Sunday, January 27, 2013

The King's Good Servant, but God's First

Res Publica
The King's Good Servant, but God's First
by David Trumbull -- January 25, 2013

I did not watch the ceremonies attendant on President Obama's swearing-in as chief executive for a second term. It was not because I disagree with just about every policy of his and believe he is harming the Republic and is a danger to the liberty of every citizen, including the ones most lauding him. No, I'm just not that into it.

For his true "inaugural," that is his first taking of office, I attended a festive event here in Boston with great satisfaction in living to see the first African-America president, even though I knew then that his policies would be severely misguided. I attended, in Washington, the inaugural of his predecessor, George W. Bush, but I took little notice of the official commencement of his second term. So I'm an equal opportunity second "inauguration" snubber.

I missed the whole thing. The comments, in print and on radio and television, regarding his speech have warned me away from reading it for fear of elevating my blood pressure. I missed news coverage of the various gala balls, so I don't even know what the First Lady wore, which is probably just as well, as her past selections have been under whelming, or worse. From what I have seen, after the event, of commentary, the only note-worthy fashion statement came from a highly improbable source, United State Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Justice Scalia has set cyberspace atwitter with his selection of headgear for last Monday's inauguration ceremony. He wore a black hat, a replica of the hat depicted in Hans Holbein's well-known portrait of St. Thomas More. The hat was custom-made and was a gift, in 2010, from the St. Thomas More Society of Richmond, Virginia.

Thomas More, familiar to many from his depiction in Robert Bolt's play (and movie) A Man for All Seasons, was martyred by the tyrant Henry VIII of England when he stood against the King's pretended supremacy over the church.

As Matthew Schmitz, Deputy Editor of First Things wrote: "Wearing the cap of a statesman who defended liberty of church and integrity of Christian conscience to the inauguration of a president whose policies have imperiled both: Make of it what you will."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Lincoln and King: Freedom and Equality

POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica
Lincoln and King: Freedom and Equality
by David Trumbull -- January 18, 2013

With 12 Oscar nominations, Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" has been nominated for more Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards than any other motion picture of 2012. The picture is a dramatization of the rounding up of votes, in the United States House of Representatives, to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment passed by the necessary two-thirds vote of both the House and the Senate and was on its way to ratification by the necessary three-quarters of the States when Lincoln was assassinated on Good Friday, 1865.

Getting the amendment through the House (it had passed easily in the Senate) was a major effort, told in an engaging manner in the movie. Permanently ending slavery in the U.S. by means of Constitutional Amendment was, for Lincoln, an imperative. His Emancipation Proclamation, issued 150 years ago this month, did not free all slaves, being restricted to those in rebellious areas not under the effective control of the United States. Furthermore, as a proclamation based on Lincoln's wartime powers as Commander in Chief, it was uncertain how, or even if, it would have force once peace was concluded.

Limited as it was, the Emancipation Proclamation was the first step in what became an irreversible path toward, first freedom, and later equality, for Americans of African ancestry. In August of 1863 Giuseppe Garibaldi wrote from Italy to President Lincoln, declaring: "Posterity will call you the great emancipator, a more enviable title than any crown could be, and greater than any merely mundane treasure."

The Thirteenth Amendment made African-Americans free. The subsequent Fourteen (application of the civil rights of U.S. citizens to the States) and Fifteenth (right of African-Americans to vote) promised to settled the question of equality. In reality, they marked merely the beginning of the quest for equality of all Americans. It would not be until the civil rights movement of the middle twentieth century that the rights guaranteed by the 14th and 15th Amendments would be effective in every State.

Monday we honor the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., whose advocacy for nonviolence was essential to the success of the civil rights movement. Like Lincoln, King was assassinated (April 4, 1968) and, like Lincoln, King continues after death to inspire others to carry on the quest for freedom and equality.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Break it so You Can Fix it.

Res Publica
Break it so You Can Fix it.
by David Trumbull -- January 11, 2012

A Hundred years ago we amended the Constitution to provide for direct election of senators and the filling of vacancies in the senate. We're still fiddling with the second part of that, and that is just one of the reasons the Seventeenth Amendment has been harmful to our Republic.

When Senator John Kerry is confirmed as the 68th Secretary of State of the United States, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick will promptly appoint a temporary Senator so that the Commonwealth's equal representation in the U.S. Senate is preserved. That appointee will serve until a special election is held in about four or five months. Many observers think former Senator Scott Brown will likely run, and likely win, the special election and some Democrats have suggested that the law be changed to allow the governor's appointee to serve until the senator chosen by the people in the regularly scheduled November 2014 election is sworn in.

Governor Patrick has been quoted as saying that other states do it that way (appointment until the next regular election, with no special election in between) and that he wishes it were that way here. In fact, it was that way here until the Democratically-controlled legislature changed the law in 2004 to strip Republican Governor Mitt Romney of the power to appoint a temporary senator. Democrats were content to leave the seat vacant, thus forfeiting our equal representation in the senate, rather than risk having a Republican represent us. The Democrats changed the law again in 2009 to give Governor Patrick power to appoint a Democrat until the special election was scheduled. Having rigged the law not once but twice to favor the Democrats, rigging it yet a third time, solely for the purpose of preventing Mr. Brown from getting back into the senate by way of a special election, is too corrupt a proposal even for Massachusetts, which is saying alot!

This is, or course, precisely why the rules should be set in advance and left alone. Otherwise you get exactly what we have in the Bay State, public loss of confidence in the integrity of a system that is constantly being tweaked to put the fix in for one party. The grand irony is just how often attempts to rig the system backfire. Scott Brown would never have been elected had the Democrats not tried to the rig the results with their 2009 special election law fix. As they say, be careful what you wish for.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Disabled Persons Will Need to be Recertified for the RIDE under New MBTA Rules

Res Publica
Disabled Persons Will Need to be Recertified for the RIDE under New MBTA Rules
by David Trumbull -- January 4, 2012

According to the FAQs (frequently asked questions) posted on the website of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, disabled persons using the MBTA's RIDE service will need to be recertified under new procedures. All existing RIDE customs will be notified and recertified within three years. Certification will be done via an in-person assessment conducted by trained mobility coordinators.

Here are some things that disabled RIDE customers should be aware of --

  • A diagnosis of disability from your physicians will not be enough to get you certified. According to the MBTA, many medical practitioners are ill-equipped to make a determination that is based on functional ability to use the MBTA fixed route transit system. In addition, MBTA says it cannot rely on an applicant′s doctor to always be fully objective in making this determination, given that they may well be motivated to secure as many services for their patient as possible.
  • The MBTA estimates the 95-99% of current RIDE customer who apply under the new system will be found conditionally or fully eligible for THE RIDE.
  • However, they also estimate that a significant percent (perhaps 15-25%) of current RIDE customers will choose not to apply for certification under the new system. If 15 to 25 of current RIDE customers drop off, as expected, because they don't want to go through the new certification procedure, this represents a significant cost savings to the MTBA.
  • While the MBTA recognizes that there are many different certification processes that people with disabilities complete already in order to receive benefits or services, the MBTA maintains that those certifications do not specifically pertain to the individual's ability to ride transit.

We all, I am sure, want to see THE RIDE and other services for the disabled go to those truly in need of such services, and the MBTA appears to have done a thorough job of identifying weaknesses in the current certification that may have let some questionable cases slip through. However, I suspect I am not the only one concerned that this new requirement for an in-person interview with an MTBA mobility coordinator, may intimidate some truly needed disabled persons and may discourage them from seeking recertification for the vital RIDE service. I am pleased to see that you may bring a family member, companion, or translator to the interview. I hope that the senior and disability advocates in the area will actively reach out to RIDE customers and help them understand their rights so they can go through this recertification as smoothly as possible. No one should be denied needed service just to save money for the MBTA or because they are intimidated by the recertification process.