To The Daily Sun,
Some recent letters have made inaccurate and misleading claims about the relationship between religion and government in America.
One writer claimed that the government forbids the teaching of creation. Not true. Creationism can be taught in a class about religions. But it cannot be taught in a science class; because it's not science. It's faith. Virgin birth is not included in a biology course for the same reason. The same letter said that schools "indoctrinate" students in the "theory of evolution." I would hope that evolution is taught in a science class. Students deserve a real education, based on 21st Century knowledge, not something stalled in the 18th Century. Evolution is a "theory" only in the same way gravity is a theory. It's tested, and based on facts and evidence. Those who still don't believe in evolution keep company with those who also believe that the earth is 7,000 years old, that the sun and planets revolve around it, and that if you sail too far west of Hawaii you'll fall off the edge of the world.
Another letter argued that some of the fundamentals of our country like the idea of a democratic republic and the rights of citizens are Christian principles. Actually our founding fathers derived them primarily from Enlightenment ideas, which were, among other things, a response to the authoritarianism of Christian kings and clergy throughout Europe. Christians in power opposed concepts like democracy and freedom of conscience and religion. They saw them as dangerous to their rule. A phrase later used to sum up this attitude was "error has no rights." Those supposed errors included separation of church and state, republicanism, and democracy. Ideals like natural rights and the social contract were not found in the prevailing European Christian theories of government. And so-called Christian principles that are found in our government can be found in the writings of all major religions, non-Christian Greek and Roman philosophy, some native American societies and among people who believe in no religion. They aren't exclusive to Christianity.
The basic problem is the ongoing attempt to peddle the claim that American is a "Christian nation." But the only mention of religion in the Constitution is in Article VI, which prohibits any religious test for holding office, and in the 1st Amendment, which prohibits Congress from passing any "law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting its free exercise..." The Constitution is a "Godless" document by design, and the writers deliberately left the word "God" out of it. They did not believe that America should be a Christian nation governed by the Bible. They believed strongly in the separation of church and state, knowing — given their knowledge of history — that mixing religion and government was a recipe for disaster. Jefferson wrote that "our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinion, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry."
The "Christian nation" argument is also based on the overly broad assertion that the founders and signers of the Constitution were Christians. The majority of them were not traditionalist Christians but were Deists, who believed in the God of the natural world. Many of them did not believe that Jesus was God. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams and the rest would have considered today's preachers like Pat Robertson, Bennie Hinn, Tim LeHaye, James Dobson and their ilk to be crazy, or corrupt con men. Or both.
If we use the same shaky logic used by the "Christian nation" apologists, we could just as easily conclude some other falsehoods:
— The founders were all white. Therefore America is a whites-only nation, established upon the principles of racial exclusion.
— The founders were all men. Therefore America is a male-only nation, founded upon the principles of male domination and the exclusion of women from public life.
— Most of these "Christian" founders were slaveholders or supported allowing slavery to continue in the new nation. Therefore America is a slaveholding nation, founded upon the principles of slavery.
The claims that the United States is a Christian nation are based on twisted evidence and logic. They are also often thinly-veiled attempts to turn America into a theocratic country, where religious dogmas replace the Constitution, where our long-established cherished principles are discarded, and where one religious group tries to force everyone to live according to its sectarian creed.
Last Updated on Friday, 28 November 2014 08:43
To The Daily Sun,
In commercialization of Thanksgiving and Christmas due to the penetration of the body politic by the philosophy of secular humanism with this concomitant deleterious effect on the social fabric is one of the deplorable aspects of the times in which we live.
On the other hand, the reluctance of part-time, low-wage, benefit-less retail employees to work the holidays is clearly a Marxist inspired assault on the capitalist system and the American way of life.
Last Updated on Friday, 28 November 2014 08:39
In covering the violence engulfing Ferguson, Missouri, media routinely cite the following numbers to explain the frustration of the minority community there: Ferguson's population is two-thirds African-American, yet the mayor, five of the six City Council members and nearly the entire police force are white.
But there are other numbers. In the municipal election held last year, 52 percent of the voters were white — in a city, to repeat, that is 67 percent black.
The first set of numbers is related to the second.
Clearly, what we are calling a minority population is a majority. If most of Ferguson's eligible African-American voters feel that the city government treats them unfairly, they have a simple remedy: They can elect a different city government.
Black city leaders have made this case, but their message has been lost in the drama of downtown burning and looting. Chaos afflicted this city in August after a white police officer fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American. Chaos has descended again after a grand jury declined to indict the officer involved.
In between was a midterm election, in which only 42 percent of registered Ferguson voters turned out to cast ballots for the powerful office of St. Louis County executive. This participation was actually 10 percentage points below that of the previous midterm in 2010.
In the midterm elections nationally, blacks, Latinos, young people, single women and other generally progressive voting groups failed to show up in large numbers. Older white people did.
Of course, calls for civic participation are hard-pressed to compete for attention with the world's news cameras looking for excitement. The Ferguson rioters — a crowd no doubt swelled by opportunists of all variety — are not leaving much to save. When the action ends, the cameras will depart.
The purpose here is not to second-guess the grand jury's decision. There were highly conflicting witness reports of what happened.
Nor is the purpose to advocate voting along racial (or ethnic) lines. Voters will ideally cast their ballots for candidates deemed most capable of serving their needs.
Nor must a police force perfectly reflect the racial makeup of a population, though, it must be said, Ferguson's imbalance seems extreme. But again, Ferguson's black community can change this situation by electing officials sensitive to their concerns.
It's true that Ferguson's municipal elections schedule doesn't encourage turnout. These elections take place in April, far from the traditional voting day in November. They also occur in non-presidential years, when turnout by minorities and young people traditionally drops. In the most recent municipal election, only 12 percent of registered voters — white, black or otherwise — cast ballots. Voters can change those dates.
This poor showing frustrates civic-minded African-Americans advocating change in a normal, nondestructive way.
"Every time there's an election, we have to show up," Patricia Bynes, a local black Democratic official, told Reuters. "I don't care if we are voting what color the trash cans are. We need to show up."
At Brown's funeral, a family member called on mourners to make themselves heard at the polls. But only 204 residents of Ferguson registered to vote from the time of the fatal shooting to the Oct. 8 registration deadline for voting this year — only 204 in a city of 21,000 people.
And as pollsters keep reminding us, what determines the end result isn't how many people register to vote. It's how many registered voters actually come to the polls on Election Day.
This can't be said often enough. The power that matters in Ferguson — and everywhere else — is exercised in the voting booth.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)
Last Updated on Friday, 28 November 2014 08:24
To The Daily Sun,
Just who is the Tea Party? Mr. Cracraft seems to know all the answers about who and what it is, but has he ever been to a local Tea Party meeting? Does he know anyone who is actually a part of it? The Lakes Region Tea Party meets every third Wednesday at the Moultonboro Public library. There's also the 9-12 group in Rochester, a Tea Party group in Plymouth, etc. etc. If you consider the Tea Party members as your enemy, shouldn't you get to know them better, Mr. Cracraft?
Local citizens (not business leaders) all over the sovereign State of New Hampshire get together to talk about how the country's leaders are taking us away from the constitution and how can that be stopped. There is a great video about the constitution being shown at every meeting of the Lakes Region Tea Party. Join them!
Mr. Cracraft says the Tea Party has not taken to acts of violence. Why should they do that? Tea Party people are not racists, they don't destroy cities, burning and looting. They are upright ordinary citizens who have, apparently, no right to their opinion.
Mr. Cracraft mentions the "power elite" who backed Hitler and Mussolini. Who backed President Obama? Who put the Federal Reserve System into power?
By the way, Mr. Cracraft, what do ducks have to do with politics?
Last Updated on Thursday, 27 November 2014 02:02
To The Daily Sun,
Truth continues to be in short supply on County Drive in Laconia. Untruths proliferate concerning checks the county received in early September from its health insurance provider, Health Trust. The first check was for $53,505.59, followed by a second check, a few days after the first, in the amount of $127,893.44. By then, the commissioners had been enjoined from moving money from one line item to another without approval by the Executive Committee of the Belknap County Convention. Without notifying either the court or the Executive Committee and without any discussion or a vote in a public meeting, the checks totaling $181,399.03 were returned to Health Trust for credit against future premiums.
Health Trust credited $159,269.53 against premium money on the October invoice to the county and issued a check dated Sept. 25 to the county in the amount of $22,129.50, representing the difference between the total of the two returned checks and the credit given the county on its premium bill.
The first time this money was mentioned in a county commissioners' meeting was on Oct. 15. Earlier that week, the commissioners had been criticized for taking unanticipated 2014 revenue and applying it without judicial consent or the approval of the Executive Committee to increase the budget line item for health insurance beyond the amount appropriated by the convention. In reporting on the meeting, the Oct. 16, The Laconia Daily Sun said that the commissioners had rejected the recommendation of the county administrator and had decided that they could not use the Health Trust money without either court approval or the agreement of the Executive Committee. The actual meeting minutes are more cryptic. Addressing the checks received from Health Trust, the minutes state: "The commissioners agreed that they would not be willing to knowingly account for this improperly, and asked Ms. Shackett to notify employees immediately that they would be responsible for any premium costs beyond what the delegation budgeted on health insurance line items."
Following the Oct. 15 meeting, the headline in The Laconia Daily Sun was, "County commission agrees to play by the rules." One would have thought this to be the case from what had been said at the meeting. But this has not happened.
What was missing in the Oct. 15 meeting was any mention of the fact that the premium credit had already been obtained from Health Trust. Given that fact, one would have expected that the commissioners would have asked the Executive Committee to approve, after the fact, what they had done or sought to have the credit reversed by Health Trust with the issuance of a new check for the amount previously credited. That, of course, might have given rise to a problem, if there were not sufficient funds left in the budget to cover what had been paid for by the credit against the October invoice.
Either course had an additional problem. The commissioners had to either insist that they had no knowledge that this was being done until after the fact, or by attempting to undo what had been done, they would be implicitly admitting that they had knowingly violated a court order and a state statute, when they authorized the action without either judicial approval or executive committee agreement.
The next misdeed in the saga of the returned Health Trust checks came with a statement made by the county administrator in an interview with Michael Kitch for The Laconia Daily Sun. Ms. Shackett seemed to implicitly concede that use of the first check to obtain current credit on health insurance premiums was not proper. Notwithstanding the admission, she did not offer any explanation as to what, if anything, will or can be done about it. Her key point in the interview was to explain that a significant part of the second check "was to compensate the county, its employees and its retirees for excessive premium payments in both 2013 and 2014." Her point is that to the extent the check amount represents a return of overcharges attributable to 2014 premium payments, it was money actually appropriated for health insurance premiums, so it could be used again in 2014 to pay health insurance premiums. That is a clever argument but one lacking any connection to reality.
Health Trust has made it clear that the second check was Belknap County's proportionate share of the $17.1 million that Health Trust received from a lawsuit. It is not an amount that Health Trust was ordered to pay for premium overcharges. Instead it is money received by Health Trust which it is required to pay out. The litigation that gave rise to the $17.1 million award to Health Trust is an action brought by Bureau of Securities Regulation against the Local Government Center. Between 2003 and 2010, Local Government Center operated three insurance-type subsidiaries, Health Trust, P-L Trust and Workers' Compensation Trust. These entities were considered "pooled risk management programs" under New Hampshire law. The theory behind their recognition was that by pooling their insurance coverage costs, New Hampshire counties, municipalities and other governmental entities could reduce the cost of their coverage. The statutes governing these programs require that each such entity "return all earnings and surplus in excess of any amounts required for administration, claims, reserves, and purchases of excess insurance to the participating political subdivisions."
The recent litigation against Local Government Center referenced above involved a number of issues. One was the formula to be used to determine "surplus". Another was a practice that Local Government Center engaged in from 2003 to 2010. Of its three insurance programs, two were profitable, one was not. Money was taken annually from Health Trust and P-L Trust to subsidize Workers' Compensation Trust. Rather than trying to unwind and trace the monies from the 2003 to 2010 period, the penalty imposed by the Bureau of Securities Regulation hearing officer was to order the transfer of $17.1 million to Health Trust, which would trigger a surplus, which would then be passed on to various counties and municipalities. In effect, current participants may be getting windfalls because of past wrongdoing toward others.
Still, the wrongfully obtained money is ultimately being taken away from Local Government Center and its entities. The second check received by Belknap County was its share of the surplus created this year by the $17.1 million penalty transfer.
No matter how mightily they strain and how tortured their reasoning, the fact is that the $159,269.53 in question is unanticipated 2014 income and can be spent by the commissioners only with judicial approval or the consent of the Executive Committee. Unless and until these misdeeds are corrected, we are left with budget lines that have been increased significantly above the appropriated amounts without authority and in violation of an order of the Superior Court.
I believe that the people of our county took a significant step in the direction of good and open government in the recent election, but based on what is happening with the Health Trust money and the stories that are being spun about it, we are only halfway there.
Last Updated on Thursday, 27 November 2014 01:58