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Preserve, protect and defend

Today I completed my training to be certified as a poll manager for Spartanburg County in South Carolina. I should get a letter in the next couple of weeks telling me where I will be working. One of the next steps in the process is to swear an oath (South Carolina Constitution Section Article III Section 26) before the Clerk of Court:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I am duly qualified, according to the Constitution of this State, to exercise the duties of the office to which I have been appointed, and that I will, to the best of my ability, discharge the duties thereof, and preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of this state and of the United States. So help me God.

I’ve never had occasion to swear an oath before to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and I look forward to doing so, considering it a serious and solemn privilege to serve my state and my country. On the other hand, I feel I have always tried to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, oath or no. As I contemplate taking this oath, my thoughts move towards the significance of taking the oath and what it means.

George Washington taking the Oath of Office

I haven’t thought much about this blog as “defending the Constitution,” but in a way it does. The framers of our republic clearly intended the country to be guided by enlightened reason and the rule of law. That’s what this blog seeks to do–encourage enlightened reason and respect for law. A considerable portion of this blog deals with certain birther attempts to misrepresent the Constitution regarding who is eligible to assume the office of President of the United States. It also, in some small measure and in certain narrow areas, seeks to explain how the law and the courts work.

I have long felt a certain similarity between the legal doctrine of standing and the Mormons’ doctrine of revelation. Mormons believe that any member of the Church can receive a revelation from God; however, they further believe that true revelation comes in the context of an individual’s responsibility from which it follows that only the head of the Church would receive a revelation applicable to the whole church. (So when Cody Judy claimed that he had a revelation that he should be the head of the Church, that wouldn’t be seen as valid.)

These concepts of revelation and standing seem to apply also to defending the Constitution, and this is where some of those on the right wing misapply their oaths. I do not criticize birthers for bringing their grievances before the courts, although I criticize them for doing it over and over. The access to the courts is their privilege under the law. Terry Lakin swore an oath to defend the Constitution, but it was not his responsibility to have the President vetted, and I criticize Lakin for breaking the law in his attempt. Defending the Constitution is done within the context of respect for the laws made under the Constitution.

Note: Eligibility to be a poll manager in South Carolina requires one to be a registered voter and to live in the county (or a county adjacent to) where one serves.


It’s better to light a candle than to curse the birthers

HabitatRoofI didn’t go out intentionally to commemorate the 9/11 tragedy today, beyond titling the Open Thread, but if I had, I don’t think that I could have made a better choice than what I actually spent the day doing, helping to put shingles on a roof with Habitat for Humanity.

I was first motivated to look into Habitat through the influence of someone I greatly respect, former president Jimmy Carter. Now that I’m retired, I have more opportunities to get out and work on the houses, not just on Saturdays.

Besides getting involved in community service projects with Habitat, Civitan International and my church, I have also come to a greater appreciation for the importance of local government. To be honest, I’ve pretty much been involved in politics only every 4 years during the presidential race. The shenanigans  in my local town government, a scandal that just keeps on giving, have made it clear that local government won’t just work itself out if left alone.

So I think that the best way to remember and honor those who lost their lives on 9/11 is to serve our own communities in their place.

Note: The original title of the article was “It’s better to light a candle than to curse Obama,” a title directed at birthers. Then the title became “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the Republicans.” That second one is probably the one I would address to myself. But, this is a blog largely about birthers, so I put them in the title instead.


I failed to note two important anniversaries yesterday. I was reminded of the first by Bill Bryan via Twitter. It was the 6th anniversary of the first birther Obama eligibility lawsuit, Berg v. Obama, filed August 21, 2008.

The second is the 55th anniversary of statehood for Hawaii, admitted to the union August 21, 1959. I remember the year well because as a child I had a phonograph record titled “59 Anthology” from the Longines-Wittnauer company. Alaska became a state that year too. It was also the year the Russians crashed a rocket on the Moon, and when the Dali Lama fled Tibet.

Dr. Conspiracy, sworn peace officer?

iVotronic voting machine with standToday is the day of the historic election to decide the future form of government for our town. Vote “Yes” signs are all over. It’s 6:25 AM as I type this and, if all is going according to schedule, election managers have been at the town hall for 10 minutes already setting up the iVotronic voting machines, putting up signs, making sure that the site is physically accessible for everyone and preparing for the thousands of potential voters who will decide our town’s future.

In South Carolina, election managers are sworn peace officers with full powers to enforce election laws within the polling places. I have been seriously considering trying to become one of them. I am told that county-wide we are short 300 people. The pay is not all that good, $60 for a 14-hour day (and another $60 for attending training), but is is a civic duty and a public good to serve.

Negativity merchants

I just saw this in our Twitter feed:


This comes on the heels of a hilarious August 7 segment on Colbert Nation on the Ebola panic that makes the serious point that an Ebola outbreak is something we’re being told to be afraid of, even though no one has come down with Ebola in the United States yet.


All of this gives some context for a new university study published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences that says that conservatives tend to be more responsive to negative news than liberals. refers to the study in their July 29 article, “Secrets of the right-wing brain: New study proves it—conservatives see a different, hostile world.

The more nuanced journal article (which unlike Salon doesn’t mention birthers) says:

…A rapidly growing body of empirical evidence documents a multitude of ways in which liberals and conservatives differ from each other in purviews of life with little direct connection to politics, from tastes in art to desire for closure and from disgust sensitivity to the tendency to pursue new information, but the central theme of the differences is a matter of debate. In this article, we argue that one organizing element of the many differences between liberals and conservatives is the nature of their physiological and psychological responses to features of the environment that are negative. Compared with liberals, conservatives tend to register greater physiological responses to such stimuli and also to devote more psychological resources to them.