Tag Archives: Founding Fathers

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.”

Acquittal doesn’t necessarily mean exoneration

Given what most of us out here in Flyover Country expect will happen — that the U.S. Senate won’t kick Donald Trump out of office — I want to offer a word of warning to fellow news junkies as to what we’re likely to hear from the president of the United States.

He will shout, scream and holler that the Senate has “exonerated!” him. He will declare that the Senate’s failure to clear the very high — justifiably so — bar set by the nation’s founders means that his impeachment was based on nothing at all.

That’s not how many of us see it.

The House of Representatives impeached Trump on allegations that he abused the power of his office and that he obstructed Congress. They made the case in convincing fashion; their evidence is enough to warrant his removal from office … in my view.

Trump sought political help from a foreign government and withheld military aid to that government until it provided a “favor, though” to him and his re-election team. He has instructed his staff to ignore congressional subpoenas. Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress? Done deal, man. Again, that’s my view.

The Senate won’t find 67 votes to convict Trump. So, he’s likely to say the Senate has “exonerated” him. No. It won’t. His expected acquittal only will signify that an insufficient number of senators saw fit to convict Trump of what I believe are impeachable offenses.

We need to hear from witnesses in this Senate trial. Yes, even if they are provide evidence that clears Trump of wrongdoing. Trump is fighting that idea, which tells me he is hiding something. Someone deserving of “exoneration” doesn’t go to Trump’s lengths to keep witnesses from testifying. Am I right?

The trial begins next week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has named the “managers” who will prosecute this matter on behalf of the House. Senators will sit quietly in the chamber and listen to what everyone has to say.

Then they will vote. Trump will escape with a narrowly defined acquittal. He’ll holler he was “exonerated!”

The irony? That false claim will be yet another Donald Trump lie.

Oh, the irony of Gov. Abbott’s refugee rejection

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, along with other governors, had the opportunity to “opt in” on an executive order issued by Donald Trump to allow refugees into our state.

He chose to opt out. Gov. Abbott has slammed the door on individuals and families who, by definition, are seeking refuge in Texas as they flee repression, violence, crime, corruption and physical harm in their home country.

I am trying to wrap my noodle around this decision. I am left only to ponder the profound irony of Abbott’s decision, making Texas the first state to opt out of Trump’s executive order.

The irony? Oh, well, we have this historical fact: Our nation came into being in the 18th century because men who had fled religious oppression in Europe had come across a vast ocean to form a republic that would become known as “the land of the free,” the “land of opportunity” and “a beacon of liberty” for the rest of the world.

It looks that in Texas at least, the door has been shut to those seeking freedom and opportunity and that the beacon has been turned off.

Abbott’s decision, quite naturally, has drawn plenty of criticism. As it should. To be honest, the governor’s refusal to opt in to the federal order is disappointing in the extreme. He has sought to say that the state should allow those who already are here to remain as refugees. But what about those who continue to suffer human rights abuses in nations south of us?

This is a very distressing decision by Gov. Abbott.

I cannot prove this, of course, but my hunch is that our nation’s founders would be unhappy beyond measure.