We consider ourselves fairly typical Americans. It was a few nights before the Fourth of July, decidedly my least favorite night of the year. We were in our living room, sitting on our asses and watching TV. Like I said, typical.
Suddenly there was a boom. I looked out the front window and billowing smoke rose from our front yard garden. It had begun.
“Those fireworks are close,” I said. “Damn close.” The shit was literally raining down right on top of us.
On July 4th itself I went outside to see what the hell was going on. I saw one of those colorful bursts like you’d see in any major fireworks display except it was directly over my house. It went off about 20-30 feet over our roof. Two things were immediately obvious: Why don’t they do this shit above their own houses? They’re too good for that! And, wow, they are really good shots. We were being targeted.
Continue reading →
China, the largest creditor of the United States, has been in the news of late. On Sunday the CBS news program 60 Minutes had a story about a Chinese company called Huawei, a company that makes internet and networking equipment like routers, switches, and has the capability to build things like 4G networks. Huawei has become the largest telecommunications equipment maker in the world.
I’d never heard of Huawei before but apparently my iMac already has. As I write this post the text “Huawei” is already recognized by my inline spellchecker dictionary.
A U.S. congressional report recently released worried that Huawei and ZTE Corp., another Chinese company, have become too powerful and are a potential threat to U.S. national security. The report was produced over the last 11-months by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee and concludes that the companies could be working with the Chinese government for non-commercial reasons.
Today is Independence Day. This holiday commemorates the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence is an amazing document. Luckily, it is of sufficient strength to be impervious to being waved about for crass short-term political nefariousness from the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and others.
In honor of the occasion, I’d like to share a few thoughts, opinions and facts regarding the document that announced the thirteen American colonies had become independent states and how it came to be used (by some) as an instrument to denounce the concept of the separation between church and state.
The Declaration of Independence was primarily written by Thomas Jefferson, who was one member of a “Committee of Five” appointed by Congress to draft the declaration. That committee determine that Jefferson should write the first draft. That draft was written within 17 days between June 11 and June 28, 1776. After consulting with others, Jefferson produced another copy which was then presented to Congress on June 28, 1776.
The vote for independence took place on July 2, 1776. The resolution of independence was adopted with twelve affirmative votes and one abstention. (The delegates from New York were not authorized to vote for independence.) In a letter to his wife, John Adams predicted the date would become a great American holiday. Continue reading →
With a name like Newt it has to be good!
The Wall Street Journal reported today that Newt Gingrich, 67, will be forming a committee on Thursday that will allow him to raise money for a potential candidacy for President of the United States in 2012.
Lest we forget, who is Newt Gingrich?
As is often the case, I believe the answer lies in the values of the man. And what are those?
An appearance by Gingrich at the University of Pennsylvania provides important clues courtesy of a Q&A session with an Ivy League student.
The exchange went down a little something like this:
STUDENT: “You adamantly oppose gay rights . . . but you’ve also been married three times and admitted to having an affair with your current wife while you were still married to your second. As a successful politician who’s considering running for president, who would set the bar for moral conduct and be the voice of the American people, how do you reconcile this hypocritical interpretation of the religious values that you so vigorously defend?”
GINGRICH: “I’ll bet almost everyone here can gather the thrust of your question. I appreciate the delicacy and generosity in the way it was framed. . . I hope you feel better about yourself. I’ve had a life, which, on occasion, has had problems. I believe in a forgiving God, and the American people will have to decide whether that [is] their primary concern.”
Check out that telling response. Savor the humility. Immerse yourself in the inspiring sense of contrition. Marvel at the snarkcasm. Breathe in the snippishness. Bask in the glow of raw anger.
Yes, this is truly a repentant man ready to poise his finger on the Holy Button of Armageddon.
It must be true. Forgiveness isn’t something you ask for, its something you face with a snarl when you’re out trying to get what you want in the here and now. Forgiveness can wait for the hereafter.
Right on, Newt. The hell with the doubters! They are nothing more than little gnats buzzing around your head. Shoo fly, shoo!
I have a follow-up question, if I may.
Why is it so damn hard (no pun intended) to keep Mr. Winky in the pants?
Seriously. I’d like to know. What is so hard about remaining faithful to the woman you love and honoring the woman and your vows? Feel free to frame your response in a presidential manner. It’s never to early to play the part.
Okay, okay! One more follow-up follow-up question.
What’s the point in embarking on a journey you’ll never be able to make?
I’ll be watching your campaign with interest. Be careful not too fly too close to the sun!
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Glenn Beck says America should be about believing in God. Do you think he’s right about that?
What do you think was most important to the “founding fathers?” Freedom? Individual rights vs. the state? Or that we must have a belief in God and laws based on the same?
Which document, do you think, was intended to have more sway over our daily lives?
The other day I was flipping through channels and I saw television commentator Glenn Beck on the FOX News Channel hosting some kind of TV show. The studio audience seemed to be comprised mostly of young people. With Beck on stage was a man who would offer up comments regarding things that Beck said. I wish I could find a link to this show but I tried and was not successful.
I admit, I’m not a regular watcher of Beck. But I was momentarily curious. What were my impressions of the man? I have to admit the way he talked was really off-putting. His tone was histrionic and what he had to say seemed to me to be quite full of puffery. That’s just my opinion.
On this particular occasion he was frothing at the mouth about God and the Declaration of Independence. I’ll admit the obvious right up front. Beck is correct. That document clearly talks about a “creator” and so forth.
So what does that mean? That we’re supposed to be a “Christian nation?” That’s what Beck wants you to think. Be a critical thinker, though, and don’t take his word for it. Dig a little deeper.
The purpose of the Declaration of Independence: To announce and explain separation from Great Britain.
The purpose of the Constitution: A national constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation.
Again I ask, which document do you think is supposed to hold more sway over our laws and how we live our lives?
Beck is correct that the Declaration of Independence mentions a “creator.” But what is he leaving out? What you don’t hear him spouting off about all the time is that the Constitution is strangely silent on the subject of God.
The following words do not appear in the original United States Constitution: God, creator, maker, Christ, Christianity, and religion*. Search the text for yourself and see!
The word “religious” does show up one single time, but it’s not exactly a powerful statement that the founding fathers wanted religion entwined with government. In fact, it says the exact opposite:
From Article VI. “… no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
To my simple mind, this disconnect raises an immediate and important question: If the founding fathers were so concerned about God, why did they fail to broach the subject even a single time in the Constitution? The document that they intended to be the very foundation for our country?
I can see why Beck prefers to avoid bringing attention to this sort of thing. But that doesn’t stop him from appearing on stage with an “expert” and declaring that the word “creator” in a different document means that we’re supposed to be a Christian nation.
In fact, the only logical conclusion that can be drawn from the God disconnect between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is that the authors of the Constitution deliberately went out of their way to keep God out. I mean, what else? You think they forgot? I don’t think so. They seemed to put an awful lot of thought into the Constitution. I find it hard to imagine that they would forget about God unless it was deliberate.
All the puffery and histrionics in the world can’t get around the fact that God is missing from the Constitution and that the founding fathers didn’t want religious beliefs to dictate who could hold office.
One last point: What is “freedom of religion?” That comes from the First Amendment which prohibits the federal government from making a law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This was later expanded to state and local governments by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Now for a geometrical proof regarding the “free exercise” of religion:
- The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion in the United States.
- This guarantees every American the right to choose their own religious beliefs (or even have none at all).
- By definition and as required by the Constitution, therefore the United States is not a “Christian” nation.
If every American has the right to believe what they want about God and religion, how can there be any requirement that we are a Christian nation? Such a requirement, even if it did exist, would be a direct violation of the Constitution. We’re all free to worship trees or be atheists or be whatever we want to be. It just so happens that most of us are Christians, but that is not a requirement of being an American. According to the Constitution you don’t have to believe in God at all if you don’t want.
That’s not the way Beck wants it, though. Beck believes that a belief in God is a requirement to being a good American. If so, what happens then? Can religious beliefs other than the most popular be legally discriminated against? Can you be excluded from housing based on having the “wrong” belief? Turned away from a job? Jailed? Burned at the stake? Where are these lines, how are they drawn, and who is going to be deciding how every American’s beliefs will be evaluated and legally acted upon?
By the way, Thomas Jefferson was the first to advocate the concept of the separation of church and state in this letter.
Beck is wrong. God does not belong in politics. God has nothing to do with being an American.
Related reading: You don’t have the Constitution for that
* Except for the First Amendment. The word “religion” does appear there.
People argue a lot about God and country and the Constitution. Most of it centers around the argument that America was intended to be a “Christian nation.”
For example, someone once said something like this to me: The Constitution makes no mention of a “wall of separation between church and state.”
The fellow who wrote that to me actually misspelled “Constitution” but I feel like being nice so I corrected it so he doesn’t look stupid. He also went on to add that the “separation doctrine” is an invention of the Supreme Court.
I have to admit, those statements made me curious. So I went and did some checking. I examined a document that most of us would probably accept as an absolute authority on the matter – The Constitution of the United States. Grab a copy of the Constitution and you can fact check my results if you want.
So, what does the Constitution of the United States say about God and religion anyway? Not much, it turns out. Based on the following facts, can the wall of separation be inferred, especially in light of comments by certain “founding fathers” that were made later?
From what power is the Constitution of the United States derived? I checked. The word “God” can’t be found there. Nor “Christ” or “Christianity” or “Creator” or “Maker.”
All I can find is a reference to “We the people…” That is where the power of the United States government lies.
The word “religion” is not found, but “religious” does result in one hit:
From Article VI. “… no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
That’s it. That’s all I could find. I’m now going to make an assumption: If this was supposed to be a country based on Christianity, don’t you think some of those terms would have been a skosh more prominent? Might they even have gone as far as to actually mention it?
If it was so bloody important, why on Earth would the founding fathers leave it completely out of the document we hold most dear?