My latest book. Click cover.

My latest book. Click cover.
My latest book. Click cover

Monday, March 10, 2014

THE NONEXISTENT LIBERTARIAN REPUBLICANS


Television talking heads often mention the “Libertarian branch of the Republican Party.” As one who delved deeply into the Libertarian movement in the early 1980s, I can say unequivocally that there is no such branch of the Republican Party.

The following principles emerged in early American Libertarianism: 1) Government is constitutionally limited so as to prevent the infringement of individual rights by the government itself. 2) No action which does not infringe the rights of others can properly be termed a crime. 3) Laws on voluntary sexual relations, drug use, gambling, and attempted suicide should be repealed. 4) All forms of censorship, whatever the medium involved, are wrong.

These rights were the core principles of libertarianism. “No action which does not infringe the rights of others can properly be termed a crime” meant what it said. Without giving an opinion on the individual issues, the first principle would eliminate laws concerning marriage, abortion, drug use, any form of promoting a religious belief by color of law and discrimination against gays and other minorities, period.

“Libertarian” comes from the word liberty and applies to everyone. Those who are not willing to accept that they cannot oppose any personal action that does not harm them as individuals, by definition are not Libertarians. It’s a nice sounding word but means nothing unless it is practiced.

I can call myself tall, dark and handsome, but the reality will remain that I am short, sort of mottled and ordinary looking.

Just thought I’d mention this.

 

 

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

AIN'T WE GOT THE POWER


State Rep. Richard Floyd (R-Chattanooga), the primary sponsor of a resolution against "Sex Week" activities at the University of Tennessee (currently in progress), was recently quoted in the Chattanooga Times as having said: "If those people who organize this thing want to have it, hey, let them get off campus. They can go out there in a field full of sheep if they want to and have all the Sex Week they want."
 
One might think Floyd was comparing human sexuality to bestiality if one didn't know that he is a conservative Republic with impeccable family values and a squeaky, clean mind, above such trash talk. Knowing these things about him, I can only assume he was advocating fresh air and outdoor recreation and not that other thing.
 
"Sex Weeks at the UT-Knoxville features such serious and timely subjects such as women's health, abstinence and the prevention of sexual violence. On a less serious but entertaining note, there will also be an aphrodisiac cooking class, a poetry slam, a drag show and a "Sexy Oscars Party."
 
More than likely, if the organizers had called the event something along the lines of “A Program for Abstinence Induced Procreative Good Health and Fitness,” they would have been assured no students would show up and the Republican conservatives would never have noticed and felt obliged to make an issue of it. 
 
 Of course, when the word “sex” pops up in a sentence, alarm bells go off if there is a conservative within 15 miles.
 
To a group of people dedicated to the proposition that sex education induces carnal thoughts in adolescents they would never have had without diagrams and teachers, it's hard to let go even when those children become adults and attend university.
 
Republican lawmakers are framing the matter as a simple issue of spending public money for a program many taxpayers find offensive. Of course, their recent nonbinding resolution that calls Sex Week “an atrocious event” clarifies that the money to fund it is from “student fees and grant monies.”
 
 It is not tax revenue over which the Legislature has control, anyway – though of late those conservative ladies and gents have decided that the state should be able override any local jurisdiction about just anything they please – because to paraphrase Cornelius Vanderbilt when his lawyers told him he couldn’t legally have something he wanted.  “Aint we got the power?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

AN ENTIRE LEGISLATURE OF DUNCES


As I was sorting out a stack of books a few days ago, I came across “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole. The title interrupted my train of thought by reminding me of our current Tennessee Legislature. Today's legislators of today are of a different sort than their forefathers who wrote and ratified the Tennessee Constitution of 1796.

Those men – women would not get the right to vote until the 19th Century, so they were all men -- and in my not humble opinion were much more rational than the ideology driven simpletons now administering the laws in today’s legislature. Take their attitude towards keeping religion and government separate, for instance.


A prohibition against mixing civil law and religious matters  is expressed in Article 8, Section 1 of the original Tennessee Constitution: “Whereas the ministers of the Gospel are by their professions, dedicated to God and the case of Souls and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions therefore no minister of the Gospel, or Priest of any denomination whatever shall be eligible to a Seat in either house of the Legislature.”

The section banning clergy was eventually overruled as unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution but Tennessee was among the last of the states to to drop the prohibition.  The founders of our state had strong feelings about mixing government and religion.  Those men were just a few years removed from the scourge of state-sanctioned religion and the problems that always followed. Tennessee's legislature today is all but openly encouraging by their attitudes, the persecution of the minority religions in this state..

Unfortunately, the failure of the present legislature to keep religious beliefs from motivating the passing of civil laws as the original founding fathers did, is not the only thing accomplished by our present  lawmakers, who now cater to anyone or any idea no matter how bizarre if it seems to be popular with the masses.

Our state's founders believed in the right of the people of  this state to keep and bear firearms, but added a little common sense in Article 1, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution's Declaration of Rights, the equivalent of the U.S. Bill of Rights. “That the citizens of this state have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defense; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.”

Most states and municipalities took it as common sense that letting every yahoo go armed – including violent criminals and the insane –  without restriction was hazardous and did not view it as a restriction of constitutional rights or basic human rights.  The current legislature has now made it legal for even drunken tavern customers to walk around armed.  Of course, they tossed common sense out the window several years ago.

The sitting legislators see no reason to keep creation theology from being taught in science classrooms; no problem with passing religious beliefs as a basis for unconstitutionally discriminating against gay people; taking money from the state's poorest children to punish them for failing grades; making it illegal for teachers to mention homosexuality under the guise of protecting them from imaginary lawsuits; and of late, a movement to legalize discrimination in this state. 

I helped a friend of mine in that legislature get elected a few years ago. He seemed to be a rational, fair man, but I’ve begun to suspect that stupidity is catching.

 

 

Thursday, February 06, 2014

THE POOREST SUFFER WHILE POLITICIANS DAWDLE

Governor Bill Haslam says he is still undecided about the expansion of Medicaid that would provide coverage for 180,000 of Tennessee’s poorest citizens.
Roughly $1 billion a year is available and waiting under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the federal government would pay the full amount of the expansion costs through 2016 then 90 percent the following three years.
The Medicaid expansion was set to go into effect with the rest of the ACA to end expensive emergency room visits by the very poorest with steady medical treatment and follow-ups when necessary, which is not provided when they are treated in the emergency room.
The standard excuse by Tennessee’s Republican controlled legislature is that there is no guarantee that the state will have the funds to continue the program when the federal government gradually turns expense to the state by 2020. The Governor is dragging his feet to soothe his colleagues while the states poorest continue to suffer.
There are no guarantees in this life, but with the money expected to be saved with regular health care for the poor and nearly six years to prepare for all eventualities, Tennessee is just as capable as the states that took the federal funds.  Next door in Kentucky, both the ACA and the Medicaid expansion are in smooth operation.
Haslam says he has asked the federal government to send the money to Tennessee and let the state buy private or commercial health insurance for those newly eligible. However, Haslam spokesperson, Alexia Poe, admitted as of last Friday (1-31-14), that no official waiver has been submitted.
It is a political fact that Republicans will go to almost any length to hamper the ACA, but you have to wonder how the obstructionists and Governor Haslam sleep at night with the knowledge that Tennessee’s most needy are being denied humane healthcare for political reasons when the means of relief is available.