A basic civics lesson 3

JISHOU, HUNAN — Some citizens of the USA seem to forgotten their basic civics, if in fact they ever learned civics in the first place. So here is a primer. Feel free to share this among your anti-Obama associates. The United States of America is a constitutional republic, in which legislators (Congressional representatives and Senators) are elected by popular vote, and the president and vice president are elected in a two-stage electoral process – a popular vote and an Electoral College vote. Whoever gains the most votes (a plurality) in an election is the winner of the election. In the USA, which has two dominant political parties, practically speaking this means whoever gains a simple majority of the votes is the winner. For example, in the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama and Joe Biden received 52.9% of the popular vote, and John McCain and Sarah Palin, 45.7%. The remaining votes went to nominees of several smaller parties. In the Electoral College, Obama/Biden netted 365 votes and McCain/Palin, 173. Thus, Obama/Biden won the election by a clear majority. In a republic, an elected official serves everyone, regardless of who voted for him or her. This precept has been the basis of ...

Federal courts rule Washington school cannot have Christians-only club 3

JISHOU, HUNAN — Kentridge High School in Washington state cannot have a Christians-only Bible club. Organizers of the club lost their legal battle when the US Supreme Court declined to hear their case yesterday. The Court’s action puts greater restrictions on religious clubs in public schools. As long as clubs do not limit membership based on religious faith, high schools can permit such clubs. If clubs shut out anyone from full membership based on a person’s faith, the schools have the right to ban the club. It’s a sensible state of affairs, but I predict the religious right will squeal like stuck pigs, saying, “War on Christianity! War on Christianity!” The losers in this court battle were two, now-former students of Kentridge High School, who in 2001 applied for a school charter for Truth, a Bible club. Truth members, who could be of any faith, would read Bible verses on the school intercom and decorate the school once a month. Then a federal court ruled that religion-based clubs in public school did not automatically violate the Constitutional separation of church and state. Truth’s founders, Sarice Undis and Julianne Stewart, upped the ante. They changed the rules of their club and ...

Iowa justices wield impeccable logic, reiterate church-state separation 3

JISHOU, HUNAN — The decision by the Iowa Supreme Court to clear the way for same-sex marriage in that state is big news, but the masterfully clear logic of the court’s ruling is even more impressive. It is worth reading the 69-page ruling, even if you are not a student of the law, just to see how keen minds operate. In addition, the court clearly restated the premise of the separation of church and state enshrined in both the Iowa and U.S. Constitutions. Christian Dominionists are bound to be unhappy about that part of the opinion, since they insist the USA is a “Christian nation” founded on Christian principles. Interestingly, the decision was unanimous. Of the seven justices, two are Republican appointees and the rest are Democratic appointees. Had the decision been split 5-2, critics could cry “liberal bias” and “activist judges.” A unanimous ruling speaks volumes for the power of the law. The issue of course was whether the civil marriage statute in Iowa’s books discriminated against same-sex couples who wish to marry. The Court carefully examined whether same-sex couples were “similar situated” as opposite-sex couples, that is, are their circumstances the same? And does the law as worded ...

For God and Kentucky

JISHOU, HUNAN — I used to live in Kentucky. It’s a beautiful state, full of great people, but afflicted with legislators who are mostly terminally stupid. In that, I suppose, the Bluegrass State is not unique. There’s a whole lotta stupid goin’ on. (Take Zimbabwe, for example.) Kentucky’s latest contribution to stupidity was the inclusion of “Almighty God” in two state statutes a few years back dealing with the state’s homeland security. Someone finally caught wind of the terminology and has filed suit in state court to have the offending laws rewritten. The someone is the group, American Atheists. So you can already predict how the religious right and right-wing radioheads will react: “Godless atheists are trying to destroy our Christian nation! Blah blah blah …!” I mean, the American Atheists have a point, but why couldn’t the plaintiffs been someone less obvious a target for right-wing vitriol, like maybe the Presbyterians headquartered in Louisville? The right-wing blather will only obscure the real issue, which I hope the courts will settle quickly. Our laws cannot invoke God without running afoul of the US Constitution, specifically this part: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the ...
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