Tag Archives: Founding Fathers

Founders’ ideal is trashed

Our nation’s founders had this glorious idea when they created an independent state in the New World that there ought to be three co-equal branches of government, with one of those branches — the judiciary — set aside to be free of political pressure.

The other two — the executive and legislative branches — would be wholly political, they reckoned.

It is a sad thing to acknowledge that the federal judiciary has become a political tool of the forces that seek to determine who sits in judgment on matters brought before the courts.

We are witnessing play out yet again with President Biden’s decision to nominate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to a spot on the nation’s Supreme Court. She is eminently qualified to serve on the court. Her stellar legal background and her educational chops ought to be sufficient to guarantee that the Senate would confirm her.

That isn’t the case. She was pilloried and pounded during her 19 hours of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senators — those of the Republican ilk — chose to demonize her over her duties as a federal public defender. They criticized her sentencing practices, of course taking most of it out of context.

You can spare me the “what about-ism” involving Republican-appointed judicial nominees getting roughed up during their Senate confirmation hearings. I am well aware of what happened in the past. I am not going to give anyone a pass based on recent political history for the treatment that was leveled at Judge Jackson.

My concern is that the founders’ notion of lifting the federal judiciary out of the political sewer has been flushed away. They intended the federal bench to be free of politics by establishing lifetime appointments to the federal bench. Gosh, it seems to me at this moment that the lifetime appointment provision only has worsened the politicization.

I am left merely to lament the grievous wound that has been inflicted on the founders’ ideal when they established this great nation. I’ll just hope for all it’s worth that the wound isn’t mortal.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Faith wavers, however …

My faith in this country’s democratic fabric is beginning to stumble, stagger and is wavering in light of what might lie ahead as we slog through the midterm election and then approach the 2024 presidential election.

I keep hearing dire predictions of democratic doom if Donald J. Trump gets nominated by the Republican Party in 2024 and then wins the presidency; FYI, it pains me greatly just typing those words at the front end of this sentence.

I am not going to predict that Trump will be the GOP nominee, let alone be elected POTUS in three years.

You see, I possess a gigantic reservoir of faith in the strength of our governmental system. I will continue to cling tightly to my belief that Americans are smarter than what many of our national pundits are suggesting. The fear is being expressed from the left side of the great divide. Progressives say they are concerned that the coup attempt that failed on 1/6 could be revived if Republicans gain control of Congress after the midterm election; I believe GOP emergence is far more likely than not.

Through it all, though, my sincere hope and belief is that our democracy will find a way to emerge from the smoldering wreckage.

Let’s be clear about a thing or two. We have endured tremendous crises in our history. We fought among ourselves in a Civil War that killed 600,000-plus Americans; we emerged victorious in two bloody worldwide conflicts; we watched a president resign in disgrace just ahead of an impeachment over an extreme abuse of power and constitutional authority; we endured three more presidential impeachments, in 1998, 2020 and 2021.

I agree that the final impeachment was the direct result of a POTUS inciting an insurrection and then doing nothing to call a halt to it as rioters carrying flags with the POTUS’s name stormed the Capitol Building while seeking to halt the certification of the 2020 election results.

And we are still dealing with the fallout of that riot, which has caused those progressive pundits to express fear for the future of our democracy.

I want to stipulate once more than our nation’s founders built a government designed to withstand these challenges. Those men knew what they were doing.

I am going to place my faith in our founders’ wisdom, even as my faith is showing signs of wear and tear.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Eagle makes heroic return

(Photo by: Prisma Bildagentur/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

We have been languishing in a flood of negative news of late: the pandemic, Donald Trump’s shenanigans, economic collapse … blah, blah, blah.

I want to share a bit of seriously good cheer: the return of the bald eagle.

This is worth cheering. The nation’s proud symbol once was on the brink of extinction. Then the federal government banned the use of DDT, a powerful pesticide that had poisoned water that provided fish for the eagles to consume. The birds would feed on the poisoned fish and die from DDT-related complications.

As National Public Radio reported: Contamination from DDT, a powerful insecticide that found its way into eagles’ prey, made their eggs so fragile that they often broke while their parents incubated them.

Then came the Endangered Species Act in 1972. DDT was banned. The eagles began their comeback. The eagle population has quadrupled since 2009, according to the Interior Department.

This is a bit of a mixed blessing in one aspect. The overall bird population continues to decline. So, I am not going to offer a full-throated cheer for the eagle’s return. I remain concerned about the decline in wildlife numbers.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland calls the eagle’s comeback a “historic conservation success story.” Haaland, the first Native American appointed to a Cabinet post, said the eagle “has always been considered a sacred species to American Indian people, and similarly it’s sacred to our nation as America’s national symbol.”

Once Imperiled, America’s Bald Eagle Populations Are Soaring | 88.9 KETR

To think, also, that at the founding of this great nation, that one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, disliked naming the eagle as our national symbol; he preferred to give that designation to the turkey. What in the world was Ol’ Ben thinking?

Indeed, the phrase “soar like a turkey” just doesn’t have the same ring as “soar like an eagle.” 

The nation’s grand bird has come back. For that I want to salute not only the bird, but those in government who in 1972 had the good sense to take action to stop its senseless slaughter.

LGBT bill needs to pass

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

As someone who believes a person’s sexual orientation is delivered at birth, I am perplexed — no surprise here — at Republican opposition to a bill that grants gay people protection against losing their job because of who they love.

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a bill that prohibits discrimination against LGBT Americans. It faces an uphill climb in the Senate because Senate Republicans believe it infringes on their religious freedom.

Oh, my.

I keep asking myself when I hear this argument: What part of the term “secular document” do these folks not comprehend? Yes, the U.S. Constitution is a secular document drafted by smart men who sought to keep religion out of the nation’s governing framework. Now, I know that they also granted us all religious liberty, that we are free to worship — or not worship — as we please.

The founders also wrote into the Constitution a clause that grants “equal protection under the law” for every single American. It makes no distinction among Americans’ sexual orientation.

This is a sticky issue. I am acutely aware of the toes it steps on.

BBC reports: The act would also federally codify into law the 2020 June Supreme Court ruling that said employers who fire workers for being gay or transgender are violating civil rights law.

Advocates for the act have argued that the current “patchwork” of state anti-discrimination laws does not provide enough comprehensive protection, and leaves many LGBT individuals at risk.

More from the BBC: Before the vote, the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank said the act “would make mainstream beliefs about marriage, biological facts about sex differences, and many sincerely held beliefs punishable under the law.”

US House passes bill protecting LGBT rights (msn.com)

I have sought to make this case before, but I’ll try once again. The U.S. Constitution governs a nation founded by individuals who sought to live free of ham-handed religious dogma.

Civil rights legislation approved repeatedly over the years and affirmed by the Supreme Court has sought to ensure that all Americans enjoy the same freedom from discrimination. Shouldn’t that include LGBT Americans, too? Of course it should!

Founders are spinning

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Wherever they are, the men who formed the government that runs our beloved country surely must be so mad they could just spit.

Why? Well, they intended to create a federal judicial system that would be free of political pressure. They revealed that intent by creating judgeships that would last a lifetime. The idea was to free federal judges from political pressure by setting, say, limits on the amount of time they could serve.

It hasn’t worked out quite the way the founders intended.

We have another vacancy on our nation’s highest court and the political pressure is about the blow the roof off the Supreme Court building. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death wasn’t entirely a surprise, although it did sadden many of us … me included.

We now are going to watch a spectacle unfold in which a president with no discernable ideological base is going to nominate an arch conservative jurist to replace the progressive-leaning, trailblazing Ginsburg. The balance of power on the Supreme Court will be set for as long as the rest of the conservative majority remains seated.

Politics, anyone?

The pressure is going to go way beyond merely intense. It will become unbearable. Donald Trump promised to appoint archconservative jurists to the bench. He delivered with the appointments of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, although they haven’t voted entirely the way the Trump administration would have wanted.

Now comes the next choice. It’s going to be a woman, Trump says. I won’t speculate here on who it might be. I’ll wait for the announcement that Trump said is coming Saturday.

Just know that the political hackles are going to be flying.

Dang. I just wish the founders were around to remind us all — in person — what they intended when they wrote that Constitution.

SCOTUS provides wonderful civics lesson

Dear readers of High Plains Blogger, I am happy to report to you that our U.S. Supreme Court has issued a ruling that sparkles on a number of fronts.

It ruled 7-2 that the president of the United States is not above the law. The ruling said that Donald Trump’s financial records are open to grand jury scrutiny in Manhattan, New York City, which is examining potential criminal conduct from the president.

The ruling demonstrated the value of having an “independent federal judiciary.” Two justices who joined the majority were nominated by Donald Trump. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh sided with Justices Elana Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Chief Justice John Roberts in this seminal ruling

Why is that important? It’s because the federal judiciary has become the target of partisans who worry that the SCOTUS has tilted too far to the right, that it will bend to the will of a president who demands loyalty at all levels … even from members of the federal judiciary.

Federal judges get appointed for life. The founders intended for them to be free of political pressure. Today’s ruling suggests to me that the nation’s highest court is delivering on the founders’ promise.

It’s not clear whether the nation will see Trump’s tax returns prior to the November presidential election. That’s really not the point, as I have thought about the ruling over the past few hours. Trump will bob and weave for as long as he can to keep them out of public view.

The ruling, though, does establish a clear legal concept that presidents of the United States cannot invoke their incumbency as a shield against prosecutors.

I doubt it will prevent Donald Trump from trying every dodge he can find to keep those records out of public view.

Still, I am heartened to see the strength of an independent federal judiciary show itself in front of the nation.

May the flag fly proudly … always!

It’s time to wish us all a happy Flag Day.

We love Old Glory, the Star Spangled Banner, the Stars and Stripes.  By whatever name we call it, we cherish our national symbol.

That is the more important point I want to make with this brief blog post. It is a symbol of the nation our founders created.

Those wise men wrote our Constitution and ratified it in 1787 after winning our independence from the English crown. The flag has come to mean many things to millions upon millions of Americans then and in the two-plus centuries since that time.

What it means to me is simple, but a bit nuanced. The flag flies as a symbol of the liberties we enjoy as citizens of a great nation. Among those liberties is the right — as expressed in the very First Amendment to that Constitution — to register peaceful protest. If we don’t like what our government does for us or to us, we are able to assemble “peaceably” without recrimination.

Yep, that means no tear gas, no clubbing by cops, no handcuffs and, dare I say it, no knees pressed into the back of our necks while the police are detaining us.

We are able to speak our minds.

So, the flag is far more than a piece of cloth stitched together in red, white and blue. It is an ideal by which we live and for which we fight. The ideal is being challenged these days as the nation grapples with injustice, which it always has done.

However, the flag will continue to fly and it will continue to represent the ideals we hold dear as proud citizens of this most exceptional nation.

Kneeling is a legitimate form of peaceful, civil protest

OK, here it comes again: the discussion over whether “taking a knee” while they play the National Anthem dishonors Old Glory.

I didn’t want to re-enter this discussion, but I am going to do so anyway. I’ll just need to prepare for some blowback.

Americans are protesting today against the treatment of African-Americans by some police departments and officers. It’s been a longstanding problem that the nation has so far failed to face on a national level. The George Floyd tragedy brought it to our attention in graphic, tragic and reprehensible fashion.

You saw the former cop kneeling on Floyd’s neck, snuffing the life out of him. Now we have re-ignited the discussion of whether professional athletes have dishonored Old Glory when they take a bended knee while they play the National Anthem.

No. The flag is not dishonored.

What does the kneeling represent? It represents a form of civil protest against certain practices and policies enacted by law enforcement agencies. The demonstration against those policies is, at its very essence, the basis for the founding of this great nation and the flag that flies over government buildings.

The nation was built by men who protested religious oppression. They created a governing document that laid out certain civil liberties in the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The first of those amendments addresses several key provisions: Congress shall make no law that establishes a state religion or interferes with a free press or prohibits the right of citizens to speak freely and to seek “redress” of grievances against the government.

Is that clear enough? It is to me.

Kneeling during the playing of the Anthem speaks against policies that many of us find objectionable. It is in no way a statement of disrespect to the flag, to the nation, to the men and women who fight to preserve our freedoms, or to those who serve the public.

Yet this form of civil protest has been perverted into something unrecognizable to the men who sought to make a hallmark of the government they created.

It all started when a pro football player took a knee to protest. Donald Trump called him and other pro athletes “sons of bitches.” He said they should be tossed aside, ignored, punished for their alleged disrespect of the flag. That is as shallow and idiotic a response as I can imagine.

Here’s my request: If we disagree with the method some folks use to protest a public policy, then focus the disagreement on the act itself … and stay far away from suggesting it disrespects or dishonors the principles on which the founders created this country.

Good heavens! Taking a knee in peaceful protest is the embodiment of what the founders intended!

GOP chatter … then silence

I keep hearing snippets of encouraging news from inside the Republican caucus in both chambers of Congress … which is that GOP members are finally beginning to get fed up with Donald John Trump’s behavior as president of the United States.

The latest bit of chatter involves U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a longtime champion of government accountability and of the watchdog program set up to help sniff out corruption in government.

He’s angry, reportedly, that Trump has let so many inspectors go. He wants the IGs on the job rooting out wrongdoing.

But then … what does he do to hold Trump even more accountable? What does he do to ensure that Trump doesn’t continue his frontal assault on government accountability and transparency?

Nothing, man!

The nation’s founders established co-equal branches of government. They intended to limit executive authority, along with limiting congressional and judicial authority. Donald Trump is running roughshod over the founders’ intent. Meanwhile, those congressional Republicans who should be fighting fiercely to protect their constitutional authority become subservient to the Imbecile in Chief.

I probably shouldn’t worry too much about what the GOP political leadership is going to do about Donald Trump. His future likely rests in the hands of voters who will decide this November whether to keep him on the job for another four years. Oh, how I hope voters have the good sense to turn away from the bad sense they exhibited four years earlier by electing this clown in the first place.

If only that Republican leadership that occasionally bristles at Trump’s power grabs, his ignorance and his arrogance would act on what they see right along with the rest of us.

It is that the president of the United States is a danger to the nation he swore an oath to protect.

I believe the learned professor is wrong about abuse of power

At the risk of wading into an argument over an issue that ought to be way above my skill level, I want to take issue with a learned law professor’s assertion that “abuse of power” is not an impeachable offense.

With all due respect to the great Alan Dershowitz, it is my considered opinion that presidents of the United States can be impeached over abusing the awesome power of their exalted office.

Dershowitz is going to argue next week in the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump that the Constitution shouldn’t be subjected to this action on the basis of what the House of Representatives has decided. The House impeached Trump on two counts: obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.

The abuse occurred, according to the articles of impeachment, when Trump asked Ukraine for a political favor; he wanted the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and, in effect, interfere in the 2020 election because Joe Biden is a possible opponent of Trump. He then withheld military aid to Ukraine, which the Government Accounting Office has said is in violation of the law.

My goodness. If that isn’t an abuse of power, then the term has no meaning.

My reading of the Constitution, which I’ve been doing a lot of lately, tells me the founders were deliberately vague on what constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Dershowitz seems to suggest that because abuse of power does not fall into a category of a criminal offense, that it doesn’t quality as an impeachable offense. Other scholars have argued that the founders hadn’t yet established any statutes when they wrote the impeachment clause into the Constitution. Therefore, those offenses could be interpreted broadly.

I’ll go with them and not with Dershowitz.

I am not going to say the Harvard law professor emeritus is a dummy. Far from it. I just believe he has concocted a standard that I don’t think exists in the U.S. Constitution.

Of course, this is an academic exercise anyhow, given the Senate’s likely disposition to avoid convicting Trump of what I believe is a “high crime and misdemeanor.” The GOP-led Senate is more prone to protect the president than the document they all took an oath to “protect and defend.”