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Many young people dont vote
because they never learned how. Heres a free class now
in schools trying to change that.
The Best of Ann Coulter
Consider this: In 2016, in 50 mayoral elections, the median voter age was 57.
Yes, theres something wrong with that, and with the fact that young people dont vote in big percentages in any election. In fact, a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center ranked the United States 31st out of 35 countries for voter turnout and its not only young people who stay at home during elections. Only 56 percent of the U.S. voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election, which was less than in the record year of 2008.
There is no single answer as to why this is so (people dont think their vote counts, or they dont like any of the candidates, etc.), but new efforts are being made to teach young people why they should vote and how they can register and cast ballots.
This post introduces a new, free class on voting for anybody who wants to use it. This week, it was taught in more than 2,000 schools as part of the week of Constitution Day, which was created by Congress in 2004 to push all schools that receive federal funding to offer some type of educational program on the U.S. Constitution. Sept. 17 was chosen because it was the last session of the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, during which the final version of the newly written U.S. Constitution was signed by 39 delegates.
This was written by Carolyn DeWitt, president and executive director of Rock the Vote, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to building the political power of young people, and Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Center, a nonprofit advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and and public interest litigation.
If there is one thing we believe in America, we believe in government of the people, by the people, for the people.
But what if the people dont show up? What if they dont know how to show up because they havent learned how to be democratic citizens? They havent learned how to register to vote. They havent learned the best way to influence their elected representatives. They havent learned that they have power.
A healthy democracy needs well-informed, active citizens. But these citizens dont just magically appear. People learn citizenship. They learn it, for example, as children when they go the polling place to watch their parents vote. They learn it advocating for an issue they care about with their neighbors. They learn it by doing it.
For a long time, many Americans didnt just learn about citizenship from their families and friends, they also learned how to be democratic citizens in public school. Not anymore. In the last few decades, instead of expanding civics education, we have cut it and cut it. Today, only nine states require a full year of civics education. Ten states dont require it at all. In 31 states, students only have to learn about our democracy for one semester. Thats about three and a half months to learn about something as important as our democracy.
The fault lies not with teachers, the principals, school boards, the superintendents or the school districts. The fault lies with those who sit at our state capitals and those who elect them the American electorate. As testing for writing, reading, science and math have put increasing pressure on schools already suffering from budget cuts, teacher shortages, and dilapidated buildings, civics education once seen as the very reason for public education has been all but tossed out.
Thirty-six students per classroom in Nevada, schools without adequate heat in Baltimore, teachers walkouts and strikes in West Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina, Arizona, Kentucky and Oklahoma: These are just some of the issues students are dealing with in the classroom, not to mention the issues that impact their home lives. Yet, students havent been given the education to know that they have the power to change all of this.
The results are predictable. A mere 25 percent of high school students achieved a grade of sufficient on a national civics assessment test. Black and Latino kids from low-income households do significantly worse on the test than their white, middle-class peers. In other words, those who are most in need of advocating for resources are the least prepared to do so.
This lack of education translates into a lack of political engagement. With the exception of a few elections, youth voter turnout has steadily declined over the last 30 years. In local elections, the lack of youth participation is even more stark. In 2016 in 50 mayoral elections, the median voter age was 57!
We are short-changing our students and short-changing the future of our democracy. We need to do something about it.
That is why we at Rock the Vote and Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, with the support of American Eagle Outfitters, have launched Democracy Class, a free, nonpartisan curriculum on the history and importance of voting. Educators have the ability to extend the curriculum to teach additional lessons on modern-day voting rights, the importance of local elections, and a civics action class on an issue affecting the local community.
But this class does more than just teach kids about voting. Research has shown that when young people register to vote, they vote in high numbers. Thats why every student who participates in Democracy Class registers or pre-registers to vote.
More than 80 organizations across the country and school districts including Los Angeles and Philadelphia have committed to having the curriculum taught in more than 2,000 schools across the country the week of Sept. 17, which began on Monday with Constitution Day and is the week before National Voter Registration Day.
With nearly 160,000 students registering or pre-registering to vote, Democracy Class gives students and educators a way to participate and prepare for the civic holiday, but the class is available even after.
Were committed to continuing this momentum and
getting Democracy Class into more and more classrooms. We
see this as the start of a broad movement to expand civics
education across the country and empower the next generation
of citizens to work together to create a more perfect
For the past four years almost, weve been listening to Republicans and right-wing pundits exploit the death of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Theyve been trying with all of their might to use the attack on an American diplomatic compound as a means to throw former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton under the bus, and make it as though she is somehow solely to blame.
Well, now, in a report put out by the Democratic members of the House Benghazi Committee, it is clearly shown that not only is Clinton exonerated, but it also shows to what length Republicans have seemingly lied to perpetuate the myth that she is guilty, as well as their refusal to cooperate with other House members.
Democrats tried to get Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to work with them on this report, but instead he responded by mocking them, saying that their request was mildly amusing.
They explained why they put the report together:
We are issuing our own report today because, after spending more than two years and $7 million in taxpayer funds in one of the longest and most partisan congressional investigations in history, it is long past time for the Select Committee to conclude its work. Despite our repeated requests over the last several months, Republicans have refused to provide us with a draft of their reportor even a basic outlinemaking it impossible for us to provide input and obvious that we are being shut out of the process until the last possible moment.
Our overarching conclusion is that the evidence obtained by the Select Committee confirms the core findings already issued by many previous investigations into the attacks in Benghazi. Although the Select Committee obtained additional details that provide context and granularity, these details do not fundamentally alter the previous conclusions.
They then go on to debunk the many, many conspiracy theories:
Our report makes 21 findings based on the evidence we obtained, and it debunks many conspiracy theories about the attacks. In general, the report finds:
The Defense Department could not have done anything differently on the night of the attacks that would have saved the lives of the four brave Americans killed in Benghazi, and although the militarys global posture prevented it from responding more quickly that night, improvements were made years ago.
The State Departments security measures in Benghazi were woefully inadequate as a result of decisions made by officials in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, but Secretary Clinton never personally denied any requests for additional security in Benghazi.
The Intelligence Communitys assessments evolved after the attacks as more information became available, but they were not influenced by political considerations.
Administration officials did not make intentionally misleading statements about the attacks, but instead relied on information they were provided at the time under fast-moving circumstances.
There are some findings this report does not make. For example, an offensive, antiMuslim video sparked protests and anti-American violence in Cairo and throughout the region, but it remains unclear to this day precisely what motivated all of the individuals in Benghazi on the night of the attacks.
With remarks from former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), General David Petraeus, backing that up.
The report then dives into the fact that Republicans were basically on a witch hunt the entire time, and didnt want Democrats sticking their nose anywhere near the investigation.
Republicans excluded Democrats from interviews, concealed exculpatory evidence, withheld interview transcripts, leaked inaccurate information, issued unilateral subpoenas, sent armed Marshals to the home of a cooperative witness, and even conducted political fundraising by exploiting the deaths of four Americans.
In one of the most serious abuses, Chairman Gowdy personally and publicly accused Secretary Clinton of compromising a highly classified intelligence source. Although the Intelligence Community quickly debunked his claim, Chairman Gowdy has yet to apologize to Secretary Clinton for his slanderous accusation.
In our opinion, Chairman Gowdy has been conducting this investigation like an overzealous prosecutor desperately trying to land a front-page conviction rather than a neutral judge of facts seeking to improve the security of our diplomatic corps.
Decades in the future, historians will look back on this investigation as a case study in how not to conduct a credible investigation. They will showcase the proliferation of Republican abuses as a chief example of what happens when politicians are allowed to use unlimited taxpayer dollarsand the formidable power of Congressto attack their political foes.
Which is really all these countless investigations have been.
However, because Democrats seem to be the only adults in the room, and seek to move forward to make sure an attack like this never happens again, they made 12 recommendations within the report which include three recommendations on how Congress should pick future committees. The recommendations begin on page 318 of the report.
The entire report is utterly infuriating, but absolutely damning against Republicans in their quest to destroy Hillary Clinton. Theyve used millions of tax-payer dollars to go after a presidential candidate instead of moving forward to really figure out how to prevent an attack like this from ever happening again. Time and time again it has been found that Clinton was not to blame, but time and time again Republicans have tried their damnedest to condemn her. Well, no longer, and this report should put all conspiracy to rest.
(If the Republicants couldn't use lies they wouldn't have anything to tlk about.)
If youd like to read the report in full, you can
find it HERE.
When Melissa Chance Yassini came home from work on Dec. 8, she found her daughter Sofia in tears.
Sofia had been watching the news with her grandmother, when she heard about Donald Trump's call to deport refugees and ban Muslims from entering America.
"She ran to me with a look of absolute fear on her face," Melissa told Upworthy.
Sofia, who is 8 years old, was convinced that Trump wanted to kick her and her family, who are Muslim and American citizens out of the country.
"It was the first time that it really drove home to me that were in a dangerous place right now," Melissa said.
Melissa stayed up most of the night comforting and reassuring her daughter. Exhausted and frustrated, she posted about the experience on Facebook the next day.
Sad day in America when I have to comfort my 8 year old child who heard that someone with yellow hair named Trump wanted to kick all Muslims out of America. She had began collecting all her favorite things in a bag in case the army came to remove us from our homes. She checked the locks on the door 3-4 times. This is terrorism. No child in America deserves to feel that way.
The post caught the eye of Kerri Peek, an Army veteran from Colorado, who responded to Melissa a few days later.
"Salamalakum Melissa!" Peek wrote on Facebook. "Please show this picture of me to your daughter. Tell her I am a Mama too and as a soldier I will protect her from the bad guys."
Peek who is Hispanic told Upworthy that her heart broke reading Melissa's post, which reminded her of similar statements that have made her own family feel unwelcome.
"It bothered me all night. Stuck in my craw, so to speak," Peek said. "This rhetoric and fear, hate, and violence is not okay. It's not the United States that I would fight for. I was awake all night."
Peek started a hashtag #IWillProtectYou and encouraged her fellow vets to respond. The messages of support began pouring in.
"Calling all vets. I've been reading reports of kids being harassed and accosted because of their faith. This is UNAMERICAN. Now is the time to act," veteran Andres Herrera wrote on Facebook.
"I am not Muslim," veteran David Bruce wrote on Facebook, "But when anyone says the Army that I served with will go on to remove Muslims from my country, they'll have to take me too."
"Sweet girl, I am no longer in the Navy, but know you are protected," veteran Sarah Cullen wrote. "?#?IWillProtectYou? to the moon and back if necessary. Many hugs sent your way."
"We are Muslim, an Army family, and we will protect you," Aneesah Hydar wrote on Facebook.
As the responses continue to come in, Peek remains blown away but not surprised by her fellow vets' willingness to stand up to bigotry.
"I have always been proud of my Battle Buddies (we are all comrades-at-arms)," Peek said. "But this is outstanding."
Melissa told Upworthy she is incredibly moved by the show of support for her daughter.
"I have probably received close to 500 messages from various people in our military, from just people," Melissa said.
Most importantly, Sofia now knows theres an army of her fellow Americans who have her back.
Peek's message came through loud and clear: No matter what Donald Trump says that makes Muslim-Americans feel unsafe and unwanted, there are men and women in America's armed forces who won't stand for it.
"I read each and every message to her," Melissa said. "And she now understands that were all part of a fabric which is America."
Many of us understand the damage that has been done by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, FOX News, and Hate Media. You can hear the promotion of blatant racism, homophobia, misogyny and bigotry just by turning on the tv, radio or computer. Malicious lies are perpetuated until they are believed by those who have been sucked in and who now use right-wing media as their only source of 'news'. Jen Senko is a filmmaker who watched the transformation of her father as he slowly came to believe the extreme right-wing propaganda. Senko is now making a documentary about it called The Brainwashing Of My Dad. Above is the trailer, and here is a personal note Jen sent me:
"I was inspired to make this film after watching my father a non-political Democrat turn into a right-wing fanatic after a change in his car commute exposed him to reactionary shows on talk radio. The changes in his behavior drove me to research the changes in the media over the last 30 years and the effect of those changes on the country was indisputable. As the media have been co-opted more and more by special interests, documentarians have become the new journalists. My hope is that after seeing my film, people will question what the media tells them, and will insist on laws that would hold them accountable."
More about The Brainwashing of My Dad: The truth behind the right-wing media machine that changed a father and the nation:
When the filmmaker's parents moved to a place where her father had a long solo commute to work and started listening to talk radio to alleviate the boredom, her family saw him change from a non-political Democrat to a radicalized, angry right-wing Republican. This begged the question: What happened to Dad? As filmmaker, Jen Senko, tries to understand the transformation of her father, she uncovers the forces behind the media that changed him completely: a plan by Roger Ailes under Nixon for a media by the GOP, The Powell Memo and the dismantling of the Fairness Doctrine, all of which would ultimately misinform millions, divide families and even the country itself. Remember when Hillary Clinton got pilloried for blaming a vast right-wing conspiracy for the relentless attacks against her husband? Maybe you werent around then. Well, she said it. Some thought shed gone off the deep-end. We all know that conspiracies mean that you think that we really didnt land a man on the moon, or that Bigfoot stalks the North, or aliens abduct certain people and experiment on them. But really, was Hillary right? If you think about it, the country has changed dramatically within the last 30 years. During the 1960s and 70s America was moving in a much more socially minded direction. One could say, liberal. Then, slowly the country began to shift. What was once considered right is now center-left. It cant be denied that corporations play an ever-increasing role in every facet of our government and the media has been instrumental in this development. We are now so divided that the Left will argue that President Obama is to the right of Reagan while the Right labels him a Socialist. How did that happen? This documentary will look at the changes that happened to a dad (and many others dads or beloved relative) when he changed his media habits. Then we look at how the media itself changed and the effect it had on our country. The media has a powerful influence on the American mind so much so that one could argue: if you control the Media, you control the American Mind.
Here are some media commentaries by a few of the extraordinary minds they have interviewed so far:
Noam Chomsky 1:10
Johnny E. Williams 1:03
Edward S. Herman 1:06
Note from Jen:
We want you to join us in our endeavor to get the truth out there! Many thanks. We love you!"
Thank you, Jen Senko. We love you too. Special thanks to
Freya Malin. Besides supporting Jen Senko's documentary,
another ways to get involved in the fight against hate radio
include joining the StopRush movement via:
In the heat of our political moment, we sometimes dont see how our future connects deeply to our past. But the Christian Right does and they do not like what they see.
The Christian Right has made religious freedom the ideological phalanx of its current campaigns in the culture wars. Religious freedom is now invoked as a way of seeking to derail access to reproductive health services as well as equality for LGBTQ people, most prominently regarding marriage equality.
But history provides little comfort for the theocratic visions of the Christian Right. And that is where our story begins.
For all of the shouting about religious liberty from the landmark Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case, to the passage of the anti-gay Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Mississippi, and more there is barely any mention, let alone any observance, of the official national Religious Freedom Day, enacted by Congress in 1992 and recognized every January 16 by an annual presidential proclamation.
The day commemorates the enactment of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786.
Why is this seemingly obscure piece of Revolutionary-era legislation so vital? And why doesnt the Christian Right want you to know anything about it?
The bill, authored by Thomas Jefferson and later pushed through the state legislature by then member of the House of Delegates, James Madison, is regarded as the root of how the framers of the Constitution approached matters of religion and government, and it was as revolutionary as the era in which it was written.
It not only disestablished the Anglican Church as the official state church, but it provided that no one can be compelled to attend any religious institution or to underwrite it with taxes; that individuals are free to believe as they will and that this shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
As a practical matter, this meant that what we believe or dont believe is not the concern of government and that we are all equal as citizens.
Following the dramatic passage of the Statute in 1786, Madison traveled to Philadelphia, where he served as a principal author of the Constitution in 1787. As a Member of Congress in 1789 he was also a principal author of the First Amendment, which passed in 1791.
Jefferson was well aware that many did not like the Statute, just as they did not like the Constitution and the First Amendment, both of which sought to expand the rights of citizens and deflect claims of churches seeking special consideration.
So before his death, Jefferson sought to get the last word on what it meant. The Statute, he wrote, contained within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohametan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.
That is a powerful and clear statement. Jefferson, almost 200 years ago, refuted the contemporary claims of Christian Right leaders, many of whom not only insist that America was founded as a Christian nation, but that the framers really meant their particular interpretation of Christianity. (And they are sometimes encouraged by a surprisingly wide array of pundits.)
Jefferson further explained that the legislature had specifically rejected proposed language that would have described Jesus Christ as the holy author of our religion. This was rejected, he reported, by the great majority.
No wonder the Christian Right does not want us to remember the original Statute for Religious Freedom it doesnt fit their narrative of history! Nor does it justify their vision of the struggles of the political present, or the shining theocratic future they envision.
Religious Freedom Day is nothing but bad news for the likes of Religious Right leaders like Tony Perkins, who argue that Christians who favor marriage equality are not really Christians. They can believe that if they want, but it can make no difference in the eyes of the law. That is probably why on Religious Freedom Day 2014, Perkins made no mention of what Religious Freedom Day is really about instead using the occasion to denounce president Obamas approach to religious liberty abroad.
This barely commemorated day provides an opportunity for LGBTQ people, and progressives generally, to reclaim a philosophical, legal and constitutional legacy that the Christian Right is busy trying to redefine for their own purposes.
Alright. So the Christian Right really does not want us to know about this day, but if we do, they certainly don't want us thinking about this stuff -- and so the standard fare of faux outrage about president Obama and various conspiracies against faith in general and conservative Christianity in general is likely to dominate our foreseeable future.
But it doesn't have to be this way. And the Christian Right probably knows it.
When I say that the Christian Right does not want us to think about it, I mean everyone who is not the Christian Right and their allies, and especially not LGBTQ people and the otherwise insufficiently Christian. I think that is why the Christian Right is mostly so eerily quiet about it, even though religious freedom is so central to their political program.
But what if we did?
What if we seized this day to think dynamically about the religious freedoms we take for granted at our peril; freedom that is in danger of being redefined beyond recognition. What if we decided to seize this day to consider our best values as a nation and advance the cause of equal rights for all?
If we did, we might begin by recalling the extraordinary challenge faced by the framers of the Constitution when they gathered in Philadelphia. They met to create one nation out of 13 fractious colonies still finding their way after a successful revolt against the British Empire; and contending with a number of powerful and well-established state churches and a growing and religiously diverse population.
Their answer? Religious equality. And it is rooted in Jeffersons bill. Let's remind ourselves about the origins of the bill.
Jefferson wrote the first draft in 1777 just after having authored the Declaration of Independence in 1776. And it was James Madison who finally got the legislation passed through the Virginia legislature in 1786, just months before he traveled to Philadelphia to be a principal author of the Constitution. The Virginia Statute states that no one can be compelled to attend or support any religious institution, or otherwise be restrained in their beliefs, and that this shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities . . .
The Constitution, framed according to The Virginia Plan, drafted primarily by Madison, contains no mention of God or Christianity. In fact, the final texts only mention of religion is in the proscription of religious tests for public office, found in Article 6.
In other words Jeffersons words ones religious identity, or lack thereof, has no bearing on ones civil capacities.
If we thought about the meaning of Religious Freedom Day, we might start thinking about things like that and not capitulate to the Christian Rights effort to redefine religious freedom to include a license for business and institutional leaders (both government and civil) to impose their religious beliefs on employees and the public.
If we thought about things like that, then we might consider them in light of a host of initiatives in recent years, often advanced under the banner of religious freedom, but which, in fact, restrict the religious freedom of others.
We might consider, for example, the recent federal court decisionin the case of General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper, which found that North Carolinas ban on clergy performing marriage ceremonies without first obtaining a civil marriage license, was unconstitutional.
Since state law declared that same-sex couples could not get marriage licenses, this subjected clergy in the United Church of Christ, the Alliance of Baptists, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, among others, to potential prosecution for performing a religious ceremony.
As religious equality advances, so does equal rights for all. So you can see why the Christian Right might not want peoplepeople like usthinking like Jefferson. And that is why we must.
Religious Freedom Day was the brainchild of some of the town fathers and mothers of Richmond, Virginia, who have since created a museum dedicated to education about the Virginia Statute (PDF).
But we need more than a museum to breathe more life and liberty into the living Constitution. Not much goes on around the country on Religious Freedom Day, January 16th.
There is no time like the present to seize this day.
This post is adapted from two recent columns at LGBTQ Nation, and is crossposted from Talk to Action.
UPDATE There has been some understandable confusion about one important point. I have written elsewhere that the web site ReligiousFreedomDay.com, which comes up first in a Google search for Religious Freedom Day is not what it seems. The group behind it is a small California evangelical Christian Right agency called Gateways to Better Education, headed by longtime activist, Eric Buehrer. This group is part of a wider movement with a long history of efforts to hijack, or compromise, public schools in order to promote its religious views and to evangelize children. (This is detailed in The Good News Club: The Christian Rights Stealth Assault on Americas Children, by Katherine Stewart.)
Gateways is unambiguous about its intentions:
Gateways to Better Education is a nonprofit
organization founded in 1991 to help public schools teach
about the important contribution the Bible and Christianity
make to the world. They insist that Religious
Freedom Day is not celebrate-our-diversity
Dont expect much from Congress in 2016. Dont take it from me. Take it from the Republicans who control what Congress does: Dont expect much. They have their reasons:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) says he wants to continue finding agreements where he can, but he is making clear the chambers agenda will be driven partly by his members political needs.
What we decide to allocate floor time to in the Senate, to be quite candid with you, is going to be to some extent dictated by concerns I have about places like New Hampshire and Pennsylvania and Ohio and Wisconsin and Illinois, Mr. McConnell said in an interview Thursday, referring to states with competitive Senate races.
At least hes honest. Not that we can expect most reporters to remember this quote when McConnell and the Senate Republicans bring up nakedly partisan bills intended to boost the chances of those Republican senators facing tough races, or when talking about why Congress is so useless.
Of course, if you were expecting a lot from Congress in
2016, I have some bad news about Santa Claus and the Tooth
Editor: Leader of the Senate
vows to offer an eighth year of inaction on job development,
infrastructure improvements. Image what will happen if the
Republicans take control of the presidency too. Alllow
massive cuts on taxes for the wealthy, putting an end to
many over-site sections of government which have protected
people's health and safety will be turned over to private
corporation to determine what is safe and what is not.
Historic examples - cigarettes, DDT, ____, increasing
arsenic levels in drinking water, raped underaged girl will
be forced to have and raise the rapists child with little or
no assistance from the government and very little if any
support from the religious community that encouraged the
After productivity and compromise on some key issues in 2015, Republican leaders in Congress are sending a message about next year: Dont expect us to replicate it.
Lawmakers this year agreed to a $1.15 trillion bill to fund the government through September and reached major, unexpected deals with the White House on education, highways, trade and a bundle of other issues.
But they are already setting lower goals so they can
spend more tax payer money on their election campaigns.
Three Republican candidates speak at
anti-gay pastor's rally
Hijacking of the Term Religious Liberty for
We did not talk about religious liberty like this until 1993, when the statutory religious liberty regime descended on America with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Before that, the First Amendments religious liberty meant that the government could not tell you what to believe; or tell a church how to organize itself; or try to run the Santerians out of town by passing a law that applied only to them. In addition, it was never a license to violate laws that undermine complex governing systems, like the tax system or for courts to act as experts on the military, or know-it-alls on prison regulations. It meant that Adell Sherbert could not be denied unemployment compensation for going to church when other employees could take time off without such a penalty, but that drug counselors could not use illegal drugs, even if in a religious ceremony, where that was a requirement for their jobs. Neither could a man take multiple wives even if for religious purposes, nor a religious organization order the government how to handle its own land.
Constitutional Religious Liberty
Each of these Supreme Court rulings was drawn from the sensible balance that the founding generation built into the first state constitutions, which created a right to religious liberty so long as it did not violate peace and safety, while at the same time forbidding licentiousness in the name of religion. They fundamentally understood the necessity of liberty and the need to place limits on it. What do we call a country with too much religious liberty? A tyranny of establishment, say like Iran or the traveling country that is ISIS. Or if you prefer a Western example, there was too much religious liberty at the Tower of London and in the Salem witch trials. The Supreme Courts First Amendment jurisprudence reflected this crucial balance between liberty and license.
But the First Amendment rulings are also much more, because constitution-based religious liberty is situated in the larger Constitution. For example, when the federal courts interpret the First Amendments Free Exercise Clause, they must also take into account the separation of powers, which has meant that in the First Amendment religious liberty cases, judges exhibited a healthy humility for their role vis-à-vis legislatures and the executive. That explains some of the wisest decisions, like the Courts rejection of a right of soldiers to determine their headgear by faith in Goldman v. Weinberger, but also Congresss subsequent willingness to then expand opportunities for religious headgear. Under the Constitution, federal judges must, if they can, also avoid a constitutional ruling that would invalidate a lawout of respect for their fellow branches. Courts are part of a system of checks and balances, and mutual respect is demanded when constitutional rights are at stake.
Statutory Religious Liberty
That is not so when Congress makes up religious liberty as it did with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993 and then again in 2000. With statutory religious liberty, the built-in limitations on judicial activism in the Constitution melt away. RFRA instructs courts to throw caution to the wind and re-draft the legislation at issue to create a cozy cocoon around a single believer, with no reference to the institutional competence of a court to do so, and no concern for those who will be harmed when the believer breaks out of the cocoon to do whatever his or her beliefs demand.
Statutory religious liberty has led to the effective overruling of constitutional religious liberty decisions: believers have the right to carve out their own exemptions from complex national schemes, like national healthcare, and courts are now experts on military headgear, and know-it-alls on prison security.
In short, the term religious liberty has been bastardized. It simply does not mean the same thing in the constitutional and statutory contexts. It should come as no surprise that when Congress spawned religious liberty, it was a political tool, politically motivated, and sure to invite political discord without reference to constitutional principles that would otherwise wrap religious liberty into our republican form of government. When religious liberty became political tinder, it was debased and divorced from a balance between liberty and licentiousness and transformed into a ticket for courts to be super legislators and the believer to do whatever the believer wants. In other words, constitutional religious liberty requires consideration of all elements of the polity; statutory religious liberty is a prescription for self-aggrandizement whether judge or believer.
Thus, there is constitutional religious liberty that was in place until 1990 and which yielded remarkable peace and responsibility between believers and their society. And there is the statutory religious liberty post-1990 that tells believers to run over any law contrary to their belief.
Journalists Need to Be More Precise Even If Politicians Will Not Be
One cannot expect politicians to play fair with such intoxicating verbiage. Ahhmy fellow Americans, I will give you religious liberty!!!
Yet, journalists (including bloggers) have an obligation to the public to be accurate. Religious liberty is now an opaque termoften used to mislead as much as to illuminate. Compound terms are now needed for accuracy. There is constitutional religious liberty and there is statutory religious liberty. And, editors, please do not falsify the terms by insisting on what the lowest common denominator will understand. It is your job to educate as well as to report. So enough of letting candidates and public relations spinmeisters for the religious organizations spout religious liberty as the all-good that is a central part of our constitutional heritage. More often than not today, politicians are extolling statutory religious liberty but acting like it is constitutionally required and worthy of the reverence we should have for the First Amendment. For example, Scott Walker states: Americans deserve a President who will fight and win for them. Someone who will stand up for the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Someone who will stand up for our religious rights and all of our other Constitutional rights. This is political bait and switch with the term religious liberty.
Tell it like it is: statutory religious liberty is all
about political one-upmanship and gaining an advantage over
policy via ones beliefs. Constitutional religious
liberty is about the sane and peaceful operation of a
gloriously diverse representative democracy where believers,
yes, even believers, have obligations to not harm others. To
summarize, statutory religious liberty is not and never has
been constitutional religious liberty.
Over the past year, petrochemical billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have gone to great pains to change their public image and sell themselves as social moderates who dont want the federal government in your pocketbook or in your bedroom.
But IRS filings released on Tuesday by Freedom Partners, the Kochs secretive tax-exempt organization that serves as the ATM for their anti-government activism, show they also continued to help distribute millions of dollars to anti-choice and anti-gay organizations in 2014.
Last December, ABCs Barbara Walters interviewed David Koch and noted that he was not well-liked, primarily because of [his] very conservative politics. She asked him why a supporter of LGBT equality and abortion rights supports social conservatives. Koch, not disputing her characterization of his own public standing, responded, Well thats their problem. I do have those views I want these candidates to support a balanced budget. Im very worried that if the budget is not balanced, inflation could occur and the economy of our country could suffer terribly.
Earlier this year, Politico Magazine suggested Charles Koch night now be labeled a liberal crusader, based on his work on criminal justice reform, including a partnership with the Center for American Progress (ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news site associated within CAP). After he and his wife hosted MSNBCs Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough at a closed-to-the-public GOP candidate forum, the former Republican Congressman raved that the Kochs were mainstream social moderates with little patience for those who want huge bloody battles on social issues.
On its own website, Freedom Partners reprints a USA Today article that identifies the 501(c)(6) organization (curiously registered under the section of the tax code for chambers of commerce and similar groups) as the center of the Kochs expansive operation. Politico called it the Koch Brothers secret bank, though as the group does not disclose its donors, it is unclear how much of its hundreds of millions came from the Kochs themselves.
Where did the money go? In addition to going to an array of other Koch network groups like Americans for Prosperity ($16 million), Generation Opportunity (more than $14 million), and the Libre Initiative ($6.5 million), a good chunk of it went to the very anti-LGBT and anti-abortion groups from which the duo has sought to disassociate themselves.
Freedom Partners gave $5,745,000 to Evangchr4 Trust, a Koch-tied Evangelical Christian pastoral outreach organization that itself gave more than $1.3 million in 2013 to Focus on the Familys CitizenLink and $375,000 to the anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council Action.
The group also gave $885,000 for advocacy and another $125,000 for general support directly to CitizenLink which describes itself as deeply concerned about the hearts and souls of those who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.' It also sent $225,000 to Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion and anti-contraception organization, and $150,000 to Heritage Action for America.
Freedom Partners reported giving $0 to socially
progressive organizations in 2014.
After winning two elections - with the two highest vote totals in American history - and after dealing with almost eight years of racist insults, mindless obstruction, reckless brinksmanship and brain dead republibaggerservative conspiracy theories, President Obama is quite apparently fresh out of phucks to give. I generally find this to be quite refreshing.
Assuming that the tweeted message is indeed genuine and
not merely something that we WISH the President would say, I
say "Kudos Mr. President for your candor, but I would rather
we let him win the nomination before we blast him with that
which has already become so obvious.
Editor's note: The media should
identify the religion of all school and abortion clinic
shooters and repeat it in every up-date they make. Let's
identify and recognize the fundamentalist terrorists we have
that were born right here in the U.S.A. of generally white,
Christian parents. - Gordon Clay
We often get upset at Fox News viewers for the alternate state of reality they generally live in. We shouldnt be. It is our civic duty to first understand how it is possible for them to see the world so differently than those who accept information from various sources.
The video below is a classic example of how Fox News encourages one to allow themselves to be willfully ignorant. This is not restricted to conservative right-wing people, but to us all. To be clear, many Americans do very little reading of consequence and get most of their information from the mainstream broadcast media or the right-wing broadcast media like Fox News.
If many get their information from broadcast media, it is evident that the reliability or truthfulness of said media will determine their beliefs and to some extent their thought process. The mainstream and right-wing media are both very poor at providing thoughtful information one can use deliberately to come to sensible conclusions. There is, however, a difference. While the mainstream media is shallow and sometimes allows others to spread misinformation by fiat through their channels, Fox News simply lies in order keep their viewers ignorant.
In the video above, Geraldo Rivera makes the case that inasmuch as the leaders from around the world are concerned with climate change, the immediate concern for many European leaders is security. Steve Doocy calmly, artfully, and assertively states the lie that temperatures on the planet have either stabilized or have gone down. He then states climate change is not one of the biggest concerns for Americans.
Geraldo challenged the lie by pointing out that 2015 has been the hottest year and that nine out of the last 10 years have been the hottest. Doocy attempts to argue and Geraldo then says he simply would not argue the pojnt.
Those acclimated to Fox News are likely to accept Doocys numbers. Sadly, near the end of the segment Brian Kilmeade came in and stated again that polls indicate Americans are unconcerned with climate change. He then said even England is pulling out of activities to mitigate climate change. Kilmeade then says he hopes the president does not come back from the climate summit and attempt to force an executive order on climate change down Americans throat.
The segment inevitably did what it needed to do. It made
the Fox News viewer comfortable that climate change is not
really occurring. Temperatures have stabilized, and even our
ally England, another country like ours, does not see
climate change as a problem. When the president signs any
executive order, Fox News viewers will be predisposed to
oppose based on artful lies.
Let's face it: you already know all the basic info about Donald Trump. He's a business magnate worth billions. He's the star of NBC's "The Apprentice." And yes, he's running for president.
So let's put the simple facts aside and get to the good stuff the details most people don't know. At InsideGov, we scoured past Trump interviews, business records and campaign finance data from the Federal Election Commission to pull out 25 facts sure to turn heads, raise eyebrows and drop jaws.
We love data, so we've stuck to raw numbers: every fact on this list is expressed in the form of a numeral. We also ordered the stats from least (0) to greatest ($8.7 billion) because, well, we're geeks.
0 Alcoholic Drinks
Despite his lavish lifestyle, The Donald has never had an alcoholic drink, a decision influenced in part by his brother's (eventually fatal) battle with alcoholism.
Mr. Trump has had three wives, more than any other 2016 candidate. These women include Ivana (Czech-American athlete and fashion model), Marla Maples (television actress) and current spouse, Melania (jewelry designer and former model).
4 Casinos Gone Bankrupt
Trump has seen four casinos go bankrupt, a fact that debate moderators love to bring up. Nevertheless, Trump has emerged largely unscathed, thanks in part to tax and bankruptcy loopholes.
6 Feet, 2 Inches
Donald Trump's height, according to most celebrity magazines.
6 Feet, 3 Inches
Donald Trump's height, according to Donald Trump.
Trump's fundraising rank compared to all other 2016 candidates. Consider that Gov. Jeb Bush has raised 25 times as much money, and yet Trump continues to poll three times better than the Florida governor.
16 Golf Courses
The number of Trump-owned courses listed on Trump's official website.
... in "Trump Palace," The Donald's Palm Beach, Fla., mansion.
The lowest Trump has been in the national polls since August, based on the RealClearPolitics polling average. Other than Dr. Ben Carson, no other GOP candidate has come within five points of Trump, even at his lowest.
The cost of an in-room water bottle at Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago. And you thought the minibar was expensive.
The cost of Trump Vodka ... if you can find it. The brand was discontinued in 2011 following poor sales. (Editor: Is this a mini bottle?)
The percentage of Trump campaign contributions coming from small donations (less than $200). Small donations are often a sign of grassroots support from everyday voters. Compare Trump's figure to Bush's 3 percent.
The height of Trump Tower in Chicago. Some have called it the tallest residential building in the world, though technically, the building doesn't qualify, as it houses both apartment and hotel tenants.
... than the next wealthiest 2016 candidate, Carly Fiorina. Note that the estimates here are based on the candidates' own claims
Length of the yacht Trump had to sell in the early '90s. The businessman had to pay off a giant American Express debt, and the yacht provided the cash.
Average number of Trump tweets per month. That's a little more than 12 tweets per day about three times as much as the average active Twitter user.
... to be added to Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Trump earned his star for his starring role on "The Apprentice."
The number of apartments Trump owned at age 27, when he was running the Trump Management Corporation.
The average number of new Twitter followers Trump gains in a month.
Trump's rumored per show earnings on "The Apprentice." (Some reports point as high as $3 million per episode.)
The approximate number of Twitter followers Trump will have by the end of 2015.
The smallest denomination of money in Trump: The Board Game. The 1989 game was loosely styled after Monopoly, though Trump discontinued production shortly after launch due to poor sales.
The amount of spendable money (i.e. liquid assets) Trump makes in a year, according to Trump. He reported the figure while appearing on "Hannity."
Trump's estimated net worth, according to Forbes magazine's team of researchers
Trump's net worth, according to Trump himself. Note that
Trump later revised this estimate to "well over $10
billion," citing fluctuations in the stock market. Forbes'
take? A "100% exaggeration."
Coming into this presidential primary season, it seemed as though former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would have little to no resistance in securing the Democratic Party nomination. However, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has come out of nowhere to challenge Clinton with a staunch support base that's even created a line of underwear sporting his adopted campaign motto: "Feel the Bern."
Well, it at least feels like Sanders has come out of nowhere. Truth be told, he's served at nearly every level of government, and has been involved in public policy dating back to his college days.
InsideGov dug through Sanders' history and found 24 facts about him and his 2016 presidential campaign that every Democrat should know before heading into the primary season. And who knows maybe Republicans should bone up on their Bernie knowledge, too. It's not as if Clinton hasn't faltered in the primary race before.
24. Sanders has more grassroots supporters than Obama had in 2008.
By the end of September 2015, 650,000 U.S. citizens contributed to Sanders' campaign. That's almost double the amount that President Obama had at that point in 2007, prior to his White House win.
23.Sanders wants to tax carbon.
"Averting a planetary disaster will require a major reduction in the burning of coal, oil, and other fossil fuels," Sanders wrote in a 2014 piece for the Huffington Post. Sanders opined that a carbon tax is "the most straightforward and efficient strategy for quickly reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
22. Sanders would be the oldest president ever elected.
Sanders will be 75 by November 2016. The oldest president to win a four-year term is former President Ronald Reagan, who was 73 when he was elected to his second term in 1984.
Incidentally, Hillary Clinton will be 69 on the day of the general election. Only Reagan was older when he was first elected
21 Sanders would be the first Jewish president in U.S. history.
There has never been a Jewish vice president, either. The first Jewish candidate to appear on a major American political party presidential ticket was Joe Lieberman, who ran as Al Gore's vice president in 2000.
20. Sanders was a sloppy student.
The dean at the University of Chicago, where Sanders attended for his undergraduate studies, once asked Sanders to take off a year after his grades slipped.
19. Sanders ranks second in overall campaign fundraising...
As of Oct. 15, 2015, Sanders ranks second in total fundraising and fourth in campaign spending. His campaign has over $27 million cash on hand.
Like many of the pacesetters in this cycle's presidential race, you either love her or you hate her. Hillary Clinton, the leading hopeful for the Democratic nomination, has an extensive résumé that encompasses a tenure as the U.S. secretary of State, a senator representing New York, and the first lady of both the United States and Arkansas.
Hillary has domestic and foreign policy exposure both first hand and from the sidelines. Even her background as a lawyer mirrors 60 percent of the elected presidents before her.
Whether her vote is already yours, you're on the fence or you're a passionate opposer, here are 25 facts about the frontrunner that you might not yet know.
At the ages of 13 and 27, then-Hillary Rodham applied for and was rejected for two roles. At 13, she wrote NASA requesting to be accepted into its astronaut program. She was rejected due to her gender. At 27, she tried to join the Marines, but was allegedly rejected for being a woman, having poor vision and being too old.
The Washington Post reported that the formerly known Hillary Rodham, Hillary Rodham Clinton and even HRC will now be known simply as Hillary Clinton.
This is the latest update to Hillary's sometimes controversial and complicated relationship with her maiden name.
Hillary Clinton has written five books. She's had twice as many written about her from a generally positive stance. However, even more books have been written about her with a negative or neutral perspective.
5 Feet, 7 Inches
As one of the shorter presidential hopefuls this cycle, Hillary Clinton measures in at 5' 7'' without heels.
Her height puts her right on par with Republican hopeful Lindsey Graham and an inch taller than GOP candidate Carly Fiorina.
While the Clintons didn't always vacation as lavishly as they do now, they reportedly do their R&R at a seven-bedroom beachfront home in the Hamptons.
According to the Huffington Post, Hillary hasn't driven a car since 1996. Babies born that year were eligible to drive three years ago.
Of her 2,904 tweets, Hillary Clinton's official handle (@HillaryClinton) has mentioned @HillaryforIA the most times of any state-focused campaign handle. Iowa plays a key role in the presidential nominating process.
As of publication, Hillary Clinton polls at 58.5 percent among Democrats. Across all current candidates, Clinton has the highest polling percentage.
68 Years Old
Born on Oct. 26, 1947, Hillary Clinton is 68 years old. She was born in Chicago.
Not to be confused with the number of countries she visited as secretary of State, Hillary Clinton traveled to 79 countries during her time as first lady. At the time, this was the most visits, surpassing the previous record set by Pat Nixon.
That's the percentage of contributions to Hillary Clinton's official campaign committee that come from individual donors giving at least $200 each totaling $62,785,473 to date, according to data from the Federal Election Commission. Just 17 percent of contributions to her campaign committee come from small donors.
Many remember Hillary Clinton's defeat to now-President Obama. What might be forgotten is how close she was to nabbing the nomination. In 2008, Clinton fell shy of President Obama by just 103 delegates.
When she graduated from Wellesley College in 1969, Hillary Clinton was the first student to ever give the commencement address in its 91 years. She proceeded to call out Sen. Edward Brooke, R-Mass., protesting his preceding address, acknowledging there is a gap between expectations and reality that politicians often cover up.
980 Square Feet
While former President Bill Clinton was serving as Arkansas' Attorney General, he and Hillary lived in a 980-square-foot home in the Hillcrest neighborhood of Little Rock, Ark.
Understandably, moving to the White House 12 years later was a big upgrade. The White House offers its inhabitants an impressive 54,900 square feet.
Hillary Clinton sold 23,015 copies of her 2014 book "Hard Choices"... per week.
It ranked as the No. 1 political book of 2014, totaling 217,000 copies sold by August of that year.
A more-recent scandal under her belt, Hillary Clinton's email controversy was deemed "the vampire" of her campaign by Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif.
In total, 30,490 emails were sent and received by Clinton from her personal email address between the dates of March 18, 2009, and Feb. 1, 2013. These were handed over to the State Department for investigation in late 2014.
Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds. - Henry Brooks Adams
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