Thursday, February 21, 2008

Constitute This.

From a discussion that ensued on SM:

"i going to bow out of this debate with you b/c either you're completely ignorant about const law and you're just trying to fake it, or you're not ignorant and just weird. i mean, "congress" does not apply to the states, the first ammedment says nothing about free expression on govt property? this is just basic stuff which i'd be happy to elaborate on but you don't seem to really want to learn, as your weird exchange with rob demonstrates. "

Constitute this.
Alright. So let me be upfront, I have no formalized law credentials, most of my legal insight has come from watching movies and self-study, and discussion with law professionals.

Part of my "keep it real" persona is to state what I do not know.

I asked for an example of a state government enacted-law being overturned or challenged within a state court system because they infringed on freedom of speech as defined in the Constitution. What I got in return was a Supreme Court document, which by my understanding, is a federal court.

On this I may be "dead wrong" however, it wasn't clearly explained in the example presented.

But even if the state takes the place of "Congress" as stated in the 1st amendment, barring someone from saying "Merry Christmas" or making any references to religion in a gov't/public workplace is not infringing on free speech or curtailing "free expression" because it's speech that if allowed could lead to preferential treatment and understanding of one religion over the other. US history is replete with examples where 'harmful' speech has been disallowed.

It all depends on context. if a person says "Merry Christmas" to a co-worker he knows is Christian, in passing through the hallway, it's probably not a big deal, in the sense of, it doesn't constitute "establishment of a religion."

If one of the groups has a meeting, let's say, and the boss says to his team, "Have a Merry Christmas everyone!" while he didn't mean anything negative by it, it could distance those people who do not celebrate Christmas, and, at its root, is a religious holiday. Anecdotally, I remember while growing up, wanting a tree, presents, etc... Why? Not because of some deep seated desire to celebrate the religious holiday of Christmas, or to be Christian, rather just to "fit in" We should be living in a society where no one feels they have to partake in someone else religion in order to feel comfortable. It's the bedrock principle of a gov't not establishing one religion as superior to the other.

This is similar to the case of an RA in a state school running Bible classes from the dorm. The RA is in a position of authority, and generally a point of contact for incoming freshman to a new school. Given the nature of what a religion is, and its purpose and usage in society, someone in a position of authority, using state resources to show preference to one religion over another is ultimately not what the constitutional architects wanted.

Now while separation of church and state is not explicitly stated in the Constitution, it is a statement made by Thomas Jefferson, one of the constitution's architects in reference to the 1st amendment clause barring Congress from establishing a religion.

So, as I see it, clamping down on behaviors which could be interpreted as preference for one religion over another in a gov't work place is completely in line with the 1st amendment's call for "no establishment of religion." Separation of church and state is something they obviously believed in, and intended on being upheld.

Secondly, calling it "a war on Christmas" is just plain stupid, and also clear evidence of a Christian-centric mindset. For, if it is indeed a "War" on anything, it's a war on all religions, not just Christmas.

And using free speech to defend it, is again a huge stretch, as the free speech clause at its root exists to make sure minority voices in a debate or exchange of ideas, are not suppressed. From a practical point of view, Christmas will not be "forgotten" or "mistreated" because gov't employees are unable to say it while in the workplace.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

By the way...

The last two posts are directly related. (post 9 and 10)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

O, Bama, why are thou?

I feel it absolutely necessary to comment on the Obama factor.

A lot of what I'm hearing in the media is of the variety, "This is already a historic election, because the two democratic front runners are a woman and a person of color." Now, there's no reason to further delve into the the United State's record on racism and it's intrinsic nature to the very foundation of this nation.

There's no reason to once again quote MLK's statement (this one rarely makes the elementary school textbooks):

"Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society..... We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population."


But I'll do it anyway.

But the nay sayers will ask, how do you explain Hillary? How do you explain Obama?

Here's what I say. George Bush has just f)(#$)@(#cked up that bad. He's screwed up SO bad, that it's fueled the popularity of both these candidates. No matter how hard the republicans try, any person they put up will be seen as a Bush surrogate. Even the hated by right-wing McCain will at some level be seen as a Bush surrogate. Hell, even a "Clinton Surrogate" aka Hillary, is losing ground to the "vote for change" campaign.

Speaking of Hillary, she's obviously trading on her last name. So in some sense, she cannot be part of any signal that America's perception of it's national leaders are changing. In fact, on SM, it's been guessed that many elderly Desi democrats will vote her way as they remembered the "good times" of Bill's presidency. So obviously, she's being carried quite a bit by it. Does this mean she's not a candidate or person of merit, worthy of a presidential campaign? No, but you cannot make the argument that she's just some Jo Blo (Josephine Blo?) woman proving that electoral politics are changing. She's not just "a really smart woman" with a vision and a this or a that.

Obama, on the other hand, gained his popularity by his distance from the current administration (both in physical appearance and in verbal description) Obama is riding the "hope" and "change" wave so cleanly now, because now is when it will be strongest. Mark my words, if Obama doesn't secure the nomination this year, popularity for him will most likely decline for future election years (2012, 2016, what have you) Why? Because it's Bush's gigantic screwup of a presidency that has fueled all this Obama energy in the first place. Eight, or even four years from now, the anti bush energy that fuels Obama, will have all but completely dissipated.

However, I will say this. In the event that Obama secures the nomination and the presidency. I, HMF, will say the US collective consciousness has made some strides in changing its old ways of thinking.