HAPPY LABOR DAY! :: Monday, September 1, 2014

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Opinion

Living in a representative republic means that each person has the right to take a stand for what they think is right, whether that means marching outside the halls of government, wearing clothing with provocative statements, or simply holding up a sign. That’s what the First Amendment is supposed to be about.

Unfortunately, through a series of carefully crafted legislative steps and politically expedient court rulings, government officials have managed to disembowel this fundamental freedom, rendering it with little more meaning than the right to file a lawsuit against government officials. In fact, if the following court rulings are anything to go by, the First Amendment has, for all intents and purposes, become an exercise in futility.

On February 26, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 9-0 ruling, held that anti-nuclear activist John Denis Apel could be prosecuted for staging a protest on a public road at an Air Force base, free speech claims notwithstanding, because the public road is technically government property.

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One of the cool things about being self-employed is that you are free to violate minimum wage laws. That was something my wife and I did regularly during the 13 years we owned and operated our business. It wasn't the plan but it often worked out that way.

Except for the self-employed and my waitstaff friends out there, most of you don't have that legal right to offer your services below the government mandated wage. For the longest time, this wasn't much of an issue since most wages were as high or higher than the official rate. When I started working as a teenager at a buck ninety an hour, I thought that was good money compared to the crummy minimum wage of $1.65.

There are proposals to raise the minimum wage from a crummy $7.25 to a crummy $10.10 an hour. Unfortunately, both numbers are hardly insignificant to many employers. When operating on a thin and volatile profit margin, it doesn't take much to go under. Once under, unless the business is “too big to fail,” a business stays under, and so ends contributions to the economy and the tax base. It's usually easier for a bigger company to adjust to added costs than it is the small-time operator. “Mom and Pop” business closings typically aren't headline news.

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Unfortunately, this ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is demonstrative of the way injustice predominates our courts today.

Judge Wynn, speaking for the court’s decision, argued the First Amendment prohibits “restrictions distinguishing among different speakers, allowing speech by some and not by others … In this case, North Carolina seeks to do just that: privilege speech on one side of the hotly debated issue – reproductive choice – while silencing opposing views.”

Really? Where in the First Amendment does it mandate every viewpoint be allowed equal representation? If this is really the case, why is religious expression so stringently regulated and even disallowed in the schools? Why can’t Intelligent Design or Creationism be taught on human origins in our public schools? Why can’t we hang the Ten Commandments in our nation’s courtrooms? The pattern of the courts for several decades now has been to silence opposing viewpoints if those views don’t line-up with the prevailing liberal ideology of the day.

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For those old enough to remember “duck and cover” drills at school, this article has you in mind. Back when the commies were the evil doers, the one thing we collectively feared above all else was nuclear war. I don't think huddling under our little desks gave anyone a sense of security but the ritual served an important purpose. It was a reminder of the horrors that awaited us if World War III ever started. Instead of fretting a temperature rise of a degree or two over a century, the kind of global warming that we dreaded involved instantaneous temperature spikes in the thousands of degrees. The 1965 hit song "Eve of Destruction" represented the fears of a generation with lyrics such as “If the button is pushed, there's no runnin' away. There'll be no one to save, with the world in a grave.”

Besides inspiration for songs and spy movies, the Cold War gave us the original acronym for MAD – Mutual Assured Destruction. The Soviet Union and the United States avoided direct military engagement since hostilities could escalate and nuclear war was viewed as suicidal by most. In the years following the Second World War, the USA and Russia became capable of destroying the world umpteen times over. Today, it may only be half of umpteen, but the danger is as real as it has ever been. The concept of communist domination of the world may be a relic, but the nuclear-armed ICBMs are not. A single American or Russian nuclear submarine has enough fire-power to replicate a thousand Hiroshimas.

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published: 10/18/2013
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