violates the 13th Amendment ban on slavery, indicating that animals should possess the same rights as American citizens.
The suit’s "plaintiffs" comprise five killer whales, Tilikum and Katina based at Sea World in Orlando, Florida, and Corky, Kasatka, and Ulises at SeaWorld in San Diego, California. "All five of these orcas were violently seized from the ocean and taken from their families as babies," insisted PETA President Ingrid Newkirk.
"By any definition, these orcas are slaves — kidnapped from their homes, kept confined, denied everything that's natural to them and forced to perform tricks for SeaWorld's profit," Jeff Kerr, PETA’s general counsel, averred, adding, "The males have their sperm collected, the females are artificially inseminated and forced to bear young which are sometimes shipped away." In pleading its case, the group wrote on its blog: