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Smells Like Team Smear It

In a hastily released memo, City Hall tried to catch up to a story broken by Mid Hudson News Network, followed shortly by Cahill on Kingston, and the Daily Freeman.  Earlier in the week, and without public notification, Mayor Steve Noble sent out letters to every member of the Kingston Board of Ethics, informing them that their services were no longer required.  Effectively, he had dissolved the Board.

Crumbling in the Shadows -KingstonBarn Photo

Kingston Booth House Crumbling in the Shadows
-KingstonBarn Photo

It was beginning to look like the Kingston version of Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre.

The press release, issued days after the deed had been done and hours after it began appearing in the press and local political blogs, makes little sense.  In fact, it may be a violation of the Ethics Law to fire the entire board with the intent to leave the seats vacant. Look under Chapter 49-10, “Board of Ethics”.

Mayor Noble said, “I have decided to relieve the board members of their duties so that we may complete the Ethics Law revisions and launch a board appointment process that is most effective and appropriate.”

This statement gives us an indication of the desperate rush to get it out, but does little to illuminate the shadows it casts.  We know that at least one of the board members’ resignations was accepted early this year.  Why did the Mayor convince him to come back, only to fire them all?

The planning board has not been disbanded during the making of the Kingston Master plan.  The Zoning Board has not been disbanded during the rewrite of the Zoning laws.  I haven’t heard the Mayor call for resignation of the Common Council while the administration tries to gut key provisions of the Ethics law.

There is no reason this board cannot continue to “function effectively” until after the current law is changed, unless their mere existence as a board is some sort of impediment or threat to the administration’s political goals.

The Ethics Board serves at the pleasure of the Mayor.  It is obvious that this board did not please Mayor Noble.  Without transparency, or even the common courtesy of thanking them by name, these are the public servants Mayor Noble dismissed

Chairwoman Jean Jacobs, former School Board President and 2011 candidate for Mayor.
Karen Clark-Adin, Owner of uptown’s Bop to Tottom.
Reverend Doris Edwards Schuyler, Pastor of Riverview Baptist Church.
Brad Jordan, Owner of Herzog’s and the Kingston Plaza.
John Reinhart, Officer in the Kingston Fire Department.

They have served on this board since its inception.  It is disrespectful and disingenuous to the board, and a disservice to people of Kingston, to praise the board while dissolving it, and to tell us they cannot serve honorably while this Mayor makes “revisions” to the Ethics Law.

These changes look like an attempt to hide conflicts, and make it easier to sell public office for personal gain.

This smells like retribution and political shenanigans.

-Andrew Champ-Doran

*Editor’s note:  Find more stories and see documents referenced by clicking on the highlighted links, or going to KingstonBarn‘s “The Documents” page.  KingstonBarn posts and comments reflect the opinions of the authors only.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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It’s All Wrong But It’s All Right

Governor Andrew Cuomo has given us quite a lot to think about in the last couple of weeks, and not all of it is pleasant.

He has told us that municipalities and school districts are not consolidating services and constituencies fast enough, and costing the taxpayers money.  He’s told us that the schools are going to see no more money from the state in the coming budget.  He’s told us the budget is coming out, and we will all have to tighten our belts a little more.  New York, he says, can’t afford to do any more.  Sure, there is a tax cap, but the Governor assures us there is no mandate relief in site for our counties, towns, or schools.

“Do more with less,’ just about sums it up.Do more with less

It’s disheartening, then, to see this headline in the Kingston Daily Freeman:  NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo allows state police superintendent to draw $85,000 pension, plus $136,000 salary  According to the AP story, Governor Cuomo has filed for a waiver to pay State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico his NYPD pension while he is earning the full salary and benefits afforded his current position.  Cuomo’s reasoning for breaking his previous pledge not to do so? “…it had become “financially impossible” for him to keep his post without it.”  Somehow, while working that old saw, the top people in our state government cannot manage to do more with less.

I don’t know Mr. D’Amico’s age, his abilities, or his financial situation. It’s really none of my business. I would not presume to tell him which of his necessities or luxuries to forgo, but I am sure he’s earned whatever he has.

I do assume that, after being nominated for the post by the Governor, and gaining confirmation by the Legislature, Joseph D’Amico is qualified for the job.  He has already lasted longer than his three predecessors combined.  That is not the question.  Being paid by the state to work while taking your full retirement benefit is.

If you cannot afford to retire, keep your job. This is the choice millions make every day, and they make a whole lot less than $85,000 per year. If you cannot afford to do the job for what it pays, your choices are a little broader. Negotiate for more, don’t take the job, or find one that can support you.  The answer, from the Governor’s point of view, should not be to give a back-door pay increase, but to do it openly if he feels it’s warranted.  How can we hold our local police and fire personnel to higher standards than the state holds theirs?

indianapublicmedia.org photo

indianapublicmedia.org photo

I am not implying any malfeasance, criminal activity, or cover-up.  What Governor Cuomo has done is perfectly legal, and, judging by the numbers, is in keeping with past practice.  I am saying that this gives at least the appearance of impropriety, and will most likely infuriate the taxpaying and voting public when they find out about  the “double dipping”.  Telling said public that that we are down to 44 waivers for double dipping from the previous 110 is not likely to improve their mood.  Our own Mayor Shayne Gallo can serve as an example to Governor Cuomo.  Do more with less, and do it above-board.

This is too important to be left as a policy with a work-around.  This must be dealt with as a law.

As a solution, I propose the following: The State Legislature should craft and pass a bill outlawing the practice for all public employees. Except in cases of extreme hardship (say, currently earning twice the federal poverty line or less), no public employee, elected, appointed, or hired, may draw funds on the NYS Pension Plan during their time of employment.  Should you retire, begin drawing funds, and then resume work as a public employee, payments are suspended until you leave such employment.  Your private employment after leaving government service does not affect your State Pension, unless you work for a registered lobbyist.

If, however, the Governor feels that the pay for any job is not high enough to keep the proper personnel, he should be free to take the matter up with the legislature, and have them include the increase in the next budget.

The legislature should not be allowed to exempt themselves, their staffs, or anyone from the law.  Legislators and the Governor would, in this one case, avoid the appearance of unethical behavior for passing such a bill.  Waivers would become a thing of the past, and we would all be a little better off.

You can help.  Our own New York Assemblyman Kevin Cahill has spent a great deal of effort on opening up the workings of our government to it’s people.  I am sure he would be interested in hearing from you in support of such legislation.   Newly minted State Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk has said she is looking forward to working with us, as well.  Just scroll over the name and click.  You will end up at the official contact page, and you can let your legislator know what you want.

Cahill and Tkaczykregisterstar.com photo

Cahill and Tkaczyk
registerstar.com photo

Some will say that this approach is naive.  It may be, but I am sure that it far more naive to expect that our elected officials will make a move to change the way things are without our encouragement and support.

-Andrew Champ-Doran

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Fiscal Chickie Run

As we start the New Year, Congress have finally come to a partial deal to temporarily avoid a couple of the immediate consequences of going over the “Fiscal Cliff”.  That they built the cliff out of fear, hubris, and just plain old laziness, and then pushed the country right up to it, hardly seems the point now.  How to not go over the next few cliffs make up our next set of challenges.

Watching the whole sloppy fiasco play out put me in mind of the “Chickie Run” scene in Rebel Without a Cause.  Watch this, and tell me if you don’t see it.  Rebel Without a Cause  Pay close attention as James Dean and Corey Allen discuss what is about to pass.

At the edge

At the edge

I have a problem only when it comes to casting the scene.  Are the forty-or-so Tea Party reps that killed a Plan B vote like Buzz, getting their sleeves caught in the doorhandle, and now it’s too late?  Do House and Senate “leadership” see themselves as Jim?  Boy, the car went off the cliff, but we bailed in time.  Are the rank and file all lining up just how Crush told them to, or are they exited, like Judy, and really want to see what happens?  I, for one, felt mostly like Plato, right there with the rest of America, crossing our fingers, and hoping they would solve this before it got too bad.  And I ask, as James Dean’s Jim does, “Why do we do this?”

These are big problems, but they are not unsolvable.  They will be, though, if the people we’ve charged with solving them refuse to see a way other than their own.  We cannot keep the pedal to the floor, steering straight ahead, and expect to not go off the same cliff next time.

I do see hope in who we here in New York’s brand new 19th District have sent to Washington.  We can start with Chris Gibson.  Gibson joined a group of 16 Republican and 22 Democratic Congressmen to vote for the the compromise Cooper-Latourette budget last year.  With his vote, the first term representative signalled his willingness to compromise to get things done, and showed his understanding that the alternative is worse.

In his Deceber 12 Albany Times-Union commentary, Gibson pivoted his piece on these words.  “Our Constitution wisely set up a form of government where, without consensus, we keep the status quo. I believe all would agree that the status quo is unacceptable so, by constitutional design, we need to work together.”  Fine words, but how do you change the status quo?  world

Gibson answers with stunning action.  U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, skipping anti-tax pledge, hopes for deal to avoid ‘fiscal cliff’  When 95% of all Republicans in Congress are beholden to Grover Norquist, and not necessarily to their constituents, this is a politically courageous move.  Norquist has repeatedly promised to crush any candidate that does not swear allegience to him and his extortionist lobby, Americans for Tax Reform.  Congressmen Gibson, though, has pointedly proclaimed his duty is to all of his constituents, the Constitution, and to the United States, leaving Norquist to rationalize his own diminishment.  Since that November announcement, over 30 other members of the House and Senate have followed Gibson in rescinding and renouncing their ATR pledges.

Gibson has taken strong action to support the heavily Democratic Kingston.  He was the Congressman that met with Mayor Shayne Gallo, and pushed the Bank of America to donate their building on Broadway to the city for use as a law enforcement center.  Before the election, he promised to set an example to help our troubled Midtown Business Corridor.  After the election, Gibson phoned the Mayor.  He wanted the Mayor to know that he was carrying through, and was locating his 19th District office on Broadway.  “Listening to (Kingston) Mayor (Shayne) Gallo, I am inspired by his vision for the revitalization of Midtown Kingston, and I want to open an office on Broadway to show support and confidence that Midtown can come back,” Gibson told Kingston Daily Freeman reporter Kyle Wind.  According to a Gibson staffer in Kinderhook, the deal for offices in the 721 Media Center is done, utilities are being hooked up, and the Broadway office will be open in the next day or two.

In what might be the most eloquent gesture yet that he is willing to reach accross that great dividing line, Congressman Chris Gibson made an unscheduled stop after the Kingston Winter Farmers Market at Kingston’s Old Dutch Church.  Alerted to his presensce there, a clot of sign-carrying protesters gathered in wait outside.   Kingston Times Editor Dan Barton reports that, as he emerged from the hall, “Gibson went right out to the protesters and started a dialogue.”  Both Barton and YNN figured the discussion at fifteen to twenty minutes, a lot for a cold and grey December day.  What’s even more remarkable, in our current political climate, is that Barton declared “the encounter was almost completely anger-free.”

I am not completely naive.  I hold no delusions that the leaders in the House and Senate will suddenly step back and listen to first- and second-term Congressmen who talk calm and compromise.  After watching the sad chestthumping, sabrerattling display by members of the House and Senate on this morning’s Meet the Press, While I wasn’t expecting a big campfire with all gathered singing “Kumbayah”, I am not encouraged that Buzz and Jim will choose to let up on the gas and stop before they get to the next cliff.  But, all is not lost.  We can try something.

Maurice Hinchey and Chris GibsonKingston Times photo by Dan Barton

Maurice Hinchey and Chris Gibson
Kingston Times photo by Dan Barton

It may seem radical, but we can try positive reinforcement.  We can call or write or email our representatives, and tell them we want compromise.  Tell them, specifically, what we like about what they’ve already done, and what we hope they’ll do in the near future.  If you are reading this in New York’s 19th District, click here for contact Information.  Click on the contact us link at the top right, or call or write one of his local offices at the bottom.  For other Legislators, you can try http://www.senate.gov or http://www.house.gov

We can not change the movie that’s already played.  We can’t even try,  But there are always sequels and remakes to come.  For the next one we’ll write in a Chris Gibson character that gets hold of at least one set of keys.

-Andrew Champ-Doran

*Editor’s note:  Kingston Times content used by expressed permission

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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A Common Place

*Editor’s Note:  This marks the final front page installment here of the joint KingstonBarn/CahillonKingston series I’ve been calling “Coming to Terms”.  I’ve been having a great time with this, and I certainly hope it’sMINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA been as enjoyable for you as it has been for Mr. Cahill and me.  In the future, I will keep up on the conversation, and post any further replies in the comment section attached to this post.  Again, we thank you for reading, and encourage you to join the conversation in these pages or on CahillOnKingston.  As always, all content from his blog is published with the expressed permission of Richard T Cahill, Jr. 

***

Mr. Champ-Doran,

cahill3You attack Jefferson and Madison based on mistakes they made in their lifetime, but rely upon the wisdom of the Supreme Court to bolster your opinion.

The Supreme Court has offered many “interpretations” over the years that run contrary to the actual constitution.

For example, they issued an opinion in the Dred Scott case that African-Americans were property and not human beings.

They have also created rights out of whole cloth that have no basis in the Constitution and should have been issues for the States under the 10th Amendment.

The Supreme Court was designed to define the limitations of the Constitution. Unfortunately, the Court has allowed itself to become a second legislature and a policy decider. It is supposed to enforce the Constitution but instead bends it and twists it to the point of breaking.

I always find it interesting when someone argues that the Constitution is great because it can be bent to serve the current intent of the day.

In actuality, the government is supposed to serve the people under the restrictions of the Constitution.

However, just as government now seemingly demands that the people serve it, government now demands that the Constitution serve the government as well.

A big part of the so-called justification for creeping (or perhaps now full gallloping) Socialism is the claim that the Constitution is a “living document” that molds itself to our will. Such talk is nonsense. The Constitution was designed to keep the federal government limited and under control.

Sadly, as with any document or rule of law, when people (such as Jefferson in the example you note) disregard same for personal or alleged societal gain, we abandon the founding principles. I doubt whether the founding fathers would even recognize the United States of 2012.

December 5, 2012 8:16 AM

***

Mr. Cahill,

KingstonBarn photo by Quentin Champ-Doran

KingstonBarn photo by Quentin Champ-Doran

Success!  The point of this blog, and this conversation, is to find points of agreement, and we have.  I concur with much of what you’ve written above.  I will get to our common views presently, but first…

I take some slight umbrage with the characterization of pointing out the differences between what Madison and Jefferson said and did as an “attack”.  As you raise their words in support of your points, I point to their actions regarding the Constitution in support of mine.

Madison and Jefferson were great and complicated men, shaping their country and their world in difficult times.  They did more than most to create the United States of America.  They wrought the documents that are the foundation of this country.  Of course they made mistakes along the way, as will all men in any office, but my point remains.  What they wrote in letters or articles about the Constitution does not change what they did in the Constitution, or what they did for or against it as it stood.

I will agree with you that the Supreme Court has been making decisions that run contrary to the Constitution, as you remark, “over the years”.  Your example of the Dred Scott Decision (1857) was considered one of the worst in American history.  It ran over States Rights and held an Act of Congress unconstitutional.  Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) upheld Jim Crow laws, nearly 30 years after the 14th Amendment passed.  Schenck v. United States (1919) trampled over the defendant’s 1st Amendment rights to freedom of speech.

In 1886, The Supreme Court declared corporations are people and have all of the constitutional rights of people, even though the Constitution explicitly guarantees rights for people and grants none to corporations.  That was Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, and the Citizens United decision of 2010 upheld that and affirmed that money equals speech.  I will give a tax-free dollar to the first who can show me those two provisions anywhere in the Constitution.

Your contention that these bad decisions have been going on for years, though, only supports mine as it relates to your original post.  You say we killed the Constitutional Republic on Election Day this year.   The President, Congress, and the Supreme Court have been taking actions “that run contrary to the actual constitution” for well over 200 years.  Here are the choices:  Either, the constitutional republic known as the United States of America was killed within ten years of its birth and has been buried a thousand times over, or it is alive and well and will survive this President, this Court, and this Congress,  as it has in times of Reagan, Nixon, Roosevelt, Hoover, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Adams.

The Constitution’s Amending Clause (Article V, Section I) does not make it easy to change, nor does it make change impossible.  I would not say that makes it flexible enough to bend to the intent of the day.  What I did say was, “They allowed for change and interpretation according to the will of the governed.”

If Frank Luntz wants to call taxing and spending, which has been legal and allowed by the Constitution since its ratification, “redistribution of wealth”, he may.  If Roger Ailes wants to define government spending as ”Socialism”, I suppose he can do that, too.  Rick Warren can call Supreme Court Judges “activist” because he does not like their decisions.  He can even convene an arena revival to get others to chant and cheer his words.  But them saying it, and getting others to repeat it, does not make it so.

Your first-response complaint, that “millions of people sat on their butts while a man with a clear socialist agenda has been reelected,” does not change the definition of a republican form of government.   The lazy abdication of civic duty does not buy any citizen a pass on responsibility.

By any definition you choose, we have a republican form of government.  We directly elect our representatives, as described in the Constitution.  We send our Electors to elect the President, as described in the Constitution.  The President nominates and the Congress confirms our Supreme Court Justices, as described in the Constitution.  Laws are passed in Congress, signed by the President, and interpreted by the Courts, all as described in the Constitution.  The Constitution also provides for removal of all of these officers, should circumstances warrant.  According to the Constitution, our first stop in controlling our government is at our polling place.

In the beginning or in the end, our most important agreement is, and must be, that our duty does not end with the ballot box.  Without our action, our civil rights are only so much fading ink on yellowing pieces of paper.

-Andrew Champ-Doran

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Narrowing the Gap

Editor’s note:  “Narrowing the Gap” is the next installment of of the joint KingstonBarn/CahillonKingston project I am calling “Coming to Terms”.  You can read it here and on cahillonkingston.blogspot.com  We encourage you to join in by commenting on both blogs.  You can follow us both, too, and be immediately notified when a new post or comment appears in answer to yours.

We seem to be finding points of agreement in our discussion, which I feel is the goal.  Without necessarily changing our core beliefs, we can find that common ground.  If our elected officials could do that, be they Mayor Gallo and the Common Council or President Obama and Congress, maybe they could act where they agree, and leave the rest to debate.  -KingstonBarnMINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

*****
UPDATE
*****

cahillonkingston photo

cahillonkingston photo

Mr. Champ-Doran,

While I disagree with your constitutional points, I am enjoying our debate.  I am going to extend an invitation to some people I know through Facebook who are knowledgeable on the Constitution and ask them to join by posting comments.  To be clear, the people I speak have varying interpretations.  Some are conservative, some liberal, and some are libertarian.  Libertarians’ interpretation of the Constitution are often the subject of fascinating debate.  (I mean that in a positive way).  I am not seeking to stack the deck, but rather extend this thoughtful and respectful debate.

To your comments …

I admit that my initial article is hyperbole to a point.  The country is not dead, though I believe we are heading full speed toward being a socialist democracy.   One of the methods being used to further this unworthy goal is redistribution of wealth.

The basic definition of “redistribution of wealth” is the transfer of money, wealth, or property from one of means to one of limited or no means in order to right a perceived social wrong.  In theory, there can be the reverse which is sometimes referred to as “regressive redistribution”.  I suppose one might actually refer to my definition above as “progressive redistribution”.

You argue that redistribution is constitutional because it can be accomplished via taxes or social welfare programs that the Supreme Court has upheld.  I respectfully submit that the means may be constitutional, but the ultimate goal is contrary to the United States Constitution.

We can both agree that the term “redistribution of wealth” does not appear in the Constitution; however, I think it apparent that the intent of the framers of the Constitution makes clear that redistribution was never intended or desired.  Allow me to provide some examples.  I know Thomas Jefferson was not part of the constitutional convention, but he is largely regarded as a “founding father”.  I have therefore included some of his quotes and writings.

When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that is the end of the republic.” — Benjamin Franklin

To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.” — Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816

A wise and frugal government … shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” — Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.” –Thomas Jefferson

With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”  — James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, in a letter to James Robertson

If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions.” — James Madison, Letter to Edmund Pendleton, January 21, 1792

On another point, you stated that you selected Donald Trump because he has suggested a revolution.  I can understand your concern over his use of the word revolution.  However, I close by quoting James Madison from his speech to the ratifying convention of Virginia on June 16, 1788.  He said, “There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

I believe the last four years and the re-election of Barack Obama, as well as the push for redistribution of wealth, constitutes “gradual and silent encroachments” of the freedom of the people of the United States of America.

I await your reply, sir.

***

Mr Cahill,

KingstonBarn photo by Quentin Champ-Doran

KingstonBarn photo by Quentin Champ-Doran

I, too, find this discussion fascinating and fun.  What began as a shared experiment has opened into a more sustained exposition of thinking than this format usually allows.  I welcome opinions from anybody willing to join in.  This affirms the basic premise of KingstonBarn; that we can have a thoughtful exchange that finds points of agreement.  It’s only from there that we can find solutions.

On your points regarding redistribution of wealth, I agree to some of them.  True, the phrase is not found in the constitution, but then, neither is your definition.  I will concede to the first part, “transfer of money, wealth, or property from one of means to one of limited or no means…”  At root, that is the true definition of redistribution of wealth, and the rest, about righting social wrong, is slanted modifier.  I am not too sure of “limited or no means”, either, as you will see.  Under this definition, all taxation is redistribution of wealth.

We tax, and we redistribute to make roads, buildings, bridges, monuments, ships, planes, and ammunition.  We tax, and we redistribute to industries, corporations, universities, parks, small businesses, hospitals, prisons, states, counties, and municipalities.  We tax, and we redistribute to contractors, soldiers, police, teachers, employees, vendors, farmers, consultants, politicians, artists, scientists, lawyers, and managers.  And yes, we tax, and we redistribute to the unemployed, the underemployed, the survivors, the retired, the disabled, the veterans, the homeless, and the elderly.

Last Summer, my beautiful bride and I took the kids down to Gallo Park, just to sit and watch Sunday afternoon go by.  We were sitting on the bench, marking the boats as they returned to their docks for the day.  Not too much time passed before we had seen boats of every description motor in, from big yachts to small 14’ Sunfish two-handers.  Here is how I know we are not anywhere near Socialism.  There were many boats, all of them unique, tied up next to each other.  Not once in all of that day, did a government official walk up and give me my boat.

The warnings of sliding down the slippery slope to Socialism have been coming for a lot longer than I can remember.  I expect they will keep coming.  That may be a good thing, because it’s possible that a small part of what keeps us from Socialism is that there are those that keep warning us about Socialism.  Whether the cries come from Chicken Little or a coal mine canary is left for all of us to examine.  I would bet, though, that the real reason is much closer to most people just plain would not tolerate it.  Sure, the Socialist Party shows up on the presidential ballot every four years, but so does the Libertarian Party.  If you are worried about how popular either philosophy really is, just count their votes.

The quotes you cite are certainly pertinent to this conversation, but I will say that they carry less import than the actions of the men who spoke them.  Thomas Jefferson was categorically against big government until he was in charge of one.  While he agreed the US Constitution made no provision for acquiring new territories (not unlimited powers… but only those specifically enumerated), Jefferson went ahead with the Louisiana Purchase and doubled the size of our country.  He claimed that the Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional, but he prosecuted several of his enemies under those very same laws.

On a family trip to Monticello this past June, we were shown writings of Thomas Jefferson, and told he called slavery a “crime against humanity,” and “an abomination”.  That was not long before we were invited to the slave shops and quarters, and we found out that he freed a grand total of two of his six hundred fifty slaves in his lifetime.  The man who wrote, “…all men are created equal,” took action quite different from his writings and explanations.

Madison may have written explanations of “general welfare” in letters after the fact, but the phrase was, in the US Constitution, intentionally left for Congress and the Supreme Court to interpret and apply.

Your final quote is quite easy to agree with, and I will repeat it here.  “There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”  But, none of what you claim is dragging us down the road to Socialism  has been done in silence, and all of it has been vetted by the protections afforded in the US Constitution.

I know it’s been said before, but, I will say it again.  The genius of the framers of the Constitution is not that they wrote the document and managed ratification.  Their real brilliance was that they were aware they did not know everything, including the future.  They allowed for change and interpretation according to the will of the governed.

I will repeat that I do not think government should give us everything, or control all aspects of our lives.  In this discussion, I am not advocating for those programs ( though, of course I would, if asked).  I am simply saying, here, that they are legal.

I again affirm your argument.  The Constitution guarantees a Constitutional Republic form of government.  I will also reaffirm that our social programs do not meet the bar of the definition of Socialism.  Our Supreme Court has interpreted what Congress and the President have done, over the past 220 years, as constitutional or not.  President Obama has done no more or less to change that than Presidents Reagan, Roosevelt, Lincoln, or Jefferson.

Greater minds than ours have disagreed on the powers and limits afforded by the Constitution.  The fact that there are few, if any, unanimous decisions handed down by the Supreme Court is the simple, elegant proof to that statement.

-Andrew Champ-Doran

*cahillonkingston content published with the author’s expressed permission.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Coming to Terms

Editor’s note:  We try another experiment today.  Last Friday, while reading other local blogs, I came across the following post on Cahillonkingston.  I responded, and, a few days later, Mr. Cahill responded to that.  As I wrote back, the thought occurred to me that this conversation could be shared with the readers of KingstonBarn, as well.  I called Mr. Cahill, and he cheerfully agreed.  The following is meant to be an open conversation.  While we hold our core beliefs dear, it is not an argument, a fight, or a rant.  These are opinions, clearly labeled, and are the sole responsibility of their respective authors.  As always, I encourage you to get involved.  Feel free to comment on KingstonBarn, or add your opinions to cahillonkingston.blogspot.com.  All content from from his blog is published here with the expressed permission of Richard T. Cahill, Jr.

-Andrew Champ-Doran, KingstonBarn

cahillonkingston photo

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2012

R.I.P.

The constitutional republic known as the United States of America

July 4, 1776 to November 6, 2012
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Mr. Cahill,

KingstonBarn photo by Quentin Champ-Doran

I am not sure what you mean.  Are you saying that the constitution was trashed by having a Presidential Election, or are you just dissatisfied with the election’s outcome?
Every Presidential election in my voting life (Since 1978) has ended with a whole bunch of people declaring that the country is in deep dooky, and a whole bunch of people (often the same) declare that they are moving to Canada.  To my knowledge, though, the United States of America has survived as a constitutional republic, with very little emigration to Canada, or anywhere else.
This is still a great country.  I can tell, because it’s still legal for a couple of descendants of Irish immigrants, like you and me, to publicly point out what we don’t like about it, and we are still given a chance to fix what’s wrong.  And you an officer of the court, no less.
-Andrew Champ-Doran
***
Richard T. Cahill Jr. said…
Mr. Champ-Doran,First, my being an officer of the court has no bearing on expressing my personal opinion.
Second, can you not see? President Obama is changing the country from a constitutional republic into a socialist democracy. It is plain and obvious.
He is redistributing wealth and using the government to pick winners and losers in support of the welfare state.
He has ordered that the laws of the United States not be enforced if he happens to personally disagree with them.
He engages in massive class warfare pitting rich versus poor, black versus white, and men versus women.He is now looking to enter into a treaty with the United Nations mandating full gun control despite the Second Amendment of the Constitution.He governs using Executive Orders even though the Constitution requires Congressional action.

During the campaign, the President said he had “a new vision of an America in which prosperity is shared”. Not earned. Shared. We take from those who earn it and give it to those he wants to have it. That is socialism by definition.

Now, I have watched as millions of people sat on their butts while a man with a clear socialist agenda has been reelected.

It was clear and obvious to anyone listening and watching that Obama was running on a pure socialist agenda. Yet, he still won. I fear that socialism is now the majority. I fear that the majority no longer asks not what the country can do for them, but instead asks, “What is the government going to give me next?”

The constitutional republic known as the United States may well have died on November 6, 2012.November 13,

2012 8:45 AM

***

Mr. Cahill,

I apologize.  I meant no insult.  I simply meant that it is a wonderful thing that a government agent, or any citizen, has the right to criticize the government.  The First Amendment protections for you and I to do so are alive and well.

The Constitution itself provides for what you call “redistributing wealth”, and to pick “winners and losers”.

I’ll quote Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1.  “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.”

Because we disagree on what constitutes “general Welfare of the United States”, does not change the fact of its constitutionality.

I fail to see the difference between when President Obama does it, and when President Reagan or President Bush does it.  This country has been levying taxes under the authority of the Constitution since 1789, and even had the right to do so under the Articles of Confederation in 1781.  The 16th Amendment allowed for Federal Income Taxes when it was ratified in 1913.  I have not heard even the most radical of national elected officials seriously call for the abolition of taxes altogether.

I can see your point about ordering that laws not be enforced, but that’s been happening for over two hundred years here in this constitutional republic.

Upon taking office in 1801, Thomas Jefferson pardoned a few of his friends lawfully jailed under the Alien and Sedition Acts, yet selectively prosecuted a few of his enemies under the same laws.  Abraham Lincoln suspended Habeus Corpus, and wrote and delivered the Emancipation Proclamation by executive order.  George W. Bush, ignoring the 4th Amendment, secretly wiretapped Americans within the US, all the while proclaiming that it was illegal to do so.  Even Mitt Romney continually promised to “repeal ObamaCare on day one.”, though he never had the legal authority to do so.

Class warfare seems to be a matter of point of view.  A White man making $27 million a year in capital gains, speaking to a room full of rich White men and women, calling 47% of the people in the country dependents, victims, and irresponsible takers…well, those seem like pretty insulting fighting words.  They are especially troubling when you can see some of those “47%” in the tape, working hard, trying to support themselves, while serving those same rich White people.  It seems that Romney doesn’t even see them there, or he doesn’t care that they can hear him.

Donald Trump is another rich White man that got a big head start from his rich father.  Election night tweets for “a revolution in this country!”, calling the electoral college a “disaster”, and false claims of Romney winning the popular vote also suggest that he’s another official Romney representative engaging in class warfare.

Here are two dictionary definitions:

1)      constitutional democracy    noun    a system of government based on popular sovereignty in which the structures, powers,and limits of government are set forth in a constitution.

2)       socialism   noun   a theory or system of social organization  that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

I know that many think that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are pure Socialism, that feeding our poor and housing our homeless are something that we should not be doing.  Some would say that educating the poor beyond high school is not our problem, or that helping struggling people should be the sole responsibility of families and churches. I disagree.  This is not Socialism.  It is societal obligation.

We are a Constitutional Republic.  The Preamble to the Constitution is one sentence.  “We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense,  promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

When we ratified the Constitution, we committed to the laws, but we also became signatories to a social contract.  I think the disagreement is more about the terms and limitations of that contract than whether we have breached it.  The discussion needs to be engaged and continued, not abandoned in despair.

-Andrew Champ-Doran

***

Mr. Champ-Doran,

Allow me to correct your errors on the Constitution and constitutional law.

First, under Article IV, section 4, the United States guarantees a republican form of government.  Thus, any attempt to take one clause of the Constitution out of context to justify a socialist form of government is in direct violation of said article.

The power of Congress to lay and collect taxes and provide for the “general welfare” does not give constitutional authority to fundamentally change our basic form of government.

By its very nature, the federal government is a limited government.  In fact, this point was so strong in the minds of the founding fathers that they drafted the 10th Amendment making it crystal clear that any power not expressly given to the federal government is expressly reserved to the States or the people.

Second, where do you see the power to redistribute wealth in the Constitution?  By definition, redistribution of wealth is taking from the wealthy so as to redistribute it to whomever you wish, usually the poor.

Under the very same section you site, it is stated that all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform.

Additionally, the power to levy an income tax is not in the original Constitution.  That power comes from Amendment XVI which was ratified on 2/3/1913.

Third, there is no reference to a “social contract” in the Constitution.  The Constitution was the joining of the States into a limited federal government.  Not one single member of the men who debated and wrote this Constitution ever envisioned the federal government running private industry or becoming cradle to grave financial security.

Now, let’s discuss your non-constitutional points.  First, class warfare.  You argue against my point of class warfare with a blatant class warfare argument.

Nevertheless, looking at your discussion of a wealthy man (you say white man, though race and gender are not relevant because there are wealthy men and women of all races in this country), you fail to mention something important.  The man in question EARNED his money.  Income taxes were paid on his money at the top level long before he invested said money into various companies.  Now, his money was taxed for the second time as capital gains.

That is not enough.  Now, you want that money taxed a third time at the maximum income tax level even though it was already taxed.

I take further note that you seem to express contempt for someone who inherited money from their father or parent.  What is wrong with that?

A man works his entire life, pays taxes, and succeeds.  He then passes his legacy to his children.  The children have to pay inheritance taxes on that money even though it was already subject to income taxes.  Your comment regarding Mr. Trump suggests that somehow his inheritance is not justified.  I see nothing wrong with a man or woman passing on their financial legacy to his or her sons or daughters.

The big part of class warfare is this irrational hatred of successful people and the idea that somehow that they do not deserve to be wealthy despite their personal or familial success.  Success is to be encouraged not mocked.

Then, to justify this irrational hatred, the wealthy are attacked for resenting those who live off the public dole even when they have the ability to work.

The various public assistance programs exist to help those who cannot help themselves.  Unfortunately, these well intended programs have been inundated with claims from people fully capable of working but who would rather live off the dole than go out and earn a living.

This is unfair to those who actually require the assistance and unfair to those who are working and have to continually pay higher taxes to support those truly undeserving of public support.

Finally, your comment that feeding the poor and educating people should not be our responsibility is pure straw man.

Of course we have a moral obligation to care for the poor and down trodden.  However, if you read the Constitution carefully, it is not the federal government that bears that burden.  It is the burden of each of the States or the people per the Tenth Amendment.

The bottom line is that you are taking clauses of the Constitution out of context to justify socialism as some form of contractual or moral obligation.

Is it not ironic that people such as myself who are pro-life are told we cannot force our morality upon people?  Yet, you seem to be arguing that your sense of morality is actually written in the federal Constitution albeit in invisible ink.

***

Mr. Cahill,

I’d like to do a little housekeeping first, and clear up any misconceptions you or your readers may have.

To the point of class warfare, I express no contempt or animosity toward the making of money, or of inheriting money.  I simply point out that wealthy people, attacking people who do not earn enough to pay federal taxes, is class warfare.   The irony of the people with the class advantages of money, power, and access accusing the poor and powerless of class warfare is not lost on me, either.

You bring wealth, race, and sex into the discussion with your first reply when you claim of President Obama, “He engages in massive class warfare pitting rich versus poor, black versus white, and men versus women.”, and I respond using your words.  I bring Trump into the discussion because he is the one calling for “revolution”.  Those are his words.  I hold no ill will for anyone making any amount of money by any legal and ethical means.

As you say, an investor earns his investment income.  But, dividends are income that was never taxed in the first place.  It is new income, and as such, should be taxed as ordinary income.  Not on the whole amount, mind you, but on the earnings above principal.  I do not, as you say, think it should be taxed three times.  Just like the money I expect to earn from from my Social Security or my 403b, it should all be taxed as ordinary income as I draw on the funds.  The real differences here are that I don’t get to write off losses from those investments over the years, I don’t get to declare earnings above principal as capital gains, and that I will pay taxes on all of it at my top overall income rate.

You say, “the wealthy are attacked for resenting those who live off the public dole even when they have the ability to work.”  Most of Romney’s 47% not paying federal taxes are working, and not “living on the public dole”.   American combat soldiers, including our own Congressman Chris Gibson, earned it.   My retired parents, living on Social Security and a small pension, have earned it.  Ayn Rand with personal wealth of over $500,000 when she died, earned her Medicare and Medicaid. When the Poughkeepsie Journal moved their press operations, my friend lost his job.  He used Unemployment Compensation and Education benefits he had earned to bridge to a new job.  It was a long and arduous struggle,  but his young family is now back on its feet.  When his father died, Paul Ryan admittedly did not need Social Security Dependent Benefits to live.  Instead, he cashed in the benefits his father earned, saved it, and used some of it to pay for college.  Sometimes, you do all you can do, and you still have a hard time.  Who among these do you label dependents, victims, or irresponsible takers?  If you doubt that is what he meant to say, I refer you to Romney’s comments last week about Obama winning the election because of gifts to African-American, Hispanic, and young voters; gifts like insurance, and college loans, and free birth control are what Romney claims won the election.  I say it was gifts in the form of comments like Romney’s that helped Obama win.

The vast majority of people who have been, and continue to be, on public assistance, are not taking the money and living the high life.  I do not see people on Section 8 benefits living in mansions,  but I am acquainted with a few living in very difficult conditions.  Make a visit inside of Washington Manor, Elizabeth Manor, or any one of a number of houses on Franklin, Furnace, Henry, or St. James Streets.  I have.

I am sure there are some people defrauding the system, but if you have specific information regarding this crime, is it not your duty and responsibility to report them to the Department of Social Services?  While a number of people were cashing in Food Stamps for disallowed purposes, the real beneficiaries of the scam on Broadway last year were the owners of the business making it possible.   The real numbers are bound to be a small fraction of the 47% Romney claims.  And usually, those people don’t vote.  A more thoughtful person, not interested in fomenting class warfare, might have said, “47% of Americans will not vote for me under any circumstances, 47% will not vote for my opponent under any circumstances, but I need your help to reach the middle 6%, and get my 47% out to the polls.  Regardless of how they vote, my job as President Romney will be to work for all 310 million Americans.”

In any case, people who pay no Federal Income Taxes still pay plenty of taxes, most of it at the same flat rate as the other 53%.  Every time you buy gas or cigarettes, you pay federal and state taxes.  Pay for electric, phone, or cable, and you are paying those taxes.  Tour a national park, say the Roosevelt Estate, Vanderbilt Estate, or the Statue of Liberty, and you pay a federal tax.  Buy most goods and services in Ulster County, and you pay taxes.  Register your car or your dog, and you pay a tax.  Bridge fares, Thruway tolls, and Lottery tickets are all taxes.  No matter how much you make, nobody rides for free.

Allow me to correct one more assumption, and I will move on to your constitutional arguments.  I do not, and would not try to force my morality on you, or anyone else.  You have every right to remain against abortions, and to work against laws and decisions that allow them.  I have rarely indicated to anyone how I feel about that subject, but I do not presume to force my views upon you.  Likewise, my views on the responsibilities of decent societies are not to be taken as being forced on anyone.  These are strictly my opinions, and points for discussion.  I put them forth for the reader’s consideration, no more.

No, I do not think my sense of morality is written into the Constitution.  However, the Taxing and Spending Clause allows Congress to levy taxes uniformly throughout the United States.  The Constitution says congress can levy income taxes.  The Constitution charges congress with making a budget, and allows for congress to spend the money as they agree to do so.  They make the budget and spending into a bill.  The Constitution requires the President then sign the bill into law, veto the bill, or take no action.  Until suit is brought and the Supreme Court rules otherwise, the law is constitutional.  This is not my morality.  This is written in the constitution, clearly and plainly.

Let’s agree on this; to define a Republican form of government as:  a type of government in which the citizens of a country have an active role in the affairs of the government, and the government is not headed by a hereditary ruler such as a king.  Or, if you prefer, James Madison says in the Federalist Papers a republic “is a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people; and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior.”  By acting under the Constitution to levy taxes (Article I, Section 8.1 and Amendment XVI ) and pass budget bills (Article I, Section 7.1, .2, and .3), our elected representatives only affirm that form of government.  If you reread, you will find I previously pointed out the 16th Amendment was not ratified until 1913.  Are you implying the 16th Amendment is somehow less valid or not as constitutional because it was not in the original convention?  Whatever they could or could not imagine, the framers of the Constitution provided for changes in Article V.  Those amendments were intentionally difficult to achieve, but still possible.  As long as those changes are made according to Article V, they are constitutional.

Let me be clear.  None of what I have said is an argument for Socialism.  You have no right to take my car and have the Central Committee define a driving schedule in it for me and my neighbors.  I have no rights to yours.  I never advocated for Socialism, and I never will.  I defined Socialism in an a comment above.  Socialism and redistribution of wealth are specifically defined, and should in no way be confused with lawful taxation and budgetary spending as approved by our duly elected representatives.

I am fully committed to our Constitution, as I assume you are.  The whole of Article IV, Section 4 says the following:  “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened), against domestic violence.”

My original point stands as before.  Our Constitution is alive and well, and is the foundation of our republic.  We periodically face tests of the constitution, and still it survives.  That has not changed with the reelection of one President.  Your first post, repeated by many people every four years, is hyperbole.  Our country may need work, but the founders knew that.  They knew they weren’t perfect, and they allowed for change and improvement.  As long as enough of us are willing to do the job, we will remain the place that all of us want to live.

-Andrew Champ-Doran

National Archives photo

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The “Amen!” of the Damned

Welcome back!

Twenty one years ago today, the love of my life said yes, and agreed to become my beautiful bride.  Moby Dick was published 120 years before that.  The events are unrelated, except for the fact that they are two of my favorite things.  This is also the time of year when the demands of my job pull me in to longer, more intense days.  I have been focused more exclusively on family and work.  I haven’t written as much as I’d like, and I apologize for that.  With any luck, I’ll get back to posting every week or two.  Big changes are coming to KingstonBarn, and I am excited.

The big change for today is our first guest blogger, Rabbi David Nelson.  As promised at the outset, this is a forum for discussion of our local and area issues.  Well, this greeted me in this morning’s inbox, and I thought it too good, too pertinent, and too thought-provoking not to share with you.

As always, I invite you to join in the discussion, either in the comment section, or by writing you own post for this blog.  Just send it on to the email address below.

Andrew Champ-Doran
KingstonBarn.wordpress.com
champdoran@gmail.com
 

Dear friends,

‘Tis the season! Debates! Polls! And those ever-popular television attack ads! What does it all mean? Consider this morsel from the Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 11a): “Raba ben Mehasia also said in the name of Rabbi Hama ben Goria in Rab’s name: If all seas were ink, all reeds pens, the heavens parchment, and all men writers, they would not suffice to write down the intricacies of government.  ” Explaining the last few words, “…the intricacies of government…,” the renowned 11th century French scholar known as Rashi writes, “The depth of its [i.e., the  governing authority’s] heart/mind.  For it must have the heart/mind to pay heed to numerous countries, to the tax that is levied, to numerous wars, and to numerous laws all on one day [i.e., all at the same time].”

This ancient observation and its medieval explanation seem to hold a wise truth that has been completely overlooked in our society (which, we are fond of pointing out, is the most participatory, open, and enlightened political system the world has ever known).  In fact, the business of government, even in the ancient world (and, as the Talmud would say, how much the more so in our world) is extraordinarily complex. Acts of Congress regularly run to thousands of pages. Supreme Court decisions are far shorter, but often even more arcane.  And the details of military planning, diplomatic negotiating, fiscal policy, and the delicate balance of power between the federal government and the states are mind numbing.  Yet with all this, we have come to accept a political process that boils down our choice of leaders to 30- or 60-second TV ads and 90-minute debates in which the candidates take every question as an opportunity to recite a well-rehearsed speech filled with clever lines (“zingers”) and talking points.

I would be highly suspicious of any claim that religion-in-general or any specific religious tradition offers clear support to one candidate or another.  But religion, taken seriously, would clearly warn us against reducing  any political process or choice of candidate to simple, brief, bumper-sticker witticisms.  Jewish tradition in particular encourages us to immerse ourselves in the details and ramifications of ideas.  Such activity is so highly valued that numerous portrayals of the afterlife imagine a huge, celestial study-house where God presides as the head teacher, and all the souls of the righteous spend their time studying the law with divine guidance.  In a strange and wonderful twist, one rabbinic  scenario reports a heavenly study session followed, as is the custom, by the recitation of Kaddish (Kaddish is often thought of as a mourner’s prayer, but in fact it is simply an extended praise of God and is recited not only by mourners but at the conclusion of any traditional study session).  At the end of the recitation, the righteous in Heaven all answer “Amen!”  And then the wicked condemned to Hell also shout “Amen!” — apparently they were listening to the discussion of law as well!  The “Amen!” of the damned so moves God that he commutes their sentence and sends angels to bring them out of the pit, bathe and clothe them, and escort them to Heaven.  It seems there is endless reward for those who are willing to take the time to think through issues of law in all their true depth and complexity!  It kind of makes me wonder about the values of a society that has fallen deeply in love with a tweet limited to 140 characters!

L’shalom,
David

David Nelson
Campus Rabbi
Visiting Asst. Professor of Religion
Bard College

*Editors note:  Rabbi David Nelson has been a teacher and Chaplain at Bard College since 2008.  In his time there, Rabbi Nelson has published periodic emails to all subscribers on Bard’s local webmail.  True to rabbinical tradition, Nelson’s entertaining meditations inspire reflection and often quite spirited discussion among his readers.  Today’s post first appeared in the same forum on 18 October 2012, and is published with the author’s expressed permission and blessing.

Rabbi David Nelson’s biography, as published by the Bard Chaplaincy, is as follows:  B.A., Wesleyan University; M.H.L., rabbinic ordination, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion; Ph.D., New York University. Associate director, ARZA (Association of Reform Zionists of America; 2005– ); director, Jewish Life Connection, Washington Township, New Jersey (2001–05); rabbi and principal, Garden City Jewish Center, New York (1980–85). Has taught at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, New York University, Adelphi University; guest lecturer at University of Virginia, Wesleyan University, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian College, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Vassar College. Contributing editor, Shma (1995–2000). Author of Judaism, Physics and God: Searching for Sacred Metaphors in a Post-Einstein World.  He can be contacted at nelson@bard.edu 

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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