Is Kim Davis defending Religious Freedom? No. Here’s Why…

There is no short of controversy surrounding Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, and her continued denial of marriage licenses to homosexual couples. On face value, it may seem indeed, that Kim Davis is entitled “reasonable accommodation” for her sincerely held religious beliefs.

I don’t believe so — and it may not be for the reason you think.

Wether or not Kim Davis’ beliefs are “right” or “wrong” is of no moment, nor is the fact that they are “deeply held.” Indeed, I have no issue conceding the fact that anyone is entitled to believe anything they like; and I have no real problem with that.

Here’s where the reasonable accommodation issue loses integrity:

– The issue isn’t “hers,” it’s that of those she is refusing service to. If this were an issue of “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service,” or some other codified, specific law that can be pointed at — with reverence or dejectedness. Indeed, the ban that did exist no longer does, per the ruling of the Supreme Court.

– Mrs. Davis also had the ability to redress her grievances without violating law by allowing her deputy clerks to act in her capacity, while she brought the issue forward with the State government. Her failure to do so, and to simply say “No,” and pointing to her beliefs as a right to do so took the issue of “deeply held, sincere religious belief” out of the equation, and knowingly placed HERSELF in the mix — not her beliefs. Indeed, if her beliefs required her to not do such a thing, is she now legally able to discharge her office? As such, is she legally able [or even CURRENTLY STILL] the county clerk? Many public offices have a “capacity clause,” stating that if the officer in question is unable to discharge the office to which s/he took, that the individual is declared temporarily incapacitated, and the duty falls to that officer’s deputy. If that’s the case here, does her senior deputy clerk now act in her capacity — legally? That I don’t know, but an interesting thing to investigate. As a government employee specifically charged with issuing proper and legal marriage license, assuming that there were no other issues surrounding the validity of the request, ability to pay, or whatever — she’s willfully violated her contractual and even fiduciary duty to the State, and to her constituents.

– Governor Huckabee, and others on the side of Kim Davis, often cite the issues surrounding the Supreme Court’s “ability to write law,” and that the Supreme Court overstepped its bounds in “legislating from the bench.” This also doesn’t hold water for several reasons, but it stems from one very important supreme court case:

In Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court was confronted with a question surrounding federal appointments. In its review of the laws surrounding them, it determined that indeed, Marbury was entitled to his appointment and that his suit through the court system was a rightful correction to his grievance. This case established the process known as “judicial review,” a court test that grants the Supreme Court the ability to review a case, a law, a regulation or other question that the Supreme Court grants certiorari to; as a form of checks and balances on Federal, State and Local government regulation. Using the authority of Judicial Review, the Supreme Court trailblazed civil rights and fostered the safety of the people through overturning poll taxes [Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, 1966], that random drug testing of students involved in intramural sports don’t violate their Constitutional rights [Board of Education of Independent School District #92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls, 2002], the “Separate but Equal” doctrine [Brown v. Board of Ed, 1954], the establishment of “Miranda Rights” [Miranda v. Arizona, 1966] and that the President is not above the law [U.S. v. Nixon, 1974]. The power of judicial review has allowed the courts to correct legislative errors or otherwise “fill in the gaps” where laws, the Constitution or other codified law stops, but injury can begin.

Often, pundits claim that judicial review isn’t constitutional, or otherwise “allowable” by law, because it allows for judges to effectively write law and legislate from the bench.  There is a Constitutional flaw in that logic:

– The Judiciary Act of 1789 [in the First Congress] was signed into law, which allows the Supreme Court to hear cases on appeal from State courts — Section 25 specifically states:

“And be it further enacted, That a final judgment or decree in any suit, in the highest court of law or equity of a State in which a decision in the suit could be had, where is drawn in question the validity of a treaty or statute of, or an authority exercised under the United States, and the decision is against their validity; or where is drawn in question the validity of a statute of, or an authority exercised under any State, on the ground of their being repugnant to the constitution, treaties or laws of the United States, and the decision is in favour of such their validity, or where is drawn in question the construction of any clause of the constitution, or of a treaty, or statute of, or commission held under the United States, and the decision is against the title, right, privilege or exemption specially set up or claimed by either party, under such clause of the said Constitution, treaty, statute or commission, may be re-examined and reversed or affirmed in the Supreme Court of the United States upon a writ of error, the citation being signed by the chief justice, or judge or chancellor of the court rendering or passing the judgment or decree complained of, or by a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, in the same manner and under the same regulations, and the writ shall have the same effect, as if the judgment or decree complained of had been rendered or passed in a circuit court, and the proceeding upon the reversal shall also be the same, except that the Supreme Court, instead of remanding the cause for a final decision as before provided, may at their discretion, if the cause shall have been once remanded before, proceed to a final decision of the same, and award execution. But no other error shall be assigned or regarded as a ground of reversal in any such case as aforesaid, than such as appears on the face of the record, and immediately respects the before mentioned questions of validity or construction of the said constitution, treaties, statutes, commissions, or authorities in dispute.”

This law alone forms the basis for judicial review.  Further is that of the Equal Protection clause [Section 1] of the Fourteenth Amendment, which reads:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

— Establishment Clause, First Amendment of the Constitution


– Of further note: there’s an obvious Establishment Clause violation here — but not just ON Kim Davis, but BY Kim Davis. As a government employee, holding an office she’s freely run for, and unwilling to resign from, by denying government services to a [seemingly] qualified constituent due only for religious reasons, SHE has raised an issue under the Establishment Clause, by forcing her religious beliefs on the constituents. Where do her rights as a religious adherent end, and her duty as a government employee begin? Indeed: in 2006, the conservatives on the court stated in Garcetti v. Cebalos, “when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.”

To sum it up, does Kim Davis deserve to have her deeply held religious beliefs? Of course she does.

Does she deserve to enforce them on others through her elected office? No. This is an Establishment Clause violation.

Is the State or Federal government in violation of the Establishment Clause? No. She is an employee of a local government, and the government is charging her with a duty — not stating what religious beliefs she must or must not have.

Does Kim Davis belong in jail? No, I don’t think so. I think it was wrong [legal, and “a bluff,” perhaps — but one she called] to do so.

Is she the “new” Rosa Parks?   No.  She willingly put herself, as opposed to her beliefs, in the middle of this issue by letting herself get involved with the situation, as opposed to letting the government handle the issue on her behalf.  If a decision is “above your paygrade,” there’s nothing wrong with handing that issue to your supervisor and awaiting instructions.  Her supervisors are anyone from a county executive all the way up through the Governor.  She chose to simply “deny” her constituents.

Does she deserve an accommodation? Maybe. There are arguments either way — that she shouldn’t have to violate her religious conscience to carry out her duty. But on the flip side, if a Muslim banker found bank account interest distasteful and denied an interest bearing bank account to a non-believing customer, would people be so quick to defend him? If a Jewish teacher refused to read a paper because the subject included Buddhism and found it objectionable — is that right?

Further, if we put the shoe on a similar-sized foot — my computer handles my email.  Should my computer determine wether or not I should be able to read it?

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Asteroids are fine… BUT…

Have Americans Given Up On Space?
— Topic of Fareed Zakaria

Yes — and No.  The retirement of the Space Shuttle, without a conceivable and cemented-in-plans vehicle replacement, my fear is that the love of space has been lost in America — for now.

While the prospect of landing on an Asteroid, and even controlling its direction is a laudable and heady goal — it’s my feeling that this isn’t quite what people want to see.– at least in an exclusive goal.

new-mission-to-fly-by-mars_64718_600x450With this in mind, I believe an eye back to the Moon should be the most urgent goal, with a plan of permanent colonization, similar to the Space Station.  Indeed, not only could it serve as a model for an eventual Martian research colonization, but indeed, the Lunar outpost could serve as a “pit stop” on the way to Mars to pick up supplies previously launched.

A goal of settling the Moon with a research team, as a model for a similar Martian research colony could do a lot to buoy American and world confidence in the Space Program again; and the return to progress, as opposed to the perception of figuratively spinning our wheels in space exploration…

…what do you think?

RadioShack — On the Decline…

One of the places that was special to me as a kid was RadioShack.  As late-20s guy, I saw RadioShack at its height — late 90s/early 2000s, as the corporatization of the stores was taking place.  Back in the day, RadioShack was more a hobby-shop, a place where you could get LEDs, solder for your soldering iron, and was meant to be a “Geeky place, for Geeks, by Geeks.”

Indeed, people actually KNEW what they were selling, and what they did — and how they worked.  You effectively had to have a Ph.D. in “Geek” to work there.  Now, not so much.

Walking into the store, I’m often surprised to find how much Associates do *not* know about the product… more about how to *sell* it.  When asking about products capacity, or the output of another product, etc…  they simply don’t know anymore.  They’re educated now, in “upselling,” and “add-ons,” versus how products themselves actually work.

This is a stark contrast from the RadioShack I grew up with — maybe its because of the restructuring that took place in the early 2000s, where hiring was adjusted from the Store Managers, to now strictly out of its Headquarters in Fort Worth, and Store Managers having little control, past scheduling, to the restructuring of simple education and training — versus being a “hands-on with your project,” they’ve become “hands-on at getting you to spend more.”  While there’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself — its changed the culture of the store, dramatically.

Maybe it’s a symptom of my age, maybe it’s a symptom of the brand of the RadioShack label, I’m not sure — but I think if RadioShack went “back to the basics,” and went back to the model that worked, of hobbyists doing what they love — versus a corporatist atmosphere of “We wanna get you what you want, but also sell you this shit too!” I think they could find the glory they once had.

Further, recently, RadioShack noted the close of 1100 stores, citing a 19% loss in sales, particularly during the last holiday season.  CFO John Feray says simply “We are overstored.”

I tend to disagree — I think its more a matter of quality of experience, versus simply being overstaffed.  RadioShack isn’t the place it used to be — and people are taking notice, I think.

I miss *this* RadioShack.

radioshack

Apollo 11 on the Moon

Chinese rover successfully lands on moon…

Chang'e-3

Chang’e-3

Today, the People’s Republic of China became the third nation in human history to successfully land on the moon, behind the United States and the former Soviet Union.

The Chang’e-3 spacecraft, launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan, PRC on 01 December, just two weeks ago, will soon release the Yutu (“Jade Rabbit“) rover, a six wheeled scientific vehicle that contains an imaging sensor array, a telescope, an ultraviolet sensor and arms that can dig into the lunar soil up to 90 feet.  With a planned mission of three months, hopes are that the solar powered vehicle will live well beyond it’s life expectancy and mission time, much like other rovers have done.

Further, the next phase of the CNSA’s lunar program, Chang’e-5 is set to not only soft-land also, but has a stated objective to return to Earth with lunar soil samples, with a projected launch date of 2020.

Coming a long way since it first put a Chinese cosmonaut into space for the first time just ten years ago, the Chinese National Space Administration has clearly made leaps and bounds in putting the flag of it’s nation on another celestial body in a soft landing.

During the first EVA of Apollo 17, Eugene Cern...

Harrison Schmitt with the American flag and the Earth,400 000km away.

The last soft landing on the moon was by the Soviet Union’s Luna 24, which occurred in August 1976.  This mission was the third Soviet lunar expedition to successfully return lunar soil samples to Earth.  Four years before, Apollo 17 was the last manned exploration of the Moon, made up of Professor (and future United States Senator) Harrison Schmitt, and Navy Captain Eugene Cernan, known as “the Last Man on the Moon,” when his mission left the lunar surface exactly 41 years ago today, funny enough, when the Lunar Module ascended to meet the CSM at 10:54PM UTC.

“Sometimes, I catch myself looking up to the Moon and I wonder, when are we going back, and when will that be?”
— Captain James Lovell, USN (Retired)
Commander, Apollo 13

The most distant galaxy found yet… …and it’s FAR.

English: The , atop Mauna Kea, Hawai'i

The Keck Observatory, at Mauna Kea, Hawaii 

Almost by accident, we’ve discovered the most distant intergalactic body yet; and it’s by no means close to us.

Designated z8_GND_5296, it was discovered by a combination of infrared and and deep optical telescopes by astronomers from from University of California, Riverside, in conjunction with the at the National Optical Astronomy Observatories University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University.  This was confirmed by imagery from the telescope at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

By examining the redshift of the galaxy, that is, the shift in light color produced by a moving object, similar to the doppler shift heard in a racecar as it passes by you, this shift allows astronomers and physicists to determine how fast and how far away an object is, as the shift distorts the image more and more to the infrared end of the spectrum.  With a redshift of 7.51, and knowing the distance of the intergalactic objects between us and and that galaxy, we’ve been able to extract that the galaxy is over thirty BILLION light years away; and we are seeing it today as it appeared 13.1 Billion Light Years away.

What an incredible find!  When they say our universe is a big place, they mean it!

My Knee-Jerk Review: The Pebble Watch

ImageI got my Pebble watch today!   Right out of the box, I felt the quality and the care of craftsmanship put into this item.  It’s obvious that the designers of the watch cared as much foe aesthetics and ergonomics as they did about functionality.  It’s an absolutely beautiful, functional device that compliments any professional.  The black version, which I got, goes with any wardrobe and is as much stylish as it is sedate.

While I won’t go into too many details without a video of my own, I wanted to show you what I did with mine, and how I like it.  The video reviews I post here are VERY realistic and pretty much spot-on.

Video Reviews:

– Engadget: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGzdqqkQ0IA
– TechSmartt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z42vxp1ywMU
– SoldierKnowsBest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOVX00e9_oc
– Selim Akca: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdgIz8X8Qsk

Of course, I had to have my Star Trek watch-face.  😀

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China signals Lunar Landing within Decade…

…we were done with the moon, ANYWAY — STUPID MOON!
  — Jon Stewart

In a spot from The Daily Show four years ago, Jon Stewart pokes fun at the fact that India found water on the Moon, that the United States missed in the last forty years of exploration.  “Billions of gallons of it.”

Jon Stewart: “…I didn’t know NASA had a base in India!”
Aasif Mandvi: “THEY DON’T!  This is the Indian Space Research Organization!”

Parody aside, the latest space news is that the People’s Republic of China, the rising super-power directly challenging the United States’ unchallenged military presence on, above or AROUND the world, is now setting it’s sights on a lunar landing.

Launching its own [uninhabited] test space station, designated Tiangong 1 (Heavenly Palace 1) in 2011, the Tiangong Space Program is China’s attempt to place a large, modular space station in orbit by the beginning of the next decade.  From here, Chinese cosmonauts can conduct their own research and development, as well as support it’s own lunar program, free from the stranglehold the United States and it’s allies has had on Space for the last half-century.

China may be coming to space-faring late, compared to the United States, Russia and India, however, let’s look at the current setups: The United States has a minimal space program, with NO current flight ability of it’s own.  Astronauts/Cosmonauts from the United States require the use of launch vehicles and equipment from the Russian Federation (and to a limited point, at this time, private companies such as SpaceX) to reach, resupply or restaff its interests aboard the International Space Station.   Indeed, another sign of the times is the massive cut NASA took from the President’s pen, through Congress, in appropriations.  The Space Shuttle was retired.  The successor to the Space Shuttle, the Apollo-inspired Project Constellation, was cancelled, leaving the United States military and government’s ability to reach out to the stars in limbo for the foreseeable future.

Indeed, this was echoed by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.  “NASA is not going to the Moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime,” he stated.

However, he continued: “…and the reason is, we can only do so many things,”

While he didn’t specifically elaborate, it’s possible that NASA’s future plans could lie elsewhere — specifically, landings on asteroids, or even Mars, in relatively short order.

While the cancellation of the Constellation Project puts a American landing on Mars anytime soon in question, as Orion was designed with the intention of being capable of travelling to both the Moon AND to Mars, will American innovation and the memories of the Space Race of the 1960s embolden American spirit in an even broader space race?

Gag Order includes your Defense?

Courtesy drivebyplanet.com

Courtesy drivebyplanet.com

Ladar Levison started the email service Lavabit ten years ago; taking a significant amount of his adult life building his business.  While it’s understandable some in the government could be concerned over the use of non-government interceptable communications (is that even a phrase?) being used by terrorists or other people bent on causing whatever, this fact isn’t what disturbs me.

What deeply disturbs me, is he was forced to close, then under a gag order of the United States Government, isn’t allowed to discuss it at all — not even with his LAWYER.

Has it come to such a point where the United States will use legal scare-tactics to not only shut down threatening interests, but even deny those people (when they, themselves, have done nothing wrong) the right to not only defend themselves against it, but silence them?

I get that Lavabit was seen as a threat by the US Government, I’m not denying that.  Stuff like that CAN a threat.  It’s that they went after the owner, who has business interests in keeping people’s private information PRIVATE, and they essentially scared him into silence to such a point, he can’t even legally consult his lawyer.

Deeply disturbing.

Could “Giant” Coronal Hole signal new Solar Cycle?

Every 12-15 years, the Sun has a “temper tantrum” and throws out MASSIVE amounts of solar wind, solar material and lots of energy out into space, a lot of it hitting us.  This has been going on for millions (and likely billions) of years.  While this normally doesn’t do anything to us, it does create a heck of a light show with the aurora borealis, as it slams into earth’s northern magnetic fields.   However, this could spell disaster for us today.

What’s different about our lives now than 12-15 years ago?  Technology.  Flash forward from 15 years ago.  Now, everyone has a GPS in their car.  Everyone has a cell phone.  Everyone has a laptop.

So what?  Well, when solar wind slams into the Earth’s magnetic fields, called the Van Allen Belts, they create what’s called a magnetic storm.  The Earth’s magnetic system wobbles around, and indeed, could even be affected if the storm is strong enough (Such as a Magnetic pole reversal, in the most severe of cases…).  Even slight “wobbles” of our magnetic pole can cause massive problems for our technology fueled society.

All of a sudden, computer networks go down.  The computers that run the NYSE-Euronext stock market find themselves functioning improperly, losing all sorts of trades, or worse, messing made-trades up.  GPS satellites go offline, causing navigation and timing problems.

Why is this a big deal now?  Well, we’re on the verge of another solar cycle.  Sometime between now, and the beginning of 2014, the solar cycle is expected to peak.  This is usually marked with increasing amounts of solar wind and even coronal mass emissions from the sun, where massive amounts of solar material is ejected into space.  In the last few days, NASA has released a picture of the surface of the sun, where it (color-adjusted for temperature) seems to be a dead-zone.  This normally happens when mass ejections take place.   In this instance, a MASSIVE emission took place that has sent the material hurtling toward Earth at roughly 2 million miles per hour.  The diameter of the “hole” is roughly 400,000 miles across — or 50 earths wide.

Could this be the start of the solar cycle that tests how hardened and resilient (or not?) our electronics and networks are, that geeks and computer engineers have been dreading for years?

Halliburton Pleads Guilty to Destroying Evidence in Deepwater Horizon Explosion

Halliburton is expected to plead guilty to the destruction of evidence related to the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010.

The agreement, made with the United States Department of Justice includes paying the maximum fine of $200,000 — and has indeed, already made a $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Indeed, the United States has agreed not to pursue further criminal prosecution in exchange for further cooperation in the ongoing  criminal investigation.

Government regulation has once again triumphed.  Halliburton has admitted that it destroyed results of simulations involved cement blocking the blown oil well — the results showing the cementing was unstable and would not work.  Hiding these results, it went ahead with the attempt anyway, which acted as a contractor to the United States Government.  Was this done strictly so it could make the attempt and collect the money — regardless of what happens; and damn the rest?

In an era where people are calling for less government regulation overall — this goes to show that government oversight of business, particularly in government contractors, is a good thing.  Halliburton lied to the people of the United States, then proceeded to go forth with a project that they knew probably wouldn’t work, knowing the results of the simulations — trampling and dishonoring the lives of those who were not only lost, but to the families of those who lost their loved ones, livelihood and those who worked tirelessly to restore habitats and our sea.