Showing posts with label Graham Starr. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Graham Starr. Show all posts

Friday, July 24, 2020

Three Branches of Government

Roger Carlton

We welcome Roger Carlton back for another of his interesting posts. Roger is columnist for the Graham Star Newspaper in Robbinsville, NC

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is one of three branches of the Federal Government. Congress and the Executive Branch are the other two.

One thing is certain. The Founding Fathers had great experience with an all-powerful monarch in the form of King George III. They wanted nothing to do with repeating the tyranny of that leadership so they created a form of government with balance of powers. The Congress made the laws, the President carried them out and the Supreme Court settled disputes. Pretty close to a perfect construct at the time. Not so good today because many of our leaders have forgotten that deliberation of issues based on scientific facts and compassionate implementation is the necessary foundation of democracy.

My conservative friends rejoiced over the Senate's confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito. They rent garments and gnashed teeth over the appointments of liberal Associate Justices Steven Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. Yet, until recently, the past six presidents, of which three were D's and three were R's, did a pretty good job of bi-partisan appointments of fair and balanced people. The labels conservative and liberal don't seem to apply to all votes of the current SCOTUS.

Recent decisions by the Supreme Court have my conservative friends in a dither. They have concluded that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court has sold them out. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Supreme Court has acted responsibly and defied their pundit-imposed labels in these controversial cases. Most importantly, one of the three branches needed to put on its adult britches and avoid the chaos being created by the other two.
Here are a few of the controversial cases. The first is letting our President know that he does not enjoy blanket immunity to avoid responding to subpoenas for his tax records. The Court acted responsibly by sending the debate back to lower courts so that the tax filings would not be released until after the election in November. To quote Chesterfield Smith who was President of the American Bar Association during the Watergate investigation, when the Supreme Court ordered President Nixon to release certain damaging Watergate information for which he claimed executive privilege, "No man is above the law."

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recent decision stopped the White House from ending the program which has kept 650,000 young immigrants in limbo for years. Ending the program would have sent them back to the countries from which they were taken by their parents. The Supreme Court made it clear that the Administration had not made a rational case to justify the harsh decision. The same reasoning caused the 2019 decision to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census.

The Louisiana abortion legislation that doctors had to have privileges in nearby hospitals "to protect the women" was overturned because the exact same law had already been overturned in Texas. The majority opinion regarding expansion of the Civil Rights Act to include employment for the LGBTQ community was written by President Trump's appointment Neil Gorsuch. The ability of employers to deny providing insurance coverage for contraceptives based on religious or moral beliefs was upheld. One other case allows states to use public funds for scholarships to attend religious schools where only private schools were allowed before. There have been decisions by the SCOTUS that make both liberals and conservatives happy and unhappy.

So, save your garments and don't wear out your teeth. Let's respect the Supreme Court as our last line of defense against the chaos we see in the other two branches.

Send us your comments about this article. Let us hear your opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States. Send email or leave a comment in the Comments section below.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

We have all had our fill of COVID-19 news.

Enlightening words from Roger Carlton, columnist for the Graham Star newspaper.

The death tolls, monumental human suffering, acts of human kindness, heroic efforts to tame the beast and economic impacts on millions of unemployed workers will be in our memories forever. There is one more aspect that needs some thought. It is the "Effectiveness Trap" as expressed by Brett McGurk.

First, who in the world is Bret McGurk?
He is an American diplomat who has served in senior national security positions under Presidents Bush II, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Most recently, he served as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. He is a Distinguished Professor at Stanford University.

It is pretty easy to conclude that he is a smart guy who has served presidents of both parties in a distinguished manner. Most importantly, he quit his role when the decision was made to pull out of Syria. That was a great loss to policy-making, but an ethical stand because he thought it was a terrible mistake.

The Effectiveness Trap keeps men and women from speaking out – as clearly or often as they might – within the government. And it is the trap that keeps people from resigning in protest and airing their dissent outside the government. It is one of the great moral questions for a senior government executive or advisor.

 It is the predicament in which Drs. Fauci and Birx find themselves daily in COVID-19 press conferences regarding the Administration's efforts to contain the medical, economic and political crisis with which their leadership is confronted.

 This columnist did not think much about the moral dilemma for these two heroic doctors, until they were confronted with how to react to the question raised regarding ingesting bleach as a potential preventative for the impacts of the virus. A simple "not a good idea" would have been the best answer in a normal world.

 But Washington is not a normal world and probably never has been. So the good doctors made the right moral decision and maintained their effectiveness for the greater good of our society. They did not quit in protest. These heroes just told the truth and maintained their leadership role. That is why we trust them. Their decision-making and recommendations come from scientific knowledge and unbiased concern ... not the politics of the moment.

We should all think about the effectiveness trap. When do you say, as immortalized by Johnny Paycheck in his 1977 hit,Take This Job and Shove It?
Here's the question. What did Johnny Paycheck know when he performed these lines 43 years ago?

 "I been working in this factory for nigh on 15 years.
All this time I watched my woman drownin' in a pool of tears,
 And I've seen a lot of good folks die that had a lot of bills to pay.
I'd give the shirt right offa' my back if I had the guts to say …"

Think about how you would end the verse as you go to the polls in November.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Birth of Constitution Important


Roger Carlton, columnist for Graham Starr newspaper

This week the Constitution of the United States is 232 years old. 
The Constitution is the governing document that establishes the form our federal government takes and the powers and limitations on those powers. The original document was not meant to be rigid and was amended in a 10 Amendment Bill of Rights in 1789 two years after the Constitution was adopted. 

We are still arguing about the meaning of these rights such as limiting freedom of speech, the right to bear arms and the limitation on establishing an official religion. We even tried to ban alcohol in the Eighteenth Amendment and the failure of that approach to create a better world was mercifully repealed thirteen years later in the Twenty-first Amendment. 

Thirty-three amendments have been proposed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification and twenty-seven have passed. Just to show how our Congressional representatives think things need to change, there have been 11,770 proposed amendments during the past 232 years, and thank goodness, less than one-fourth of one percent have passed. Perhaps all these attempted amendments show why we have such busy courts.

Remember that the Declaration of Independence got the ball rolling in 1776 which has come to be known as Independence Day or the Fourth of July. I read that marvelous document in its entirety while writing this column. It is worth 15 minutes of your time to do this as well. 

Here are a few conclusions from my reading.
The bulk of the document is a long list of grievances against British King George II. Perhaps the most important grievance is embodied in the words, "A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people." 

Of equal importance are the words, "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." 

Well, to further prove that the Constitution is a living document, it took a Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment to end slavery and women were not given the right to vote until the Nineteenth Amendment which was approved by Congress in 1919 (100 years ago} and ratified by the States in 1920.

So, if we declared independence in 1776, won the Revolutionary War in 1783 and adopted the Constitution in 1789, how were we governed during those  years? 
There was an interim document called the Articles of Confederation which established an interim form of government. This document was adopted in 1777 but not ratified by the states until 1781. It is nothing short of a miracle that reasonable people could come to a series of compromises that carried us through the the Revolutionary War and the brief period until the Constitution was written during a long hot Philadelphia summer. There were 55 Framers and 39 were signers. The youngest was Jonathan Dayton (26) and the oldest was Benjamin Franklin (81). The average age was  forty-two.

Please join me in celebrating the birthday of the Constitution of the United States. 
The democracy for which it creates guidelines and the fact that the basic document cannot be changed without an amendment process has kept us together through the Civil War and numerous crises. The Preamble to the Constitution says, "In order to form a more perfect Union." The word "more" says it all. 

If the Framers wanted a static document, they would have left the word "more" out of the document. There were approximately 2.5 million people in the 13 colonies in 1776 and there are 330 million people in the United States today. We have a lot "more" work to do to figure out how to preserve and enhance democracy in today's complex times, but we have the foundation to do that in the Constitution.

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