Learning new things every day…

As I browsed around for possible topics for today’s blog, I discovered that today is National Consitution and Citizenship Day.  And yes, that really is an official federal observance. Amazing, there really is a day for everything – and I cannot believe I was completely unaware that we actually had a day dedicated to the anniversary of the signing of the US Consitution in 1787 by the delegates to the Consitutional Convention. So yes, 230 years ago, the delegates to the Consitutional Covention signed off on their handiwork.

According to the Library of Congress, the day was based on I Am An American Day, which had been authorized by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940. The day was originally established as the 3rd Sunday in May as a celebration for new citizens. In 1952, Congress repealed that proclamation, and replaced it with Citizenship Day, and moved it to September 17th in honor of the signing of constitution. In 2004, Congress changed the name to recognize the Consitution as well as Citizenship, and also added a pair of requirements to the observation – one being that each federal agency head provide employees with educational material regarding the Consitution (I wonder how many actually read it and understand it? – the agency heads, I mean), and the other that schools receiving federal funds must hold a program for their students on (or near) September 17th.

So Happy Consitution and Citizenship Day! The United States Constitution is a very short, easy to read document. I’m neither an agency head, nor an educator, but, for those that are interested, a copy can be found here, and the Bill of Rights (first 10 amendments) here, and the subsequent amendments (11 to 27) here.

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves ; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”  — Thomas Jefferson



Losing balance & starting to topple

To borrow a line for Sara Bareilles, “Blank stares at blank pages, no easy way to say this”.

I’m still on vacation for a couple of days yet, and, although I try hard to stay out of the fray when I’m away, sometimes it simply isn’t possible. It is not possible. Emphatically not possible. I will, at the start, caution the Trump supporters in my life – and I know there are a few of you still hanging in there – that I am not planning to walk on eggshells for your benefit (in fact, I would really love for you to tell me how on earth you can possibly still feel supportive & what you feel positive about after the spectacle of the past few months – particularly the past few weeks).

First I need to talk about what happened in Charlottesville this weekend. And, not completely germain, but purely in the interests of full disclosure, I need to warn some of my progressive friends that we may have a difference of opinion on the subject of statuary.  I am firmly opposed to confederate flags being displayed on public land, other than museums or monuments, and have discussed that previously – what those flags represent is sedition (and a failure at that), and are not something an allegedly patriotic state, in a united country, should be flaunting, I feel differently about statutes. Perhaps particularly about Lee. Particularly  in Virginia. Robert E. Lee was indisputably a brilliant military tactician, a West Point graduate, who served the United States with honor prior to the Civil War. He was caught between family & country, and made an uneasy, non-patriotic, choice to abandon the US military and the Union to join the Confederacy in support of his family.  Even then, he was still well-respected by his former peers in the Union army. His family roots are firmly in the Charlottesville area. I realize we all view these things differently, and I very much understand the reasons why those statutes of confederate soldiers are being removed, but I think that perhaps the subject of these statues really is more nuanced than that of the flags. Sometimes the answers are not in stark contrast of right and wrong – shades of gray abound in life.

But that said… What happened was, of course, only superficially about the statue of Lee. What it really was about was a massive gathering of, often armed, white supremacists and neo-Nazi’s – mostly, it seems, NOT from the Charlottesville area, who took this opportunity to throw a prolonged tantrum. And to try to terrorize Charlottesville into bending to their will. And make no mistake – there is a reason the FBI has always tracked these groups as domestic terrorists – that is what they are.  And their purpose was not peaceful, it was intimidation. The large number of swastikas and confederate flags that the demonstrators brought with them, should give us all pause. World War II was fought in Europe and Africa to end Nazi aggression – many countries were allied on this point – including the United States. The Nazis lost the war – badly, in fact. The Nazi party and the neo-Nazi’s really don’t get to have a place at this table. And, although this seems unclear to some folks, the Confederacy lost the Civil War. Neither of those things changed with Donald Trump’s election – no matter what they may think, and no matter how poorly our president “speaks out” against this (yes, Ivanka did, but seriously folks, this group would like to see her family, and all other Jews, wiped off the earth – they were chanting anti-Jewish sentiments at the rally). Donald Trump’s apparent inability to firmly call domestic terrorists what they are has moved beyond appalling to blatantly absurd. Call white supremacists what they are, and stop worrying about offending that horrible segment of your base. And stop pretending that they aren’t a part of your base. David Duke, former leader of the KKK, and ardent white supremacist actually said at the rally in Charlottesville:  “This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back, we’re going to fulfil the promises of Donald Trump, and that’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back and that’s what we gotta do”.  And then when the president tweeted against the violence on Saturday afternoon, Duke responded by tweeting “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.” Indeed. They recognized the code, and Trump reinforced that code by playing cute about Duke’s endorsement of his candidacy (“I don’t know anything about David Duke”) – and even his subsequent refutation of the white supremacists was negated by his choice of an actual former Nazi, Sebastian Gorka, among his advisors. And then there’s Steve Bannon. There is always Steve Bannon – cheerfully explaining that he is a “economic nationalist” not a nationalist nationalist.

Let’s be clear – this was not a ‘peaceful’ demonstration disrupted by radical leftists that were paid to be there. For pity’s sake – pay attention, get over your freaking conspiracy theories, and take your head out of Brietbart, Infowars and the Daily Wire for a bit of outside information – you might even find it enlightening. I’ve even heard some truly incomprehensible claims that this was a ‘private’ demonstration and the counter demonstrators had no right to be there. This is public land – you can’t have a ‘private’ anything on public land, and the First Amendment applies to everyone.  The videos, and the eyewitness accounts of the clergy members that were leading the counter demonstration, make it very clear where the aggression was. And the sole purpose of this gathering was to try to intimidate a community into embracing its confederate history.

And most importantly, let’s never forget Heather Heyer, a 32 year-old paralegal who lived in Charlottesville. She was killed, while walking with friends as the rally was breaking up, when 20 year old James Fields of Maumee, Ohio (yes, indeed, he came from Ohio to join the rally) deliberately drove his car into the group of counter demonstrators – and then backed up into more of them. In other places, when an Islamic terrorist has driven a vehicle into a crowd of people, President Trump has been quick to decry Islamic terrorists, and call for immigration bans. When a domestic terrorist, for that’s what this is, drives a car into a crowd, he laments the violence on “all sides”. And everyone on the right can lament the actions of a lone mentally unstable individual. (And can completely ignore the bombing of a mosque in a suburb of Minneapolis because well, it was a mosque that was bombed). But, as with Dylan Root and the Charleston church massacre, among other acts of domestic terrorism, we don’t stop to consider, much less talk about, the radicalization of the white guys (and sometimes women). We just talk about how this country has a mental health issue. But when the perpetrator has been ‘radicalized’  by Islam – then we have a terrorist, not a mentally ill individual. The double standard needs to stop if we are ever seriously going to denounce white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other domestic terrorists. They are not what the vast majority of US citizens are about, they are not representative of the nation as a whole, and they are certainly not “patriots” by any definition of the word.

And that brings me to Russia – Putin expels 750 diplomats, and President Trump tweets a thank you for helping to reduce personnel costs? Someone on team Trump please, please, explain why this makes sense. Why he seems completely incapable of criticizing Putin or Russia for much of anything? (And side comment, the Russia investigations in the house, the senate & DOJ are not made up stuff – our intelligence agencies know definitively that Russia attempted to interfere with the election – it’s why the sanctions were not only renewed, they were toughened, by congress nearly unanimously; and Eric Trump really did meet with Russians looking for promised dirt on Clinton, & Paul Manafort & Mike Flynn really were double-dealing and probably will be the ones indicted by Mueller’s grand jury).

And then there’s the North Korean quagmire. I grew up in the Cold War.  Fallout shelters, Duck and Cover, good times, really. No not really. Watch Atomic Cafe some time. I never would have imagined that my children, as young adults, would now be facing the specter  of nuclear war, largely due to the bluster and threats of the president, and the sheer incompetence of a president that tells the Governor of Guam that the threat of nuclear was would boost tourism to Guam (because of course it would – mushroom cloud selfies are everyone’s dream). I assume that since science is not his strong suit, he doesn’t quite understand the full ramifications of a nuclear war.

And after you explain to me why nuclear war, or any war, with North Korea (& China) would be a good idea, then you can also explain why we even entered the fray with Venezuela? Are we seriously considering military action to deal with their INTERNAL problems? No, of course not. But if we beat the war drums loud enough, we stop the news about Mueller. Or about Charlottesville. Distraction is clearly a specialty of this administration.

And on that note, I’ll go back to trying to enjoy the time remaining of my vacation.

Pax vobiscus.




“The truest characters of ignorance are vanity and pride and arrogance.”

— Samuel Butler

Words to ponder this weekend as our president threatens nuclear war with North Korea and thanks Vladimir Putin for expelling our diplomats from Russia (yes, even on vacation, I can’t avoid the news).


Images of clouds taken from my front yard at dusk on July 21, 2016 with my iPhone – no filters.

Looking for Peace

Edited from the August 9, 2016 Tuesday’s Quotes regarding the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki.

“No cause justifies the deaths of innocent people.”

— Albert Camus

On this date in 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan, three days before dropping a different type of atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki – with the threat of additional bombings unless the Japanese unconditionally surrender to allied forces. The devastation in Hiroshima alone killed at least 40,000 people initially, with upwards of 70,000 more in the following weeks, and left a decades long legacy of horror and illness, as the long-term dangers of radiation exposure became apparent. And my heart breaks a bit more every time I think about it. And, although I know – and understand – the thinking behind the decsion to use the weapons (a decision that was not made by the US alone), I also know that they should never be used again – by anyone. There is no cause great enough to justify the use of nuclear weapons – especially now that we better understand all of the ramifications that go along with their use.

Like all baby boomers, I grew up in a Cold War world, dominated by the nuclear arms race, and the uncomfortable notion of peace brought about by mutually assured destruction. I have no desire to revisit those days, or for my children or grandchildren to have to live with those thoughts.  I may not have the solution for world peace, but I know it cannot be found in nuclear threats. Nor can it be brought about, or sustained, by war.

Franklin Roosevelt called December 7, 1941, the day the Japanese bombed the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, a day that would “live in infamy”, but for me, for most of my life, it has been August 6th and August 9th, 1945 that are perhaps the most infamous days that I hope the world ever comes to know.


“If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.”

— Lao Tzu

14th Amendment

I’d planned to keep this post short and mainly about my vacation, but then I realized that today is the anniversary of the effective date of the 14th Amendment – part of which gets far more debate than it should. So, while still keeping it short, I did want to just give a mention to Section 1 specifically, but first, here is the text of the 14th Amendment, which was ratified on July 9, 1868:

Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2.

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.

Section 3.

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4.

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5.

The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

The Amendment covers quite a bit of ground, although it is the second part of Section 1 that has been most frequently litigated – No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Due process and equal protection have been used for the rights of arrested individuals, and for Supreme Court decisions like Brown v Board of Education.

In recent years, the meaning of the first half of Section 1 has also been called into question – mainly as a point of rhetoric for those that do not think US born children of non-US citizens should be considered citizens. Of course the purpose of the clause was to ensure that US-born slaves were automatically granted citizenship in the time following the Civil War, and was not really considering immigration, but the language is unambiguous –  All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.

Words do matter.

Have a peaceful weekend.


Independence Day – Lest we forget…

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

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

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Text transcription & document photo courtesy of the National archives http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_zoom_1.html